Five Best Practices For Conducting A Video Call

Video conferencing has proven to be a great way to enhance collaboration and increase productivity. In the last few years, video has gained popularity due to technology advancements and ease of use improvements. That said, there are important user elements to keep in mind to ensure a successful video call.

Here are five best practices to keep in mind:

1. Lighting: Lighting is one of the most important aspects of a video call and bad lighting can take a good quality to poor quality very quickly. First, make sure there is enough light in the room. If dimly lit, turn more lights on or add a lamp to your workstation. Second, look at the direction of the light. If your lighting is coming from directly behind you, particularly from a window, then you are going to appear as a very dark shadow to the person you are speaking with. It would be best to move to where the window is not directly behind you, close the blinds, or try and counter the light with a lamp on you desk.. Lastly, overhead lighting can create a lot of shadows. Having a lamp pointing at you on your desk can help with creating the ideal lighting that is pointing towards you and illuminating the face.

2. Camera Angle: testing and adjusting your camera angle prior to the call is important in ensuring proper set-up. Using the self-view mode can help to give you a good idea of how you will appear to the participant on the other end of the call. If on a laptop, positioning your web cam at eye level is a good way to avoid awkward angles. If conducting a video call on a mobile device, keeping the device as steady as possible while also holding it out in front of you at eye level are very important. When using a room based system, zoom the camera to focus on the participants in the room while making sure that everyone on the call is in the frame.

3. Speaker/Volume: There are a few important aspects you want to pay attention to when it comes to speakers and volume while on a video call. First, test your speakers and audio prior to the call to ensure they are working properly. Second, using a headset can help with reducing outside noise, echo, and improving overall audio quality when using a laptop or mobile device for your video call. Lastly, if on a larger multiparty call, mute yourself when not speaking so as to avoid any added noise.

4. Eye contact/Multitasking: Often on video calls, people will look down to take notes or work on their computer. Try to look in to the camera while speaking and avoid looking down for long periods of time. Also, when sharing content, place the content on the same level as the camera so as to not appear you are looking away while presenting. Because eye contact is so important in a video call, try to avoid multi-tasking including checking email, looking at your phone, or even getting up. This can be very distracting for other parties on the call, and it can create the appearance that you are not actively participating in the call. Eliminating distractions in your environment can help with keeping you focused on the call at hand.

5. Bandwidth: Having adequate bandwidth is one of the most important elements when conducting a video call. Testing your video prior to a meeting helps to ensure you have adequate bandwidth for the call. Required network speeds for video conferencing vary depending on the solution. For example, consumer applications tend to require less bandwidth, whereas enterprise options can require more. Likewise, depending on the solution, multiparty calls can increase requirements as well.

Top 10 Video Conferencing Terms

Video has traditionally been viewed as complicated with a wide range of phrases that many don’t understand. It seems as though every day there are new terms and buzzwords being used in the video industry that make keeping up and mastering the technology very difficult at times.

With the rise of video conferencing popularity understanding some of these terms is imperative in choosing the right solution.

Here are 10 of the most common terms and their definitions:

1. Endpoint: The physical equipment or software used to make a video connection. They can be in the form of a room based system, desktop client, or a mobile device.

2. Content Sharing: Showing your desktop or specific content such as power point presentation, word or excel documents, pictures etc.

3. Point to point call: Communication between two endpoints. This is in contrast to a multipoint call where there are three or more connections on the call.

4. Multipoint Call: Communication between 3 or more connections. Multipoint calls connect using either a hardware or a cloud based bridge.

5. Firewall Traversal: Technology that creates a secure path through the firewall. This enables traffic from an organizations internal network to internet at large.

6. Interoperability: The ability for systems to work together. With video this means different endpoints being able to connect together for a video call.

7. Room based systems: Portable or non-portable dedicated systems with all the required components for a video call. This usually includes a camera, codec, control computer and all electrical interfaces. Typically, microphones and a display will connect to the system as well.

8. Streaming: A Method of relaying data (video) over a computer network as a steady continuous stream, and allowing playback to proceed while subsequent data is being received.

9. H.323: A standard video protocol that manufacturers use that allow their systems to speak the same language. It controls audio and video signals, bandwidth, and call control.

10. SIP: A video protocol designed to enable the communication and connection of devices across networks. This is an older protocol that was designed more for closed systems that would ultimately connect via gateways to other closed systems.

This Week in Collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the week’s best articles surrounding collaboration.

1. Working Smarter: The Paradigm Shift in Business Collaboration

Great insight on how individuals embracing new collaboration tools will benefit from a more innovative, efficient, and happier workforce. In contrast to past work environments, these new disruptive forces in collaboration technologies have created new strategies for companies to implement.

2. Fufulling the promise of advanced collaboration 

Although the advanced collaboration technologies emerging in our market today are increasing productivity, there have been many IT challenges along the way. One of the most difficult hurdles for implementing these tools is the lack of an open standards-based development framework.

3. Collaboration and the future of Customer Support 

Understanding the changing nature of customer support is imperative for organizations looking to increase productivity and customer approval rates. This new wave of collaborative support is strongly tied to the mobile revolution, with the addition of social options alongside traditional phone support.

4. Five tips to ace your next video conference from anywhere 

With the rise in popularity of video conferencing, particularly mobile video, these are some important tips to remember when conducting your next video call. These include practice, position, appearance, attention and mute/disconnect.

5. Web Conferencing: Need for Today’s Business World 

With the increasing mobile workforce, the need for high quality collaborative technologies is very important for productivity. Web conferencing in particular allows individuals to connect and join a meeting any time and any place.

Developing a Mobile Video Strategy Part II

As stated in Part 1 of this series, when choosing to deploy a mobile video strategy, having a plan of attack is of utmost importance. The first step was defining the video environment to determine what is necessary for a successful implementation. The second step in developing a mobile video strategy is to assess different aspects of the organization’s network environment. This focuses on the following key areas:

  • Office Network
  • Remote Network
  • Infrastructure
  • Platform Consideration
  • Active Directory Integration

Specifically, this means that attention needs to be paid to an office’s wireless network configuration, remote network essentials, defined software platforms, necessary infrastructure, and determination of active directory integration.

For example, it is imperative to understand potential bandwidth consumption so as to prepare the network with adequate bandwidth capacity. Implementing a mobile video strategy can cause an explosion of bandwidth usage, which can be crippling to a network if not adjusted properly. Understanding these necessary steps when preparing a network for mobile video will help to ensure an effective and successful implementation.

Download our network considerations guide to get started with planning your mobile video strategy.

Mobile Part 2 CTA

 

This Week in Collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the weeks’ best articles surrounding collaboration. 

1. Polycom Video Solutions help keep NATO personnel ready for the next crisis, diplomatic mission or humanitarian effort

Announcement around NATO’s decision to use Polycom’s RealPresence Platform as the backbone of their video collaboration environment. By utilizing video conferencing, NATO is hoping to streamline decision making and communication as well as reducing travel costs.

2. SPAR saves time and money with video conferencing

This post showcases UK based grocery chain SPAR, and how deploying video has saved the company both time and money. Their main use case was around their multiple executive meetings that they hold and how winter weather was consistently disrupting those meetings.

3. Videoconferencing Options Expand

Analysis around the growth of video conferencing and the wide range of options now available. It details options including the videoconference room, software-only model, and cloud based options.

4. Businesses look to collaborate with UC

This piece focuses on how collaboration, specifically document and screen sharing, helps to significantly increase efficiency. It speaks to both screen sharing with audio conference calls as well as collaboration with video conferencing.

5. Video Conferencing in the 21st century classroom

Video conferencing in the classroom is opening up a plethora of possibilities around collaboration. This article outlines some of those possibilities and use cases including guest lectures, professional development workshops, and virtual field trips.

Getting Started with Mobile Video Conferencing

For companies looking to dive in to this mobile video craze, having a solid plan of attack is very important. Not only will it help determine the technology requirements, it ensures a consistent user experience for all participants involved.

The first step in developing a mobile video strategy is to define the organization’s video environment. This focuses on determining the following key areas:

  • End users
  • Video devices & applications
  • Meeting types
  • Current video equipment
  • Goals & objectives

Essentially, this means organizations should outline who will be using mobile video, what devices these participants will be connecting with, what types of meetings will be conducted, and the objectives mobile video is looking to accomplish.

For example, it is essential to ensure that the mobile devices being used can integrate with any room systems or infrastructure that is currently in place. If employees plan to use consumer applications, such as Skype or Google Video, then an additional outside bridging service will be necessary to provide interoperability to standards-based systems. Determining those use cases and goals will help to define what is necessary for effective implementation.

Read Part II of Developing a Mobile Video Strategy here.

Download the worksheet below to get started with planning your mobile video strategy.

5 Lessons I Have Learned From Telecommuting

I saw a news clip about the rise in telecommuting on CBS the other day and I echoed many of the sentiments from my fellow telecommuters. I also have a confession to make, what I looked forward to the most was the ability to wear sweatpants to the “office.” The first week or two I would go to my closet each morning grinning as I bi-passed my slacks and skirts en route to my sweatpants drawer.

However, I quickly learned that getting ready in the same way I would when going in to an office, was very important for my “workday” mindset. Now being fair, I can’t say that I put those nice slacks and skirts on everyday, but blouses paired with yoga pants was a definite step up.

That was just one lesson I have learned about effective telecommuting. Here are a few others:

Location Is Key:
Having a designated office, or at the very least a designated office area is imperative for productivity. Having a place that I can go to and close the door, is an effective way to keep outside distractions at bay. Creating a professional work environment also helps increase my self-discipline during office hours.

Visibility:
Being online and available during work hours is another component that is very important when telecommuting. Since I work for a collaboration company that means being online and available for instant messaging, phone, and video calls. This visibility and ability to have spontaneous or informal conversations also creates the feeling of being in an office.

Regular Communication:
Along with visibility, comes regular communication. Routinely speaking to colleagues on video mitigates the “social isolation” challenge that some remote employees feel. Communicating often, particularly via video conferencing, increases productivity by allowing me to brainstorm and collaborate face-to-face.

Earning Trust:
Regular communication, increased productivity, and consistent office hours all help in earning and maintaining my manager and coworkers’ trust. Mutual expectations between both a manager and remote employee, along with other team members, are essential for successful telecommuting.

Taking Breaks:
Another important lesson I have learned while telecommuting is the importance of taking breaks. Although I am not very good at putting this piece in to practice, getting out of the “office” and taking a lunch break or running an errand helps increase productivity by giving your brain a chance to relax. Plus, it helps reduce the feeling of never leaving your home.

These lessons have all helped me create a successful telecommuting strategy. Although working from home is not for everyone; many folks, including myself, have found increased productivity and an improved quality of life by being able to telecommute.

What is Collaboration? – Infographic

Collaboration means different things to different people. But at the end of the day it’s all about connecting people and giving them the ability to work together. The need for these types of connections continue to grow as workforces become more global and dispersed.

When people are connected they can share ideas, brainstorm on new initiatives, collaborate on deliverables and so much more.

We created the below infographic to highlight the many forms that collaboration can take, what some of the benefits are, where collaboration happens and the tools available.

This Week in Collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the weeks’ best articles surrounding collaboration. 

1. Mobile Video Collaboration

Cisco explains what they are doing to better their infrastructure and technology to better suit mobile video needs. Those needs include high quality audio, video, and application sharing.

2. Video conferencing for your business

This article explains to some of the use cases and benefits of using video conferencing as opposed to audio conferencing for meetings.  It also briefly speaks to the different visual collaboration tools available.

3. Polycom enables Green Cross International 20(th) Anniversary Earth Dialogues Conference to Deliver Interactive, Live Broadcast from the United Nations

Details about how Green Cross International used Polycom video technology to stream their Earth Dialogue event. Using this technology allowed Green Cross to over 1,000 participants to view and interact from all over the globe.

4. The Latest Business Productivity Technology Comes From…Surprise…Video Conferencing

Interesting article about how advancements in video conferencing technology are creating a better video experience that is increasingly flexible and easy to use.

5. Can BYOD lift the IT support burden?

BYOD strategies tend to make IT folks cringe but this insightful piece explains how BYOD can actually reduce the burden on IT. However, it also states how certain boundaries and limits need to be taken in to consideration to ensure successful implementation.

Are MOOC’s the Future of Distance Education?

Another school year is upon us, and again we are faced with the challenge of accessibility and cost of education.

Massive open online classes, more commonly referred to as MOOC’s, are gaining substantial popularity across the nation. These online courses, offered to large numbers of students, and often free of charge, use a recorded video curriculum that students can access at their convenience. One of the major benefits is the on-demand structure of that content. Furthermore, this increased accessibility allows students to participate regardless of their location or scheduled availability.

Although MOOC’s can vary drastically from class to class, they have one thing in common; their use of video. Combining video conferencing equipment and infrastructure, educators are able to record, edit, and stream high quality lectures and content. The growth of collaboration in education beyond traditional video conferencing also includes the use and integration of interactive whiteboards. Instructors are now using these interactive whiteboards to complement and add dimension to their online curriculum. The collaboration of these technologies give students the face-to-face feel of a traditional classroom without having to physically be there.

Recently, an increased number of universities around the country have started to offer both, single for-credit courses, as well as full-scale degrees using a paid MOOC platform. This structure of education gives institutions the ability to start attacking the cost and efficiency problems that traditional programs struggle with. Based on a recent article in the New York Times, Georgia Institute of Technology announced that they are planning to offer a MOOC-based online masters degree in computer science. The price tag for this degree will be $6,600, a staggering difference in comparison to the $45,000 for the on-campus offering. This is just one example of the multiple universities who are launching these for-credit, mass online classes and programs.

Along with a strong number of supporters, comes quite a bit of criticism around MOOC’s. Many educators believe that a blend of both virtual and traditional face-to-face learning, as opposed to an online-only structure, is the most effective combination for student success. Critics argue that these mass online programs are difficult to scale while still keeping the tuition rates at the lower end. Additionally, many also argue that recorded courses lack important real-time engagement and conversation. However, the true effectiveness of these classes is still up for debate due to a lack of concrete data available at this point.

With the wide spread popularity of this emerging education trend, there are sure to be many more debates on the subject. As th­­e number of these programs increase, the more we will be able to understand and judge how successful they really are. Do you think MOOC’s are the wave of the future in higher education?