Build Your Own Team of Avengers

We’ve all heard the famous story of Mike Smith and Dick Rowe who turned down the Beatles because “four-piece groups with guitars are finished.” This was probably one of the worst business decisions in history and today’s executives are doing everything in their power to avoid the same demise. There are several secrets to successful decisions but teamwork and collaboration seem to be the most talked about.  

But does teamwork guarantee success? Of course not, it can simply improve the chances for success if done properly.  So what makes a good team? 

Member Diversity: It wouldn’t have mattered if Smith and Rowe had three other people in the room with them; if they all had the same background and opinions the outcome would have been the same, except there would be four people to blame instead of two. An optimal team has members with a wide range of specialties and no two members having the same specialty. This ensures varying opinions from different perspectives and can minimize the chances missing something important. 

Open Communication: What good are several different opinions if they are never shared? If only two team members contribute while everyone else agrees because they are afraid to voice their concerns important aspects can be missed leading to a poor business decision. Interaction and involvement of all members is imperative and group leaders should encourage everyone to contribute their ideas. 

Strong & Clear Leadership: At any given time in a group there must be a strong leader; however, leadership should shift between members. Every team member should have an understanding of their individual leadership skills and be willing and able to function as a leader when needed. Strong and flexible leadership helps ensure high participation as team members utilize their strengths appropriately.

Mutual Trust: Trust is a key component in any team; members must be able to trust the integrity and positive intentions of the others on the team. There must also be mutual respect for the different approaches to work and conflict resolution among team members. This helps the team members form a cohesive unit based on integrity which is highly conducive to open communication. 

Conflict Resolution: Conflicts are guaranteed in any high performing team, as there will always be a couple varying opinions. Therefore, constructive conflict resolution is an integral process for teams to master. The process should revolve around identifying, defining and then resolving the problem with team members actively listening to each other. The focus should be on working toward a solution rather than assigning blame to team members. 

Great teams can produce impressive results; from new product ideas to strategic decision making. However, simply gathering a group of people together does not make a great team. It takes thought to select a diverse but passionate group of people who can work together in an efficient and effective manner for optimal results.

The New Polycom Is Here!

“From Telemedicine to applications in government, entertainment, science and education, Polycom is fueling collaboration, knowledge and understanding around the world.”

We are very excited to hear that Polycom, a leader the visual collaboration space, launched its new brand!   Their history in developing innovative video collaboration products is impressive and an increased focus on UC and mobile technologies will continue to change the way people collaboration. 

In a mission to unite devises, operating systems and service provides; Polycom will make video ubiquitous through secure and easy to use technology that delivers a high quality experience to everyone, everywhere.  Watch their video below.

These are exciting times in the visual collaboration space and we cannot wait to see what Polycom comes up with next!

What Your Body Says About You

It’s no secret that body language provides visual clues to the people you are speaking to; both positive and negatives signs of approval, engagement, confidence and more. Lately, the importance of body language during a video call has been lost in a sea of texts, emails and phone calls. 

It is extremely important to be cognizant of body language during a video call to avoid giving the wrong impression. Body language is a major sign of whether a person is actively engaged in a conversation or words are simply going in one ear and out the other. 

Everyone has shouted you’re not listening to me only to have the other party repeat verbatim what they just said. This is because there a difference between hearing what someone is saying and actually listening to what someone is saying.   

Show others you are actively engaged and listening by not fidgeting; this includes twirling a pen or your hair, rubbing your hands together incessantly, or picking at your nails.   Also make sure to avoid the following:   

  • Propping your head up with your hands as this just screams boredom
  • Checking your phone which conveys it is more important than the person speaking
  • Tapping your fingers repeatedly as it suggests you are in a rush to move on

Additionally, in business it is important to convey both confidence in yourself and your ideas, as well as, openness to others and their ideas.  This should be expressed by maintaining good posture; sitting up straight with your shoulders back and head up.  A closed body or defensive position can lead others to discount your idea or keep them from revealing their real opinions.   A few things to avoid are:

  • Narrowing your eyes as it gives the impression you do not like a person or an idea
  • Crossing your arms as it is a sign of resistance but can also be interpreted as egotism  
  • Holding a coffee mug or notebook in front of you, indicating shyness
  • Playing with your collar or necklace, showing doubt or uncertainty 

The bottom line is, pay attention to what your body is saying about you.  Showing confidence and openness can help your career as much as boredom and uncertainty can hinder it.

Telepresence: Alive and Well Or Down For The Count?

There has been significant buzz around a recent Forbes article about the death of telepresence and Cisco’s  response. One side claims that telepresence is a dying breed while the other claims it is alive and well. So who is right?

Both of them.

Yes, there are many new entrants that are disrupting the visual communications space. These companies are making video more accessible by allowing organizations who previously couldn’t afford the technology the opportunity to video conference.  Furthermore, the explosion of cloud services and mobile video is extending the reach of visual collaboration while overcoming interoperability barriers.  The market is ever growing and organizations will continue to invest in these technologies at a rapid rate.

These solutions will not replace the need for Telepresence though.

While the quality of desktop, mobile and cloud solutions are improving; they pale in comparison to a truly immersive experience.  C-Level strategy meetings are far more likely to demand the quality and lifelike experience immersive systems offer.  In fact, saying that the executives of a multi-billion dollar corporation will opt for a lower quality but cost effective video solution is like saying they will choose to drive a Pinto because it’s more cost effective than a Mercedes-Benz.  Unfortunately, the current price tag for immersive solutions is typically only justified for executives; plus, there are only so many rooms a company can dedicate to telepresence.  This creates a significantly limited market and contributes to the declining sales of telepresence systems.

Experienced audio visual integrators; however, can overcome these limitations and expand the market for telepresence.  Advanced integrators can customize solutions to create an immersive feeling using standard HD video systems for a fraction of the cost.  Additionally, elite AV integrators can modify immersive and standard systems to expand both the range of rooms and applications telepresence can work in; allowing companies to design a solution that best fits their needs.

What does the future look like then?

While there will still be a place for telepresence; the shift towards software based systems will continue at an accelerated pace.  Many organizations will begin adopting UC and cloud platforms over standards-based enterprise systems due to their user friendly, cost effective and scalable collaboration capabilities. Polycom and Cisco will need to continue to drive innovation around UC solutions to remain competitive in this space. Integrated UC solutions, with interactive document sharing, will offer far more value to organizations than stand-alone desktop video solutions.

The bottom line is this:

Telepresence systems will continue to have their place in the C-suite and for meetings where the highest audio visual quality and seamless collaboration are mission critical.  However, UC and mobile video solutions will put the future of business collaboration into the hands of every user organization-wide ushering in a new era of connected workforce.

Here Today, Here Tomorrow

Using Video to Improve Work/Life Balance on the Road

You’re sitting in your hotel room and sigh: another missed baseball game. You start thinking of all the defining moments you’ve missed in your child’s life.  From the first words, to the first day of school, to a straight A’s report card; you can’t help but feel you’re missing out. 

Even though travel has been reduced through visual collaboration solutions at work; you still travel frequently because, let’s face it, you can’t do everything over video. Sometimes a firm handshake is necessary to close a deal or unique technical expertise requires your presence.  How can you stay involved in your personal life without sacrificing your job? 

Video Conferencing. 

You use it frequently to conduct business with colleagues, clients and partners so why not use it to stay involved in your children’s lives? Instead of calling home every night, video home.  Read a bed time story, watch the baseball game in real time, or even express your disappointment on a bad choice, the possibilities are endless! With video, you no longer have to forfeit your personal life in the name of business or see the disappointed looks when you leave for yet another business trip. 

Face time is just as important in strengthening personal relationships as it is in developing business relationships. As the saying goes, eyes are the gateway to the soul.  It’s nearly impossible to establish an emotional connection or tell what someone is thinking without looking someone in the eyes. Phone calls and text messages while traveling just don’t cut it anymore; buy a webcam or an iPad and check in with family while on the road. 

Then, the next time you are traveling, you can sit around the dinner table, hear about your spouse’s day and even kiss your children goodnight…virtually.

Let There Be Light!

There are several components that go into designing an optimal collaboration: space, displays, speakers, microphones, video switching, control systems, the list goes on. But what about the lighting; how does it fit into the mix? Believe it or not, room lighting plays a dramatic role in the image quality being displayed to remote conference participants.

Amount of Light:

Remember, there is such a thing as too much light. Meeting participants do not want to feel like they stepped into an operating room any more than stepping into a romantic restaurant. In addition to being uncomfortable for local participants, too much light can leave remote participants communicating with washed out, ghost-like figures. Conversely, not enough light can cause dark shadows and possibly distorted images for remote viewers. Finding the perfect balance of lights is imperative for displaying crisp, clear images over video.

Direct vs. Indirect Light:

Simply put, direct lighting is where camera can see a hotspot or the light causes sharp shadows or highlights, is directed toward the participants. Indirect lighting will fill or flood the space with light, prevents excessive brightness or contrast and prevents casting shadows on the participants. Indirect lighting is often configured with reflectors that direct the light toward participants faces creating a more natural appearance by defining facial features.

While indirect lighting simulates a more natural view, it can be problematic when projected displays are used in the video conferencing environment as it may put too much light on the display if not configured correctly. In these instances more controlled, direct lighting fixtures should be used.

Other Tips:

  1. All lamps should be changed at the same time for even light color distribution and to maintain consistency
  2. Down can lighting should be avoided as it causes shadows on participants’ faces.
  3. Recessed lighting on walls within camera view can help differentiate between the participant and the background.
  4. Use neutral non-white wall colors, such as light blues or grays, with a satin or flat finish to disperse the light evenly.
  5. If there are windows in the background use vertical blinds over horizontal blinds as they have a lesser effect on the transmitted camera image.

Learn more about creating an optimal collaboration environment from our Audio Visual Buyers Guide.

Related Articles:
Can You Hear Me Now?
Top 5 Conference Room Considerations

How To Avoid Being That Guy Over Video

Everyone has been on a video call where one person doesn’t quite realize you can actually see him.  Remember, while you can hide pretty much anything over an audio call; anything you say or do, can and will, be seen by everyone on a video call.  Here are a few tips to avoid being the one everyone talks about after you disconnect. 

Know you’re not invisible.

While you can get away with propping your feet up on your desk, eating your lunch or rolling your eyes at a long-winded coworker over audio – it is quite noticeable over video.    That said, make sure you’re cognizant of what you are doing and ensure your body is focused on the meeting.   Even if you’re on mute, people can see you typing away on your computer, holding a sidebar conversation or relaxing all cool in your office.  

Dress appropriately.

As fabulous as that leopard print dress or Hawaiian button down looks in the office; it can become overpowering on video.  Opt for neutral colors and basic prints to avoid being the center of attention.   On the flip side, if you work from home, put on a dress shirt for your video call.  We all understand that you have the luxury of working in your sweatpants; you don’t have to rub it in with a sweatshirt as well. 

If you’re out and about – pick a quiet place.

Advances in technology allow people to join video calls from virtually anywhere.  However, this does not mean that you should actually join a video call from anywhere.  Yes, it’s cool you’re at the beach, in a coffee house or walking through the streets of Manhattan; but, all the background noise and entertaining bystanders drown out the point of the meeting.  So save the cool backdrops for personal video calls and pick a quiet place without a bunch of people milling around. 

Have a funny story or some advice?  We want to hear it!

Leave a comment with your favorite video conferencing faux pax.

Video Conferencing – Bringing It All Together

Driving Usage & Adoption

In a world where instant messaging, email and online audio meetings reign supreme; shifting an organization’s culture to adopt visual collaboration or unified communication solutions can be extremely challenging.  Implementing a new technology is a significant organizational change that, if underestimated, can produce disappointing results.  There are several key steps an organization must take in order to effectively drive adoption throughout the organization. This is the final post in a five-part series covering the successful development of a video culture within an organization.  Read part one here 

The business world is moving at a faster pace than ever before and organizations need to continually adapt in order to survive.  Visual collaboration plays an integral role in allowing organizations to make fast, fluid and flexible decisions; however, simply implementing the technology will not produce the results most organizations hope for. 

Senior management must continue to drive adoption of visual collaboration; starting with their own usage and adoption.  Managers should push the use of visual collaboration anytime the solution is available; such as board meetings or companywide video updates. 

Organizations should also map usage of visual collaboration solutions to business unit profitability.  This allows for visibility into the most effective uses of video; and often times, organizations will see increased profitability and innovation among units with the highest use. Usage mapping also provides the data needed to develop benchmarks for usage and performance.  Management can use this information to identify areas for improvement or additional business units that may benefit from the deployment of visual collaboration solutions. 

In addition to usage mapping, organizations should review overall reporting and usage metrics.  Advanced reporting can provide insight into trends that would typically be missed; such as, a decrease in the usage of a particular outdated system or specific times when video usage peaks creating an over demand on the organization’s network.  As a result, organizations can proactively address any issues to ensure they receive the most out of their video investment. 

Finally, senior management should evaluate the overall success of the visual collaboration implementation.  Questions such as were key metrics and goals achieved; were users accepting of the technology and where are the areas for improvement; should all be discussed.  Not only will this help in deploying visual collaboration to other business units; it will help the organization understand how to implement major organizational changes in the future.

This post is part of a five-part series covering the successful development of a video culture within an organization.

Part One: Because the boss said so is not enough!
Part Two: It’s more than just bits and bytes
Part Three: P is for Process, that’s good enough for me
Part Four: Power to the People

The Power of Collaboration…For Mom

It’s Friday, you’re sitting at work and realize this Sunday is Mother’s Day.  You forgot to get a card but no big deal you’ll swing by the store on your way home tonight.  Only problem is, your mom lives 1200 miles away.   Not exactly within driving distance and, short of overnighting a card (which will be totally obvious you forgot), there is no way a card will get there on time.

Alright Plan B.  You’ll order some flowers and have them delivered on Sunday, but that just seems so…generic.  I mean this woman raised you and, more importantly, put up with you during those rebellious years.

So, how can you let your mom know just how awesome she is without purchasing the moon?

Then it hits you.

Plan C – VIDEO!  You installed Skype on her computer the last time you were in town.  Your dad is pretty technical savvy and he can make sure it’s set up properly.  So you call your dad to scheme and, all of a sudden, the most amazing plan emerges.   You’re going to deliver the flowers “in person.”

Step 1: Dad is going to head off the delivery guy and sneak the flowers into the office.
Step 2: You connect the video call with Dad while your spouse rallies the troops.
Step 3: Cram everyone in front of the webcam while Dad gets Mom.
Step 4: Mom walks into the room and you all shout HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Step 5: Mom is so overwhelmed she starts crying tears of joy saying this is the best present she ever received.
Step 6: You and Dad make eye contact and celebrate with a little smile and wink.

Yes, the plan is all starting to come together.  This is going to be the best Mother’s Day by far because, let’s face it, your mom is awesome and she deserves the best of the best!

Listen to Your Customer!

The social era has had a dramatic impact on the way customers purchase and companies promote their products.  Customer feedback is becoming ever important and now is critical to an organization’s long term success.  We’ve seen many organizations stray farther and farther away from customer needs as they fail to adapt to the changing competitive landscape.  So how can companies ensure they stay in touch with customer needs and ahead of future competitors?

Simple:  Listen to your customers and then listen some more.

Your best customers are a great source of information.  Account representatives and sales managers and even marketing managers should pause before focusing on the next sale and examine customer satisfaction.  Start by asking why your customers selected your organization and what the major benefits are.  Then distinguish if there are any products or services that are unavailable but would make their job easier.   Above all, organizations need to ensure their products and services are perfectly aligned with their customers’ needs.   If there is any doubt, it’s time to hit the drawing board.

Customers love to share their thoughts and options; but often times, they are hesitant because they are unsure how their feedback will be received or if it will simply fall upon deaf ears.   Connecting over video not only shows the customer you are interested in what they have to say, but the face-to-face interaction helps establish trust.   With trust, comes more candid feedback that could potentially reveal a product flaw or, even better, an untapped market need.

As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change itself and organizations need to stay flexible in order to survive. Collaborating with customers not only provides visibility into future trends but helps create a sustainable competitive advantage.  Technological advances now make it possible to connect to any customer with a webcam; so pick up the camera and give your customers a video call.