Small business owners can attest to the fact that business travel can be both an extremely expensive and tiresome necessity, particularly if the company is owner-driven and absences can result in decision-making delays. “Fortunately,” says Gene van der Walt, Executive Head of Visual Communications at Vox Telecom, “there are alternatives to airports – including video and mobile conferencing.”
Video conferencing has been available for a number of years, but SMEs have steered away from the technology because the perception exists that it is simply too expensive in the long run. The reality is that with hosted and mobile solutions, prices are as low as R175 per month for unlimited conferencing time – much cheaper than travel costs.
Some SMEs have opted to use free options, such as Skype, but this is not ideal. This type of software doesn’t give users the functionality to connect into the formal video conferencing environment or virtual boardrooms, and they are not secure. It is best that companies opt for an alternative that offers a secure, locally hosted, encrypted platform – the company won’t have to invest in expensive video conferencing infrastructure or worry about constant security upgrades, as this falls to the provider.
Video conferences are every bit as interactive as live meetings, with tools enabling employees to work on a joint presentation or document from different locations by sharing files and screens. Notes can be written in digital ink, instant messaging keeps the conversation flowing, and users switch between screens in addition to the video and audio feeds. The application can also be linked to Smart interactive whiteboards and sessions can be recorded in full.
This also means that users no longer have to wait for boardrooms to become available – these solutions work on any webcam-enabled PC, Android or IOS device with video capabilities, affording them the opportunity to catch up with business while on the move.
Tips when using video conferencing as a mainline communication tool:
- Enquire about hosted solutions before investing in traditional boardroom VC equipment. Not only are the costs of the latter quite high, it also limits users to a single location.
- Ensure that the product is user friendly – too much time is wasted if the various parties are unsure of how to set the system up.
- Make use of a local service provider. It is best to have support close to home, should a problem arise.
- Take a moment to do the maths. Most companies are shocked when they find out how much they can save through effective video conferencing.
- Don’t let anyone tell you that bandwidth is an issue – with the right provider, it won’t be.
As companies are becoming more mobile and environmentally conscious, the need for extensive travelling is decreasing. Mobile conferencing – in any form – can reduce time and costs drastically, without investing in complex equipment.