Why isn't video conferencing as good as meeting in person?

While video conferencing is a great way to meet "face to face", people continue to remind me how poor their personal experiences have been. Here are some reasons why video conferences aren't as good as meeting in person and what you can do to make your video experience a little better.


Lack of eye contact is the bane of the video conference experience.
Just because you can put a camera "over there" or "up there" doesn't mean you should. Watching the far end participants appear to look way off screen gets annoying quick. What can you do? Put the camera as close to the eyes of the person you're talking to, or if you're using a laptop with an integrated camera, move the participant's window as close to it as possible.

I can't see you/I can't hear you
Most, if not all, video conferencing products allow you to test both your audio and video. This doesn't keep people from not doing it though and winging it wasting the first 5-10 minutes of the call. What can you do? Test your setup well ahead of time. Audio and video. Make sure you're looking good and sounding good. If the other person is typically unprepared, give them a ton of shit about it then for spite show up late to your next call with them.

Bandwidth
Sometimes you can get away with a video chat in the local coffee shop (noise issues aside), but for the most part the bandwidth isn't going to be that great unless the resolution of the image you're sending is bumped way down. Jittery/stuttering video or a pixellated image can be a symptom of slow bandwidth. What can you do? If the video doesn't clear up, just call the person, because you're not going to be able to control the bandwidth. Bad video is much worse than no video. It's incredibly distracting.

Inappropriate Multi-tasking
Typically if you're face to face with a respectful person in a meeting, they will refrain from screwing with their phone of being overly distracted. Distractions are easy in video conferences and it's hard to keep the attention of the remote participants when they are tiny faces on a tiny screen. What can you do? For some reason in this day and age it's supposed to be acceptable to stare at your phone all day when talking to someone so you're kind of own your own. Maybe you can ignore it, or just call them out for not paying attention. Hanging up on them may get their attention and just let them know when they are ready to talk without distraction they can call you.

Inappropriate Equipment
I know some marketing folk out there try to portray using a webcam as being appropriate for group video meetings. All this does is make people believe that this works, buy a webcam, see that the quality sucks and never try video conferencing again. What can you do? 1. Research what's appropriate for the quantity of people typically in the meeting. 2. Don't believe any marketing hype or faked pictures. If all else fails, find an independent video conference consultant who can steer you through the hype and bullshit. There are so many options available that can get you the experience you want. There are also many more products out there that won't get you what you want from a cost or quality standpoint.

Bryan
Follow me on Twitter @bryanhellard


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