There's a lot of talk about adding video to our workday communications - what the options are, what it means for the network, how it affects the workspace, and what role it plays in the workplace now and in the future. Here, we're going to take a look and see how organizations learn to take advantage of video when it's always available and ready to use every day.
We are all built to communicate by seeing as well as hearing - that's why we've got these terrific eyes tucked in right next to our ears. Visual information adds a whole new dimension to how we communicate, and works in just about any environment.
When organizations grow their video abilities, they find themselves adapting to take advantage, and these advantages often show up in unexpected ways. Let's look at some of the most common habits that organizations adopt once they have added video to their everyday work.
- Video's the New Normal: When it's first added, video is treated as something special, but people begin to use video as the default for the normal "phone call". We grow to appreciate having a person, not just a voice, at the other end of the call. Conversations become more engaged, and this is even more valuable when a conversation is between people of different cultures, languages, or countries. As the workplace becomes increasingly dispersed this will play an even more critical role in ensuring efficient communications. Having video is a big advantage because it builds a bond that helps bridge places and cultures.
- Visual Content Fits Right In: When calls are on video, easy sharing of graphics and visuals becomes a "given," because the participants are already in the habit of looking as well as listening. A live display works for charts and slides as well as for faces, so it's a flexible and natural environment, and additional screens and whiteboards just multiply the value of the experience. As visual content becomes more common, the ability to share it is crucial.
- People Interact, They Don't Pile Up: When there are several people on a call, video lets them all communicate more naturally, as compared to a conventional audio call where you just get those big pileups with participants talking over other. Seeing each other lets us share "side" info without having to interrupt the main discussion, anything from raising a high-five to letting them see an empty chair so people know you're not there at the moment - from a facepalmed "oops" to "ah, that's the piano so Rodman must be in his home office today." People get used to the power of silent visual cues like a raised hand (I want to talk) or a thumbs-up (yeah, I agree) to avoid breaking in and starting yet another audio pileup.
- If You Don't, Somebody Else Will: Organizations assume that people will join meetings by video. People also know that others will be on video, so they actively try to be on video for these calls too. An interesting effect is that people who show their faces just seem more "present" than those that don't (especially those calling in with a cellphone's muffled fidelity), and this adds a kind of immediacy, an extra believability, to what they say.
- It Doesn't Take A Roll-call To Know Who's There: With voice-only connections, people in a meeting can often be unsure of who's on and who's paying attention because we only know they are there when they're actually talking. Visual awareness is continuous, unlike voice, so people can tell who's on a meeting and who's really tracking. Companies and their people naturally come to take advantage of this, which makes meetings more engaged and efficient, more "like being there."
Every organization engages differently, and so each will find new ways of using video that suit their style. What's consistent is that as people get comfortable with video, they all find themselves working more flexibly and efficiently, and they begin to wonder how they ever got along without it.