It has now been a year since our daily lives were changed, our offices were closed and we were sent home to work.
I had never truly been a big fan or frequent user of many remote work tools, including videoconferencing and unified communications and collaboration. I’m a journalist by trade and I’ve grown accustom to holding a phone between my head and shoulder while I furiously take notes.
That all changed for me – and most of you – around this time last year when the COVID-19 pandemic became too dangerous for everyone to cram into tight office spaces for 40-plus hours each week. Videoconferencing has become an incredibly useful tool for me and I’m never going back, but the videoconferencing industry – and the pro AV integrators that support those services – can continue to enhance those experiences.
Here are some things I learned after one year of talking to little faces on my monitor:
Visual cues matter
Without the aid of video, it is impossible to tell when the person you’re talking to isn’t interested, isn’t listening or is uncomfortable with the conversation. This is incredibly important to me, as I need the subject matter experts that I am interviewing to remain engaged and candid throughout the call. Have you ever cracked a joke and gotten silence because everyone is muted? Yeah, me too. With video, you can see those jokes land in real time.
You need dedicated videoconferencing equipment
Remember those robust meeting rooms with professional-grade cameras, microphones and sound systems? Well, chances are that most people did not have those at home. Finding those on the market last spring was nearly impossible. Picking up on those visual cues can be difficult when the person on the other end is using their smudged built-in laptop camera that was never designed for this kind of use. As we transition into a hybrid work environment, it’s critical that workers at home have access to the same quality of technology as those in the office.
Audio quality is just as important as video, if not more
Video obviously gets the headline because it allows us to see our coworkers, customers, partners, friends and family when we otherwise would forget what they look like, but audio is arguably more important. Conference calls work just fine without video, but a soundless meeting would not get much accomplished. That means employees need quality peripheral audio devices like headsets, speakerphones and more so everyone can be heard clearly.
There are so many videoconferencing applications on the market
Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, GoToMeeting and Google Meet make up some of the top players, but there are many, many more videoconferencing providers angling to grab more of the market share. Many of your customers may use other services from providers like Avaya, BlueJeans, LifeSize and others. The days of building meeting rooms around any particular platform should be fading away in favor of a more product-agnostic approach that allows users to bring their own meeting solutions to the conference room by plugging their endpoint device into the room’s hardware.
Videoconferencing is exhausting
Talking to a screen for hours on end can be monotonous, boring and exhausting. Once offices reopen, there will likely be a drop in overall usage, but we will still need this technology to connect the hybrid workforce. Along with software providers, AV integrators can help solve these issues and make meetings more productive Some examples include peripheral devices that can help improve clarity and lead to more seamless meetings and PTZ cameras to eliminate the need to keep people sitting down.
Once we all get back into the office, integrators have a new challenge: adjust those meeting spaces to cater to the needs of the hybrid workplace. It will be interesting to see how these trends change over the course of this year and how this niche industry finds its place.