It almost goes without saying, considering the current state of our nation and world, that remote connectivity is an essential technology for businesses that wish to stay operational and effective through the mandates and recommendations provided by our government and public health officials. But, we’re going to say it anyway, for the people in the back!
As more and more workers begin working from home, the need for a reliable, effective teleconferencing solution grows. If you are in a situation where you need to quickly understand the technology and assess its value so you can make a decision about how to fill your teleconferencing void - this is the article you need. We’re answering the top 8 questions we get asked about teleconferencing, which should educate you to the point where you are ready to begin evaluating your options.
Note: Rest assured that though this may feel like an impulse decision that requires quick action in the midst of this pandemic, the features of teleconferencing offer highly valuable outcomes outside of these unique circumstances as well (which we’ll highlight below). This is a long way of saying, you’ll not only be thankful for this technology 24 hours from now - but 24 days/weeks/months from now too. Alright, let’s jump in.
1. WHAT EXACTLY IS TELECONFERENCING?
Stated simply, teleconferencing is the ability to host conference meetings virtually. Chron defines it with more technicality and specificity: “Teleconferencing among multiple participants in two or more locations is a strategic communication tool deployed by many companies with multiple locations and dispersed employees.”
There are two primary types of teleconferencing: audio and video. Both enable the same core capability, but with slightly different features and benefits. Because video conferencing incorporates a real-time visual of the participants in the meeting, it most closely mimics the style and engagement level of in-person meetings. Audio, on the other hand, is easy to set-up and facilitate, and most meeting participants have experience participating in this type of teleconferencing.
These meetings are powered by a combination of software and hardware (which we’ll get into detail on in #5).
2. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TELECONFERENCING?
Especially in the current business environment, teleconferencing enables you to stay operating as effectively as though your teams and/or other meeting participants were under the same roof.
On a more macro level, teleconferencing can:
- Reduce travel expenses by eliminating some in-person meetings that require travel
- Save time by eliminating the time it takes to travel to and from in-person meetings
- Enhance team progress and productivity by quickly facilitating discussions and decision making, without having to coordinate travel, location, meals, etc.
- Better and more frequently connect dispersed meeting participants (your team, clients, collaborative partners, etc.)
3. HOW CAN TELECONFERENCING IMPACT MY EMPLOYEES' DAY-TO-DAY?
Teleconferencing is simply another tool in your employees’ tool belt. It should empower them to better connect with teammates and customers. As they get accustomed to the technology, it will increase their day-to-day productivity and allow them to build stronger relationships because of the increased and improved communication.
If at any point teleconferencing becomes counterproductive or disruptive, there may be an opportunity for education about how best to use teleconferencing as a tool to support your business.
4. WILL TELECONFERENCING IMPACT MY CUSTOMERS' EXPERIENCE?
If this is a change from how you typically host meetings or discussions, then yes - but it can (and should) be a positive impact. While change is always hard and requires an adjustment period, you can position this new tool as an opportunity to improve how you currently communicate with your customers.
Much like your employees, your customers may require some instruction. The easier you can make it for them to participate in teleconference meetings, the more likely they will be to adapt and accept this new method of communication. Detailed instructions, and maybe even a how-to guide could be helpful resources for your clients on their first teleconference with you to ensure their participation and experience is seamless.
5. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS FOR TELECONFERENCING TOOLS & CAPABILITIES?
As stated earlier, teleconferencing requires a combination of software and hardware. In many cases, hardware is already in place and used daily. Depending on the type of teleconferencing you choose (audio or video), you’ll require a phone at minimum (and the associated landline, data, or internet required to operate), and additionally a computer and webcam to support features beyond audio. In many video conferencing applications, your computer can also act as the phone.
When it comes to choosing a software, you’ll want to understand the full scope of how you intend to use this tool and how you’d like it to interface with other business programs you use (i.e. email platform). The short answer is, you’ll want to marry your use cases and budget with the software you choose. This is on the list of questions to ask your potential providers in the next section; reputable providers will be able to understand your needs and budget and recommend the best software for you. There are a lot of software options available for consideration; to keep things brief here, below are three of the most popular to get your comparison started (plus a link to review more, and in more detail):
6. WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK A POTENTIAL TELECONFERENCING PROVIDER?
If you are considering partnering with a provider for teleconferencing services, here’s a list of questions you should ask all potential candidates:
- What teleconferencing products and services do you offer?
- What solution would you recommend for my current needs? And how can you adapt if my future needs change?
- How easy is it to use and what quality can I expect?
- What additional resources (network, connectivity, etc.) will I need to support teleconferencing?
- What do your support plans include?
- What is the total cost for everything I’ll need?
- How quickly can you get me up and running?
Here’s a more robust list with more technical detail if you’d like to dive deeper as you prepare for your conversation with potential providers.
7. HOW CAN I BUDGET FOR TELECONFERENCING?
Once again, this will largely depend on how you intend to use teleconferencing as part of your overall business communication strategy. With that being said, if you are needing to get up and running quickly and inexpensively, there are a number of freemium models you can consider for starting out. These allow you to quickly enable the technology - and then add features as you need them.
In other words, you don’t need to have all the answers or a strategy figured out in order to get started.
8. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO IMPLEMENT & INSTALL TELECONFERENCING?
Assuming you have the hardware in place, 5-25 minutes is all you (and each of your employees) should need to set up and install the software. Any remaining time you put into this project will be instructing, educating, and testing your new capabilities with your team. The latter is less tactical but equally beneficial in preparing for smooth teleconference meetings for your future.
If you do not have the necessary hardware in place, the time required for this step will be dependent on your chosen provider’s installation schedule (which you’ll know because it is one of the questions on your list in #6).
Well there you have it; our answers to the top 8 teleconferencing questions we get asked. Hopefully you feel assured of the value of teleconferencing and prepared enough to begin evaluating your options. If you are ready to take that next step, here’s a great place to start...