Video conferencing, once largely the province of big business, is now a far less costly proposition, making it increasingly attractive for small businesses.
In an economy that remains somewhat fragile and tentative, the appeal of video conferencing is hard to resist, particularly now that the once-pricy technology is within the financial reach of almost every company.
Video conferencing has also become more versatile. The traditional video conferencing image of conference-room-to-conference-room video exchanges has evolved to include smaller scale exchanges via computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Evolving technology has also made it possible to expand video conferences to include three or more sites.
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Cut travel expenses
So what's in it for your business? Well, the first big benefit of video conferencing is the savings you'll realize in travel expenses. And don't overlook the increase in productivity that can be achieved when fewer of your key employees are traveling and have more time to spend on the job.
Jumping on the video conferencing bandwagon will also enable you to deal more easily with companies that have been converts to this technology for some time.
In a time when companies are being asked what they are doing or can do to shrink their carbon footprint, video conferencing -- and its small but certain effect on travel-related emissions -- is one way to go green.
Internationalization of business
The internationalization of business today requires companies -- large and small -- to collaborate with one another to increase their bottom line. Video conferencing is a relatively inexpensive way to establish meaningful contact with potential partners or customers around the globe.
While the savings in travel dollars is fairly easy to compute, it's somewhat more difficult to quantify the benefits to the physical and mental well-being of key employees who will have to travel less if your company relies more on videoconferencing. But there are definitely benefits to be realized.
For companies that have employees in far-flung locations around the world, regular video conferencing allows the face-to-face contact that helps to maintain company cohesion and esprit de corps.
In addition to regularly scheduled video conferences, employees at remote locations can use the technology to collaborate in addressing and resolving problems in real time.
Polycom, based in the Silicon Valley, is a major supplier of video and audio conferencing equipment. In an overview of the benefits of video conferencing, the company highlights two of the most obvious -- travel savings and productivity gains -- but also offers its views on some of the less obvious advantages.
Job interviews via video
Video conferencing also can be used as a tool to help companies hire and retain the most talented candidates available, says Polycom.
Companies with key personnel at remote locations can use the technology to open job interviews to all those supervisors who will need to interact closely with the new employee. Even after the employee is hired, regular contact can be maintained between far-flung colleagues via video conferencing.
For those who are working away from the company's home base, this regular contact helps them to see in a very real way that they are part of the team.
Video conferencing also helps participating companies to maintain a competitive advantage, according to Polycom.
Intra-company conferences, as well as conferences with customers and vendors make it easier for all parties to communicate their problems and goals to one another. If a customer is experiencing a glitch with one of your company's products, it is probably going to be easier to illustrate the nature of the problem via a video than it would be to try explaining it over the phone or in an email. The same principle would apply if you encounter a problem with a vendor's product.
If your company is not yet using video conferencing, now might be a good time to reconsider whether this technology -- far less expensive than it once was -- is a viable way for your business to extend its competitive reach.
+MORE from the WDM Group network about video conferencing
About the author
Jay Fremont is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of business and personal finance topics, including the importance of saving for your business future.