By Jeremy Keefe, Area Sales Vice President - UK, Ireland and Benelux, Polycom
You are a modern day worker who enjoys being mobile so you can work from different locations and believe in flexible working as it allows you to be productive. Yet every time you manage to secure yourself a meeting room often it feels like you have walked into a blank space which can definitely do better with a little more hint of technology.
While most workers have moved on, some employers are still trying to catch-up but there is no respite with the rising cost of real estate and inflation hammering down on the economy. Businesses are aware that their workforce is battling time zones every day and it is time they gear up for 2017 by thinking about the types of meeting rooms their workforce requires for delivering the good work while being mobile and flexible.
As a regular participant of meetings, there are several different types of meeting styles that I see frequently.
Type 1 – Meeting room for an in-person discussion:
Mind the word ‘discussion’ here. This is the most common type of meeting room that will be needed as while conducting business across borders is becoming more common some 1-2-1 chats still need to take place. These are often the meetings that kick off a partnership or significant reviews and are the catalysts for driving the next type of meeting room requirements as they often lead to the need for sharing information or for third party participation.
Type 2 – Meeting room for sharing content:
This type of meeting room will attract the most traffic across all groups whether they have two, a few more or a fairly large number of participants. Sharing content in the format of documents such as PowerPoint presentations is not uncommon and it is important to have the right content sharing software solution that is easy to use.
Type 3 – Meeting room for an audio call:
Audio is the backbone of all meetings and the most common way of conducting meetings. Also, it is quite obvious that without proper audio you cannot have a video meeting. A popular means for both booked and ad hoc meetings, more than often you will need to ring someone on their phone for work. Whether it’s on fixed line, mobile, conference phone or Skype for Business, audio-only meetings are essential.
Type 4 – Meeting room for a video call:
You cannot attend all meetings in person at all times, and as more and more people are working from home nowadays, video is becoming an essential part of the day-to-day work. We still believe face-to-face meetings are essential in a working life and therefore travel is still a part of it. If you cannot travel but still want to make the meeting more impactful, you need to attend it on video. Video meetings are important and this is a no-brainer for the digital time we live in today. The benefits felt from video meetings can range from not needing to travel great distances, to being able to get home in time for dinner with the family.
Type 5 – Meeting room for working from anywhere:
Work From Anywhere – a new way of working that doesn’t require you to work from one set location. A small meeting space or a ‘huddle room’ can cater to the needs of workers when they are visiting one of their office sites or any other location. All the other pieces of technology listed above will enable them to find the right meeting space when needed. In addition, software solutions that allow collaboration from the devices of their choice will empower them to work from anywhere.
I have always been conscientious, I even got awarded most conscientious Brownie when I was 8 years old, it’s that built into my make-up. I have prided myself on working hard going that extra mile, throughout my working life and resulti ng in my current position in Corporate Communications. When I became a mummy to daughter number 1, it was a massive wake-up call – running a small team, rallying senior spokespeople and journalists, ‘PR-ing’ stuff - is nothing compared to the level of hard work required to be mummy.
I am just returning to work (first day!) from maternity leave with daughter number 2. This second time round I had post-natal depression for the first 3 months of my leave which meant I wasn’t really able to enjoy my little ones as much as I perhaps had anticipated – that coupled with a crazy 2 year old made things that little bit more interesting… don’t get me started on the joys of potty training – takes multi-tasking to a whole new level! So suffice to say returning to work after 7 months off kind of crept up on me – just as I started to feel less murderous and the girls are getting more interesting.
Luckily, my return to work for a big corporate isn’t as hard as for me, as I imagine it is for others. Luckily, I work for a company that uses video conferencing like they use a desk phone – as the main way to communicate (can you tell I work in communications?).
Which brings me back to being conscientious… and a great multi-tasker (aren’t all mums?) knowing that there were several important meetings / discussions taking place whilst I was off on maternity leave, I wanted to make sure I kept my finger on the pulse. But not to the detriment of my new little family…always a cake and eat it too type me!
So what I suspect would have been an arduous task to keep in touch with my employer (finding childcare, packing numerous bags, trekking to an office), was just ridiculously easy. Both times I have been on maternity leave, I have been able to stay in touch with my boss (based in the US) and my team based here in the UK through video calls. Which is making my return to work that little less painful.
Why do I feel the need to talk about this? Simply because without being able to make video calls and having access to this technology, I would not be prepared to go back to work now (earlier than most in the UK, my youngest is nearly 7 months) or be able to keep on top of things to the level I would feel comfortable.
Naturally once I get back in to the swing of work, it will also help me to be successful as both mummy and in the office. For me having access to this technology is a no-brainer and should be the norm for corporations – it’s not a just a luxury any more, the luxury is the fact you can have your cake and eat it too…just saying!
Despite advances in technology often bringing business costs down, IT investment always requires justification. With communications in particular, the challenge is tougher as there are knock on costs, such as further investment being required in infrastructure to support the changes or significant impact on user behaviour that requires training and perhaps updated HR policies.
Video conferencing is a case in point. Businesses may well believe that the value not only from reducing travel or benefitting the environment, but also from improved productivity and responsiveness to customers, is worth it. But they will still need to be sure that they are taking the right investment decisions, especially when they start out on a new installation.
Quocirca's 2014 worldwideresearch project surveying over 800 current business video conferencing users, makes it clear that while most companies believe that they have been getting good value from their investment in video, it still has to be regularly justified. In an age where many believe consumer technology is 'good enough', making this justification at the start of the project is even harder.
I asked Roger Farnsworth, a senior director of services from Polycom, the sponsors of the research, what he hears about the value of video conferencing on a daily basis from talking to those who are starting out on the journey.
Rob:Video collaboration solutions are expensive compared to some well-known free tools - where does the extra value come from?
Roger: Generally it boils down to three things - quality, security and choice. Most organisations wouldn't consider free security tools or phone systems, and it's for the same reason that they should invest in a video conferencing system. The quality of free, web-based software is often inferior to the full HD video you get from a specialist like Polycom. Investment in a specialised, more comprehensive solution delivers better audio and video quality that enhances the host company's brand.
Compliance is also a major consideration for enterprises; many are legally obliged to conform to data protection and privacy regulations. Paid-for systems aid them in this.
A dedicated video collaboration solution also allows for better integration into your specific workflows. This is partly because of its integration with standard enterprise tools such asMicrosoft Lync and also because it can be customised to suit your specific needs.
According to the research, the quality of the overall experience is an important factor for boosting adoption of video, and thus gaining greater overall benefits. Some of this was expected to come from having a more reliable system and improving infrastructure such as network availability, but higher definition video was also seen as important. Video experiences do not all have to be high end immersive telepresence, but decent quality does play a significant part in making employees more comfortable with using video.
Many employees will have experienced some challenges using early video systems or will have heard stories about problems in the past from colleagues. In an organisation that is either installing video for the first time, or extending existing systems to be used more widely, this 'video folklore' or perception of problems will not help adoption.
When Quocirca dug deeper into the research and talked directly to installers of video systems, it became clear that many are not doing enough after making the purchase decision to get the best out of their installation. This is not helpful and can result in reinforcing negative perceptions about using video in the workplace, or denting the confidence of employees so that they only use video conferencing if there is someone on hand to provide assistance or set up the communications for them.
Rob: What can be done to ensure new video collaboration customers get off to an effective start?
Roger:There are several simple steps that an organisation can follow to ensure the smoothest possible roll out of video collaboration. The most important is thinking how video is actually going to address the business challenges and needs and then anticipating how it will fit in to the end users' daily routine. Video that is integrated into workflows will be much more rapidly adopted than a system that doesn't seem contextually relevant.
The second step is to prepare end users for what's coming to make sure they are comfortable with process and ready to engage. Think about the user profile and pick the methods best suited to them. For example, your digital natives and millennials will be happy to watch YouTube videos and tweet their questions to your support desk, but baby boomers might prefer a more personal and formal approach such as webinars, online tutorials and physical workshops. It's key that the users know what to expect and do not become concerned or nervous about this being a tool for them to use in the future.
Lastly; remember you only get one chance to make a first impression. Users should find collaboration tools easy to use wherever they are working. People who have an experience that is simple, with clear menu options and error codes, quick and reliable connections, and who get a satisfactory audio and video experience the first time they try are much more likely to become return users. Ensure that your users have a positive and quality experience first time and every time.
It is quite easy to look at consumer usage of video conferencing and think it will translate directly into straightforward use in the workplace, but this is rarely the case. While regular consumer usage builds awareness and familiarity, it is not sufficient for the rigorous challenges of the workplace. Things do not only need to be easy to use, they have to be reliable and build confidence that they will portray a professional image.
Partly this is down to the conferencing and collaboration tools and how well the infrastructure supports them as well as how conducive the overall workplace is for video use. Some of these factors are environmental and need to be put in place to provide the right settings, easy mechanisms for establishing calls and so on.
However, some factors are personal. Pro-active training and facilitation from the outset, will help establish confidence and this can be further developed with increasing awareness of the value and management commitment to video usage - fostering a positive culture of video adoption.
It is a significant investment, so it would seem foolish to do anything other than take it seriously and ensure that everybody in the organisation gets the best out of it.
Rob: Many employees feel that they have too many meetings already - isn't video collaboration just a way to hold meetings remotely?
Roger: "It's not that employees have too many meetings; that's a function of business culture. Organisations still have to be smart about time management; however; video collaboration can make necessary meetings more productive. In the UK alone time wasted being unproductive in meetings is estimated to cost the economy £26 billion every year. That's because of the 4 hours the average worker spends in meetings a week, 2 hours 39 minutes of this time is wasted. This is down to travel time, waiting for rooms when the previous meeting runs over, waiting for latecomers etc. Workers can be more productive when they don't have to physically go to a meeting room and wait for a meeting to start. When dialling into a meeting room from your desk you can continue to work right up until the moment the meeting starts.
Video as a medium also speeds up the meeting process. Essentially, meetings are a way to reach consensus on issues and make decisions. In our recent research, more than 80 percent of those using video collaboration said they experience faster decision making. The ability to launch a group video collaboration anytime, anywhere means no more long, convoluted email trails as a preamble to a lengthy meeting. And of course both remote and external participants can join easily, so that the group can be effective and efficient. Video collaboration promotes smarter and faster decision-making."
It is clear that for video to effectively change the way people work, share information and make decisions to be more efficient, more people, in fact pretty much all employees would need to be using it. The reality is that in many organisations, video conferencing usage exists only in pockets; either the walnut veneered boardroom, certain team meeting rooms or on privileged desktops. This seems oddly restrictive when so many have become so accustomed to advanced communications, including video, as consumers.
However, the research also indicated that some organisations had a much more progressive attitude than others. In these, video conferencing usage had become accepted, normalised like using the phone and very widely adopted. So what makes them different?
Rob: What do you think are the characteristics of an adoptive video culture?
Roger: "Organisations with a high percentage of digital natives and millennials will see a video culture develop rapidly. This is because these workers are more used to using video in their personal lives, with consumer solutions such as Skype and FaceTime.
However, there are other key factors. Organisations that are constantly revisiting process and policy in pursuit of improvement adapt and evolve more quickly. Those organisations where IT is a more active participant at C-level will see video collaboration integrated into business processes and therefore adopted quickly too. Having IT advise lines of business leaders on integration of video collaboration drives adoption from the top down.
In order to foster a bottom-up movement in terms of video adoption it's important to develop a more democratic work environment where employees feel empowered to run with the tools provided. This means making video for all, not just managers. Dissolving hierarchical access limitations is absolutely essential."
The research backs up these comments. The video conferencing industry has progressed through several stages of evolution, with the perceptions from some earlier hang-ups lingering a little longer than necessary. The technology needed to mature to become easier to use and more reliable, and networks needed to grow in capacity to support higher definition video. This has largely happened, with perhaps the odd rough edges in usability still needing some polish.
The next steps involve non-technical challenges such as social, psychological and political (the internal politics of management) acceptance. These influence the culture in the workplace and attitudes to how people communication. Getting them right will bring greater adoption and should lead to the intended goal - more effective communication. To read more about video adoption, download this free report.
We all know that face-to-face meetings are the most natural and effective way to communicate. However, when you work for a global company with team members dispersed all over the world, video calls are the next best thing. As a millennial and a so-called member of the “selfie generation,” being on video has always been comfortable for me. With popular apps like SnapChat and WhatsApp becoming another regular form of communicating, video is an everyday part of my life.
But on my first day on the job, I realized how different it was to be on a video call when it wasn’t a casual encounter with my friends. I couldn’t help but continue to glance over at myself in the self-view window. How did I look? How were people reacting to what I said? Was I coming across as professional?
Flash forward six months and now I’m a mobile worker. I work from our headquarter offices, my home office, in coffee shops, or in the occasional a hotel lobby during a quick break at a conference. Even with all the benefits that flexible work and video conferencing has, it can be really easy to screw up.
Along the way I’ve picked up some quick and easy tips on how to set up a video call so you feel comfortable, confident and come across as professional. They are:
1. Get the right lighting.
Overhead lighting is the worst kind of lighting for video conferences because it makes shadows under your eyes and across the bridge of your nose giving you a tired look. Natural, soft light is best; ideally behind your web cam (directly behind it, or one on the left, one on the right) and one directly behind you.
2. Check your angle.
Are you using a web cam clipped to the top of your monitor? Chances are it’s not capturing you from the best perspective. If it’s angled down too much, you’ll put your fellow meeting-goers in the position of towering over you.
If you’re using the built in camera on your laptop, it may be too low--and looking up your nose. Adjust the height of the chair you sit in, or a good quick fix is to put hardcover books under your laptop until the angle is right. You want the camera to capture the triangle of your forehead to your left shoulder and right shoulder in the frame. A diagram here would be great!
3. Look presentable.
Even if only your face and shoulders are in the frame, you never know if you’ll need to stand up for some reason. It’s always best to be prepared! So look decent from head to toe. Wear flattering, solid colors near your face, just like television news anchors do. Make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable position so you aren’t moving and fidgeting throughout the call and distracting from the meeting. And, please, no pajama bottoms.
4. Look behind you.
Don’t forget that the people on the other end of the call have a “fish bowl” view into your environment. Junk and clutter is not only distracting, but it’s also unprofessional. Think of your workspace as an extension of yourself, how would you want to be perceived? Clean walls are best, but if you do have photos/posters in the background, make sure it’s something you wouldn’t be uncomfortable with your boss looking at. The best rule of thumb? If you wouldn’t want it in a live meeting, you shouldn’t have it in a video conference! If possible, a poster with the company logo is ideal. Would be cool to collage a few good examples. Think of folks who brand their backgrounds and ask them for a photo or screenshot them during a video call.
5. Minimize distractions.
If you’re working in an environment with other people around, creating an “On Air” sign for your office door when you’re live can help keep other people from walking in. A barking dog or a cat running through the background can be a big distraction, so it’s best to keep them out of room. If you’re working in a public area like a coffee shop, it’s best to work with your back to a wall so you don’t have “extras” walking through the background while you’re on a call.
6. Be prepared.
Video is closer to a face-to-face meeting than it is to a conference call, yet most people treat it like a conference call. Looking at your notes or squinting at your computer screen is just as distracting as if you were reading your meeting notes in front of someone face-to-face. Know your main talking points and look up, eye contact is important to show you’re listening and engaging with others in the meeting. It might feel awkward at first to stare directly into the camera eye, but alternating between this and focusing on the speaker as they talk is important to show you’re engaged.
And last but not least, be sure to turn your video camera on and preview your view BEFORE starting a meeting! Give yourself a couple extra minutes before each meeting for a test run in case you need to adjust things like lighting, the height of your computer, move anything out of the background that might be distracting, etc. Following these simple tips will set you up for a much more professional and productive meeting!
What other rules do you follow when on a video call? Have any quick tips? Comment below!
Following President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year and the most recent fiscal 2015 budget proposal for the “ConnectEDucators” program, it is clear that the Obama administration remains committed to leveraging technology and data to personalize learning and improve college instruction.
With access and quality of education a major concern, especially in rural and underserved populations, increased commitment to the ConnectED Initiative is a step in the right direction. At the heart of Obama’s mission is utilizing the best technology to connect 20 million students in 15,000 K-12 schools to enrich learning. One technology that will play a vital role in making this dream a reality is video. It will serve as a driver in helping teachers enable an enriched learning experience and increase completion rates of higher education.
How will video conferencing help achieve the goals of the ConnectED initiative? Obama aims to connect 99 percent of students to next-generation broadband and wireless technology during the next five years. It will include partnerships with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon. But a wireless network alone doesn’t open the world to our young people. Video conferencing running on that wireless network, however, does.
For example, Jefferson County public schools, Colorado’s largest public school district with 84,000 students installed a video communications network in 2008, and its students have reaped the benefits. Through videoconferencing, the district has fostered high-quality teaching with enriched curriculum. Some students have communicated face-to-face with a teacher living in a NASA-operated undersea habitat, while others learned poetry from a renowned writer living in Mexico. Sick or injured students have used video connections to keep pace with their schoolwork, interacting from home with their classmates just as they would have in the physical classroom.
The Jefferson County model also extends directly to Obama’s high school initiative, which suggests that today’s students are no longer meaningfully engaged or motivated in their classrooms and that they require a different educational experience than they did a generation ago. Additionally, many high school graduates lack exposure to learning that correlates their work in school to college and careers.
In my next blog post, we’ll continue our discussion on the “ConnectEDucators” program and address why video integration in the classroom will increase engagement and better prepare students for college and beyond.
In the season finale of the CBS legal drama, The Good Wife, the writers took the audience into the exciting world of video conferencing. Well, an aspect of it anyway. The premise is that multiple law firms were conducting a remote deposition, something that happens hundreds of times per day using video communication's gear, and one of the lawyers picked up the wrong remote and turned the TV off and not the video system. This mistake left their system connected so others could still see and hear what they were doing and saying.
The Polycom Group Series 500 was actually the video system the law firm was using. It is unfortunate the lawyers had zero training on the operation of the video system because Polycom puts in a number of safe guards to let the user know there is an active call taking place. For instance, the LED on the codec itself changes color; there is also a light on the camera that indicates the system is in a call. The lawyers did not recognize these signs because they were unaware. The most telling sign that the Polycom system is in a call is that the camera is actually facing you. When the Polycom video system is idle, the camera turns 180 degrees letting users know "they are not being filmed".
Photo credit - CBS / King Size Productions
The Good Wife did get a lot of how video is used correct because the production is a user of Polycom video conferencing to assist in the development of the show. Read executive producer, Robert King, discuss how they use Polycom on a daily basis in Entertainment Weekly.
As for the things that were not 100% accurate on the program, well, this is Hollywood and anything is possible!
When you are a first-time mom, it seems like everyone has a pearl of wisdom to share with you. From teething remedies to proper car seat installation, my friends, coworkers and family members had advice on every topic imaginable. But when the time finally came to head back to work and leave my newborn, Jacob, no single tip or trick made me feel at ease. How would I balance my baby with my career? Well, with Mother’s Day approaching, and well into my first year in motherhood, it’s my turn to hand off some advice to all the moms out there.
Video is your friend.
Working in an environment that champions video, I’ve always had the flexibility to telecommute. But never have I appreciated it more than these past eight months. Here’s why:
It’s a time saver. Every moment is precious and I know that sometimes moms wish there were 28 hours in a day so we could get everything done. By using videoconferencing, there’s no commute, which means I am saving a lot of time. This extra hour I have in my day can be used however I want: cooking dinner with my husband (occasionally), meeting up with a girlfriend (rarely), or getting some extra snuggle time with Jacob (regularly).
My position requires a bit of travel and I was hesitant at first about leaving Jacob. However, thanks to video (specifically RealPresence Mobile) we have found ways to make it manageable. My husband Andrew and I chat about our day and I get in my “mom time” with Jacob, the best of both worlds – doing what I need to do for my job while spending quality time with the family. It definitely helps curb homesickness.
By using video to connect with coworkers, I was able to ease in and out of maternity leave seamlessly. The way that I interacted via video remained consistent from before and after I had Jacob. In fact, the transition was so seamless that some of my coworkers never even realized I was pregnant! They were accustomed to seeing my face day in and day out, but it was hard for them to believe their eyes when I finally stood up to show them my growing belly.
Polycom has tons of mothers (and grandmothers) in its workforce and I can guarantee that video conferencing has made a significant impact on their lives and balancing family and career. Do any other Moms out there have tips or advice they can share? Please share them with us by leaving a comment below. Happy Mother’s Day!
What a joy to see the fruits of labor highlighted in such a grand yet humble way Saturday, March 22nd, when America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama visited the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing.
For over the past months, I had the blessing of working with Stanford University Graduate School of Business in designing the perfect learning environment.
When looking for an innovative learning environment, Stanford sought to create a space that was as true to life in which students, though thousands of miles away would feel as if they are in the same room. The result was identical classrooms in Stanford, California and Beijing using high-definition video technology displayed on a curved wall of video screens. The fully immersive all-encompassing suite enables the professor or students to stand and walk and still be seen. All participants are captured at full height.
I worked with one of the faculty members at the school of business who likes to teach in a horseshoe style setup. He wanted to have a lectern placed at the end of the first row where he could stand to teach. This design puts him at the base of the horseshoe with his students in one country facing students in the other to create a highly collaborative and engaging experience. An interactive whiteboard is behind him and students have pop-up content monitors immediately in front of them. They didn’t want ordinary monitors, however, but instead chose to place touch screen monitors that act as interactive whiteboard as well for greater collaboration. Seamless conversation and real-time data sharing with students on different continents…it doesn’t get any better!
The rooms are used to conduct seminars between scholars at Stanford and PKU, and to expand the reach of the business school faculty.
Shown above: a student in Stanford, California speaks to the First Lady, in Beijing, across the table.
"Through the wonders of modern technology, our world is more connected than ever before," Obama said.
It seems designing collaborative learning spaces is a major part of the discussions I have reularly with educational institutions and corporate training organizations worldwide. Some want desgin shown above or another Immersive Studio you can read about here or view on YouTube. Others are more interested in a collaborative learning space like the one Deloitte designed at their Deloitte University campus see below. We will talk about these spaces in the next blog posting.
Until then, let me know if you want to better understand what I have shared.