I recently had the opportunity to participate in a collaborative effort involving twenty people brought together to respond to a significant RFP. The group included experts in their respective functional areas from three different companies. During the most intense phase of the project there were multiple virtual meeting room (“VMR”) sessions per day between the entire group and several sub-groups. These sessions were conducted using a video conferencing and collaboration platform. It was interesting to see how participants used the collaboration app. and chose their mode of communication.
My first observation was how differently people interacted. I have noticed this during meetings with other groups as well. For example, the larger the company the less likely that you will “see” someone in the conference. Being visually anonymous appears to be a big company thing. Chat on the other hand seems to be used heavily between those in the virtual meeting (VM) that have some common association or objective. The secret side bar chat is assuredly an upper hand kind of activity used by all but only between attendees on the same side. The problem with chat is that most folks in a VM do not know they have it or do not know how to use it (our Viewme product has a cool “aparte” side bar audio and chat capability that lets you talk with other attendees privately during the VM if you have a comment or just get bored). So that leaves voice communication in the VM. Everybody seems to participate using their audio option, some more than others. I guess this is the universal communication method that everyone feels comfortable with. The only issue here is that no one seems to have mastered the power of the “mute” feature.
A recent article in the New York Times provided a real life look at how people behave on conference calls. The article sights work down by Wainhouse Research which estimates that knowledge workers, people whose job function focuses on handling information, spend an average of 104 minutes per month in some type of conference call. Interestingly enough, most of the people referenced in the article admit to being pre-occupied during the conference doing other things such as email, tweeting or even cleaning their kitchen. In one instance a physician recalls a videoconference call in which all participants except the two presenters were to turn off their cameras. One member of the group forgot to do so and sat through the entire conference call shirtless, chomping on a bag of chips.
If the whole point of using a video collaboration platform is to enable face to face communication, why aren't people turning their camera on?
Regardless of your own etiquette within a VMR it is interesting to observe others behavior. Eventually with some practice, everyone becomes a better participant and these collaborative sessions run smoother, become more pervasive during the day, and ultimately are more impactful and successful. We are still not there as many VMRs are still being used as audio conference bridges with the ability to share screens but there is no denying that the face-to-face aspect of visual collaboration is becoming more the norm with personal usage of Facetime, Skype, Instagram et al setting the bar.
Users will grow to be more comfortable and confident using video collaboration technology as it becomes more mainstream in their work day. We at eZuce urge you to stop hiding, turn your camera on, and elevate your collaboration experience to the next level by embracing the aspect of visual interaction.
But don't take our word for it, give it a try!