You have to look at video conferencing from two angles. The first is its ability to increase someone’s revenue through the sale of new kit and a requirement of extra bandwidth which will result in network upgrades and the sale of network hardware. Which is all fine and admirable, but the second angle is productivity and probably the reason that video conferencing will get branded as snake oil.
A couple of years back during an audit of our services to an account, we were struggling with meeting room space for impromptu interviews. As a last resort reception at the IBM office offered us the ‘video conference suite’. We tramped off to find this room; nobody knew where it was, so it took a little time to find it. We pushed the door open to an audible creek and ventured inside. It was like stumbling into someone’s unused attic, there was dust covering all the surfaces. There was a huge old tele and a sign on the wall behind declaring the IBM location, which had partially fallen off the wall.
Now this was after IBM had started its efficiency drive and attempted to cut the unnecessary travel for stupid meetings. So it was in a period when you’d imagine Video Conferencing to have experienced a new lease of life but it clearly wasn’t.
It’s the same old problem that video conferencing faces, people aren’t bothered about seeing the people that they are talking too and they don’t want to be seen themselves as they reply to email and chat on instant message back channels. I’m not alone in wanting to do two or even three things at once when on calls, replying to emails, using instant messaging, answering the mobile, doing two conf calls at once (this one takes practice!).
I did a video conference once during a wash up of a project. We just hit the mute button and smiled a lot while having our own conversation on some other subject. It was a crap experience and totally unproductive as I could only do the one thing, sit there or two if you count smiling.
You have to go to a special room to do it, you can only do one thing whilst your there, so this news gets a lukewarm reception from me. So if you’re selling this stuff, good luck and if you’re using this stuff bad luck, I’ll stick to conf calls and real meetings for the time being.