Attitudes on Video Need to Change

Attitudes on Video Need to Change

By Dave Michels August 14, 2013 12 Comments
Dave Michels JPG
Attitudes on Video Need to Change by Dave Michels

We know video conferencing makes sense. We know it can be more efficient than travel and more robust than audio-only or text-based communications. But despite the obvious benefits, many remain resistant to it. It’s time to let go of the past and face your colleagues.

I understand that when the red light goes on that some people behave differently. They become self-conscience and think more about their actions. There’s a sense of violation that doesn’t occur with phone calls. It doesn’t feel normal. Get over it, and make it normal.  

I get all kinds of excuses: “I don’t have a camera,” “I just got up,” “I didn’t do my makeup.” Why settle for compromised communications when video is available? We create our future, and according to every science fiction show and film, the future includes pervasive, seamless visual communications. It’s time to make the future the present.

There is no excuse. Gone are the intimidating remotes. It’s easy to see and hear each other, and even share the desktop screen. The cost has fallen and the equipment no longer requires a big upfront capital commitment. The technology (cost and access) is no longer the battle. The barrier is the emotional attachment to the past. Gosh, I just love my buggy whip.

It was recently reported that revenue of worldwide enterprise videoconferencing and telepresence equipment dropped more than 13 percent year-over-year, and almost 22 percent quarter-over-quarter. Something is wrong here considering the vast majority of organizations aren’t using video.

Video conferencing has been on the radar for much longer than most technologies, and over the years the cost, time, and pain associated with travel have all increased. The concern of environmental responsibility and stewardship have also increased. Telecommuting became acceptable and cool, and bandwidth got broader. The cost of gas continues to go up, and the cost of hardware continues to drop.  

The world has flattened as companies increasingly leverage skills from distributed global teams. Smartphones today are everywhere, each supports HD two way video communications. Every laptop has a camera.  Still, with all of this we have not seen the growth in video we predicted decades ago. Video communications remain the exception to the norm.

To this day I regularly find people (even in in high tech) who almost refuse to engage in video calls unless absolutely forced to do so. They are turning a blind eye to the obvious benefits of seeing someone live, reading someone’s body language, and being able to sustain someone’s attention (unlike on a conference call), or just nurturing distant relationships in ways voice calls and emails cannot.

I’ve made the transition. I consistently attempt to do video-first. It took some time and had to be forced, but now I prefer it. When I Skype call, I press “Video Call” before pressing “Call.” When I set up a meeting, I send out a link to a video bridge by default. When I get invited to an audio-bridge, it’s like going back in time.

I prefer smiles over smileys. I find that watching is a natural complement to listening just as I prefer movies to radio dramas. I know a few others that have also made the transition, and together we are like former smokers who disdainfully look down upon our old way (audio-only communications). Together we wait and hope that someday our colleagues will get it.

I’ve always blamed slow adoption on the technology, but now realize it’s the users. Change is a bitch, and there’s nothing wrong with this fine shell. So it is up to the next generation, the Trumans, who were born with the camera on. These people are always on - or off - one can’t tell as the camera changes nothing. Oddly, the camera being off reveals more about one’s age than the camera being on.

One day video will be the default, and there’s nothing - repeat nothing - preventing that day from being today. But realistically it’s a generation away. Yes, there’s plenty of room for technology improvement, but its time for market/user demand to pull the technology rather than be dragged by it.


12 Responses to "Attitudes on Video Need to Change" - Add Yours

Michael Graves 8/14/2013 7:48:47 AM

How right you are! It seems that some people just never got over the traumatic transition from rotary to touch-tone dialing.

Seriously, people just need to learn to expect more and better. More productivity. Better use of their time. Especially in the SMB sector there's an education gap. Decision makers don't know that things can be better, and that it can make economic sense.

I am hopeful that Video-as-a-Service (VaaS) is the lever that can be used to shift the current impasse. Even that has channel implications. If it's going to be very affordable for the end-user noone in the channel can afford to be high-touch.
Alex Doyle 8/14/2013 8:44:50 AM

Great piece, Dave - and I think Michael has also hit upon some key points in his comment: Video as a Service enables more B2B and inter-business video, and I think that B2B usage is what will cause the inflection point in business video.

Companies have been trained to think video is an internal tool (like 4 digit dialing), so they use it for internal use: staff meetings, sales meetings, etc. Once companies start using video for external meetings with customers, suppliers, partners, prospects, analysts, etc etc etc......then I think more companies will have this "aha" moment about video.
Art Rosenberg 8/14/2013 8:52:26 AM

Excuse me, Dave!

Video conferencing is not always about desktop communications anymore, nor is it always about everyone being "on camera" to watch them talk!

Video is also about "information" exchange, and with increased mobility options, voice conversations can be augmented with a user's video perspective of a situational event while they talk. And don't tell me we need to have two video camera's going to do both at the same time!

Video is definitely becoming more important and easier to use, but it is really up to the individual end users to dynamically decide whether or not they want to be "on camera" or not. I have been looking at video conferencing in the important health care industry, where it can facilitate remote interactions between doctor/nurses and patients, but being "on camera" means looking at the patient problem area while discussing it, not just watching the patient talk. On the other hand, the patient should be able to watch the doctor talk or show them things, so again we have "different strokes for different folks" at the individual user level during the same interaction.

Person-to-person communications will always be a situational thing and flexibility of choice for being "on camera" for each person in a conversation will remain a necessity.
Roberta J. Fox 8/14/2013 9:27:44 AM

We use five different desktop video/web applications every day working with each other, and our clients at FOX GROUP. We have been using these tools internally for over four years, and can't imagine running the business any other way.

I echo Dave's comments about tuning out if only on teleconference calls and find them extremely frustrating and unproductive. You know that most people are not fully engaged, and are also doing other things, which is a waste of time for everyone.

We have tracked the benefits of working with our clients use video/collaborative desktop type apps and find that once people are taught how to use the tools, and how to 'act' on video that they see the benefits and move on.

Perhaps the vendors should offer more training programs on the human factors of how to use, rather than what to use?

Good article and comments folks!
Guy Koster 8/14/2013 11:10:51 AM

The benefits of video are compelling and articulated very well in your note...

... but it needs to easy to use.

Q: How many times have YOUspent 25%+ of the allocated 1 hour meeting slot just trying to make the technology work...
Dave Michels 8/14/2013 10:53:03 PM

Guy, your point is valid, but I don't familiarity is the culprit more than the technology. I do run into delays because people don't know how to turn on their mic. If you don't use things, they become difficult to use.
Dave Michels 8/14/2013 10:54:53 PM

I don't disagree with anything you said, and I don't believe I suggested otherwise. There's lots of potential uses of video. My point is that there is far too many audio only conversations.
Brandon Hagood 8/15/2013 2:05:28 PM

Thanks Dave... I saw a statistic, recently, which stated that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal, where visual cues and body language communicate in ways that words and tones can't. So, there is massive value in video meetings; however, nothing will kill the value, and cause a bad taste for the technology, like a poor user experience. As someone mentioned above, if the user experience isn't easy and/or the quality of the service and availability is less than great, adopters will be extremely hesitant to rely on video for communication anytime soon, as people were with VoIP several years ago... Plus, you're always going have folks who are afraid of the camera.
Thor Hammer 8/15/2013 11:38:46 PM

A couple of decades ago, we had a manager who insisted that we print any emails and put them in his physical mailbox. He had probably had a bad user experience. I told him to learn or retire. And here we go again. We expect all employees to be able to use our business tools. UC and video is increasingly important. Opting out is not an option. Even if you have had a bad experience because you do not know where to find the control panel on your PC.
Kevin Kieller 8/16/2013 4:23:50 AM

As part of defining and prioritizing end-user requirements I have interviewed numerous business users related to video and commonly they indicate ...

1. Room-based video is too complicated and they have received no training on using system.

2. Often they don't know how to book/schedule the room and don't know what remote rooms support video or are available.

3. Room-based video also requires travel (to the meeting room) so if they don't want to travel they prefer desktop video.

4. Often as soon as one participant is remote (i.e. not joining from a meeting room) no one can figure out how to include that person.

5. They see far more value in sharing content (via Webex or Lync Online Meetings) than they do video. In fact in systems that allow IM, audio, web and video conferencing most users don't even bother to "turn on" the video window.

6. While video might make some meetings more productive, I would argue that most meetings are so poorly run (no agenda, wrong participants, no minutes/action items, etc.) that adding video is not going to fix core problem.

7. Consider, if you need to "watch" your team members to make "force" them to pay attention then maybe you have the wrong team?
Art Rosenberg 8/19/2013 8:31:53 AM

Bingo, Kevin!

Sharing content can include video content will be more useful than watching people as they talk, so having the option for showing and seeing video, in addition to voice conferencing will be useful.
Chema Ballarin 9/9/2013 2:43:27 AM

While I do agree with Dave's article fully, I do understand the points Kevin and Art raise. And, in my opinion, they're not related to video specifically but technology in general: technology per se won't change human behaviour; it's rather the application and benefits of technology what drives us to do things differently.
In the video adoption space, if your team is disengaged in a meeting or doesn't show interest, introducing video won't change dramatically that. Try instead having less meetings, or sending an agenda in advance, or make the agenda a shared item. Not every conversation needs video either. If someone is putting lame excuses for switching on video, try to think if the conversation is as useful or important for him/her as it is for you.
Don't get me wrong, I defend the value of video in the enterprise and am a firm believer that adds true value to the business. In working with customers though, you need to understand their specific situation and sometimes work from other angles (culture, processes) first and leave technology for later.

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