I am a huge fan of video conferencing and have used it ever since it became available in the late 1980s. I used to marvel at the technology, how useful it was, and how much time and money it saved my company. These days I just use it and rarely even think twice about it. Video conferencing is just there whenever I need it. Be that a corporate meeting or some lighthearted chat with a friend halfway across the world. It occurred to me that it might make sense to list all the cool and timesaving features you can expect from a modern video conferencing system.
First of all, state-of-the-art video conferencing, unlike older systems where you just got a video and audio link, offer excellent management and control features. Most support a hierarchy of hosts, presenters and participants. The host has a full control menu and is in overall charge, presenters have a share menu, and participants simply sit back and watch.
Second, in a world where, for better or for worse, ideas are generally conveyed with a PowerPoint presentation, most full-featured video conferencing systems let you run PowerPoint files directly from the conferencing software. All you have to do is share the PowerPoint file. It is then compressed, sent to the server, and all the participants. Since the individual slides are cached, going from slide to slide is very quick.
Third, the same holds true for document sharing. Most systems let you share Microsoft Office documents such as Word and Excel files. That includes multimedia files that contain rich text and images. And like PowerPoint presentations, once a file is shared it gets cached over the network and presenters can flip through pages as fast as they want to.
Fourth, and here it gets interesting, is the ability to share applications as well. This comes in handy when a concept is best explained while using a particular application. It's also invaluable for training sessions. Some video conferencing systems that support application sharing even provide keyboard and mouse input to conference participants. You can even grant remote control to an application or desktop.
Fifth, it's possible to share live web browser windows. This means everyone is looking at the same web page instead of trying to type a URL into their own browser and trying to follow the presenter's instructions as to where to go or what to click.
Sixth, video conferencing can support shared white boards. These work like regular meeting white boards, only the host can give participants the privilege to join and add their own ideas or comments. Whatever is on the white board can later be shared as handout files.
Seventh, and most stunning to video conferencing newcomers, is the ability to run multiparty video. The host can set things up so that several meeting participants are visible live in video windows, or there can be multiple video originations. The possibilities are endless.
What all of this means is that video conferencing has grown to be much more than simply a conference call with video. Video conferences can now incorporate all the productivity and presentation tools we use in our work, and this makes them ever more valuable. At this point, any business that is not using video conferencing services is not being run as efficiently and productively as it could be run.
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Chris Robertson is an author of Majon International, one of the worlds MOST popular internet marketing companies.
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