video conference systemsGone are the days when businesses could only afford one video conferencing unit in an office, and the equipment was so difficult to use and unreliable that often it was overlooked altogether in favour of teleconferencing (phone conferencing).  Because of its improved functionality, reliability and costs, video conferencing has now been embraced by a large number of diverse businesses.  Video conferencing has shown people the benefits of being able to meet “in person” with a colleague in another office without having to set foot on a plane.  
Let’s look in more details at 5 of the great uses for video conferencing today.
1. Convenient meetings
Anyone who has ever had to organise a business trip abroad can tell you why video conferencing has changed the way they do business.  Many meetings, business deals, contract negotiations and the like need to be conducted in a face to face setting.  There are countless times in the past when people have had to organise a trip overseas – say to Zurich – just for the day to attend an important face to face meeting.  Imagine telling that person that instead of a gruelling round trip, all they have to do is book a meeting room down the hall from their office and spend 1 hour in the meeting!  Even relatively brief trips away from the office can disrupt the business day, and leave people feeling unproductive.  Given the opportunity to attend a video conference instead, and the quality of that person’s work will increase, their morale will improve, and their efficiency will double. Many businesses talk about “flexibility” in the workplace and “work-life balance” – this is a prime example of these concepts.  That’s the sheer convenience that a well designed and installed video conferencing system can offer.  
2. Cutting costs
Following on from the first point, it goes without saying that businesses can save many thousands of dollars in airfares by switching to a video conferencing solution.  Especially if you’re based in a country like Australia, the costs of travelling overseas have become prohibitively expensive for many companies.  The problem is that businesses are increasingly becoming global entities – offices can be scattered around the world in geographically diverse regions.  There is also the issue that existing and potential clients can also be based in other countries, but now, instead of using up budgets on travel costs, the money can be saved, with no detriment to the business.  There will, of course, be upfront costs associated with the design, installation and ongoing maintenance of a video conferencing system, however the costs can often be minimal compared to a company’s annual travel overheads.
3. Flexible working environment
The idea of working productively from home even a decade ago seemed dubious and experimental at best. But the trend has taken off, partly because of the ease of remote access systems such as Virtual private Networks and improved security measures, but also because of technology such as video conferencing. No longer do your employees actually have to work in the same office or even the same country as you: you can talk via instant messaging services and email, see each other’s calendars, and have face to face meetings via video conferencing.  Many studies have found that home-based workers tend to be happy and more productive workers.
4. Diverse information
In a real face to face meeting, you can pass someone a page with a plan on it, or a breakdown of costs, or anything else you feel you want to show them.  You can take your laptop into the meeting and show people PowerPoint presentations to them. Showing people information in real time, and getting their reaction to it is sometimes invaluable.  But with video conferencing you can achieve the same effect if your company has installed a Unified Communications solution. You’ll be able to show them the same material – on your laptop, on email or presentations – in real time.
5. Meeting and communications accessibility
Video conferencing opens up an entire world for businesses with disabled employees or for those companies who have a lot of contact with disabled clients. During a video conference, for example, information can be provided to the hard of hearing (or even sign language) so that they are no longer excluded from important meetings. Anyone with mobility issues can join a video conference (no matter where they are), whereas they may have had to decline to attend. Video conferencing systems allow for increased participation and accessibility of communications for everyone in the work place.
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