Improve Communication Efficiency in 2010

Posted on January 31, 2010. Filed under: Video Messaging, webcam | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The calendar has turned over to 2010, but the economic challenges of 2009 are continuing to stay with us. Every business person I speak with talks about the need to reduce cost, meet goals with a sharply reduced workforce, and simultaneously improve quality and customer service. Our view is technology is the answer to improving performance in 2010. Communications is a budget line item that contains multiple cost elements. Direct expenses from your telephone, Internet, and audio conferencing vendors fall into this category. One must also include some travel costs into the “communications” expense line. After all, how much of your travel is associated with seeing clients and employees over a large geographic region? How about the cost of bringing job candidates into the office to interview? Airfare, hotel, rental car, and gasoline expenses all need to be included in the overall look at communications. Another cost is the lost productivity due to the time spent in travel when employees could be working instead.

One company that is focused on improving the cost and effectiveness of communications is Wingspan Performance Advisors. “We identified communications as a high potential area for saving money,” explains Wingspan’s president, Terry Dolan. “We cover the US and international markets from our headquarters in North Carolina, so we know all about meetings in far-off places and being on teleconferences at odd times.” WingspanPA focuses on:

  • Building a collaborative effort between our company and our clients
  • Creating strategies founded on analysis and data
  • Supporting our clients’ overall objectives and culture
  • Creating value for your business

WingspanPA utilizes Vonei Meeting service for live multi-person video meetings with clients throughout the world. By seeing all the other parties in the meeting WingsanPA can tell if participants are paying attention, or if they are placing the meeting on mute and multitasking. Vonei’s flat monthly or yearly price structure eliminates the costly per minute fee of traditional audio conferences. Since the service works on any computer over the Internet, there is no need for expensive cash outlays on equipment.

Vonei has vastly improved Wingspan’s remote meetings. “Our meetings are not only more efficient,” says Terry Dolan, “but they’re also much more effective. Every person at the meeting is engaged.” Vonei is so simple to use that Wingspan’s Talent Acquisition team utilizes it as a recruitment tool. “I can have face-to-face meetings with five different candidates in five different cities before lunch time,” says Fred Weber, a Wingspan executive recruiter.

Using online technology like Vonei Meeting can cut communications costs in 2010, while making it easy to continue face-to-face meetings with anyone in the world. To request a demo of the service email info@vonei.com, or call toll free 888-698-6634.

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Why You Should Video Call Your Customers and How To Do It

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Seeing your customers face-to-face is the best method to build relationships, sell your ideas and proposals, and negotiate deals. Unfortunately distance can make in-person meetings expensive, time consuming, and more infrequent than you would like. Video conferencing addressing these issues, but these systems can be expensive to purchase, expensive to rent ($150+/hr), and require the parties to be in physical rooms that have equipment. A great solution is making video calls right from your computer to get the face-to-face benefit without the travel.

Why see your customers face-to-face?

  • Up to 90% of the meaning transmitted in face-to-face communication is nonverbal.

  • Audio calls make it easy for your customers to put you on mute. With video you can see them.

  • Audio calls don’t show you if your customer is paying attention and you can’t see their reaction.

  • Video calls allow you to see your customer while going over proposals and documents.

  • Face-to-face video calls can provide a competitive advantage for you versus your competitors.

  • More face-to-face communication can improve your personal relationship with your customer.

  • You have to see ’em to sell ’em (click this link for a great blog on selling with video).

How to make video calls from your computer

A free method to make video calls from your computer is to use Instant Messaging systems or Skype. These are great for calling family members anywhere in the world. These services work well, and what’s not to like about free? Well, there are some limitations to the free services:

  • These services only work for 2-person video calls. You can’t add a third person with live video.

  • Each person must download and use the same software application.

  • Calls are not scheduled so you have to call or email your customer first to arrange a meeting.

  • There is no historical tracking of the video calls.

  • No support is provided. If you have webcam troubles there is no one to call.

These limitations may be acceptable for personal use. However for professional business use these limitations can be show stoppers. Imagine trying to close a sale with a customer on Google Talk, your customer having difficulties with their webcam, and you have no way of getting technical support.

vonei web conferencing

For a professional image there are computer based video conferencing services like Vonei Meeting that are built for business users. For less than $40/month you have an unlimited usage, business quality video calling experience. Vonei (http://www.vonei.com) resolves limitations of the free services:

  • There is no software to load. Users simply go through their browser to a website.

  • Multiple participants can attend. Perfect for those calls when you need to bring in a sales engineer or have multiple people from the customer’s office in the meeting.

  • Video conferences are scheduled in advance and invitations are sent to all participants.

  • A historical record is kept of all video meetings.

  • Document sharing is available in the meeting service; no need to refer to email attachments.

  • Technical support is available to help with any issue, and to provide demos.

Lastly one must have the equipment on your computer to have a video call; a webcam and a headset. While this equipment is plug-n-play, there can still be questions on how to use it and how to get it to work with the video service. This is where the support provided by the paid service companies such as Vonei provides great value.

Would you like a free demo of Vonei Meeting? Send an email to sales@vonei.com and request your demo and free trial account today.

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Video Interview Job Candidates from your Computer

Posted on October 2, 2009. Filed under: video interview | Tags: , , , , , , |

One of the first steps in the recruiting process involves screening potential candidates for an approved job opening. This is typically done with telephone calls today. It is a low cost, fast, and an effective means of quickly going through basic requirements with a candidate. However since you can’t see the candidate you have no idea if they are sitting in front of Wikipedia, have open books on their desk, or have other reference material nearby. In other words, how do you really know that the candidate knows their stuff?

NC Association of Staffing Professionals-July2009-5x3 -v3

Video interviewing candidates at the first step in the process can help weed out those that are referring to other documents versus answering from their own knowledge. You can also see their mannerisms and body language. Documents such as resumes/CVs, applications, job description, and other forms can be shared right during the meeting. By weeding candidates out quickly the recruiter can shorten the time to fill positions.

Use of Vonei Meeting for video interviewing provides a secure, inexpensive means of conducting live video interviews with document sharing right from a PC, Mac, or Linux computer. A webcam and headset is all you need. Video interviews are fast to set up and and more effective than telephone calls in getting to know the candidate. And we are not talking about expensive, $150/hour video conference rooms. Services such as Vonei’s offer unlimited usage monthly service plans starting under $40. Interviews are scheduled with email invitations, and a history of interviews is kept for your records. The interviews can be conducted with encrypted transmission, and secure document sharing is conducted directly in the interview, avoiding all the email servers on the Internet.

Another major benefit in using video interviewing is reduced travel cost of bringing prospects into the client company to interview. The more candidates can be weeded out early, the more cost effective it will be to bring only the finalists in for face-to-face interviews.

Vonei video service (www.vonei.com) can be used throughout the recruiting process, not just for the initial screening of candidates but for second and third interviews as well. Video interviews can be recorded if the parties consent (see your state laws) and shared with the hiring manager. If the recruiter is not collocated with the hiring manger the same video conferencing tool can be used for online video meetings between the recruiter and the manager, sharing applicant assessments, placement status, and other forms.

Filling jobs faster and reducing the cost of bringing candidates in for face-to-face interviews make using a computer based video interviewing service extremely valuable to the recruiter.

Do you use a video interviewing service? How has it worked for you?

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Why don’t Computers have Echo Cancellation?

Posted on August 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Have you ever been on a web conference or a video call and were frustrated that the audio experience was not the best? To be quite honest computers don’t exactly provide the greatest speakerphone performance. It can sometimes sound thin on the computer speakers, and mics might be too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Sometimes when the volume is turned up you can hear yourself some back through your speakers a couple seconds after saying something. How annoying.

What is the solution to this? Until computers and webcam manufacturers do a good job putting acoustic echo cancellation into the hardware you are left with the following options:

  1. Adjust your settings. Adjust your speaker volume and mic sensitivity to obtain the best results that you can. This approach is free, but may still leave you with a “computer-audio” sound.

  2. Wear headsets. I’ve found this to dramatically improve sound on video conference calls. You can wear a wired combination headset/mic, a bluetooth headset/mic, or simply plug in your iPod headphones and use the computer mic. Each of these techniques greatly improves the audio quality and the equipment cost is low.

  3. If you want a true speakerphone experience do what companies do in their conference rooms – buy an external speakerphone There are several USB speakerphones on the market that plug into your computer. They claim to support echo cancellation but I’ve seen mixed reviews when I’ve checked on Amazon. Prices range to over $100/unit.

  4. Use an external audio conferencing bridge for your web conference. It seems this solution is widely used for WebEx and GoToMeeting sessions as they mention it on their web sites. For a large group of 10+ people this may give you the best, telephone type audio experience. Unfortunately this could involve a per-minute usage charge and potential toll free charges.

Someday computer manufacturers may provide acoustic echo cancellation. Until then we have several options for improving audio quality on web conferences. I use a headset whenever I use Vonei Meeting for video conferencing. Which solution works best for you?

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Is Web Conferencing Viral?

Posted on July 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

I don’t mean laid up in bed with Vicks Vapor Rub, losing time, missing work, and the Grim Reaper at your door. I’m referring to the idea that as individuals host web conferencing meetings to improve productivity and save time and money, they expose multiple participants to the tool. As participants see how web conferencing tools can aid communication, foster more face-to-face contact, and reduce travel cost, the more interested they are in signing up for their own account.

For example if a business person uses their 10-person Vonei Meeting video conferencing service and hosts a weekly online meeting, they could potentially expose 30-40 participants to the service. Several of these participants may decide to then purchase their own conferencing service, turning the original account into several. As these new account holders start to host their own online meetings with others, the use of the service starts to spread virally.

Much has been said about the viral nature of the social networking tools such as Facebook and MySpace. Patricia Sellers wrote a great blog on the subject you can read here. I believe web conferencing, particularly those like Vonei that include live video of multiple participants, can virally spread in usage much like the social networking tools.

Aiding in the spread of these online tools is the wide availability of broadband Internet, and the continued penetration of webcams into the home and business environment. If you don’t believe me go into your nearest computer store and look at their laptops and netbooks. How many do you find without webcams? My observation is approximately 90% of all portable computers now come standard with webcams. For those that don’t, and for desktop computers, external webcams can be found ranging in price from $20 to over $100.

Wide applicability is a must for the viral nature of the service to spread. Web conferencing services that avoid software downloads are very helpful, and it goes without saying that cross platform support of PCs, Macs, and Linux computers, along with browser support of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari is a must. Companies like WebEx and GoToMeeting were early entrants into this market and have been extremely successful in getting large scale adoption of desktop sharing. New companies like Vonei are taking the concept further by integrating the personal touch of multi-user video.

Since web conferencing can save travel time and travel cost, this is one viral service that businesses of all sizes need to spread.

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Wear shorts in your Video Conference

Posted on July 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

With traditional video conferencing a person goes to a specific room in a building and sits behind an expensive desk or in a row of chairs. Business conferences require appropriate attire as you are sitting with others, or are walking through an office or hotel to access the room. The new generation of desktop video conferencing services allow you to take video calls from your home. All you need to be concerned about is waist-up attire as that is what shows on camera. You can wear shorts and flip-flops, or nothing at all below the waist!

Desktop video conferencing involves using your computer and a webcam from any location with broadband Internet access. Participants can only see you mid-chest and up, and they would have no idea that you are wearing shorts. Just don’t stand up during your video conference!

The quality of the webcam will have a direct impact on the quality of the picture you present. Built-in laptop cameras and after market $50+ webcams provide acceptable performance. If you purchase an external webcam it is recommended that it contain a built-in microphone so you are looking and talking into the same device.

It is important to have good light on your face. Having a desk lamp in front of you greatly improves the picture quality. Definitely do not place a light source behind you as it will make you look washed-out. Similar to taking photographs outside, you want the sun shining in the person’s face and not behind them creating shadows.

Your background is especially important on video conferences from home. Be mindful of what is behind you when sitting in front of your webcam. Your vintage 1976 Farrah Fawcett poster may be your pride and joy but probably isn’t what you want your business colleagues to see. A plain wall, bookcase, or simple artwork will all work and won’t distract the audience from paying attention to you.

New desktop video conferencing services also allow your voice to be transmitted through the microphone on your computer. For best results sit no more than two feet from the microphone and speak directly into it. When not speaking you should place your computer on mute. This helps cut down on any background noise and helps avoid those awkward times when your dog barks!

Headphones are another great tool for use on video conferences on your computer. The earphones block outside noise, and having the microphone in front of your mouth provides great audio performance for the other participants on the call. These headphones can be purchased for less than $30 at a wide variety of retailers or at your favorite online store.

By implementing these techniques a business person can conduct professional business meetings over video conferences while wearing their shorts. Service plans start under $40/month for unlimited usage. Every business person can now use desktop video conferencing to project the first class image of a global company without breaking the bank on the cost of the technology.

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