Cut Travel Costs with Video Conferencing

Like every other company, we are looking for ways to cut costs. One of the things we have been experimenting with is video conferencing.

screen shot of ooVoo with six participants

Two years ago, I looked at a very sophisticated video conferencing system. It had cameras that you could move and zoom on both ends of the conversation. But it was about $80,000—a little more than I wanted to spend.So, we decided to give it a go with some inexpensive USB computer cameras and ooVoo software. (It’s free.) We’ve been using the setup in our weekly executive leadership team meetings. We have one person in Dallas and the rest of us in Nashville.

Our Bible department recently used similar equipment for a meeting they had. Audrey Kidd, our Bible Marketing VP reported on the experience:

Mike,



Five of us had a video meeting with [Company X] yesterday. It was a highly effective meeting, and I cannot imagine that it would have been more so had we physically traveled to [City]. In fact, had we traveled to the [Company] offices for this meeting, we would have taken only two, perhaps three, people and some important contributions to the discussion might have been missed.



Not only did we save the cost of travel, but the convenience of stepping downstairs for the afternoon vs. the time it would have taken to travel to and from their offices was tremendous. And, as an extra bonus, everyone slept in their own bed last night and we saved some fossil fuel.



I always thought something was lost in conference calls, but those concerns are all addressed with the video component of this technology.



Audrey

The great thing about this equipment is that it is very, very cheap. Most of the newer Macs come with built-in iSight cameras. But you can buy an external, high-quality USB camera for less than $100.

Question: Have you tried video conferencing? What has your experience been?
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  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    My sweet hubby loves that feature about our new Macbooks. When I’m a conference, he can talk to me face to face. Er, sort of. I’ve done some brainstorming via video conferencing too. The fiction team has a quarterly book discussion, and I’ve often thought how fun that would be if we could all see one another. I just need to convert them to Macs!

  • john stewart

    We have had great success using oovoo. One of my favorite oovoo conferences included our team members in China, GA, New York, Colorado and England… and I joined in from an airport gate area over a verizon card! One tip: if we are conferencing more than one other person, we actually have everyone mute their oovoo and we use a regular dial-in line. That avoids the delay and occasional dropped video. I really do not understand why everyone does not use video conferencing.

    John (oovoo id: stewartfarm)

  • http://www.christianasp.net David Neal

    There are quite a few developers in my company that are full-time telecommuters. We use ooVoo, but we use TokBox http://www.tokbox.com a lot more. ToxBox supports more participants for free. Also, it is based on Flash, so it runs in your browser and doesn’t require you to install anything. However, there is also an Adobe Air client version, if you prefer a client.

  • http://www.mcgrawmarketing.com patmcgraw

    OK, non-technical guy here…

    I love the concept of NOT traveling and handling appropriate situations via teleconferencing but haven’t had a consistently good experience with any online videoconferencing service. Choppy video and/or audio that has a 10 second delay has not met my needs (or the marketing hype for most of the services).

    I have also used land lines for audio combined with online video with mixed results (streaming video seems to be an issue sometimes).

    So what’s the secret to success? (Or are my expectations out of whack?)

  • Matt

    There are however potential dangers to video conferencing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAhpWcRETpo

  • http://bhconsulting.ca/ Brian Hogg

    I think it’s just a matter of regular communication and set agendas (as you know!)

    Though I haven’t needed to use video conferencing, straight telephone conferencing has been equally as effective. 4 month projects have been managed with one or two in-person visits, which weren’t even necessarily required.

  • Hallona

    –Choppy video and/or audio that has a 10 second delay has not met my needs (or the marketing hype for most of the services).–

    Bandwidth’s too low. Sounds like you’re probably dialing in at 64KPBS. That’s like dialing over ten year old modem to access the Internet. You need around 128KPBS to get reasonable quality, though there will always be a delay even at higher speeds. It’s like talking to someone on an overseas call.

    Everyone should know the VTC rules, no matter where you are in a room or at your desk:

    *Assume your mike is always open. There are all kinds of horror stories about this one.

    *Assume you are always on camera.

    *Leave the paper rustling and pen tapping to a minimum. A pen tapping on the table sounds like a hammer hitting the table to the other sites.

    *Don’t move the live mike. Never, never do this. It doesn’t sound noisy on your end, but trust me …

    *Never assume the live mike can’t hear you. It’s entirely possible someone might pick up that private sidebar conversation.

    *If you’re doing slides, identify the slide you’re on. It helps everyone to know where you are.

    * Avoid wearing red. It tends to bleed.

    * Avoid wearing white. It’s extremely bright on the screen (so’s paper scattered on the table top).

    * Avoid pinstripes. They tend to pixelate on the screen, especially with the lower bandwidths.

    * Consider the color of your chair and dress accordingly. If you have a black chair, wear a suit that contrasts to it.

    * For your slides, if you’re showing them over the VTC, use at least 28 point size with a font like Arial. Don’t use Times–it’s surprisingly hard to read. And avoid red because it bleeds.

  • http://www.pyromarketing.com Greg Stielstra

    I did some consulting for the oovoo guys a couple of years back. They’re great and so is their software. The company’s owner is also a strong Christian who operates his business ethically. GS

  • http://www.generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp, Generator LLC

    Mike, you and I have met several times in our previous lives at Word Records and Books. Great to read your thoughts.

    We use a couple of conferencing packages for our client correspondence. The most crucial one is Basecamp, which is free for basic service and charges a small monthly fee for extra volume. We could not create sites without Basecamp.

    The other is GoToMeeting, which is a big pricey but very solid.

    A new company that is trying to do the GoToMeeting thing for free is DimDim. However, I’ve not been able to get their software to work and their developers are all over in India.

    Anyway, GREAT blog, Mike!

  • http://rureclama.ru VZJohn

    /me в восторге

  • http://www.baselux.com/ Conference Call Free

    That is really a very nice post on Cut Travel Costs with Video Conferencing. Video Conferencing really useful especially in a business industry because through this you meet face-to-face regardless of location and everyone can see and hear the exact same thing.
    That’s really a smart and quick solution for video conferencing, without much efforts and time.. I am going to say that conferencing is an amazing thing to see and experience. It is crazy to think how technology has improved in twenty years.

  • http://kristea.k.googlepages.com/ Kristy

    The weightloss community I am a part of on YouTube (yes, you read that right) have an open chat room/video conferance room on Stickam.com. Most people really enjoy getting to know each other in ways that we never could just sending emails & posting videos.

  • http://jymsroad.wordpress.com Jim Gray

    getting my first webcam on Friday(after Christmas sale)looking forward to being part of something bigger.

  • http://www.aussiejoyslife.com Joy Argow

    I really liked Oovoo too but had a client I work with in New Hampshire just unable to get a good enough quality feed to make it worth our while. He’s wondering if the service isn’t as good up that way. He mucked around on different internet connections… any suggestions? I think it is a genius idea though.

  • http://www.videoconferencing-solutions.com Video Conferencing Setup

    Sitting with the doctors in a room and talking with other doctors via video conferencing was very exciting for me when I first time sat for a meeting. I first felt like a movie going on until when one of the doctors asked me for my comments. It was really weird and exciting.

  • Julien

    Check out this other services…. They don't need the installation of a software….http://www.ekko.tv or http://www.videoconference.com/ maybe orgoo.com

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  • http://www.samui-villas.biz Koh Samui Villas

    video conferencing can definately cut travel costs. Don't forget to go on vacation though once your work is done! :-)