Simon Says: Cut the BS on Video Conferencing Jargon

Simon Dudley

Like many industries, video conferencing has its own language. The industry has often relied on buzzwords and jargon to market its products, rather than directly stating how these solutions help people. Especially with video conferencing, I believe it has really gone too far.

The video communications business is getting in its own way with jargon. Do customers care if a product is “innovative,” “breakthrough” or “changing the face of communications?” Of course not. They want to know if these solutions can help solve their business problems and make their lives easier. The video conferencing industry is drowning in a tsunami of BS, and I believe we’ve lost sight of why we all went into this industry in the first place: to help people build relationships and work smarter.

As one should never cast the first stone if one is a sinner, then I will come clean. My own company has fallen into this trap on occasion. I have to admit that we have thrown around words like,”groundbreaking,” “revolutionary” and a myriad of others. We’ve relied on words like, “cloud,” “integrated” and “telepresence” to explain complex ideas. These words don’t help explain how our solutions help people, they just confuse them. For example, one tagline we’ve used in the past for LifeSize Passport was “Telepresence in the Palm of Your Hand.” We’ve even printed massive banners for trade shows promoting this idea. Passport is a great product, but what does it mean to be “telepresence?” Does that mean a three-screen room or high-definition quality? Who really knows anymore?

We have been guilty of jargon, puffery and buzzwords, this is true, but we certainly aren’t alone.

Video communications is an industry that can’t even decide what it’s called. Are we in the video conferencing business? Telepresence? Visual communications? It’s whatever some marketing person decides to call it that day. I think it’s time we cut the crap and started actually talking about solving business problems.

So, Video Conferencing, or Video Communications, or Telepresence – or whatever this industry wants to call itself this week – I’m putting you on notice. Write long, pointless documents that only you understand, and don’t pass the “so what” test, and fill your marketing materials with meaningless jargon, and I’ll call you out. It’s time for our clients to be served by an industry that helps them, not one that is obsessed with how clever we are.

- +Simon Dudley

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9 Responses to Simon Says: Cut the BS on Video Conferencing Jargon

  1. henry dewing says:

    I agree wholeheartedly – a clear definition of the types and uses of video communication is required so that buyers know what to shop for. Once we define teh solutions, let’s not slip into a chorus of “travel savings” either. While saving expense dollars IS a financial benefit to the business, it is not a business benefit in the same category as faster product development cycles, radical increases in customer face time, better first call resolution, or higher manufacturing throughput. Video used in a business process to advance completion of strategic and tactical objectives can lead to competitive advantage or even differentiation.
    There are still technical and business issues (e.g., interop) to be worked out before all of the business value promised by video can be realized, but the value of clear communication is much higher than just travel savings.

    • Simon Dudley says:

      Thanks so much for your thoughts, Henry. I absolutely agree that the industry has become too reliant on “travel savings” rather than discussing how video collaboration can solve real business problems. I am not sure if that is a result of laziness or the uncomfortable truth that some vendors may not exactly know how their products can help businesses succeed. There are a number of benefits video collaboration provides beyond the cliché ones we hear about on a near-daily basis. It’s time for a radical shift in the way this industry markets itself.

  2. Adrian Dixon says:

    Simon – wise words!
    You could just as easily have focused on all the techno babble speak – 1080p, 30fps, 2mbs, H264, SVC etc, etc… The average guy in the street doesn’t understand and he sure as heck doesn’t care.
    Let’s face it when I speak with a lot of people and drop in to abbreviations they think I might be interested in investing in their company – they’re thinking of VC as Venture Capital… if only I had the funds!
    Until your company and all the other manufacturers learn your lesson we are going to dealing with a limited client pool.

    • Simon Dudley says:

      Adrian as I’ve said in the past, “you shouldn’t need a degree in video conferencing to understand how to use it or to buy it.” I believe that all of the techno babble is a big reason that many companies are hesitant to invest in video – they think it’s just too complicated.

      Thanks for the inspiration – I will write another blog on this topic soon.

  3. Simon, interesting post.. in some ways innovation and break through are key words that customers would like to see and vendors should be proud of being innovative? Isn’t that LifeSize’s story? – Enabling HD video communications over ‘public’ networks and catering for a larger audience?

    I agree that in many cases we tend to overload the facts and figures with ‘jargon’ however lets not lose sight on what makes certain vendors unique.

    • Simon Dudley says:

      Sure, companies have every right to be proud of the innovative solutions they’ve created, but my argument is: does that mean anything to the customer? Did you buy your last toaster because it was the most innovative one on the market, or because it worked well and was worth the money?

      LifeSize has always hung its hat on innovation and yes, we are very proud of that. But at the end of the day, customers have to know how your solution helps them achieve their business goals and that’s going to be OUR goal moving forward.

      Not for a moment would I like to suggestion Innovation isn’t important, it absolutely is, BUT for many clients other factors can be more important.

  4. Craig Moss says:

    Well said Simon, now that I’m on “the outside” of the Video-Conferencing industry it’s very clear that opportunities are bypassed because Sales people and customers are put off by the jargon-heavy messages around Video. As ever, better to under promise and over-deliver; Video-Conferencing has never been good on this score.

    Nice blog!

    • Simon Dudley says:

      Mr Moss,

      Good to hear from you Sir. I know you know what you’re talking about so your insight that our industry has a propensity to over complicate the concept of Video is both good to know and a nice validation of my position.

      As always good to hear from old friends. Do email me privately with some details and let’s catch up.

  5. Aston Crouch says:

    Good Article,

    I think it also boils down to the fly by night companies who say that they can do a lot more than can actually be done.

    KISS!!

    Thanks for the Blog Simon..

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