The single most compelling reason to install technology is to be more productive. No one ever bought a fax machine to save on postage. Email wasn’t designed to save money on paper. Advances in technology for the office have always been about speeding up business.

Over the last 50 years, technologies like cell phones, Al Gore’s Internet and the laptop have enabled businesses to transform from local shops to global entities. Where there was once costly travel, conference calls emerged to speed up the conversation and help expedite decision-making, but there was a cost—the human connection.

The conference call later evolved in two directions. On one side, web conferencing focused on enhancing a multiway audio conference call with a shared presentation feature. This gave everyone on the call access to the same spreadsheet or slides and helped create the illusion that everyone was in the same room viewing the same material. The other side of enhancements came by way of video conferencing. Video technology focused more on the human connection of collaboration and gave everyone a voice and a face at the table. Where web conference calls shone for a few presenters speaking to a large group, video conference calls targeted smaller groups where everyone could participate more effectively.

As the evolution continued, we started to see the best aspects of web conferencing merge with the best aspects of video conferencing. Screen sharing was built into video services. The telepresence megarooms started to die out as network speeds improved and businesses realized they could get more value by adding more agile video systems to every meeting space. Personal connections like laptops with built-in webcams and mobile devices joined the meeting, and the introduction of cloud video conferencing made it easy to deploy a powerful collaboration solution without needing to dedicate an IT resource to manage onsite equipment.

Today, we live in a world full of options when it comes to communicating. Fax machines and desk phones still exist, but when the message matters, we all know that seeing someone face to face is the best way to connect. Email and traditional conference calls lack the human elements of eye contact, gestures, inflection and dress that help us relay and understand the meaning behind what we say.

Lifesize was designed to help people communicate the way that they want. It can do audio-only calls like a traditional conference call system (Polycom Star Phone killer?), presentation mode like a web conferencing system (WebEx killer?), and for everyday communication, it offers the best video conferencing experience there is (triple threat). Check out Lifesize Cloud to learn how video turned the conference call into a useful application.

Try playing Conference Call Bingo, the game designed to help you maintain your sanity while you sit through the tedium of a traditional conference call.