Your company is growing, offices are expanding across the world and your employees are asking for flexible work schedules, online meeting tools and more modern and effective collaboration spaces. While you know video conferencing can help address these requests and create better communication and collaboration across dispersed sites, the idea of implementing it seems a bit overwhelming.
This page breaks down the basics of video conferencing — from where it all started, reasons it’s worth the investment and some tips and tricks on choosing the right video conferencing solution for your business’s unique needs.
Video conferencing by the numbers
- 80% of executives say turning on video for internal communications is becoming the norm; 84% say the
same for external meetings 1
- 87% more people use video conferencing today than two years ago
- 75% of remote workers experience increased productivity and an enhanced work-life balance
- 64% of companies have video conferencing setups in small huddle rooms 2
The single most compelling reason to invest in communication 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.
The history of video conferencing takes us back to the late 1950s — early conference calling technology provided a way to host multiple people on a telephone call. The conference call was great for reducing air travel and speeding up decision making, but it relied entirely on audio and lacked the human element of an in-person meeting. Today, you can see the evolution of the conference call has taken two major forms:
Web Conferencing vs. Video Conferencing
On one side, web conferencing takes the traditional conference call and adds a layer of visual enhancement through a shared presentation. This offers meeting attendees
the ability to view the same presentation slide deck and helps create the illusion that people dialing in are in the same room.
The other enhancements to the conference call came by way of video conferencing. Video technology focuses more on the face-to-face human connection and nonverbal communication to give everyone in the meeting both a voice and a face around the table.
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 conferencing services. Expensive on-premise infrastructure and telepresence rooms faded out in favor of more scalable, cloud-hosted huddle room solutions. And personal devices like laptops with built-in webcams and smartphones provided an easy way for anyone to join a video call.
Why Businesses Prefer Video Conferencing
Utilizing a simple, unified video conferencing solution within your organization not only enables you to communicate just like being there in person (minus the travel expenses), but it also enhances the face-to-face communication necessary for productive and authentic collaboration. Check out this guide for the top five reasons why businesses use video conferencing for their mission-critical meetings.
Download the guide
Today’s video conferencing solution comprises a central cloud-hosted
infrastructure routing calls between personal device clients and meeting room device endpoints. But not all video
solutions are created equal:
- Some operate via a single data center, while others offer redundancy and reliability through a network
of interconnected data centers.
- Some design and build purpose-built meeting room hardware, while others offer recommended hardware kits
of select third-party vendors.
- Some are regionally focused solutions, while others operate a global scale for global communication and
Meeting Room Video Conferencing Solutions
Cloud-based delivery models make it easy to turn just about any room with an internet connection and a power outlet
into a high-quality video-enabled collaboration space. Here’s the equipment you need to hold a video conference:
Meeting Room Display
The availability of a display to connect people over video and enable screen sharing conference calls is critical.
The general rule of thumb is, the bigger the room, the bigger the display. Many solutions will also support
dual displays, allowing you to separate video participants to one display and presentation or content sharing
to a second display.
Video Conferencing System
Composed of a high-definition camera and codec, a video conferencing system sends and receives encrypted video
information and decodes it as live video on the meeting room display. The conference room webcam and codec
can be integrated as an all-in-one system or separated for more customized integrations.
A touchscreen conference phone is used to navigate your directory, control camera pan/tilt/zoom options and
bring essential conferencing functions to your fingertips. Conference phones and conference call microphones
purpose-built for video will feature echo cancellation, automatic gain control and automatic noise reduction
to give meeting room participants crystal-clear audio.
App-Based Video Conferencing Solutions
People aren’t just meeting in conference rooms anymore. Video conferencing technology enables remote participants
to work from home or join meetings on the go. Luckily, some video conferencing solutions offer a mobile app as well
as WebRTC–enabled desktop and web apps for easy dialing. Today, a video conferencing application on your personal
device with a camera and a microphone will give you everything you need to make and receive video calls on the go.
Commonly Used Video Conferencing Solution Terminology
For a full list of video conferencing acronyms, compression standards
and definitions, check out our Video Conferencing Terminology page. After all, everyone needs a cheat sheet sometimes.
Glossary of terms
From streaming social video content to real-time video chatting with loved ones, the new normal is the consumerization of video. But, like any technology, there are still human and environmental elements that can affect the success of a video call. Whether you’re joining your team’s weekly video standup or meeting with a job candidate for the first time through a video interview, here are a few remote employee best practices to ensure that your video call is as effective and productive as possible:
Use a Headset in Crowded Spaces
While you can meet through video anytime at any place, sometimes life’s distractions can get in the way. Wearing a headset in noisy, crowded spaces can virtually eliminate distracting echoes and help other participants hear you more clearly. When you don’t have access to a quiet space, use a headset so you and your colleagues can focus on what matters most: the meeting.
Mute When You’re Not Speaking
If you’re in a loud area and you don’t have access to a headset, one best practice is to mute yourself when you are not speaking (especially if you are on a call with more than two participants). This will significantly reduce background noise for everyone on the call.
Avoid Window Backdrops
Windows are wonderful for adding natural light to your office, but when used as backlighting on a video call, they can negatively impact the quality by giving you a harsh silhouette effect. Whenever possible, try sitting with your back to a wall rather than a window or try lowering the shades.
Opt-in for Meeting Recording
Recording online meetings usually leads to fewer side conversations and tends to allow teams to progress through their agendas more smoothly. Just make sure you let your colleagues know before you start recording a video call and share the recording with anyone who was attending.
Don’t Forget Your Far-End Etiquette
While video conferencing might make you feel like everyone is in the same room, remember to not turn your back to the screen(s) or block the view of the camera for “far-enders.” And remember to always say good-bye to the on-screen participants as you would to anyone else before leaving a meeting. It’s just common courtesy!
The Human Element
Just like talking face to face or through chat, video conferencing is just a normal part of your everyday workday. It isn’t rocket science — video technology is just another way you can communicate with people at the office. Put your best foot forward and focus on your meeting and your colleagues, not how you look on camera.
Network Best Practices for Video Conferencing
From understanding your network’s bandwidth capacity to the importance of health monitoring and security needs, check out our Video Conferencing Network Best Practices guide to get the most out of your network.
Many organizations have shifted toward more “open plan” offices and are investing rapidly to maximize office real estate by embracing modern technologies in their flex-use and standard meeting rooms. With the new affordability of video conferencing technology, many organizations are integrating video connectivity into every sized meeting room around the office.
The Mini Room
Mini rooms are among the fastest-growing meeting spaces today as businesses add inexpensive video conferencing solutions to their existing phone rooms and quiet rooms in search of a better return on these underutilized spaces. Mini rooms are the perfect place for one or two people to work together on a project or meet with an extended team over video.
Video Requirements: Look for a solution with a wide-angle field of view that is compact to fit the small space. Affordability and scalability are key components for organizations that will deploy five to ten mini rooms for every one full-sized conference room.
Room Size: 6’ x 6’ Seating: Up to 2
Display: Single display
The Small Huddle Room
Small spaces and huddle rooms are designed for smaller teams and subteams to meet for real-time collaboration. Add a smart video conferencing system, and you have a smart room for teams of up to six people to congregate for an unparalleled real-time meeting experience.
Video Requirements: Ease of use is critical for spontaneous collaboration in small meeting rooms. Look for a video solution with a small form factor and plug-and-play installation. Prioritize a wide-angle lens over zoom capabilities for small spaces.
Room Size: Up to 10’ x 10’ Seating: Up to 6
Display: Single display
The Medium Conference Room
Your typical conference rooms and boardrooms are ideal for larger groups to meet and build relationships through regular, face-to-face business conversations. Seating can range from as few as 6 to upwards of 30 people. Conference rooms generally require reservations to ensure availability.
Video Requirements: The increased size of the conference room adds a requirement for dual-screen setups that let you view video participants on one screen while sharing a presentation on the other. Larger rooms may also require more microphone pickups in addition to high definition cameras with optical zoom.
Room Size: 15’ x 30’ Seating: Up to 30
Display: Dual display
The Large All-Hands Room
Large meeting spaces like auditoriums, classrooms and all-hands multipurpose rooms are the largest forms of meeting rooms. Rather than a conference table, a typical layout will have seating positioned toward a dedicated podium or stage.
Video Requirements: Deploying a video solution that is rack-mountable and includes multiple device inputs and outputs — from cameras and laptops to DVRs and microphones — are key elements to look for in a video conferencing solution for the large all-hands room. Integration with panel manufacturers and third-party, integrated audio solutions may also be beneficial.
Room Size: 50’ x 50’ and larger Seating: 30+
Display: Dual display or larger
A Video Conferencing Solution for Every Room
We understand that a one-dimensional solution could never be the right fit for all of the different places you meet. See which video conferencing systems are right for your meeting spaces. Download the Lifesize meeting room video solution guide.
Video conferencing is more than just a meetings tool. By incorporating video communication, employees are not only more focused and engaged during meetings, they also benefit from nonverbal cues and body language to create better, more authentic relationships with their remote coworkers and customers.
What Is a “Video-First” Culture?
Video-first is an organizational communication strategy that places priority on video conferencing tools, as opposed to audio-only conference calls. Many organizations have shifted to video-first to increase productivity and employee engagement. Face-to-face video-first communications are sought by both startups and established enterprises because of the technology’s competitive edge.
Decrease travel expenses
Increase engagement, collaboration and productivity
Streamline decision-making in real-time
Beyond a Meetings Tool
If your only motive for video conferencing is to upgrade your meetings, then you’re in for a wealth of unexpected bonus uses. Here are a few departmental use cases you may not have thought of:
HR and Training
From interviewing new team members to training and career development conversations, nothing is more important than face-to-face communication. HR and training teams can always benefit from the enhanced nonverbal communication that comes across over video conferencing.
Video interview and recruit candidates
Conduct virtual employee reviews
Create onboarding and training videos
Let’s face it — IT departments are known for their interest in all things tech, so they’re sure to find creative ways to use video conferencing. Take your standard IT calls to the next level.
Record process updates
Support remote employees
Deploy a video help desk
Video conferencing provides another means of communication for consultants to manage global projects with their customers. Now they can stay on track and on budget without unnecessary and costly travel.
Save money on costly travel
Manage long distance interactions with clients
Add video check-ins to ensure project success
Marketing and Sales
With video conferencing, marketing and sales teams can collaborate on projects to create more engaging campaigns that educate customers and help them come to more informed decisions.
Meet with customers and external agencies
Expedite lead qualifications
Stay connected while traveling
Research and development can’t stop and wait for business trip logistics. Engineering departments are able to optimize their time with global experts by collaborating over video.
Create video daily standups
Facilitate bug triage syncing
Conduct quality control
Physicians can have more convenient face-to-face interaction with patients over video calls, and health-care professionals can collaborate on research and medical demonstrations without having to travel.
Extend telehealth patient care virtually
Reduce travel and out-of-office time
Engage in flexible learning opportunities
Collaborate with global specialists
While academic courses and programs are becoming more and more virtual, some courses still need a teacher to teach the course instead of a standard four-minute clip on how to solve a math problem. Having online collaborative tools for students makes it easy to:
Enhance online course experiences
Create virtual tutoring rooms
Enable distance learning
Collaborate with global educators
Record and share class content
Anyone from any industry can benefit from the collaborative powers of video conferencing.
Learn how Lifesize keeps remote teams connected with a simple-to-deploy video solution rugged enough for the construction
Major League Baseball
Read what MLB’s director of IT, Daniel Gainey, had to say about implementing Lifesize video conferencing throughout their
offices and stadiums.
From connecting teams around the world to extending the executive open-door policy to remote workers, Lifesize enables a
more effective communication strategy for Return Path.
From virtual field trips to guest speakers from across the country, Alief ISD incorporates video into their class agendas
for an enhanced learning experience.
Before seeking out vendors and pricing options, the first step in any technology investment is to evaluate your own unique needs. When it comes to selecting a video conferencing solution for your company, it’s important to consider both your core team needs as well as the scalability and security requirements for your organization. The nice thing about a cloud-based video conferencing solution is that as those needs change, you can easily scale up or down to match.
Top 10 Questions to Ask:
- How many locations do we need to connect?
- Do we have remote or work-from-home employees?
- How many total employees will use the service?
- How many meeting rooms need to be video-enabled?
What types of devices does the solution need to support?
- Meeting room camera system
- Are security and encryption important factors?
- Can we replace audio-only and web conferencing subscriptions with video?
How will employees use the service?
- 1:1 conversations
- Multiway group video conferencing
- Large/all-hands meetings
- How technical is our user base?
- What are some must-have features for our video solution? (Not sure? We’ve put together a list of the Top 20 features to consider to give you some ideas)
As video services differentiate themselves, you start to see the importance of matching your priorities to the solution that best fits your needs. Some services offer a mix of web collaboration and content sharing but fail on multiway video conferencing. Others offer audio, video and web conferencing capabilities but lack enterprise-grade features that businesses look for, like Single Sign-on, 99.9% service-level agreements, recording and live streaming capabilities.
The Ultimate Guide to Video Conferencing Technology
Learn how to evaluate cloud video conferencing technology to find a solution that supports all of the different ways your teams like to meet.
A list of some commonly used video conferencing solution terminology.
1280 x 720 pixels at 60 frames per second. This is the minimum resolution to qualify as high definition.
1920 x 1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. This is the resolution for full high definition.
advanced audio coding (AAC)
A high-quality, mid-bandwidth audio compression algorithm used in video conferencing; popularized by Apple® iTunes®.
application programming interface (API)
Refers to a set of documented functions that can be accessed to render a specific service on one or more devices. API hooks to third-party applications such as AMX, Crestron, etc.
A device or application allowing multiple locations to connect in a single call. For example, if you want more than two locations to be able to dial in to a single video call, you will need to use a bridge to connect the calls. These can be hardware devices, software applications or integrated endpoint devices. See also multipoint control unit (MCU).
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
A term to explain when people use their own technology (i.e., laptops, smartphones and/or tablets) for work purposes, instead of a company-owned device.
In video conferencing, this can refer to one of the following: number of recording ports, bridge ports, transit traversals, gatekeeper registrations or management ports.
A technique for connecting bridge devices together so that multiple locations can join the same meeting.
End-user video conferencing software downloaded to a device.
Delivering computing services over the Internet. This is typically a service provided by hosting providers.
The compression/decompression engine of a video system.
The ability to show data over a video conference call. See also data sharing.
The ability to see multiple participants on a video conference simultaneously.
The ability for a video conferencing service to display video participants separately from a presentation while maximizing individual streams.
A bridge that is built into an endpoint.
Mathematical computation designed to thwart unauthorized access.
A video conferencing device.
A person who is the user of a product. In video conferencing, it would be the person making or receiving a video call.
The most widely used physical internet connection.
The process or capability of seamlessly switching over to a functioning equivalent device.
A network node set up as a boundary to prevent traffic from crossing over from one segment to another.
Technology that allows traffic between an organization’s internal network and the internet.
A device that manages video conference call control; typically used to manage call bandwidth, dialing strings and other network settings related to video conferencing.
A device or application that translates protocols.
Mid-2000s video compression standard; also referred to as MPEG4.
High-efficiency video compression algorithm with substantially improved video quality; also referred to as MPEG-H.
Communication protocol used in video conferencing over ISDN networks.
Communication protocol used in video conferencing over ISDN networks.
Communication protocol used in video conferencing over POTS networks.
A centralized suite of services—for example, streaming, recording, firewall traversal, bridging and mobile support. Infrastructure can be either on premise (hardware or virtualized) or hosted in the cloud.
The ability of systems from different manufacturers to work together.
internet protocol (IP)
A communications protocol for computers connected to a network, especially the internet, specifying the format for addresses and units of transmitted data.
integrated services digital network (ISDN)
A digital telephone line used extensively in video conferencing before internet connectivity was widely available.
meeting recording software
A program or feature that allows end users and admins to record their meetings via virtual meeting room.
Multiple locations connecting to a single call.
multiple video chat
A virtual meeting space with multiple attendees on a single call.
multiple video conference
A video call that allows multiple attendees to join a single virtual meeting room.
multipoint control unit (MCU)
A device or application allowing multiple locations to connect in a single call. These can be hardware devices, software applications or integrated endpoint devices. See also bridge.
A program or feature that allows end users and admins to record their meetings via virtual meeting room.
The term for hosting and maintaining your video conferencing technology on your own servers.
one-time conference call
A video conference call that appears when the user sends a meeting invite and then disappears from the call history as well as your call directory once the call ends.
Audio format with low-latency for real-time interactive communication.
When two locations connect on a call.
The ability to show data over a video conference call. See also content sharing.
A camera that has the ability to mechanically or digitally pan, tilt and zoom.
The ability to record a video conference call.
recurring conference call
A conference call that happens more than once; can be scheduled to occur daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, bimonthly or annually at a specific time.
The duplication of critical components or functions of a system with the intention of increasing reliability of the system, usually in the case of a backup or fail-safe.
remote screen sharing
The ability to share your screen from outside of the conference room.
The ability of a system, network or process to be increased to accommodate growth.
share my PC
Sharing your computer screen in a video-enabled meeting space through your video conferencing solution.
scheduled calls or scheduling
The act of reserving time and/or location for a future video conference call.
standard internet protocol (SIP)
A communication protocol used in telephony and video conferencing over IP networks.
The ability to convert a video image and send a video stream, while on a video call, to a specific webpage. On that webpage, other people can view the video call in real time or watch the recording after the call is over.
A high-quality, multidisplay, immersive video conferencing experience known for high costs and low scalability.
Unified Communications (UC)
The tight integration of multiple communication methods, including IM, telephony and video conferencing.
uniform resource indicator (URI)
A SIP naming convention; effectively an email address for dialing into a video conference.
A shorthand form of video conferencing.
video share software
Software that allows users to share media in a video call.
virtual conference software
A solution that lets you conduct conference calls in a virtual meeting room.
An open and royalty free video compression format owned by Google and created by On2 Technologies as a successor to VP7.
The successor to VP8 to compete mainly with MPEG's High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC/H.265).
virtual meeting room
A reserved space on a bridge allowing multiple participants to meet.
voice activated switching (VAS)
A method by which the active speaker in a video conference call is given a prioritized view for all participants.
WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication)
The free, open-source project that provides web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication (RTC) via simple application programming interfaces (APIs).