Culture & Competency

Don't Use Videoconferencing for Formal Meetings

Chris expressed surprise at Mike’s comment about not using videoconferencing for formal meetings:

Mike let this one fly as we talked about collaboration and how his company, with people scattered around the country, use videoconferencing: “We never use it at a meeting where there’s an agenda.”

Stop. Rewind. What’s that, Mike?

Mike’s teams use video predominantly for ad hoc, catch-up, what’s-new-with-you kinds of casual discussions, and almost never for formal conference calls with a clear agenda, supporting docs, deadlines, etc. Mike’s teams are constantly collaborating online, but in those formal cases they almost always use a webconferencing tool, where they can share their screens and do markups in real time.

This experience flies in the face of what I’d expect. I rarely use videoconferencing, but I’m hugely interested in how people will use it in business, as quality options become more widely available. (See Microsoft’s $8.5 billion Skype deal.) IT organizations will have to help their companies figure out where videoconferencing works and doesn’t. I mostly hear about people using it for the formal work, like key client meetings, formal progress reports, budget meetings. I often hear of telepresence systems being used for executive council meetings, especially with international teams.

My Comments
1. Mike’s comment doesn’t surprise me. For people I know and work with regularly, I dislike video meetings. I’d rather share data via a screen sharing session … but having to attend to a video camera and watch the other person via a small window is a pain. It constrains my ability to engage in the conversation, to listen, and to think.

2. Chris uses the phrase “formal meetings” to cover what Mike’s team doesn’t do, and also a range of other things – key client meetings, formal progress reports, and budget meetings. I suggest the term “formal meeting” isn’t sufficiently rich to capture the differences and nuances here. For Mike and his “formal meetings,” they have a regular timing, regular member composition, a shared and common objective that’s larger than the meeting, and the relationships are already set. For the other types – they’ll have less regular timing (could be one-off or ad-hoc), the composition can change, the objective is contained inside the meeting, and the meeting is more about relationship than task.

3. Chris essentially argues that as quality improves, video conferencing will be used more. I don’t agree that the correlation is black-and-white. It may it some situations, but I doubt it will for intensive high-task meetings.

Categories: Culture & Competency