Virtual Meeting & Conferencing: Transforming the Future of Collaboration

Video, voice, and web conferencing to power enterprise communications despite geographical boundaries.

In 1999, the concept of an online meeting introduced itself into the business world. While most companies at that point had not yet embraced the slowly growing idea, many early adopters started understanding the benefits of implementing online meetings into their operational model. From remote work flexibility to cross departmental collaboration for multi-site organizations, online meetings represented a future where efficiency and productivity spread beyond the walls of an office building.

As the concept continued to pick up steam, online meetings began to bring together colleagues, partners, shareholders, board members and even customers, despite geographic restrictions – ultimately simplifying the way businesses operated. It was from there that the now globally accepted way of collaborating took the world by storm.

Cloud service providers realized the endless potential online meetings presented for companies and dedicated more resources towards developing more comprehensive online meeting solutions.

It was then that online meetings became only a steppingstone on a much greater journey, a journey that has led us to what we now call “virtual conferencing”.

What is virtual conferencing?

virtual conference is a fully immersive online gathering that brings people together on any device, despite geographic locations. At its core, it is a meeting or a role-based event that allows remote participants to access the sharing of knowledge, hosted entirely over the internet via voice, video, and webchat, all in one virtual environment. The need to gather in a conference room is eliminated, and mission-critical discussions, networking opportunities, and decision-making events can all occur without the need for onsite attendees.

Teleconference:

A teleconference is perhaps one of the most basic, and traditionally, one of the most utilized forms of virtual conferences. Essentially, teleconferencing connects meeting participants over phone lines, either through landlines, cell phones, or business desk phones. Allowing many people to connect at once, teleconferencing has long been a preferred method to connect when decisions needed to be made, but major stakeholders could not gather in-person.

However, teleconferencing has phased itself out as new forms of conferencing have emerged.

Video conference:

Video conferencing takes teleconferencing a step further and allows participants to not only hear each other, but also see each other with a computer camera and microphone, or the built-in camera on a smartphone. While this has always offered a much more in-person feel to a conversation, businesses are only now understanding that video conferencing can lead to improved decision-making processes.

Video conferencing wasn’t always popular in the business world. Video conferencing in recent history has usually been reserved for casual/personal use. Though, that has certainly changed, especially at the turn of the decade.

Web Conferencing:

A web conference is a general term used to discuss individuals and/or groups of people in remote locations, using a web browser to connect. Generally, these events are reserved for much larger audiences like a webinar or LIVE presentations in which there are only one or two speakers, but many listening/watching in.

In essence, web conferencing is a way of disseminating information to a large audience, despite geographical boundaries. And it’s because of this notion that web conferences like webinars have become a staple in the business world for many years now.

“About 50% of employees worldwide are expected to telecommute within the decade” (1)

The rise of the virtual conference as we know it.

So, after looking at the three formats of communication involved in virtual conferencing, it’s easy to assume that virtual conferencing has been around for a long time. Sure, it’s true. You would be right in assuming that the idea of virtual conferencing is not new.

The millennial generation spent countless hours in middle and high-school on 3-way calls with their friends (a.k.a teleconferencing). It’s also true that Skype, at the turn of the century, followed by FaceTime almost a decade later, made video conferencing a norm in our society. Also to mention, ActiveTouch rolled out the first webinar service in 1999. Yes, 1999, and even more so true is that “web seminars” (as they called it back in the day) were starting to play a big role in corporate culture as early as 2005.

With all of that said, virtual conferencing is not a new idea, but the idea has certainly picked up major steam.

Despite its technical veteran status, it is only now being talked about how virtual conferencing has evolved so much so that business meeting culture has been changed forever.

Virtual conferencing is no longer an umbrella term for the various formats in which people can connect. Virtual conferencing is THE term. One tool, one environment, one platform that does it all; voice, video, web chat, file sharing, document presentation, screen sharing, LIVE streaming, and more.

Breathing fresh life into every industry, the virtual conferencing technology and tool sets developed by the most innovative cloud service providers on the planet, combined with global political, social, and professional climate, have turned virtual conferencing from a luxury into a necessity.

Virtual Conferencing Solution Spotlight

Encouraging collaboration and making all parties feel at home with high definition audio, video and web conferencing, screen and file sharing capabilities, meeting logs, timestamps, summaries, no software download required, and custom branding, the UniBridge virtual meetings and conferencing solution takes your business anywhere.

Virtual conferencing is no longer for early adopters. It has become a staple in major business operations across the globe. The time is now to join the trend.

Why virtual conferencing is replacing face-to-face meetings.

Some would say face-to-face meetings are a thing of the past out of necessity. Others would say it’s because nearly half of the workforce is now comprised of millennials, and with them, they brought new social and professional norms. Then there is the small minority that just won’t admit virtual conferencing is in, and the traditional round-table meeting is out.

Well, boomers better start looking at the reality of the situation, because by 2025, millennials are projected to make up 75% of the global workforce. Then, we have the revolutionary Gen Z or “Zoomers” as they like to be called, and it’s projected that we are in for an even more significant shift to virtual workforces once they enter the business world.

So, it’s pretty obvious why most are quickly realizing that virtual conferencing is the future, and the future is now.

1) Connectivity from anywhere in the world.

For major enterprises with locations all around the world, collaboration across sites used to be a challenge and a bottleneck for success. But virtual conferencing has made it possible to not only involve team members regardless of their location but has provided an all-in-one environment where real productivity can take place. Virtual conferencing has broken down geographical barriers and simplified project completion for geographically dispersed teams.

2) Urgent meetings can happen urgently.

Once upon a time, if major stakeholders were needed to make critical decisions for a company, each individual would have to fly in from wherever they were to gather in a board room to even begin productive conversations. However, since the rise of virtual conferencing, stakeholders can join in on impromptu meetings when on vacation, at home watching TV or at the airport. Coordinating and conducting urgent meetings is as easy as clicking a link and starting the conversation, all with the necessary resources required in the decision-making process available on any device.

3) Efficient flow of information.

Meetings of any sort are designed to distribute information to respective team members, discuss that information, and make a plan of action based on what was shared. In a virtual conferencing environment, the flow of information is optimized by allowing the ease of communication to occur via multiple channels. File and screen sharing, document presentation, file upload/download, and group chat are only a few of the many ways that meeting attendees can efficiently participate in the sharing of knowledge so that projects are completed more quickly and more thoroughly.

4) Engaging a larger audience.

Many major publicly held companies have struggled with disseminating valuable information to their shareholders since the beginning of big business – ultimately resulting in a weakened shareholder trust that did no one any good. Well, when virtual conferencing “big-player” capabilities like LIVE streaming via YouTube stepped on the field, publicly held companies realized they could offer shareholders an immersive, in-person experience at any board meeting, even from their living room couch. It’s advanced relationship management like that, that has completely transformed the way the board connects with the members of their corporation.

5) A cost-effective way of doing business.

Without the need to physically meet, operational costs are drastically reduced. A physical meeting requires time and money, perhaps travel and hotel expense, and is an all-around drain on resources. So, without the need to physically meet, operational costs are drastically reduced and less time is spent in travel, and more time spent on productive work that generates revenue. With only a computer or a mobile device, business becomes less about finding a budget to accommodate physical interaction and more about increasing the bottom line.

Financial Services

Financial earning broadcasts
Quarterly business reviews
Receive/send updates to corporate
Analyst presentations
Remote customer meetings

Healthcare

Telemedicine
Policy training
Distance learning/certification renewal
Provider/Specialist global collaboration

Education

Distance learning
Parent-Teacher conferences
Remote classroom instruction
PTA meetings
Virtual field trips

Legal

Remote depositions
Court arraignment
Client meetings
Record and archive video testimonials
Remote case preparation

Entertainment

Talent recruitment
Production collaboration
Global guest participation

Manufacturing

Remote quality control
Remote supply chain management
Stakeholder communications
Vendor meetings

Drawing special attention to video conferencing.

Some very important facts:

While virtual conferencing platforms offer a robust feature set, video conferencing is a critical aspect of virtual conferencing and collaboration tools. It provides an in-person experience for participants and allows meeting guests to meet new team members face-to-face without needing to be in the same room.

Yes, sharing documents is critical in the decision-making process, but eye contact is not something that could ever be replaced. It’s the old-fashioned way of communicating that promotes relationship building between two people, especially when major decisions are being made and negotiations are on the table. So, video conferencing maintains the award for keeping things “real” as our world goes more virtual.

Let’s look at some important statistics on video conferencing to draw attention to the fact that it is the future of business communications:

  • 58% of businesses use video conferencing in everyday business functions (1)
  • By 2021, over 80% of global internet traffic will be video (2)
  • With video conferencing, businesses can cut travel costs by 30% (1)
  • 75% of CEOs forecast that video conferencing will eventually replace conference calls (1)
  • 66% of executives view mobile video and real-time data-sharing as crucial parts of their day-to-day communication (2)
  • By 2023, the video conferencing market share is projected to reach $13.82 billion. (4)
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