If you need a better way to communicate and host conferences from a distance, video conferencing is a great option. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about video conferencing to get started with it.

What Is Video Conferencing?

The phrase video conferencing refers to having an online chat with 1 or more people using both video and audio. You’ll all be able to see each other on the screens and hear the speaking audio through the speakers. It’s a way of communicating face-to-face without having to be in the same place.

Video conferencing is a great tool for businesses. Many businesses like to use it for client meetings and for helping enhance communication between employees in different locations. Video conferencing is easy to start and you can enjoy the benefits right away.

What You Need for Video Conference Calls

There are only a few basic things you need in order to do a video conference call. Here is the equipment you need, which you probably already have:

  1. Microphone + Camera

The basic equipment necessary to transmit your video and audio to other people is a microphone and camera. Depending on the device you use, these could be built in or attached externally. Most laptops, tablets, and phones already have these built in, which simplifies things for you. If they’re not already built in, you need to attach them externally. The simplest way to do that is by using a USB webcam (some of these also come with microphones built-in) and either a headset that plugs into a headphone jack/charging port or a USB microphone.

  1. Device with Internet Connectivity

Any device with a screen that can connect to the internet should be able to do video conferencing. The easiest devices to use are smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, or VoIP phones. Whatever device you use must have a screen for viewing the other participants and a speaker for hearing audio.

Alternatively, if you’re using a desktop or laptop, you can plug in a secondary screen or connect to a projector. Outside speakers can also be used, whether via Bluetooth or wire connections. As long as you can see the screen and hear the audio, the specific setup doesn’t matter.

  1. Strong Internet Connection

Technically, video conference calls can take place over any internet connection. However, if you want a good call quality you’ll need to get a stronger internet connection. Broadband internet is the best choice. Wi-fi or ethernet connections are both fine, as long as the speeds are high enough and not being split between too many other devices.

Cell phone data is sometimes okay for video conference calls, but it tends to be less consistent than broadband internet. If you’re going to use data for a video conferencing, try to stay in an area where you get great 4G signal and make sure you have enough data to last the entire call.

  1. VoIP Service Provider

Once your device is ready, you need a software platform to run the video conference call. This is your VoIP provider. For simple calls with a limited number of people, you may be able to use a free VoIP program designed for this use. Otherwise, you may have to pay a small fee for a service plan.

Using VoIP for Video Conferencing

Any video conference call done in real time is using VoIP. Data packets are created and sent from each side and received by the other, allowing you to hear the other parties speaking and see them on your screen instantaneously. VoIP is the short form of voice over IP, which simply means that your audio (and video) data is being sent and received over the internet rather than through traditional phone lines or local networks.

With VoIP service, packets of audio and video data transit to the other person/people in the call over an internet connection. It can be wi-fi or direct ethernet connection. All parties in the call need to be connected to the internet and using the same VoIP software for it to work. If you have the software and the other parties have a different provider, you won’t be able to connect to each other.

Video Conferencing Benefits

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Having video along with your audio conference calls makes it more interactive. You get a few specific benefits:

  • Higher Quality Employee Meetings

It’s easier for employees to feel connected to one another when they can see each other. With the video on, you can’t get away with being distracted and trying to multi-task too much when you should be paying attention to what’s going on with the meeting. Video conferences tend to be higher quality and can therefore be shorter than audio calls without missing out on the important information.

  • More Efficient Communication

The addition of video along with the audio brings non-verbal communication back into the mix. As people, the majority of our communication is non-verbal, so when it’s missing we do tend to communicate less efficiently. Video conferencing makes it possible to talk with your hands, use illustrations, and see each other’s facial expressions, which is all a big part of effective communication.

  • Develop Familiarity & Connection

If you’re working with a lot of remote teams or distant clients, VoIP video conferencing helps you to gain a sense of familiarity with them. Hearing a voice is different than seeing the actual person as they talk to you. It’s much better for building relationships in your team or with your clients if you can use video conferencing.

Based on research by GetVoIP, remote teams benefit from video conferencing more than most other employee groups. Because remote teams don’t get to interact face-to-face very often, if ever, seeing one another over video chat makes a big difference in creating connections. If you never get to see each other and interact in that way, it’s more difficult for you to feel any sort of connection to your co-workers on your team.

When Is Video Conferencing Not Effective?

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Is there a time when video conferencing isn’t appropriate or effective? There are certain times you might want to skip it, such as:

  • Meetings with a large number of participants, especially silent participants.

If there are too many people connected at once it could be choppy and hard to keep track of what’s going on with each party. Video could be an unnecessary distraction. The last thing you want is so much chaos that no one can follow along with the flow of the meeting. At the end, you could have wasted a lot of time and accomplished very little.

  • Poor internet connections or limited data

When the internet connection is too slow, the video and audio quality will be reduced and it can make it really hard to see what’s happening or hear the other people. Choppy videos, audio latency, and frequent disconnection are very real problems with video conferencing. Sticking to audio-only calls can fix the problem, because the bandwidth won’t be so stressed.

Limited data is also a bad mix for video conferencing. Video chats can take up a lot of data, draining your plan. It’s not wise to do long video calls with limited data, since you can severely drain it and you may be overage charges.

  • Low-quality camera for large screens

Some conference calls are done in board rooms, using a projector or large screen to view the other participants. Unfortunately, if your camera captures very low quality, your video will appear grainy and will be difficult to see well on a large screen. Low video quality works fine on a small screen, but for large screens it completely defeats the purpose of doing a video chat and may leave everyone with strained eyes.

Video conferencing is a good thing overall, and it’s easy to get started with it. Even if you’ve never done it before, you’ll get the hang of it quickly and start enhancing your communications. Get hooked up to a VoIP and start enjoying the benefits right away!

Read more: How to Safely Use Zoom Video Conferencing