When you request a meeting, whether professional or personal, you’re no doubt thinking “face-to-face.” You’re not envisioning an IM session, excessive email strings or even a conference call. And, you request a meeting because you know that’s the best way to get stuff done and to connect with others. On top of this, know that the video conferencing market is undergoing a major facelift: from how the video is delivered, to how people use it, and how vendors provide it. It’s time to dig deeper into this opportunity for yourself, both professionally and personally.

There are so many reasons to familiarize yourself with video conferencing: As work becomes decentralized, and work-from-home opportunities become the norm, video conferencing will become integrated more and more into our daily work life. And, as businesses become more globalized, this is a cost-effective way to get everyone into the same room. Even from a personal perspective, video conferencing is much more special than an email, snail mail or phone call could ever be. Here are 5 reasons to learn video conferencing that might not have crossed your mind:

  1. Affordability Maybe your company can’t afford a high end video conference room at this time, but you might want to rethink it. According to Forbes, Madison Technical College in Wisconsin purchased a $17 million system so that their students had access to the main-campus classes; and they avoided having to build more space or hire more faculty. When the costs were examined, this was actually the least expensive and most common sense route. Not only is this a competitive advantage cost-wise, but “Millennials” are much more likely to latch onto it, as they love to learn in front of a screen, so you’re providing them with the right learning opportunity, in the right scenario at the right time. Keep in mind that this system is the high price point, there are many solutions available with all different budgets in mind: from mid-level software solutions to the flexible, low-cost of cloud-based services.
  2. Reduce Travel Costs and Stranded Travelers With workforces spread out across the nation, and sometimes even globally, having familiarity and ease with video conferencing will become the norm. Rather than spending your entire day traveling to another site, oftentimes video conferencing can give you the face-to-face meeting that truly is essential to developing key relationships without the time and cost of travel. While the price tag of travel continues to grow, the expense of video conferencing is declining—it’s now the cost of an app on your smart phone, tablet, or (high range) as a system in your office.

Alongside costs, there can be other travel issues: weather-related, natural disasters and other acts of nature beyond our control that can make the notion of videoconferencing stress free and ensure the meeting happens on time. On a personal “business” note, one couple stranded in Dubai because of weather conditions decided to exchange their wedding vows over a videoconference to their guests who had gathered for the wedding ceremony in England, reports the New York Times.

  1. Increase communication and collaborationAs video conferencing becomes a standard mode of reaching out (consider the phone was the first point of contact, then email grew in popularity, then IM, and now video conferencing), you’ll want to be comfortable with this tool. Having face-to-face communication can reduce anxiety and miscommunication, reinforcing a trusting and efficient workplace and relationships. Also, when video is used, participants are less likely to multitask; rather than answering email they’re more likely to be engaged in the conversation or meeting, making it more productive. As a result, projects can be completed more quickly, productivity improves, and you feel more in synch with your team. Now that you can choose smaller group systems and incorporate mobile video conferencing applications that use BYOD, or bring your own device, there’s no big prohibitive cost to prevent you from moving forward with connecting your team and your clients better, declares the Frost & Sullivan Report.
  2. Reinforce relationships Since communication is 93 percent nonverbal according to a recent survey; why would you choose to rely on email and IM to convey your entire meaning, when so much can get lost in translation? The phone is a step up, but body language and facial expressions are missed. Participants in a video conference can scan each others’ facial expressions and body language, and engage in a lively meeting.
  3. Competitive advantageYou and your company will continue to enjoy many competitive advantages: a video conference is not just a bunch of talking heads, you can incorporate video, a presentation, design concepts…anything you could include face-to-face is available (except, of course, the fresh coffee), which includes tapping into the power of team building. You’ll be able to respond right away, not only in words, but by pulling up reports or material that becomes relevant to the participants, and make the meeting collaborative and actionable.

Tune into “the now” in face-to-face interactions.