Video conferencing refers to any live video communication between two or more parties in two or more separate locations. These video connections generally include live audio and text as well. Video conferencing can run the gamut of technological complexity from static images accompanied by text to high-quality video and audio. The simplest versions can only connect two locations, but the more sophisticated versions can provide transmission between three or more locations at once.
The main purpose of video conferencing is to enable face-to-face communication between two or more people in different locations. It is a popular alternative to phone conferencing for businesses and provides individual users with an inexpensive means of communication with distant friends and family. Microsoft has made its own video conferencing software, NetMeeting, available for free download and as part of various Windows operating systems. Some indications suggest that video conferencing may someday eclipse more traditional modes of distance communication.
The primary cost benefit to businesses afforded by the use of video conferencing is the reduction of employee travel costs. In-person meetings between employees from multiple locations can often require a great deal of traveling from one or several of the employees involved. Their travel expenses, as well as the cost of room and board when necessary, are charged to their employer. Video conferencing enables face-to-face meetings without the necessity of travel.
Video conferencing also offers the possibility of increased profit for businesses as well. Businesses that deal heavily with customer service will sometimes offer video conferencing as an optional alternative to a basic customer help line. This allows customer service representatives to communicate visually with customers, adding non-verbal elements to the dialogue that can help to create a greater sense of familiarity and comfort for the customer. In some cases, it also enables customers to demonstrate rather than explain the nature of their problem.
There are several other business benefits to video conferencing. Video conferencing can facilitate meetings and even long-term group work between remote employees or companies that would otherwise have been too far-removed to make regular travel cost-effective. It also enables users to share files, programs and other data necessary to whatever group project is being worked on. The face-to-face communication helps business contacts and associates to create a sense of community, even between parties who may never physically meet.