Communications tools
Video conferencing means business


In future business will depend much more heavily on video systems for face-to-face communication.

Communications tools

Do a Google search for ?productivity benefits of videoconferencing? (including quotation marks) and youll find three entries. So if the voice over IP community has been slow to explain the productivity benefits of VoIP, it has been slower still to foresee the coming revolution in PC-based video conferencing.
Yet Manchester Business School recently found that, of 36 UK and Irish firms planning to implement new technology, no fewer than 24 said they had video conferencing in mind. The main benefits of video conferencing, according to current users, are that it cuts costs and saves time, particularly in global applications. But what are the wider business benefits?

Ever since Gerard Nierenberg and Henry Caleros How to Read a Person Like a Book (1971) and Desmond Morriss Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviour (1977), the study of body language has become a subject of great academic and popular interest. Yet what is not so well known is how Charles Darwins The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) revealed that the same facial expressions are common to human beings all over the world.

In a riposte to the racists of his day, Darwin affirmed humanitys common descent and what he called ?the unity of mankind?. It is this universal aspect of human facial expression that explains some of the global benefits of video conferencing.

The Japanese or the Chinese are all supposed to look the same, be inscrutable, and hate to ?lose face?. But in todays new phase of globalisation, where more and more of the production of the planets wealth will involve Asia, even a Londoner can recognise, on a screen, when someone from the Far East is angry, joyful, surprised, afraid, distressed or disgusted. Some psychologists say six emotional states are the building blocks of a repertoire of up to 30 complex emotions, including irritation, exasperation, pride, gratitude and of course love. But the productivity of the human face, both to its owner and its audience, goes further than its expression of emotions. Working with the voice, a face can also help express the logic of an argument, and how an argument is being received.

“Working with the voice, a face can also help express the logic of an argument, and how it is being received”

We purse our lips when we concentrate on doing something. We open our mouth when listening intently. From infancy onward, the symmetry, asymmetry and animation of the face are powerful sources of communication.When the face comes to IT, it will finally confirm an old adage that most interpersonal communication is actually conducted at a visual, not an aural level.

On-screen faces will not just be a fun ?nice-to-have?. They will dramatically improve the quality of comprehension in business especially in global business, where different native tongues remain an impediment to clear and clearly understood global English.

It would be foolish to underestimate the power of the voice, and the advent of CD-quality voice calls to mobile phones is certainly a step forward. But in voice-only teleconferencing, distinguishing among, say, eight participants is tough. Moreover, speech itself will be enormously assisted by the introduction of brows, eyebrows, twinkles, flared nostrils and all that. People play movies on their faces, so faces on screens will be central to the future of business.

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Einen witzigen Diskurs über die Geschichte des Videoconfereencing hat Tony Gasson, Chef von WebEx Europe, für uns geschrieben. Mehr hier.