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Virtual and Project Management Expert: Writer, Speaker, Educator. Author of Managing Without Walls and Fundamentals of Technology Management. President of Garton Consulting Group.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How Important Is Video in Virtual Business Communication?

I’ve been very busy over the holidays so it has been a while since I’ve created a new blog post.  I may not have been writing much but I have been reading a lot!  What have I been reading about? Mostly virtual communication tools – and specifically holographic video technology.

Virtual 3D holographic videos - once seen only in Sci-Fi movies, are now becoming a reality. No longer confined to static images, scientists and engineers are now perfecting moving images – holographic video. 

A lot of opinions exist about the implications of this technology for the military, space exploration, healthcare, business and for life, generally, as we know it. It is a fascinating topic and an exciting technology with numerous potential applications.  What I have been pondering, is its usefulness in virtual business communication.  For many years numerous video communication tools have been readily available for communicating virtually - some very expensive, and some very affordable.  Some tools requiring special equipment and a room full of technical gadgets. Others requiring nothing more than a laptop, an internet connection, and an investment of less than $50. 

Despite the availability of so much video technology, it is not uncommon for business communications to be limited to audio, and perhaps some web-based visual tools for sharing presentations and documents.  From the information I have gathered, I surmise that video communications are used more frequently for personal communication (video skyping with family members, for example) than for business communications.  Why is this? I am open to suggestions/comments and opinions.  I propose that perhaps it is because being able to “see” someone is not the same as being in the room with them.  Video can often distract -and therefore detract - from the business message rather than add depth or value to it.

Although a holographic video could display a 3D image that is very realistic (and may potentially be viewed as a life-size image), it still doesn’t put you in the same room as the person.  Does watching a real-time 3D video instead of a real-time 2D video make it seem more realistic and add something that has up until now been missing? Perhaps, but I think it is unlikely.  Much of the value of being in the same room with others during a business meeting is in the interactions that occur both before and after the meeting as well as in the non-verbal interactions during the meeting.  It is not possible, for example, to have surreptitious raised-eyebrow-glances between meeting attendees whose images are being projected for all to see.

For many years workers have managed to create and maintain excellent virtual business relationships with team-members, partners, clients, and vendors without ever having met in person or seeing video images of each other.  Strong working relationships are built using nothing more than email, instant messaging and the occasional phone call. Some would agree that many of these working relationships develop into friendships over time. 

While holographic video technology is currently way too expensive for most businesses to be able to afford, there will come a time when this technology will be available and affordable to all.  Will this change the way we do business, or will it just change the way we communicate with our geographically dispersed family and friends?