Video conferencing, as a segment, has come of age since its hit-and-miss beginnings of the last decade. With the entirety of our personal and professional lives currently online, open communication has become extremely important in terms of allowing the natural exchange of ideas and thoughts. This is why the professional world has been heavily reliant on applications, like Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts Meet, to keep operations running through 2020 and beyond. Video conferencing is endorsed by world leaders, celebrities, and a fairly large share of the business world. Some of the applications, like Zoom and Facetime, are so popular, they have become eponymous with video conferencing. Phrases like “FaceTime me” and “Zoom fatigue” are part of our daily vernacular!
Let’s look at Zoom specifically. There’s no debate that Zoom has revolutionized online meetings, webinars, and idea-sharing across sessions, platforms, and users. Its cloud-based contemporary framework facilitates easy communication between small and large groups via online chat rooms and lives video calling, making it one of the primary applications aiding our efforts to adapt to the new world order. But more importantly, Zoom is today representative of the world of virtual meetings where everything is online, hyperconnected, and always-on.
Do people love virtual meetings?
Given a choice, many of us would prefer the comfort and familiarity that come with in-person meetings. But, in a pandemic-struck world, we tend to agree that video strengthens personal and professional relationships, as opposed to audio or e-mail connections. With the unprecedented rise in remote work since 2020, virtual collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have entered the fray or bolstered their positioning in the market. Zoom Video Communications – a comparatively near-unknown company headquartered in the US – even shot its way to the top of the pack in a saturated videotelephony market. A true-blue unicorn, Zoom had over 140 million in market cap in October 2020. Zoom in on a winning spree, and its stock is expected to climb more than 40%, despite there being increasing talks of people getting back to offices.
Why is this so?
Be it the business conferences or family meetings, online classes, or international summits, the world has been witnessing a shift from the real to the virtual. As far as recent times go, virtual is a new reality. Technology has made this possible, but innovative applications, like FaceTime, Messenger, Zoom, Skype, and Teams, have made it easy. People prefer them for many reasons – particularly on the grounds of ease-of-use, feature-richness, audio-video quality, reliability, and up to some extent, security. Thanks to these, their service is extensively used by professionals to schedule regular meetings, webinars, and interviews. Arguably, it has even helped expedite the process of bringing together people – professionals, collaborators, friends, and family – from all walks of life.
Then, there’s the versatility. Most of the professional video conferencing apps are for everyone – from schools to the boardroom. Some of them are free, while others have free features for domestic and light users.
Few downsides of Zoom
Of course, the downside to virtual meetings is surfacing more often these days – and it’s not pretty. Zoom fatigue, which is real and widely reported, occurs due to the blurring of boundaries between work and personal lives. It is also partially attributed to the additional work that the human body puts into maintaining eye contact and interpreting non-verbal cues and gestures over a 13” screen.
Despite the highest speed networks and the best-configured machines, meetings are oftentimes laden with delays, glitches, and distortions – and we subconsciously tend to project the frustrations they cause on to co-participants. There’s also the lack of mobility that comes from a combination of remote working and always-on VC, which drastically impacts productivity – and more importantly, health and wellness.
Leading the way into the “virtual-normal”
Most of us tend to agree with the fact that there is no replacement for real-worldly, physical connect. However, with the passing of time, video conferencing as a technology is evolving strongly. In the world of remote work, their continuously evolving capabilities, which circumvent the lack of physical reality, are highly sought-after.
Companies today have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to meeting their unique remote working requirements. But demands from employees and health advisors for healthy and conducive remote working ecosystems are also increasing. To this end, today’s leading video conferencing applications have come a long way. From a usability perspective, they check most of the boxes and are actively working towards making the user experience more rewarding.
Combined with increased awareness from companies and employees on how to use video conferencing tools effectively, avoid fatigues and keep wellness a top priority, the demand for virtual hangouts is likely to continue into the next normal.