For many of us, video conferencing is a tool in our box that we use to do our jobs on the regular, just like a carpenter uses nails. However, ask a carpenter how he feels about picking up nails in minus 5 degree weather and driving them into a hunk of frozen lumber — they’re usually not a fan. Video conferencing makes a lot possible that was out of reach a decade ago, but there are still things we wish the technology handled better.
To share the pain, we asked five top-tier professionals who have a pressing everyday need for reliable video conferencing to give us the unfiltered truth and tell us what they hate about the current technology.
Getting on the same page
For Tsahi Levent-Levi, an independent analyst and consultant for WebRTC and founding author and editor of BlogGeek.me, coordinating software and hardware with the person he’s conferencing with has always caused some frustration.
As someone who has been working for 13 years with companies who develop and sell video conferencing products and services, Levent-Levi has a front row seat to the inner workings of the technology. Over time, he’s developed three pet peeves that drive him bonkers.
The first thing is, whenever I want to talk to someone, they ask me to download their client. It can be WebEx, GoToMeeting, Zoom or whatever. Most services do, but in all cases, it ends up being a hassle and the client loads additional bloatware that burdens my laptop.
The second thing is most room systems are poor and nobody seems to know how to use them. There’s probably a single person in each company that knows what to press to get it fired up, and maybe two more that know where to find it in the room. Many video conferencing companies managed to make this part of the experience and it drives people away from using the system
The third thing is setup times. Usually, when you need to go into a video conference meeting you basically need to come early so you can make sure everything works. The reality is that it usually doesn’t and there are tweaks to be made — it’s a hassle.
Working with a weak link
It’s no surprise that not everyone we do business with has the same video conferencing equipment, and for Charlie Cohn, Head of Marketing for StudySoup, running into this issue is a constant frustration. Working on-and-off remotely for the past six years, he’s tried a number of video conferencing options and connecting with others isn’t always as simple as he’d like.
I’ve tried GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts and more. I’ve long preferred Google Hangouts to the rest because it integrates with the Google App experience allowing for real-time collaboration. However, I frequently run into difficulties where one or more members of the chat has technical difficulties — usually related to the audio.
Bumping against limitations
Until the day we can chat with a holographic representation of a person, video conferencing will usually fall short of face-to-face meetings in a few tedious ways. For Steve Gibson, Director of JotForm, not being able to use dry erase boards effectively has cramped his style.
JotForm is an online form builder that allows its customers to build contact forms, surveys and payment forms without having to write code, so Gibson finds himself video conferencing with clients and team members constantly. Explaining ideas via the subtle squeak of a dry erase marker is an experience that hasn’t translated well.
What I love about meeting in person is dry erase boards. The most popular tools for this are Google Hangouts and Skype. They both have some helpful options including screen sharing, but they have limited options when it comes to drawing pictures. For me, none of the options really compares to a real live dry erase board.
The other minor frustration I have about video conferencing is that neither person ever really makes eye contact. To do so, you need to stare at the camera, but we’re almost always looking just beneath it on our screens.
Going slow in the fast lane
We all know chatting through lag is as annoying as cranking up a radio station with static. Angela Hood, Founder and CEO of ThisWay Global, has been developing a job focused technology platform at University of Cambridge for the last two years and she encounters this issue frequently. Because her team is spread out across the globe, it’s imperative to maintain a solid and fast connection.
Hands down, our number one frustration with video conferencing is the digital lag and delays. Smaller teams need to easily share documents, screen shots, etc. with less negative effect on the call transmission itself. This is even an issue for Fortune 100 companies we work with that have outdated legacy systems that cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Sometimes too many features can be overwhelming, but at the same time, it’s also exasperating when a tool doesn’t perform the one task you were after. Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, Inc. and author of VoIPWatch, has a wish list of functions he pines for.
There is a lack of cloud based recording. Some services let you record sessions like GoToMeeting, but everyone needs to record their own or send a copy of the recorded file which can be very large.
There are usually poor integration with social network services as well, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There aren’t any tools to use that do things like add your name, location or special effects.There also are no telestrator-like capabilities to easily highlight or point out something on the screen to the audience.
Few services offer “assembly” like features to broadcast vs. have a call with a group. Most follow the Hollywood Squares approach of nine people in a Tic-Tac Toe format even if more participants are involved with the video conference.
Woe is us
Video conferencing technology is in a fluid state and it’s getting better all the time. In that respect it’s unlike a carpenter’s nail. That design is… well, nailed down. No developing technology is without its hiccups, in the meantime though, we at Highfive can safely say we hear you, we get it and we feel your pain.
We don’t have all the answers yet but, not to toot our own horns, we fancy ourselves as problem solvers. Highfive might be a great solution to your video conferencing quandary — learn more about our video conferencing options today.
Also, don’t let these industry pros have the last word, share your pain and tell us what you hate about video conferencing!