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Weighing video conferencing options for small businesses

Businesses of all sizes are enabling video rooms as part of their collaboration strategy. Here's how small businesses can choose the right video conferencing tools.

Video conferencing became a crucial tool for businesses of all sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without adequate video conferencing strategies, business continuity would have all but fallen apart. Audio conferencing simply doesn't provide the connection required for true team collaboration. While every business needs to have a video strategy, small businesses and enterprises will have vastly different approaches.

For the most part, large enterprises had already invested in some video conferencing equipment prior to the pandemic. Their concerns focused on redesigning video meeting rooms to accommodate social distancing, as well as adopting new camera technology to better capture groups of people in one room. In addition, their strategy for enabling individual users needed to ensure connectivity to their existing room deployment.

Small businesses have less existing infrastructure to adapt. Most small businesses had almost no video conferencing in place before the pandemic hit, offering a clean slate to create a video strategy. The immediate concern when the pandemic hit was to accommodate remote work, so companies provided employees with accounts to their preferred video conferencing platforms and encouraged employees to upgrade their home office video capabilities.

Finding the right small business video conferencing strategy

The issue for small businesses is that going back to the office doesn't mean going back to the old way of working. We are now a video culture. For any sort of real business discussion or negotiation, organizations should prefer communication over video. Every small business now needs at least one video-enabled meeting room. All desktops should be video-enabled, but you don't want to send your team to their offices when you have a big meeting with outside parties.

On any given day, team members working remotely should be able to appear together on camera with those who are in the office. Fortunately, most video conferencing services are aware of this and have hybrid work options available. For most companies, it makes sense to go directly to their existing video service for these capabilities. Shopping around might create the headache of connecting a room system from one service to an existing desktop or mobile service.

Evaluating video conferencing equipment for small businesses

Many options are available when it comes to small business video conferencing equipment. Service providers usually partner with multiple video hardware vendors, giving organizations the choice of several different cameras, audio equipment and all-in-one units running video software.

While team leaders can simply pop open a laptop in a meeting room and use their video conferencing account, organizations should consider an actual room-based service that offers more enhanced features than what laptops can provide. Team leaders conducting meetings will find it easier to read the faces of others with bigger screens. Conference rooms should also have enhanced speakers, microphones and cameras for users to clearly see, hear and speak to each other. Most video services offer or recommend several room kit options for small businesses.

Previously, video meeting rooms were a feature only offered to large businesses and came with a hefty cost. They were also complicated to use, often requiring dedicated IT staff. Today's room kits and bundles are more affordable and easier to set up and configure. They are also as easy to use as a desktop or mobile video app. Many kits come with a touchpad, enabling a simple click to start a meeting.

The case for video conferencing rooms

Ideally, just about every common area in the office should be video-enabled, which lets on-site team members include remote team members in any discussion. Organizations should assume most teams will be hybrid for the foreseeable future and need to be connected. But, for many small businesses, complete video coverage may not be possible. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to have at least one video-enabled meeting room set up for a great experience.

This is how to conduct business now, so don't settle for a laptop at the end of the table. There's no reason to settle, as high-quality room setups are now affordable, easy to use and manageable. Businesses that haven't already set up video conferencing rooms should contact their video service providers to ask about setting up a meeting room.

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