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June 03, 2011

Video Conferencing for Small Businesses

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor

If you run a small business, chances are, you see a lot of enterprise technologies that you think probably aren't right for you. Video conferencing may be one of them. You might think that it's expensive, labor-intensive to operate and difficult to use.

June Bower (News - Alert), vice president of Cisco’s online collaboration software group, begs to differ. Bower recently wrote an article for Mashable entitled “4 Ways Video Conferencing Can Benefit Small Businesses.” In it, she points out that as working from home becomes more commonplace (love those gas prices!) and costs of video conferencing come down, “the compelling reasons for utilizing video communications technology are starting to pile up. Web meetings are not just a good way to connect a far-flung team. They also cut costs, boost productivity and more.”


For starters, the ability of video conferencing to cut down on travel expenses is key for small businesses. While giant enterprises might have huge travel budgets, chances are, you don't.

“With a video can maintain quality relationships with clients and stay in touch with colleagues on a regular basis,” writes Bower. “Yes, there are initial upfront costs, but return on investment is usually swift. This way, you can save your travel budget for a few high profile, important face-to-face dates each year.”

In other words, the money you save on travel can easily pay for the video conferencing solution...and quickly.

Next, video conferencing can be a key component in tying disparate employees together into a cohesive team, even if the employees are in different states, on different coasts or on the other side of the world from one another.

It's also extra pertinent to smaller organizations, says Bower. “Retaining valuable employees who relocate or need to work from home a few days a week saves on office space, costly recruiting and retraining. This is particularly important for small firms that rely on the expertise of a handful of critical staffers who have long-time customer relationships and institutional knowledge,” she said.

Another key reason video conferencing suits small business is its ability to help employees forge personal connections in a way the telephone or e-mail just can't.

“'A picture is worth a thousand words' may be a tired cliché, but it proves particularly true when it comes to cementing relationships,” writes Bower. “In contrast to a conference call, a live, online video meeting allows participants to see your facial expressions and body language. This can help make meetings feel more personal and familiar.”

Finally...and this one is can help your employees maintain a proper work-life balance, a key to retaining happy, productive employees. While no one denies the need for travel on some occasions, reducing the need for t – with the help of video conferencing – can lead to less “burned out” employees.

Says Bower, “Eliminating, or at least reducing, the need for frequent travel takes a great deal of stress off key staffers that you can’t afford to lose — not to mention yourself.”

After all, you have a small business to run.

For more information about Cisco's (News - Alert) video and Web conferencing solutions, visit

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf


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