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Don’t be Cautious with Conferencing
It’s fair to say that many of our clients approach audio conferencing with caution. However, once they experience the fluidity it introduces to working patterns, the flexibility it brings to working hours and the facilities it offers for out-of-office working opportunities, they’re quick to embrace the benefits of audio conferencing.
Audio conferencing makes virtual meetings possible, saving both time and money. Consider the fact that on average a virtual meeting lasts just 46 minutes as opposed to a face-to-face meeting which lasts as long as two hours. Moreover, a virtual meeting also has a mean avoidance travel time of at least 5.3 hours. So what’s not to like about audio conferencing and how does it compare with video conferencing?
Video, as the alternative to audio, may at first seem like the perfect solution, but the video makes demands that often can’t be met. Whether it’s a particular video-enabled device or adequate bandwidth, it simply might not exist.
Audio, on the other hand, is always available. Whether it’s via a mobile, a fixed line or even a dedicated device for a conference room, it’s always possible to make or receive a phone call.
In favour of Audio
Video, more than audio, uses large amounts of bandwidth for live streaming, bandwidth which might not always be available.
High definition video (HD), for example, can use as much as 4 Mbps of audio and video transport, but even a more basic video platform will not necessarily use less bandwidth. A single Skype call, for instance, can actually use in excess of 1.2 Mbps. What’s more, even without HD video and with as few as 5 participants, a video conference can actually exceed 2Mbps.
On a mobile phone in a city centre with congested bandwidth, even on 4G, the required level of bandwidth may not always be available. The result is ‘choppy’ video, video freezing or audio that isn’t even synchronised. The irony is, of course, that any so-called video conference may quickly revert to audio simply because insufficient levels of bandwidth are not available to successfully deliver the video element.
An audio conference, on the other hand, doesn’t demand such large amounts of bandwidth and can be initiated from almost anywhere: from a desk phone, a mobile phone or even from your home phone. Video simply cannot match the flexibility of audio.
Cost and ease of use
No one has a bottomless pit of money, but the more video tries to replicate face-to-face meetings, the more flexible your organisation’s budget has to be. With audio, however, all that’s needed is a conference bridge (enabling participants to be called, or for them to call in over the existing telephone network – whether IP or fixed line), microphones and speakers or telephones (fixed or mobile). Video, however, requires most of these and more, including dedicated conference rooms as well as high-end cameras and screens.
Video as we’ve already mentioned also makes greater demands on your internet connection. Coping with a weighty signal means that many connections can’t even handle high-end streaming, particularly 4K visuals. However, if you’re going to replicate a face-to-face meeting as closely as possible, and let’s face it what’s the point of a video if you don’t, then you’ll be well advised to invest in active-speaker automated cameras. Of course, they’re yet another expense and require careful consideration and set up, particularly insofar as seating plans are concerned in dedicated conference rooms.
Audio setup, on the other hand, is simplicity in itself. As long as everyone can be heard, then you’re ready to go. This simplicity ultimately feeds through into lower costs, particularly where conference requirements are low in volume.
Conference callers can take advantage of low-cost local call dial-in numbers anywhere and at any time, from Taunton to Timbuktu. And with modern ease-of-use facilities such as scheduled conferences that dial participants in or enable supervisors to add new participants on demand, it’s difficult to compete with the flexibility and spontaneity of Audio – anyone can be involved, anywhere and at any time.