Online Meeting Survival Guide
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- Online Meeting Software
- Online Collaboration Software
- History of Video Communications
- Be able to use a computer
- Have access to online communication tools
Survive and thrive in shared online work environments with the Online Meeting Survival Guide Udemy Course. This course will bring you up to speed on the latest online communication and collaboration technologies available to increase your personal and professional productivity. Familiarize yourself with the world’s most popular online meeting software, and learn how to use the most effective features these solutions offer. From unified communications to collaboration and online meetings, this book is a welcome tour of the world’s best software solutions.
Part one of this book looks at the online communications industry from a high level to help you better understand modern communications and online workspaces. In part two, business leaders and managers alike can take a deep dive into the top online communication solutions such as Google Meet, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. Part three is all about productivity and best practices for your online communications.
Finally, you will get a glimpse of where online communications are headed. When is a webinar better than a meeting? How does live streaming fit into your sales and marketing plan? When is collaboration counterproductive, and how can your teams meet more effectively. This book draws upon Joseph Pine’s Experience Economy, Jonah Berger’s Invisible Influence, Morten Hanser’s Collaboration!, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point to apply the research of top business authors, sharing their insights. This book will help anyone responsible for deploying online communications be more effective.
You can also decide to take your learning further with the Online Meeting Survival Guide Udemy course. This online course features video tutorials walking you through all of the most important topics discussed in the book along with helpful software walkthroughs from the author. Increase your knowledge and familiarity with online communication tools today with the Online Meeting Survival Guide.
- Anyone who works from home
- Team leaders and managers
Innovations in video conferencing technology were already expanding the horizons of online collaboration when the COVID-19 global pandemic. h In a matter of months, the world’s largest work-from-home experiment of the information age had begun. Adaptation being the key to survival, suddenly everyone from managers to mothers, science teachers to students, and governors to grandparents were forced to venture into the brave new world of 24/7 online communication.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way you do business, attend school, participate in group affiliations like churches and clubs, and even how you stay close to friends and family. From consumer video conferencing to business collaboration and productivity, necessity truly is the mother of invention. In the midst of rapid change, online communications have landed firmly at the center of this “new normal” for everyone. Remote workers of all kinds and isolated families across the globe now rely on online video to stay connected.
Even though an internet connection is all that’s needed for your crash-course in video conferencing, it's not always that simple. All but veteran techies may feel like “digital migrants” as they work their way through the minefields of their first online gatherings and conferences, facing obstacles like dropped connections and video with garbled audio while learning to creatively pantomime “I can’t hear you.”.
I've written this book to help readers, skilled and novice alike, master online technologies so they can focus optimistically on discovering the many opportunities our greater reliance on online communication offers. Through my online course, and the chapters in this book, readers will have the chance to learn about the tools available, hone their online communication skills, and push their overall productivity forward into the 21st century. As we witness the use of video communication accelerate to mass adoption worldwide,there are endless opportunities for those with a keen eye for emerging trends.
For example, what do you get when you combine Zoom video conferencing with school fields trips? Boom! A new educational business is born. Merging video conferencing and live streaming? How about a new talk show or podcasts with audiences that potentially rival that of television or cable networks? My personal favorite is spiritual sharing and online worship groups, hosted by small churches that have found they have larger audiences than they originally realized. More realistic perhaps for most, is the realization of increased productivity through expanded communication and collaboration opportunities.
This book will not only help you discover how to curate your own online communication technology, it will encourage you to venture out and create your own online specialty. I’m going to show you the strategies and best practices you need to harness the power of all the latest video communication tools that will free you to develop fresh ideas to apply to your unique vision.
I know, change can be uncomfortable, but the future always holds a silver lining for forward thinkers. For example, the widespread adoption of video communication has the power to reduce travel which is a positive in terms of reducing the world's carbon footprint. That’s good for combating global warming. There are also many win-win business scenarios, such as allowing for a more diversified and productive workforce. Most employers can reduce the cost of office space with a larger remote workforce. This will wind up saving companies hundreds of millions of dollars each year on office leases and related costs.
Today’s “new normal” involves a significant amount of telecommuting and it's likely to stay that way for a while. Even before the pandemic, expanding the number of remote workers was already a trend supported by many top corporate executives. A recent Gartner Organization study (Gartner, April 2020) showed that 74 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed expected to move previously on-site employees to remote work permanently post COVID-19. Many participating CFOs hinted that remote work may become more of the norm than the exception as companies look to cut commercial real estate costs and better safeguard their workforce from all communicable illnesses.
At the same time, employers look to reap these potential benefits, workers too are finding a better work-life balance by leveraging collaboration tools that allow them to work from home. Remote employees can instantly eliminate the time spent commuting to and from work. This time-savings may translate to more quality time with family and friends, and that just might make employees happier and more productive in the long run.
For companies looking to improve bottom lines, happy people tend to be more productive. In fact, a 2015 study at the University of Warwick (Warwick,ac.uk, 2015) found that happy employees are, on average, 12 percent more productive than unhappy employees. For most workers, an improved work-life balance increases happiness and by extension, improves productivity. The shift to remote work may lead to happier people living in a more productive and environmentally-friendly society, businesses would presumably enjoy the returns of increased employee productivity.
This book will review the top video conferencing and collaboration solutions, keeping in mind the business goal of increased worker productivity. Where we sit today, having experienced a global pandemic, we find the adoption of technology has advanced what could have taken years into a matter of months out of sheer necessity. Businesses around the world were forced to reinvent their communications logistics to facilitate employees working from home for extended periods of time, a trend unlikely to reverse anytime soon. The Genie is out of the box, but as I mentioned, that needn’t be a bad thing.
The video conferencing technologies this book examines include Google Hangouts/Meet, Facebook Rooms, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. The collaboration technologies this book will reference include Google Chat, the G Suite, Teams, Discord, and Slack. While many companies standardize with just one or two of these solutions, it’s important for all workers to have a basic familiarity with most of the world's top online communication tools because you never know which ones an employer uses to do business. It’s important to remain agile and adaptable and ready to adopt new technologies applications quickly.
Looking ahead, after using some of these tools, it’s natural to develop a favorite. I encourage this. After all, it’s your online productivity. For the times you’re the host of an event, you’re in the driver's seat and get to choose the tool that offers all the features you need to accomplish your goals. But if you need to use a tool of someone else’s choosing, I’ll help you become familiar with the communications platforms available today.
In a matter of seconds, you can search and find hundreds of communication applications to install on your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Each service promises to be the best, most intuitive solution for online communication with family, friends, and business partners. It's never been easier or more convenient to send a message, share a picture, or connect face-to-face with other people around the world. But it wasn’t always this way. The communications tools of today are actually the result of an evolution of technological innovations that spans several decades.
The earliest online chat messaging and email applications, like AOL, MindSpring, and Yahoo, were initially only available to small groups of computer owners. Try imagining a time when sending an instant message or email between two computers was new and exciting. The only way to send an instant message (IM) before this was to send a fax, telegram, or Telex. Millennials and Gen Z haven’t even heard of these tactics.
Instant messages (IMs) and email represented the first wave of online communications. Instant messaging actually predates the internet and unlike many other technologies, IMs and email remain important today. These two methods were important building blocks of the “technology stacks” (lists of services built to run on a single application) for online communication and collaboration. Like an old-fashioned phone call, instant messaging and email which essentially function the same, with a few added bells and whistles, have been modernized but never replaced.
The internet (a global system of interconnected computer networks) has transformed the global communications landscape more than any other technology. In 1993, two-way communications on the internet represented only one percent of all communications. By 2000, that number increased to 51 percent and by 2007, that number had climbed to 97 percent (Hilbert, 2011). Whenthe world’s communications moved online, many new business opportunities emerged. From social media to digital advertising, economies around the world have flourished as benefactors of this massive online movement.
As the internet expanded, Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing (off-premise data warehousing) emerged. SaaS is when a provider hosts applications, making them available on demand by subscription to customers over the Internet. SaaS examples include the Google G Suite, Slack, Office 365, Dropbox and Zoom. Providers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have helped companies deliver SaaS via cloud computing technology allowing them to offer a variety of new and powerful front-end software applications. Delivering software via the Cloud has made businesses more agile and scalable.
Suffice to say, communications have changed dramatically in the 21st century. The smartphone has made instantaneous access to information commonplace and small internet-connected devices such as tablets have put instant messaging, voice, video and data access into the hands of millions in a relatively short period of time. Communications have evolved rapidly and with so many innovations happening simultaneously, however, there are few clear guidelines on how individuals and teams can best use these technologies to become more productive. At the same time, culture is shifting and the workforce is adapting to deliver services in the modern age.
Daniel Pink, the author of, “To Sell Is Human,” has uncovered eye-opening research that can help many better understand communication transformations happening in the modern workplace. Pink’s research shows that on average, 40 percent of time spent on the job for most workers is done “persuading, convincing, and influencing others.” Pink’s first-of-its-kind research shows that modern workers are being asked to develop skills that cross traditional departmental boundaries to increase productivity. Pink argues that a “broad rethinking of sales as we know it” can help explain the paradigm shift in modern communication. Pink goes on to note that while only 1 in 9 jobs in the United States are in direct sales, the other 8 in 9 jobs involve what he calls “non-sales selling” (Pink, 2019).
Key to this modern workforce transformation is collaboration between multiple business units both inside and outside of organizations. Pink notes two of the fastest growing industries, education and medicine, are deeply involved in what they call “moving people.” These industries have renamed entire sectors of their organizations, including “telehealth” and “distance learning” as the massive adoption of modern communications technology continues.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA) Telehealth is the fastest growing area of the healthcare system (AMA, 2019). In the field of education, a study from the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), published before the COVID-19 outbreak reports that distance learning had been growing every year for 16 years (OLC, 2018). After COVID-19, educators of all walks of life have had to reinvent their educational processes to fit into some form of distance learning using online communication tools.
Both of these industries rely on effective communication. When communication between multiple business units that are not centrally located is essential, online communications becomes the foundation that bridges distributed teams together whether they are located across the hall or across the globe. These same communications have allowed Education and Healthcare to deliver their services remotely to clients over the internet, enabling them to find new emerging sectors of their industry, making their organizations more profitable and diversified. As a result, each of these industries is responsible for creating thousands of new jobs.
How many more industries will be transformed by online communications technology? Using Pink’s research as a guide, you can bet the number will be many. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the trillion dollar Event Planning industry to move online. “The Virtual Ticket”, a book I published in 2020, reviews the transformation of this industry that’s since been forced to postpone events, to rethink their go to market strategies and adapt due to the pandemic.
Can we Skype? The name of the service has become ubiquitously synonymous as the action verb for video chats. Skype’s ability to connect people around the world made history in the video communication space. Since its 2003 release, Skype’s brought millions of friends and families together in a simple, straightforward interface. Microsoft, always on the lookout for innovative solutions, acquired Skype in 2011 and quickly integrated it into Microsoft Office, later known as Microsoft Office 365.
Four years after the acquisition, Microsoft launched “Skype for Business,”which improved on its existing “Lync” business communication software by expanding integration capabilities. With Skype for Business, users experienced Outlook and other Office software directly with Skype for Business IM, voice, and video features by clicking directly on a contact (recipient) to initiate conversations or schedule meetings. Simply put, Skype for Business made Lync more useful.
Skype for Business targeted professional users at a cost, while Skype (for personal use) remained free. By comparison, while Skype permitted conferencing with up to 25 users, Skype for Business managed up to 250. Skype for Business also offered dedicated video conferencing rooms. These “Room Systems” offered video collaboration experiences which included voice, video, and content collaboration via one Skype login.
Lync, Skype for Business, and eventually Microsoft Teams
In a nutshell, Lync was Microsoft's original business video communication solution. It morphed into Skype for Business similar to the way Google rebranded Hangouts into its Meet product. In the most recent iteration, Microsoft integrated Skype for Business into Office 365, its cloud-based productivity solution, Skype remains the most popular option for personal use as Microsoft Teams combines Skype’s exceptional video communications features with Office 365. Teams also includes collaboration features similar to platforms such as “Slack” (released in 2013) and others. We’ll look more closely at Teams and solutions like Slack in a bit. Let’s circle back and take a deeper dive into Skype.
A Closer Look at Skype
With Skype, users can connect up to 50 meeting participants in High Definition (HD) video quality. Skype video calls include intuitive screen sharing and messaging features that compliment the meeting experience. The Skype messaging feature allows users to chat, share pictures, and use “@” mentions to get other users attention. Skype's messaging platform can be used independently from its video conferencing mode. While it's often used as a chat solution, users can transition to a video call whenever necessary.
Today, video communication has become an integral part of how we work. Indeed for some, it is the only way to work. Even with so many video communication platforms available today, Google Hangouts (now Google Meet) is one of the most popular choices, almost by default. Google Meet is a powerful part of a larger set of tools. Meet is incredibly easy to use because it's integrated directly into Gmail and the G Suite. For many people, Google is a gateway to their online experience and its G Suite has become their workspace for online collaboration.
In 2016, Google announced that Gmail had passed one billion active users. Today that number is beyond 1.5 billion. Each user has free access to Google Chat for messaging and Google Meet for video conferencing. In addition to Gmail, Google offers video conferencing, messaging, and collaboration tools that are extremely helpful for boosting business productivity from directly within the G Suite platform.
The G Suite is a complete online workspace with popular applications such as Google Drive (file storage), Google Docs (documents), Google Slides (presentations), and Google Sheets (spreadsheets). Google’s G Suite starts at just $6 per user, per month which offers any size business access to its set of online collaboration tools without prohibitive costs. With so many people actively using Google services, it’s no wonder Google Meet has become one of the most popular video conferencing tools. Below is a look at services G Suite customers can access for low monthly fees.
Business needs are constantly evolving and at the center of many organizations productivity and communications solutions is Windows. Microsoft has been the global leader in operating systems (OS) development since the 1980’s. Microsoft has the unique capability to offer ground-up business solutions that literally start at the OS found on every computer. Globally, the Windows operating system is used on nearly 75-85% of computers. This gives Microsoft a competitive advantage as they innovate cloud-based communications and workspace solutions.
Over the past decade, Microsoft has leveraged their foothold in the global OS market to launch their cloud-based, workplace solution Microsoft 365. In 2011, Microsoft launched their popular Office products to the cloud; including Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Visio and Outlook. Just like Google’s G Suite, Office 365’s fully cloud based solution is helping to modernize how people work. Teams can now work on shared documents in real-time as they collaborate in organized channels of communications. As a result, organizations are becoming more productive and better connected.
Microsoft Teams is the glue that binds the Office 365 tools together in a collaborative workplace. Teams was designed for online communications with integrations across all the most important aspects of the Office 365 environment. Teams is available on most devices to easily connect users from anywhere in the world whether they’re in the office, working from home, or on the go.
Teams flag-ship feature is a threaded conversation functionality similar to the collaboration suite offered by Slack and Atlassian’s HipChat. The Team's chat tool has become a necessary asset for many businesses with global offices and remote employees. Moreover, Teams ability to switch between its multiple modes of communications make it one of the most popular applications on Office 365.
Zoom is one of the leading providers of video conferencing software. Just seven years after the company's 2013 launch, Zoom has become the fastest growing online communications company in the world. With so many features, including a chat interface with cross-platform messaging and best in-class video conferencing, many are turning to Zoom as their first choice to handle their changing technical needs.
Zoom’s popularity comes with good reason first, they back their feature-rich platform with a team of friendly customer service representatives. Eric Yuan the CEO of Zoom, has become an industry thought leader with a mission to “deliver happiness to users.” With all of that in mind, Zoom’s well-rounded platform has repeatedly been ranked number one in customer reviews on G2Crowd, TrustRadius, and Gartner Peer Insights, among other platforms.
The platform definitely has a lot going for it, it’s easy to use and super reliable. Another standout feature is its interface which shows people in little “brady bunch” squares, neatly fitting up to 49 people on the same screen. The application is what technical investors call “sticky” meaning users get so attached to using it, they’d never think of switching to another. In this chapter, you will get an in-depth look into everything you need to know to be successful with Zoom.
You could argue Facebook is the single largest network used for online communications. The network that was originally started for groups of college level students has morphed into an all inclusive online communications network. Facebook now offers three main solutions relevant to online communications which are the social media platform itself, the Facebook Workplace, and Facebook messenger.
Facebook's social media platform has become a phenomenon that has shaped the way our world understands online communications. This platform has over 2.5 monthly active users who stay connected with friends, family members and business contacts around the world. Facebook's social platform supports the sharing of digital content in almost every way spanning video, image, emoji, text, live streaming and more. Facebook's platform is monetized through their advanced advertising solutions that reported revenue of $16.6 billion in 2019.
Facebook's messenger service has been naturally integrated into the social media platform allowing users to quickly instant message other users they are friends with. Group conversations can be used for small teams to communicate and video calling is available as well. In April of 2020, Facebook announced a new feature for Messenger called rooms. Rooms is a feature that provides video conferencing experiences for groups up to 50 callers. Facebook's video conferencing solutions also provide simple screen sharing, audio/video controls, and meeting layout formats.
Until April of 2020, Facebook's main focus in the video communications space has been one-way live streaming. After a 2016 launch, Facebook’s dominance in the live content delivery market has been rivaled only by Google’s YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch platform. Facebook developed a number of innovative features for live and on-demand video such as watch parties and interactive live audience polling. In 2017, the company's founder Mark Zuckerburg called video a “mega-trend” which would be on par with the move to mobile. Zuckerburg has also said Facebook would become a “video first” company in many subsequent interviews.
For a period of time in between 2016 and 2020, Facebook was viewed as a walled garden when it came to video content in comparison to top competitor YouTube. While YouTube’s has become the best search engine for video content, Facebook has become the best social media system for video. YouTube is actually the world’s second largest search engine. In April of 2020, Facebook announced people would not have to be logged into the platform in order to watch live and on-demand videos hosted on the platform. This move brings Facebook's video content to viewers without a barrier to entry similar to YouTube. Facebook also announced that it would allow creators to charge viewers for access to exclusive live streams.
Facebook’s dominance in the social media space has allowed the company to spread into other areas of online communication easily because the service acts like a central for online activity. Facebook is the world’s fourth largest website and in 2019 the average users spent almost one hour everyday on the platform. The lines between consumer and business use on Facebook are also becoming less important. A user may use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family one moment, and then use the same service to connect with business partners over an instant message or video call. Facebook’s massive user base makes the tools more effective for communications because so many people are already connected. Facebook also benefits from a familiarity users have with the platform, allowing users to experiment with new services easily (Metev, 2019).
While Facebook remains a very attractive solution for many, the company faced unprecedented negative public attention throughout 2017 to 2019 due to privacy concerns. The company ended up paying a record $5 billion in fees to settle privacy concerns with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). The allegations cited that Facebook had improperly obtained private information from over 87 million users. Because some of this data was used by advertisers during the 2016 United States Presidential election, the negative press has been estimated to cost Facebook $37 billion (Fortune, Kelleher).
Not all collaboration is productive. In today's business environment, effective communication and collaboration are valued as key drivers of innovation. On average, in a five-day work week, employees spend between 1 to 2 ½ days attending meetings. According to a recent study, employees spend almost 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings (HubSpot, 2014). Given these assumptions, most meetings have a 40 percent chance of being unproductive. It’s worth noting that an unproductive meeting doesn’t mean that the meeting was a complete failure. It just means that most meeting attendees could have been doing something more productive with their time.
The first strategy for hosting productive online meetings is simply preparation. Being prepared for meetings is perhaps the most powerful strategy for hosting productive meetings. Preparation enables you to come to the meeting confident in your ability to communicate with the online meeting tools available. As a meeting host, you can show all meeting attendees that you’re present and paying attention simply by turning on your video camera. The concept of “presence” is used throughout online communications to bring remote teams together. Many people feel uncomfortable on camera, yet overcoming this fear as a leader allows you to lead by example.
Why is the use of video so important to hosting productive online meetings? Ninety three percent of communication is non-verbal, so naturally promoting the use of video cameras during your meetings will increase your communication effectiveness and participant engagement. As an effective meeting host, you need to be mindful of participants’ concerns about online meeting technology.
While video conferencing makes remote communication more realistic, tried and true communication practices can help you get the most out of any online communication effort. One strategy for team communication is called “Equity of Voice,” in which each member of a meeting is encouraged to have an equal amount of time to speak. Barry Moline, the author of Connect, says the secret to powerful connections comes down to four basic communications strategies.
#1: Share personal stories
Sharing personal stories helps individual team members better understand their peers. Personal stories foster the relationship-building process which is foundational to team communication. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting to help team members build relationships by sharing personal stories. In addition, weave personal stories and anecdotes into key points in the meeting where helpful; they can often help reinforce key messages and build retention.
#2: Equity of voice
Achieving equity of voice requires a conscious effort to give each meeting member an equal opportunity to speak during the meeting. For example, in a five-person meeting each member of the team would speak one-fifth of the time and listen four-fifths of the time. The listening side of equity of voice is what makes it effective.
#3: Assume positive intent
To help ensure productive meetings, learn how to assume positive intent from others. This assumption helps set the meeting up for success by focusing on what you truly have control over -- yourself. Too often, the “not invented here” barrier and the “transfer barrier” prevent meeting attendees from productive collaboration. Avoid these barriers by encouraging the assumption of positive intent which builds a bridge for communication that might not come naturally.
#4: Value persistence
Anything worthwhile takes time, dedication, and persistence. Once managers identify collaboration projects with significant value to the organization, they need to keep a close eye on team progress and follow-through. Some team members may lose focus, skip important meetings, or come to meetings unprepared. Managers can help by identifying people who can serve as collaboration project leaders. In an upcoming chapter, managers will learn how to use social facilitation to increase productivity and accountability to help employees effectively collaborate on projects.
Equilibrium of Voice
Meeting leaders may embrace a new idea I call “Equilibrium of Voice” to push collaboration projects in a positive direction. Equilibrium of voice is a communication strategy that attempts to maximize meeting performance based on goals set in a meeting agenda. A meeting with perfect equilibrium of voice optimizes the most relevant speakers of a group based on the established agenda and the participants' roles in the overall group. It’s almost impossible for meetings to achieve equilibrium of voice without a clear agenda.
Equity of voice can be ideal for team collaboration where an agenda is in the process of being created and individual roles have yet to be defined. During the early stages of collaboration projects it’s important for everyone to be heard especially during crucial team-building exercises. But once a team has established an agenda, subsequent meetings will benefit from an equilibrium of voice that offers subject matter experts additional focus based on the agreed upon agenda.
There’s a process in psychology called “priming” that’s helpful in meeting scheduling. Priming is a powerful tool for meeting hosts because it helps to influence the way meeting participants will associate their role in association with the proposed meeting. Research shows that priming can influence someone to walk more slowly by having them read words such as “patient,” “polite,” or “respectful.” In this way, you can prime meeting participants to be excited for an upcoming meeting by using words such as “impressive” or “tremendous.” Depending on the type of presentation you’re planning, consider priming your meeting attendees with a catchy title or an associated image attached to the meeting invitation.
All businesses are dynamic and in a constant state of change. In The Grid, author Matt Watkinson, explains why the traditional way of studying a business as a static system is ineffective. Traditionally Watkinson says that businesses like to “break things down into small pieces, and then study them in isolation.” While your organization may see strong results from hosting many small meetings with dedicated teams, it’s often difficult for these small groups to see the bigger picture. In reality, all businesses are interconnected systems where one decision affects other areas of the system. Managers need to remain tapped into the collaboration efforts of their team members and look for overarching cause-and-effect scenarios that can result from small team decisions. This is why large “all hands” update meetings are so important for connecting departments under a common vision.
At some point in your online communications journey, someone in your organization will want to host a webinar. Webinars are online meetings that feature one or more panelists who make a presentation to a large group. Before you get talked into hosting or joining a webinar ask yourself if a regular meeting format will suffice. Webinars require much less meeting attendee participation than a regular meeting. Therefore, more focused attention on presentation quality is required for webinar hosts. Webinars are often advertised to large audiences and they promise value to the audience in the form of information.
Webinars generally feature a standard hour-long format that easily fits into the schedules of interested parties. It is important to keep in mind that people are busy and will leave a webinar that does not engage their interests within a few minutes. Almost all webinars are recorded and made available for those who registered but didn’t make it.
Our team at the StreamGeeks have hosted thousands of webinars over the years. In that time we have generated powerful educational and entertaining videos that sculpt our online presence. Our team used the power of social media to distribute our webinars and increase viewership by 10 times. Like most companies, we started our journey into video by hosting webinars with a simple platform called GoToMeeting. We then moved over to Zoom, which is our platform of choice for video communications.
Video communications and content delivery technologies have gone through an amazing period of innovation and change over the past decade. Video conferencing technology has moved to the cloud allowing anyone, almost anywhere, to connect and communicate with ease. Live video streaming has made its way into social media putting a “go live” button into the hands of billions of users. This democratization of technology has led to all kinds of new use cases. Throughout this process companies such as Twitch, Facebook, Zoom Video Conferencing, Google, Microsoft, Slack, and Discord have all experienced explosive growth by listening to customers and scaling their offerings to match growing market requirements.
At a high level, it’s interesting to look at online communication from a cultural perspective. Human civilization has grown to support massive surging populations. As a result business and economies have flourished, but traffic and over-population in major cities have become a very real consequence to global growth. For innovative individuals and businesses who want to increase productivity at work but also quality of life through reduced travel, online communications have become a tool necessary for growth.
The amount of global travel the world supports is astounding. Just take a quick look at a flight radar to see plane routes on top of plane routes, zipping throughout the world 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The coronavirus pandemic has put a temporary hold on global travel and given the world a rare chance to gain perspective. The literal roar of the daily hustle and bustle of modern life, has been reduced to a murmur which has allowed scientists to hear the earth better. Scientists have noted up to 30 percent decrease in global noise using advanced seismometer machines. Is there something we can learn from the silence?
Ray Oldenburg is a social scientist who can help us understand the importance of public gathering spaces. Oldenburg’s work defines an important concept he calls the “Third Place,” a social space separated from home and the workplace. Third places are churches, cafes, public parks, and restaurants. The Third Place idea helps us to better understand the importance of social environments and their impact on our culture. Oldenburg’s book, The Great Good Place, argues that these third places have the potential to promote a civil society, democracy, and civic engagement. But what happens to a society when our third places are taken away?
Shelter in place orders have forced a virtual third place explosion through pure necessity. Necessity is the mother of invention, and through a vast adoption of technology and internet access, social media, video gaming, and online communications have become the third place. One example of this was the world’s largest live concert with over 12 million concurrent viewers that took place in April 2020 inside of a video game. Fornite, which is one of the world’s most popular video games, held a virtual concert with over 10 million viewers in 2019. There’s no live concert stadium in the world that could hold even one-tenth of the audience members these concerts are hosting.
The move to esports has also become a global phenomenon for more than just kids playing video games. With sporting events cancelled around the world, bike races have continued with network connected exercise bikes. Major league sports are hosting nationally televised video game versions of scheduled matches. Zoom video conferencing was used during the NFL draft.
Without a doubt, Zoom video conferencing became the social media platform of the pandemic. Over 20 million people each day have downloaded the Zoom app, astounding Google, Microsoft, and Facebook which offer similar solutions but aren’t seeing the same growth. When the world demanded a space to replace their in-person connections, Zoom became the solution that spread like wildfire.
As of April 2020, Facebook had announced a slew of new features to better accommodate the new virtual third place demand. Facebook said it would upgrade its existing group messaging service to include unlimited free video calling for groups of up to 50 people. Facebook also upgraded the live streaming solution which connects millions together everyday directly through the social media platform. New features for video communication and live one-way broadcasting will continue to increase online communication in new and innovative ways.
Whether you would like to become more productive at work, spend more time doing the things you love, or you have a passion to reduce your carbon footprint, online communications can help you achieve these goals. While the world was headed in this direction slowly, the speed at which online communications are being adopted will help us achieve many great things in a short amount of time. Here's to innovation and human ingenuity. It is my hope these online communications tools will change your habits and make you a more productive and passionate member of an increasingly connected global community.