Seeing the person you are talking to prevents that attention drift that happens when people become bored with the conversation. When the camera is on, it is harder to read email, surf the web, play with your PDA, or text someone (whether they’re in the room or not).
Seeing each other, even with small pictures on a screen, improves the sense of connection. You can read body language and even see when someone doesn’t feel well or disagrees with something somebody said. People who don’t know each other get to see each others’ faces and this helps build trust and friendship.
There are lots of different options for virtual meetings: Skype is free for online calls with video and works internationally and within the US. Most of the time it works well, but in my experience, it can be unstable. Because calls drop off unexpectedly, it disrupts conversations and meetings. For example, tonight on a call to China, the Skype connection went out several times. We ended up speaking on cell phones.
WebEx is stable, and provides great meeting and learning tools for a modest monthly fee. I have tried a lot of online systems, and I keep going back to WebEx. When my team and I are working on a project, we can share documents, whiteboards, generate ideas through mind mapping, and even work on the same document together. For training purposes, WebEx is good as well, although the cost for their training center bumps up quite a bit.
Many people recommend Elluminate, and a friend of mine created a fabulous dialogue training through its platform. Elluminate has a breadth of services that are comprehensive and competitively priced.
Some applications provide a bit less than a full solution. Maestroconference includes telephony with breakout rooms, but you can’t share slides or other visuals; freeconference call is a free and easy solution to telephone meetings and it includes only conference call capability. There are lots of solutions available, and it takes awhile to find the right solution at the right price.
Virtual team meetings are essential for working these days. We need to collaborate with people around the globe, in the next town or state, and around the block in a home office. For me the right solution includes video, an ability to present and share documents, and the capability to work together on applications, whether its an online learning, writing, or international collaboration.