Video meetings don’t have to be live

Asynchronous video can deliver messages more effectively than email does—and make physical encounters more productive.

If this wasn’t an email, I might send you a video instead.

We’ve all gotten used to video meetings over the past two years. But when it comes to asynchronous—or non-simultaneous—communication, we mostly fall back to the tried-and-true medium of email.

Email is good for a lot of things, but it’s lousy at communicating emotion or personality, delivering a demo, or displaying a scene. Video is better for that.

“Video messages carry the personality of the messenger in a way that the best-written email struggles to do,” said Eric Burns, CEO of Panopto, a video content management company. “Having someone talk you through a spreadsheet is so much better than sharing a sheet and a document.”

Panopto is one of a growing number of companies developing ways to make asynchronous video practical and easy for all sorts of tasks that are now handled with email or live meetings. For product demonstrations and walkthroughs, the value of video is obvious, but advocates say there are other ways the medium can be deployed to make organizations more productive.

Rethinking the meeting

Consider the way meetings usually unfurl. The session begins a few minutes late to allow time for laggards and small talk. There’s often a presentation, which usually hasn’t been shared with attendees in advance. People ignore what the speaker is saying as they squint to make out what’s on the slides.

Meetings can be shorter, more productive, and more inclusive if part of the session is prerecorded, said Michael Litt, CEO of video messaging service Vidyard. “There is a prevailing perception that meetings have to be live,” he said, “but not everyone is confident in their ability to respond in real time.” The format is poorly suited for people who need time to parse what’s being communicated. Physical meetings tend to be dominated by the most extroverted attendees, biasing the outcome.

Litt suggests that, instead, the meeting organizer can record the presentation and send it to attendees a couple of days in advance along with a shared document for comments. “That way, when you get into the meeting, you already have everybody’s questions and thoughts instead of spending the first half on the presentation,” he said. Each person arrives fully briefed and ready to spend their time in discussion rather than listening to a lecture.

The same goes for sales presentations and customer communications. “When you send the customer a five-minute overview of a topic in advance you can have a more focused live conversation,” Litt said.

Information-dense medium

Burns asserts that “the information bandwidth of video, especially when paired with a demo or presentation, is extremely high. It’s great for training and reference documentation. You can speed it up, slow it down, and watch it in chunks.”

Capturing meetings, customer interactions, and company events on video also creates an archive of best practices and solutions. “If the support team sees a workflow problem with a customer, they can record it and send it to the engineering team,” he said. “It builds a video library of the digital exhaust of the organization as it solves problems.”

Panopto uses speech and optical character recognition to make audio and video content searchable. Despite the shortcomings of current technology, transcription doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful.  “Humans need 90% accuracy to recall something, but 35% accuracy is sufficient enough for a search engine to deliver highly accurate results,” Burns said.

Not everyone is comfortable in front of a camera, but the pandemic has been a backhanded blessing in that respect. It’s forced us all to learn at least some basics of video communication while making us a bit more tolerant of other people’s imperfections.

Burns recommends a few basics: Avoid messy backgrounds, poor hygiene, and sloppy dress. Faces should be centered and not cut off at the forehead. Invest in good audio and video equipment, since “research has shown that low-quality audio makes people think the person is less smart.” Respect the viewer’s time and keep messages succinct. Use video where it makes sense but keep good old email in your back pocket.

Recent years have seen an explosion of tools to make capturing and sharing videos easy, including Vidyard, Loom, Hippo Video, and CloudApp. They may be onto something. A survey commissioned by Vidyard found that 89% of financial services pros think video messages have a greater impact than text, and two-thirds said they have gotten to know clients or customers better through video interaction. Who said that has to be in real time?

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