Skype has recently announced the launch of on-the-go group mobile conferencing, which could bring huge steps for remote working businesses. The development means that people can have a group conversation while away from their desk, increasing the possibility of staying connected with multiple clients and colleagues overseas while stepping out of the office.
People have been using mobile conferencing for years - a Polycom survey found that 40 per cent of all American businesses have used some form of mobile conferencing. The difference is now, it’s easier to engage in group calls at all times.
For entrepreneurs and start-ups, this is particularly useful when trying to liaise with suppliers or colleagues late at night on the other side of the world. It means you’re always contactable, and it’s not necessary to have your laptop open furiously typing at 2am.
For Matt Constable, the CIO at ROCO Partners, a software consultancy, mobile conferencing is used to the max. "Links, images and thoughts fly between internal and external members of project teams all day. We leave a group chat open for each project all the time. Skype has also been hugely helpful at breaking down barriers in inter-agency cooperation. We use its screen sharing faculty to demo new features to large groups of people in different offices."
He explains that mobile conferencing allows you to have more fingers in different pies. "As a business owner you wear a lot of hats so Skype is great because we can be in several places at once - I can be in a meeting with a client in Kings Cross and quickly conference in a developer from Spain while answering questions from my team at London Bridge."
Lyanna Tsakiris, MCIPR at Station Rd Marketing feels the main benefit of video conferencing is that it’s ideal for connecting people in multiple locations, particularly with clients abroad. "It means you can cut meeting costs, manage time differences, deal with any issues in real time, physically see your contacts so it can bring a more personal touch by removing the faceless barrier of a telephone and you can also share files and screens so you are all looking at the same thing at the same time."
Tsarkis explains how Google hangouts works in a similar way, but which one you use is more about what’s accessible for your contacts. "These apps are great for virtual training sessions and team meetings too when we haven’t all been in the office and need to catch up. I particularly like them as people waste so much more time travelling to meetings as well as in physical meetings. I’ve found that when you have a virtual meeting people are a lot more to the point, making the sessions more productive and efficient."
The key benefits for small businesses using on-the-go conferencing enables workforces to work remotely while maintaining contact and productivity as an organisation or department. Jason Downes, CEO of conferencing provider Powwownow thinks the nine to five office structure is enormously outdated, and mobile conferencing lets employers and employees spend time doing what they are most passionate about. "The technology is now readily available and should staff have to travel or leave the office then it means that they should never miss a beat."
Downes acknowledges that there are downsides to mobile conferencing. "There is the argument that mobile conferencing can mean that people don’t ever switch off but for me, it’s the freedom that this allows which is more the aspect to pick up. Being able to work when suits you best, means you get the most out of people, which is better for business. When implementing such practices in an organisation then there must be trust between employers and employees, if there isn’t then that is when problems can occur."
Alongside the mobile conferencing boom, other apps are popping up to streamline the conferencing experience. Voxeet, for example, helps to identify who's speaking during a conference call, as it reduces background noise and chatter. This app is all about visual clues - for example when a person on the left-hand side of the screen speaks, their voice will be heard in your left ear, which makes it easier to identify the speaker.
Uberconference is another sneakily efficient app that helps you learn more about the people you’re talking to if you haven’t had a chance to research them before they pop up. Instead, you can explore their social media network - LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter - by clicking on their name during the call.