Video conferencing has long been touted as a means of enabling face-to-face interactions without the cost and disruption of business travel. However, a new report from TechAisle shows that video collaboration has much stronger implications for small to midsize businesses (SMBs).

According to a global study of SMB and midmarket companies, the top benefit of video collaboration is “building trust and positive relationships” among internal teams, cited by 67 percent of organizations surveyed. Video collaboration also promotes customer intimacy by “facilitating stronger customer relationships and engagement,” according to 63 percent of respondents.

But video collaboration isn’t just about building relationships. Sixty-one percent of respondents said that it helps accelerate decision-making, while 60 percent said it increases productivity by “keeping teams focused and minimizing multitasking in meetings.” In addition, 59 percent said that video enhances the value of meetings by helping participants retain complex information.

The survey results can be correlated to the changing nature of video collaboration. Once the exclusive domain of expensive, room-sized equipment, video collaboration has become accessible via desktops, desk phones and mobile devices. Teams no longer have to reserve space in a conference room and struggle to use complex technology. Users can invite participants and launch a video conference with a few clicks.

That’s not to imply that quality is unimportant. Poor lighting and sound, and a jerky or garbled image, will limit the value of video collaboration. The following tips can help teams optimize the user experience:

  • Pay attention to what other users are seeing. Is the camera looking up your nose or down on your forehead? Is your red and yellow Hawaiian shirt distracting? Is the lighting too bright or too dim? Is your desk covered with piles of paper? Careful camera placement, thoughtful lighting, neutral clothing and an uncluttered desk help ensure the most professional image.
  • Invest in an HD webcam. While you can buy a webcam for a few bucks, you’ll get much better results from professional equipment. For a modest investment, you can get full HD 1080p video, widescreen capabilities, automatic low-light correction and other features.
  • Make sure the audio quality is good. Meeting participants won’t be looking at you the whole time, but they will be listening to what you say. Consider investing in a high-quality headset, or make sure your webcam has a good microphone.
  • Check your connections. Video conferencing requires a lot of bandwidth, so make sure your network is up to the task. This is particularly true if you’re connecting via Wi-Fi. Also, close any unneeded apps on your PC or mobile device so that the video conference has adequate memory and CPU resources.

The time to test your setup isn’t five minutes before an important video conference. Periodically conduct “dress rehearsals” to ensure that your equipment is functioning properly and the image and sound are good.

Growing availability of video collaboration tools has brought video out of the board room and into the hands of every user. This “democratization” of video is bringing real business benefits to SMBs. With a bit of forethought and modest investments in time and money, video collaboration can help strengthen relationships, accelerate decision-making and increase productivity.