Virtually face-to-face.

For all our daily dependence on email and new social media tools, most people would agree there’s little that’s as effective as a face-to-face meeting to build relationships and close a sale.

 But, whether it’s flying or driving to a client meeting or assembling your far-flung team for a collaborative afternoon brainstorm jam, for many businesses – especially small ones – the time and expense required can be prohibitive.

clip_image002With travel budgets – and for that matter, all budgets – slashed, a growing number of vendors have made it their mission to design videoconferencing tools that offer real-time collaboration, file distribution, session recording and other features more accessible and affordable than ever.

Al Sacco at has 7 quick tips for evaluating your videoconferencing system needs. While these tips are aimed at larger businesses, entrepreneurs can gain a lot by asking themselves these same questions:

1. Know how you’ll use a videoconferencing system: Who will use it? How many locations will you want to connect with? Will the system provide one-on-one communication or simultaneous multi-party communicating?

2. Know where you’ll use it: Will it be installed in a dedicated videoconference room or different meeting areas? Do you have a sound system? Will you need one?

3. Know how much you’re willing to invest: A videoconferencing system can be pricey. Estimate how much money you’ll save over the long term – in time, travel and other expenses. Is there a clear return on investment?

4. Create your list of vendors: Ask for a test-drive and make sure you evaluate the system’s reliability, audio/video quality, ease of use and how the system integrates with any system you currently have.

For web-based video conference software and application tools aimed at small businesses, Amarendra Bhushan offers an exhaustive list of applications that can help with online presentations or impromptu tête-à-têtes.

And David Byrd has put together 10 great tips to help you conduct video conferencing more smoothly and effectively.

How effective has videoconferencing been for you? What tips can you share?

By Adam

February 16, 2010