Technology for video-based applications has improved greatly in recent years.
Most people agree that face-to-face communication is ideal. Tone, gestures, facial expressions, vocal inflections and environment influence the meanings of our words to such an extent that to compensate for their absence within emails and texts, we've become accustomed to using emoticons, superfluous punctuation and other types of written emphasis to make our meanings clear.
But sometimes face-to-face communication between clients, employees or colleagues isn't possible. Your colleagues or clients may live on the other side of the country. Or you may be attending a conference, wanting to share a message with friends and colleagues back home.
Thankfully, there are several applications and programs available that can help you communicate without losing connotation in the process. Here are some of the more popular video-based applications to explore:
Apple's device-to-device video call app makes this list because it's easy to use, adds no additional charges to your plan (barring data overages) and comes ready-to-use with every iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone (v. 4.0 and up). FaceTime operates the same way a regular phone call does: dial a number, wait for the other person to pick up, and you are quickly connected in sight and sound via the built-in cameras and VoIP in your devices.
Using FaceTime is just like having a conversation face-to-face, besides the fact that you are holding your device. The drawbacks are that both parties must own the appropriate Apple products and in most cases, must be connected to a Wi-Fi network, but with both becoming more ubiquitous, FaceTime is a convenient way to stay in sight and in touch.
If you prefer Android to Apple, or do not own a FaceTime-compatible device, a free app called Tango allows nearly anyone to talk face-to-phone. Tango's features include video calls, video voicemails, games with a built-in competitor and group video messaging. Users can also incorporate themed animations into their messages or calls.
Launched in 2003 as a free alternative to long-distance telephone carriers, this VoIP now offers short messaging services (SMS, or instant messaging), file sharing and low-cost computer-to-landline (or mobile line) services, in addition to the still-gratis computer-to-computer call service. Sign up for an account, set up your webcam and microphone, and you're ready to connect by voice and video with this service. Businesses and nonprofits especially enjoy the group conferencing and file sharing aspect of Skype.
The search engine behemoth offers two versions of its instant communication software. The first is a Web-based plug-in that operates through your browser when you are logged into Gmail, iGoogle or orkut (another Google-owned social network, popular outside the U.S.). The second is a PC-only software program that operates from your hard drive. Both programs offer instant messaging, video streams of the people you chat with (BYOW: Bring Your Own Webcam), and VoIP phone service (BYOM: Bring Your Own Microphone.)
In addition, you can transfer files through the software version of Google Talk. If you already use Gmail, Google conveniently loads your Gmail contacts into Google Talk, making it easy to instantly connect with friends and colleagues. Both are free.
More than a simple video chat program, this comprehensive software suite allows your team to set up virtual meeting rooms, share and update files in real time, watch streaming video and speak over VoIP. You can use Adobe Connect for team meetings, webinars, training sessions, client presentations and project brainstorming sessions.
Adobe Connect also allows hosts in multiple separate locations to lead a video meeting simultaneously. SSL encryption is available to ensure third parties cannot hack into private meetings or presentations. There is a somewhat significant cost for Adobe Connect that depends on usage type, volume and payment plan; however, the tech support, attendee tracking options and mobile capabilities may make the price tag well worth the expense.
There are plenty of other video applications available in addition to the ones listed here. There is no "right" or "perfect" program. Test a couple out and see what works for you. You may find these tools to be indispensable assets to your daily interactions.
By Kelly Donovan
Kelly Donovan is the team leader for online marketing at Naylor, LLC.