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How Video Conferencing Works – Ideas for Small Businesses – a&b business

Video conferencing has the powerful ability to put you in any location without leaving your...

Video conferencing has the powerful ability to put you in any location without leaving your office. I have clients scattered throughout the US, as well as business partners in different cities. I use video conferencing to collaborate with my business partners and suppliers. I have also leveraged video conferencing to deliver online webinar content to my customers on a variety of topics.

How Does it Work

A video conference lets you have a face-to-face meeting from the comfort of your own desk. It is done through the Internet with a web-based meeting program. For face-to-face conferencing, each participant needs a video camera and microphone. Many computers already have these built in.

The same technology lets you host online webinars, with or without a visual component. Say, for example, you want to host an information session for your clients about upgrades to a product. You can use an on-line meeting program to notify your participants. They will then use their web browser to connect at a given time to attend the meeting. People can join in from all over the country, or globe.

Why are People Using it?

Saving Money – Many companies, big and small are embracing video conferencing as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. The last company I worked at had 185 offices in the US. Twice a year all office managers would fly to the corporate headquarters in the Midwest. Think about the costs that the company incurred. From travel time, to airfare and hotel stays, I would estimate the cost for each of these meetings was well over $100,000 each.

As a cost saving measure, one of the meetings became a webinar-format meeting. The participants loved it. They were able to avoid the travel and didn’t have to be away from their families overnight. However, they still received the information from the company president and hand an opportunity to ask questions. Plus the company saved a bundle.

    More Sustainable – Many companies, large and small, have started green initiatives to operate their company in a more sustainable manner. Using video conferencing is lieu of travel for face-to-face meetings has become one way that companies can become more sustainable. Having an on-line meeting can decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated from car and airplane trips.

    Reach a Wider Audience – For those of you who teach seminars and training sessions, often times you are limited on the number of presentations you can give due to travel. A webinar can help you broaden your reach by having participants from around the globe.

Who is Using It?

As I started talking to other business owners, companies and organizations across a range of industries I was amazed at the way different people are using the technology.

In the education sector, universities and colleges have embraced video conferencing solutions as a way to spread their materials to a larger audience. Elizabeth Massengale, a Director at Texas Tech University noted that video conferencing “enables us to provide much needed education to a much larger audience at the fraction of the cost”.

An owner of a boutique accounting firm uses video conferencing services to hold short meeting with her clients once a quarter. She found that these personalized session, even if they are just 15-minutes long, helps her maintain a great relationship with her clients. She has also found out that this is a way that she can differentiate herself from her competition.

Public safety organizations with a service area that covers a wide geographic area can use real-time video conferencing to coordinate resources. For example, the City of Noblesville Indiana has seven fire departments across 55 square miles. By holding on-line video conferencing, everyone can participate in the meeting without having to leave their respective stations.

A colleague of mine who does online marketing training used a webinar to give her clients a preview of her upcoming training session and to answer questions. At the end of her webinar, she offered people a discount if they committed to signing up for the training. She was able to convert quite a few of the attendees into her new training session.

Video and Web Conference Software

All of the magic of video and web conferencing happens with the use of software to make the connection and get everyone connected on the same channel. Some programs require software installation on your computer; while other let you access the conference through your normal web browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox). There are a variety of service providers out there and the pricing depends on the frequency that you use the service.

I am a fan of MegaMeeting (www.megameeting.com). Over the last couple of years that I have been using their service, I have engaged a larger number of my clients and also collaborated more effectively with my business partners who live outside my town.

When I started with MegaMeeting, the whole world of video web conferencing was new to me. I found their program easy to use and when there were times that I was unsure on how to proceed I was able to get very quick technical support.

If you think video and web conferencing might be a way for you to better engage with your clients and business partners, I would invite you to give the service a try. They have a free online demo and trial period available.

How Small Business Hosting Works – The Basics – a&b business

Establishing a presence on the web for your small business is critical these days. Think about how many people jump on the Internet to track down service providers, products, and to find information about businesses.

If you are lacking a presence on the web, you could be missing potential customers and collaboration opportunities. In fact, not having a presence on the web could make people think you are a “fly by night” or a temporary operation.

Why a Web Presence is Important

Establishing a web presence lets you interact with your existing customers more regularly, and also through a variety of media. For example, you can post blogs about your existing and forthcoming products and services. You can engage your customers with informative videos, photographs, or informational graphics. You can publish a newsletter to ensure consistent engagement with your customers.

We all know it is easier to keep an existing client than to have to find a new one. So, make sure you retain your by providing them interesting and information content on your web page.

Find New Clients

Once you are set up with a web presence, you can add your company’s webpage address to your business card and email signature. When you meet a potential prospect in a meeting or other setting, you can hand them your card and let them know that you have a wealth of information on your website.

Similarly, if you include your webpage address in your email signature, people receiving your mail can click through to learn more about you and your services. You can also link to your company webpage from your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles.

Collaborate with Colleagues

As a small business owner, there may be times where it makes sense to collaborate with others in your industry. For example, if you have a particularly large contract you are pursuing and need to show more expanded qualifications, or if you need a partner to help you get the job done after you win in. Similarly, other small business owners might be looking for someone like you to team up with. Having a web presence makes it easier to make these connections.

Seriously, I cannot stress how important a web presence is these day. Maybe you already knew the importance of establishing this presence, but you are unsure where to start. Or, perhaps I have convinced you that this is something that you should look into. Square one is to find a quality website hosting service.

Hosting Services

You may be wondering how small business hosting works. Getting set up on the web does not have to be a big deal. The first step is to find a service that provides small business hosting. For example, my website is hosted by Bluehost (www.bluehost.com). What that means is that when someone accesses my webpage or blog, the information is being delivered to the webpage viewer by Bluehost.

When I decided it was time to establish my web presence, I asked my business colleagues what they used. They overwhelmingly recommended Bluehost to me because of the reasonable price and also the 24/7 US-based telephone support.

There are many small business hosting providers, so as you look into different hosting services, you will want to compare and contrast the following features:

    Monthly fee, plus any start up fees

    Domain hosting limits

    Hosting space size limits

    File transfer size limits

    Tools to help you build sites

    Customer service/support

    When your business grows, will the service keep up

    Guarantees

    Reviews of people who have used the service

My Recommendation

As I mentioned, my business associates recommended Bluehost to me. I did do my research to compare their offerings with other hosting services, and I quickly realized that my associates had steered me in the right direction.

1. Lots of *Unlimited* Services

Currently Bluehost offers unlimited domain hosting, unlimited hosting space, unlimited files transfers and also unlimited email accounts. They will provide you with a website domain. What that means is that after you have selected a domain name (the name of your website) they will secure it for you for free as part of their service.

2. Easy WordPress Installation

Something else that makes Bluehost a great option for small business hosting is that they make it very easy if you are setting up a website. You can easily install WordPress, with just one easy click!

WordPress is a publishing platform and blogging tool that lets you easily create content for your website. WordPress also have free themes that let you easily customize the layout and design of your blog or webpage.

3. Stellar Customer Service

The thing that keeps me staying with Bluehost is the excellent customer support I have received, both via the telephone and online. They have a US-based customer support center where issues are handled quickly. Others love the customer service as well. For example, Steve Dembo, who runs www.teach42.com, an education and technology site, sang the praises of BlueHosts’ tech support…

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