Connect from home with video conferencing

By Johanne Bouchard Explore Big Sky Business Columnist

Many of us welcome the new year with resolutions and inspirations, including how to maximize our time. If time management is on your list, consider embracing video conferencing in 2015.

We live in a world that offers myriad free online meeting tools for us to share information in real time and see each other via video. These tools often enable us to be more productive by eliminating unnecessary commute time. Any tablet, smartphone, or computer with a webcam can access services offering low-cost or free videoconferencing that used to cost thousands of dollars.

Many of my business meetings are now conducted from my home via video. The time that I otherwise would have spent commuting to and from a meeting can be utilized to do more both professionally and personally. I haven’t eliminated meeting with people face-to-face, but these tools have confirmed that many meetings can be effectively held remotely. I’ve gotten to know people more quickly and reached more people in less time for less cost without the potential for flight delays or unexpected traffic.

For business, online meeting tools have simplified my life by allowing me to operate from different home bases while having business colleagues, prospects and clients in different corners of the globe. I use Skype, Google Hangout, Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx Meeting Conferencing or with whichever tool my meeting contact is most comfortable.

Whether I’m in California, Montana or Quebec, I conduct my weekly Monday meetings with colleagues based in Southern California and Canada via video. It’s motivating and hugely productive to see each other as we share our objectives, deadlines, web links and documents in real time.

I still travel to give presentations, hold leadership meetings and board retreats with groups and consult with clients, but if a video presentation is feasible, I consider it. In November, I presented to 50 students at my alma mater – Toronto’s York University – from the comfort of my California home. The interaction was rich and far better than being on a phone line.

If I’m traveling for business or personal reasons, I can still conduct group meetings that normally would be held at home without having to cancel.

When a client refers me to a new business colleague, I’ll try to set up a quick video chat if we can’t meet immediately. While initially meeting in person is ideal, meeting online often accelerates our ability to reach goals sooner.

Video also enables us to feel closer to loved ones by seeing them as we speak to them. It’s increased our ability to be spontaneous and to share where we are, who we are with, and to feel emotions regardless of the distance that separates us.

As an Apple user, FaceTime is my preferred tool to exchange with loved ones who have an iPad or iPhone. One click, and we see each other in seconds. I use the video feature when I want to share my surroundings or a new look as I dash out to a fancy event. If I want to connect via video with more than one family member or with friends based in different locations, Skype and Google Hangout have been great tools.

Etiquette tips: Online does not equal “informal.” Don’t show up in front of the camera unprepared and unpolished.

– Appear as you would in person: proper attire, styled hair, great posture

– Select a place that is free of visible clutter

– Stay away from food; it’s not the appropriate time to have a meal

– Turn off music, and ensure the space is quiet

– Don’t let other people be visible to your audience

– Never record a meeting without having prior approval from all participants

I encourage you to conduct meetings and to connect with your loved ones remotely. Use video tools, they’re more powerful than the phone or a conference call.

Johanne Bouchard is a leadership advisor to CEOs, executives and entrepreneurs, as well as an expert in corporate board composition and dynamics. An avid skier, Bouchard and her husband have a second home in Big Sky. Visit her blog at johannebouchard.com.