Enterprise Connect was forced to go fully virtual for the second year in a row. For such a large trade show to cancel the in-person event on such short notice is terribly unfortunate, but incredibly symbolic of the overriding trend in the enterprise communications space. That trend is uncertainty.
We just don't know when, if ever, things will go back to normal. To make matters even more uncertain, we don't exactly know what the new normal is going to be. It will involve hybrid workforce, but it's unclear how the hybrid model will shake out. Businesses must consider which workers will return to the office and which will continue to work from home, which days employees will come to the office and whether office layouts will remain unchanged or be remodeled for more shared spaces.
Once we do return to the office, it will take months -- if not years -- for patterns to develop, for people to realize what does and doesn't work for them personally, and for new workflows to evolve. I don't think we can plan out and perfectly prepare for the new normal. I think it will develop organically and we need to be ready to adapt as things fall into place.
It isn't surprising that video was a frequently discussed trend at the virtual Enterprise Connect conference. If the future is uncertain, we need to be flexible. Putting video everywhere enables flexibility in how we meet and work. We need as much flexibility as possible when we don't know who's going to be in the office or physical meeting space on a given day. Three video trends at the conference highlighted how to approach an enterprise video strategy in the post-pandemic workplace.
1. Creating an equitable video experience
A hot topic at Enterprise Connect was how to equalize the experience of everyone attending a video meeting. Pre-pandemic, the common dynamic was that the meeting was happening in the physical meeting room with remote attendees calling in on video or audio. We had different expectations about how in-room and remote attendees appear in the meeting and how much they contribute. The basic thought was that if you really wanted to be a part of the meeting, you should show up in person. Video is far better than the phone, but video attendees were still perceived as second-class.
In the new normal, the most crucial meeting attendees won't always be the ones in the meeting room. Project leaders could all be working remotely on any given day and they can't be second-class meeting attendees.
2. Equipping home offices for video
A major component of the equalized meeting experience is looking and sounding great on camera, which is driving the new category of home office audio and video gear. These products are higher quality than consumer devices, but less expensive than enterprise ones.
Many of us have found ourselves on a journey of slowly upgrading home offices into home studios as we improve the quality of cameras, microphones, lighting and backgrounds. You can present yourself almost as a TV newscaster with proper framing, good lighting and eye contact with the camera. An improved on-camera appearance can make us more effective in meetings than if we connect from an iPhone on the couch. Everyone seems to be thinking about their home video setup and it should be included in an enterprise video strategy.
3.Addressing meeting room video
The flip side of equalizing the experience is addressing how to capture the people in the meeting room. Ironically, attendees in the physical meeting room have now become the second-class meeting participants. The remote callers are all now properly filling their frame while meeting room attendees are all tiny heads sharing one frame in the meeting's gallery view.
The good news is that it seems like every hardware and software vendor in the industry is working overtime on new capabilities to make remote and in-room attendees appear equal in a video conference, including the following:
- zooming in on active speakers in the room;
- increasing the size of the meeting room in gallery view; and
- isolating video of each person in the room into separate frames.
Regardless of what approach is taken, the result should be that everyone in the meeting feels equal in appearance and experience.
The cancellation of the in-person Enterprise Connect conference drove home the point that we still live in a world of uncertainty. However, we can still prepare our enterprise video strategies for the new normal by being flexible and ready for several possible futures. If we design video deployments so that anyone on a team can connect from home or the office without diminishing the meeting experience, we will be ready for what lies ahead.