Video chat or conferencing provides businesses and other groups the opportunity to get a face-to-face experience, even if the participants are located across town or around the world. A video chat is an extension of a conference call, with the added benefit of being able to see everyone on the call. As with all forms of communication that rely on technology, there are pros and cons.

What You’ll Need

These are some basic equipment requirements to run a video chat. Everyone on the video chat or conference needs a computer or Internet-enabled mobile device with a video camera, a microphone, and speakers or headphones. Most laptops, smartphones and tablet devices have a built-in camera, microphone and speakers; external cameras with built-in microphones can be purchased for use with desktop computers.

Advantages

It can be tough to find a time that works for all necessary participants for traditional meetings, but video conference scheduling is much more flexible, as participants can join from work, school or home. Video conferencing is usually cheaper and faster than in-person meetings. It also makes it easy to exchange data in real time so presentations can reach multiple people in multiple locations, allowing for quicker deliberation, collaboration and decision making.

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage to video chat or conferencing is the risk of technical issues. Dropped connections, camera malfunctions and choppy video streams can quickly make a video conference frustrating or useless. Another disadvantage is the loss of interpersonal connections. Even though you can see everyone on the chat, you’re still removed from actual human contact, which can lead to some miscommunications. There are also cost factors to consider; everyone needs the proper equipment to participate on the call, which could present financial challenges.

Additional Video Chat and Conferencing Solutions

Many organizations have incorporated video conferencing systems for meetings. These devices can be installed in conference rooms and allow large groups of people to communicate without the need of individual computers or mobile devices. A February 2014 article in PC World highlights a version of the Google Chromebox designed specifically for business meetings. It provides 1080p HD video communications and works in conjunction with Google apps such as Hangouts, Google Calendar and Gmail. Other business and personal video conferencing solutions include Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime.