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To See or Not to See?

Videoconferencing is more popular than ever, thanks to the ubiquity of broadband and increased acceptance of remote working.

Can't Live With It
Victor Cheng, CEO coach and author in Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Victor Cheng spends much of his day on the phone consulting with small-business owners on growth strategies, financial management and marketing.

Although he has tried videoconferencing, he says he avoids it because it isn't reliable enough. As an alternative, Cheng often likes to use web conferencing tools such as GoToMeeting and collaboration technology such as Google Docs to share documents on calls to clients, whose companies see revenue up to $20 million.

"I find that it's just not as reliable as the phone," Cheng says. "It's plain and simple: I've made literally tens of thousands of phone calls, particularly on the landline, and it works like 10,000 out of 10,000 times. On video it seems like someone somewhere always has a problem."

Whether that's because of the need for constant repetition due to fuzzy audio quality, the need for the occasional reboot or problematic connectivity, the issues presented by videoconferencing can gum up the works during Cheng's busy day and diminish his ability to maximize billable hours.

"I schedule my interactions with clients very tightly, so it's literally back-to-back-to-back telephone calls," he says. "My fees are fairly expensive, and if they can't hear me for 15 minutes, it sort of screws up the whole day."

Can't Live Without It
Adrienne Graham, CEO of Hues Consulting and Management and founder of Empower Me! Corp., Atlanta

Adrienne Graham runs two businesses: Hues Consulting and Management focuses on diversity recruitment, and Empower Me! Corp., her longest-running venture, offers professional development training classes.

She employs four full-time staffers, two part-timers and three interns across her two businesses.

Plus, she was able to hire employees across the country partly because of her dependence on videoconferencing, which allows her to affordably and regularly meet face-to-face with them.

Graham says she began using videoconferencing in 1999 to widen her recruitment net and service customers outside her region.

"I started using videoconferencing to save money on travel, break into the international markets and as a way to compete with bigger recruiting firms with bigger budgets," she says.

At Empower Me!, she is tasking her CTO with embedding videoconferencing technology into a learning platform accessible by a number of different devices.

"I swear by videoconferencing," she says. "My philosophy has always been that phone and e-mail are never enough. Sometimes a client or candidate needs that face-to-face time. When travel is prohibitive, videoconferencing is key."

Self-described tech geek Ericka Chickowski also writes for Consumers Digest, the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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This article was originally published in the November 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: To See or Not to See?.

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