Businesspeople teleconferencing, Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Scott R. Schreiman

Teleconference. Telecommute. These are obsolete words. Phone conferencing was awesome when it came around, but now it’s about as valuable as a standalone MP3 player.

There’s no question that more people than ever work as part of geographically distributed teams or split time working between the office and home. Even a study of employees at Fortune 1000 companies found that they’re not at their desks 50-60% of the time. Even when we’re at the office, we’re not at our desks.

As our teams regularly need to work unmoored from physical location, video conferencing continues to advance. It’s not just about cutting travel costs, which both phones and video can do. Replacing phone conferences with video conferencing makes teams more productive, improves collaboration, and speeds up decision-making.

Here are 5 reasons why video conferencing has killed the phone conferencing star:

Most people like looking at other people’s faces.

As infants, figuring out faces is our first achievement. Our baby brains process human faces, even though we can’t really figure out other images yet.

This hard wiring carries over into our adult work life. The Fraunhofer Institute studied the benefits of video conference, and found that 79% of its participants attributed the medium’s greater productivity to the fact that being able to see others helped them concentrate.

Attendees are more likely to participate and remember what’s been discussed.

We know that more of our brains get involved in processing visuals. Movement in particular gets and holds our attention. Images are so powerful to us because our visual cortex sits in the back of our brains and shares what it’s processing throughout the rest of our brains, including our memory centers.

The result is that we tend to remember what we see better than something we just hear.

Even better from a collaboration and productivity standpoint, the Fraunhofer study also found that 70% of people are more inclined to speak up during a videoconference discussion than on a teleconference.

Fewer miscommunications.

A big reason for fewer miscommunications on video as opposed to phone-only, is the ability to read faces and body language. We get nuance and can read emotions. It’s more obvious if a misunderstanding is developing, so it can be clarified right there during that videoconference.

How much time do we waste having meetings about our meetings, because we didn’t really get clarification or resolution during the first one? Phone conferences accelerate the meeting death spiral, while video conferences shut that spiral down and help us make clear decisions faster.

Screen-sharing further enhances engagement and productivity.

Integrating videoconferences with our other tools and files through screen-sharing keeps participants focused. We’ve all “multi-tasked” during a phone conference. We all also know that by that time we’re not really listening.

Being able to share screens and have everyone on the same page during a video meeting makes it more likely that the team will fulfill whatever the objective of that meeting is. Just another way videoconferences end the meeting death spiral.

Sets the foundation for strong teams that carries over beyond the meeting.

Video conferencing makes for more productive meetings than phone conferences, no question. But they also go a long way towards transforming distributed workers into genuine teams — providing many benefits even after our meetings end.

Because we can read body language and visual clues, we form stronger, more genuine relationships with our co-workers. We can connect in more human ways than we can through disembodied voices.

In addition, since people are more willing to participate in a video conference than phone call, people feel as though the team works more collaboratively. More results from the Fraunhofer study include 81% of participants concluding that video-conferencing allows for better collaboration on tasks than phone, and 74% felt decisions made during video meetings were group decisions.

That means teams are operating with greater buy-in and ownership of their objectives and responsibilities when they can communicate via video.

We want to be mobile. We want access to the best people, wherever they are in the world. But we still want to work with people we know, and that requires a format that allows real, human connection. A disembodied voice on a speakerphone might have been enough for Charlie’s Angels, but that won’t cut it today. With technology making the world smaller and more intimate, we want to meet our colleagues face-to-face. The phone conference is dead, long live the video conference.

Scott Schreiman is the founder and CEO of, an online collaboration solution. Follow him at @scottschreiman.