According to the Visual Networking Index Forecast from Cisco, online video will soon surpass Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media in terms of usage. By 2017, 81% of the world’s internet users will also use online video services (compared to 58% of internet users in 2012). The report states that “It would take an individual over 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2017”. Interestingly, a 2013 Internet Trends report from KPCB states that audio communication is positioned to significantly grow in the coming years as well. Either way, it seems that remote communication will be more common than ever before.
What does this mean for communication? According to a study in Management Science, video conferences are twice as cognitively complex for listeners than in-person meetings. In video conferences, listeners are required to focus on factors other than the speaker’s message, such as who is speaking, coordinating eye contact, heightened self-awareness, and turn-taking. These extra factors come naturally to us when speaking with others in-person, but they become harder when done through video. The same study collected surveys from 143 medical professionals who had just attended a seminar either on-site or via videoconference. The study showed that “participants attending a seminar via videoconference were more influenced by the likeability of the speaker than by the quality of the arguments presented, whereas the opposite pattern was true for participants attending in-person.”
According to a Verizon Conferencing Whitepaper, 91% of meeting attendees admit to daydreaming during meetings. Talking to an audience through a camera makes it even harder to make a connection. In webinars, people often become distracted by emails, online searches, or anything else they may have on their computer screen. You have to be even more engaged with your material and presentation style for a video-based presentation because you’re up against greater competition for the audience’s time and attention. You have to take special consideration to the image you’re projecting with a sharper, more focused delivery or audience members will tune you out. As video communication becomes more popular and readily available, communicating through this medium is an essential skill we all should develop.