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Teleconferencing Catches On.

Teleconferencing is a communications technique that has been talked about for years but has just flowered in the past decade. With some solid growth years already behind it, teleconferencing . . . defined as electronically conducted mettings of three or more people in different locations . . . is entering a period of explosive growth as more organizations embrace the increasingly cost-effective medium. And aside from potential cost savings in travel expenses and executive time, teleconferencing has the ability to make many meetings more effective and productive by allowing greater participation by people who otherwise would not have attended a distant meeting. It also has the unmatched ability to reach literally thousands of people simultaneously . . . and allow interaction . . . when the same message must be gotten to those people at the same time, as a couple of the stories in this report will illustrate.

According to one sections a "Digital Communications" study prepared by Gnostic Concepts of Menlo Park, California, "Key company officials spend about 45 percent of their time in face-to-face meetings, and travel time to and from such meetings averages three hours per meeting. Videoconferencing can reduce that dramatically and add hours productive time to the executive's day."

The study sees video teleconferencing growing ten-fold between 1985 and 1991, fueled by sharply rising travel costs, escalating labor costs associated with conferences and an 11 percent decline in communications costs. Gnostic predicts that total end-user expenditures on teleconferencing will leap from about $50 million in 1980 to some $250 million in 1985 and to about $900 million in 1990. It says audiographic teleconferencing will grow the fastest until 1985 while video teleconferencing will experience the fastest growth between 1985 and 1990.

TeleMedia's James Weidlein emphasizes the "people factor" in teleconferencing, saying: "Choosing the right technology is only a partial step toward implementing teleconferencing as a routine business practice. Because teleconferencing is first and foremost an interpersonal communications tool, the critical factor is the people factor. The challenge is to educate, motivate and train people to teleconference effectively and ensure a continuing increase in the frequency of use and diversity of application."

Jan D'Arcy a speech consultant, emphasizes the "voice factor" in teleconferencing, saying: "In face-to-face meetings, information is conveyed by body language and facial expression (50 percent), by tone of voice (35 percent) and by the verbal message (15 percent). In audioteleconferencing, phone lines eliminate body language and facial expressions, so 70 to 80 percent of the total information comes from vocal tone. How you speak is often more important than what you say. Words carry intellectual content, but your feelings, attitudes, physical state and self-image also revealed by your voice. Distracting mannerisms such as monotony, harshness and slurring are magnified over the phone. These mannerisms can distort, dilute or confuse the verbal message. By using a controlled voice, you can accurately communicate your ideas and achieve your objectives.

TeleSpan's Elloitt Gold emphasizes the "audio factor" in teleconferencing, saying: "It cannot be overstated that audio is the basic building block of all types of teleconferencing. Without good audio quality, even the most sophisticated video system will not gain user acceptance. Integrated audio conferencing systems offer the user a turnkey installation with the highest quality audio that can be expected over the telephone network. As the teleconferencing market expands, fully integrated audio conferencing systems will begin to replace the traditional conference room the telephone.

Consultant Robert Kieper emphasizes the "system approach to teleconferencing, saying: "Until a videoconferencing system is finally installed and operating, many people think of it as a group of electronic components that are supposed to work together to achieve a certain goal. Affter it is in place and working properly, those same people somehow stop thinking of it as a group of components and start calling it a communication system. A systems approach to videoconferencing is the vital recognition of that ultimate identity even before the first piece of equipment is selected. It places the developmental emphasis on system utility rather than system components. There are two major reasons why videoconferencing should be approached in this way: First, the use of these facilities represents a cultural change for the users, and second, those changes are in the heartland of each manager's career development. Unless these systems are developed from the beginning with the user in mind, the number of managers who are able to make these changes and use these systems will be disappointingly small."

Case histories of successful teleconferencing programs abound.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension at Madison is one of the largest users of teleconferencing and a leading educator in its techniques and applications through programs and published materials. In 1977 it established the Center for Interactive Programs as an internation training and resourc center on teleconferencing and two-way electronics. The university, however, has been operating teleconferencing systems since 1965. Its audio network, the Eductaional Teleconference Network (ETN), is one of the largest in the world. A two-way dedicated audio network that began operation in 1965. ETN now links more than 200 locations throughout Wisconsin, and is used each year by more than 40,000 state residents for three general purpose--continuing education, administrative meetings and public service. Meet-Me is a dial-in conferencing service that links multiple locations by telephone for meetings, training and instructional programs, including CIP's annual Meeting-Me seminars on teleconferencing. Using one phone number assigned to the meeting, all participants join the conference by dialing in from any telephone. The 20-line Meet-Me conference bridge is used for statewide. national and international conferences. CIP also operates what's reported to be the world's largest freeze-frame video network. Its Statewide Extension Education Network (SEEN) adds a visual element, essential for courses in such areas use as engineering.

Boeing engineers use videoconferencing to exchange ideas, saving the time and money required by travel. The company has set up 14 videoconference rooms at its four Seattle-area plants. For reasons of simplified maintenance and uniformity, Boeing Videoconferencing Manager Kit, Spier has outfitted all of the videoconferencing rooms with off-tne-shelf color video equipment, including a JVC KY-2700 color video camera, three KY-2000 cameras, five JVC CR-6060 three-quarter-inch VCRs, a CR-4400LU portable VCR and 30 JVC 7860 19-inch color monitors. Slow-scan can reduce transmission costs considerably," explains Spier, "but loss of movement is a great sacrifice and doesn't seem to justify the decreased cost on paths of less than 200 miles. Psychologists contend that much interpersonal communication is non-verbal, conveyed by body movement. If this is so, it seems impractical to transmit by slow-scan. The whole point of videoconferencing, a life-like, face-to-face meeting, is comprised," Spier says. In any case, Spier sees a bright future for videoconferencing, noting, "The need for increased productivity is great. And any system that, like videoconferencing, reduces costs and enhances productivity, will quickly be adopted by corporations.

New domestic and international teleconferencing services are popping up each week.

Marriott Hotels and VideoStar Connections have signed an agreement to work to all continental United States owned and managed Marriott properties.

Hilton Hotels Corporation and AT&T have announced plans for a network of 35 public video teleconferencing rooms that will be linked by AT&T's video teleconferencing service.

Harris Corporation has been awarded a $10 million contract by Isacomm, a subsidiary of United Telecom Communications, to supply more than 100 satellite ground stations for a new communications network. The Isacomm satellite communications network will offer video teleconferencing and high-speed data transmission services. Plans call for 30 Isacomm video teleconferencing facilities to be operational in 15 cities by the end of 1984.

Full-color, digitally-compressed international video teleconferencing between New York and London became a reality recently when AT&T began offering its International "Accunet Reserved 1.5 Service" to business customers in partnership with British Telecom International.

Satellite Business Systems is the prime contractor for implementation of an initial videoconferencing network for the J.C. Penney Company which will use its videoconferencing facilities for merchandising, marketing, management, and other internal communications.

Vitalink Communications recently introduced the industry's first complete, single-vendor videoconferencing system.

Compression Labs recently announced that ITT will market its international video teleconferencing system in ten Western European countries. The VTS 512 system will permit two-way full motion, color video teleconferencing between international sites. It will meet the G732 European transmisstion interface standard and provide automatic conversion among worldwide broadcast standards.

Telecom Canada recently announced plans to develop a cross-border video conferencing service which will allow customers in eight Canadian cities to hold electronic meetings with their counterparts in major United States cities. The two-way, fully interactive, point-to-point, color video conferencing service will link Telecom Canada's Conference 600 service, available since October 1983, with similar video conferencing networks in the United States.

All of this activity confirms the results of a recent Colorado Video study of over 4,000 communications people which showed these projected increases in users over a previous 1983 study: audiographics use, up 59 percent; slow-scan TV, up 246 percent; compressed digital video, up 431 percent; full-motion video, up 121 percent; and computer graphics, up 171 percent.

Given the soaring costs of energy and the increasing burden of business travel on management, teleconferencing would seem to be an idea whose time has come. Current United States expenditures on business travel, including the cost of executives' time, airfares, motel bills, auto rentals and the like are well in excess of $30 billion per year, according to International Resource Development of Norwalk, Connecticut. And it's been estimated that 80 percent of the time spent getting to and from meetings is unproductive.

Aside from potential cost savings in travel expenses and executive time, teleconferencing also has the ability to make many meetings more effective and productive by allowing greater participation by people who otherwise would not have attended a distant meeting. Further, since teleconferencing eliminates the need for "travel days" the airline and motel reservations, meetings can be held when they are required rather than when they can be arranged. Issues can thus be addressed as they arise, and usually with all the key players present, greatly adding to the efficiency and effectiveness of decision-making and corporate management.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1984
Words:1673
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