But Tanya Prather, marketing communications manager with First Virtual Communications of Santa Clara, Calif., says if used appropriately, videoconferencing can save companies time and money.
"We have an integrated approach that is not typical," says Prather. "We integrate voice, video, data share and, when appropriate, streaming technology."
Videoconferencing works best with applications that require interaction or when there is a need to present more than one form of data. For instance, if your company has multiple locations, videoconferencing allows interaction among all participants.
Streaming media, which requires less bandwidth, makes the most sense when the company needs a few participants to interact and the rest to view.
"Let's say a company is announcing a merger or quarterly earnings," says Prather. "Then maybe you need the executive board to be interactive, while the hundreds of employees watching don't need to interact."
Meetings can be scheduled through Microsoft Outlook or other programs, and take place right at the employee's desk.
"If I have to get up and go to another location or a conference room, I may not use videoconferencing as much," says Prather.
Distance learning and annual and project meetings all lend themselves to videoconferencing. If employees miss a training session, they can view it at their convenience right from the desktop.
The latest Web-based technology makes conferences easy to schedule and conduct, and it's versatile. If the company desires a room-based meeting, that's just as easy to set up as a desktop-based one.
But Prather advises companies to consider the human side of videoconferencing as well as the technical -- remember that most people are not comfortable in front of a camera.
"The company needs to incorporate a culture that allows employees time to adjust," she says.
Prather says that most companies can benefit from videoconferencing.
"It cuts down on travel time and can increase productivity," she says. "It is a good experience, but it takes getting used to. The more a tool is accessible, the more people will use it." How to reach: First Virtual Communications, 800-241-7463 or www.fvc.com