Some meetings with customers or remote workers can be handled over the phone. But there are times when you need to see each other. That’s because a good deal of communication is non-verbal – up to 93 percent. When you are on a call, you may be missing a lot of important cues by not seeing someone’s facial expressions or eye movement. (Now you know why they say a picture is worth a thousand words.)

Fortunately, nowadays you no longer need to get in your car and travel across town or fly across the country for a meeting with a customer – to show them a product design or ad concept, for example – or to train your remote small business employee. New low-cost – and even free – video conferencing capabilities are enabling face-to-face communication without having to leave your office.

Not only are travel costs coming down thanks to video conferencing, but productivity is going up. A survey conducted a few years ago by Wainhouse Research and Polycom indicated that the top video conferencing benefit cited is increased efficiency/productivity (94 %), followed by increased impact of discussions (88%), expedited decision making (87%), and reduced travel costs (87%).

Video conferencing also is becoming increasingly popular for interviewing to help companies cut costs, save time and have more flexibility in the hiring process. A study of 270 small businesses Plantronics conducted  through the Corporate Executive Board Small Business Practice found that over one fourth now are conducting interviews over video conferencing.

Choose among video conferencing options

Through the cloud: Today many video conferencing services are cloud-based, which makes it easy to get started with the technology. In many cases, an inexpensive webcam ($25 or less), a headset, and a free, cloud-based video conferencing service is all your small business will need to video conference. Services like ooVoo, Skype, and Google+ Hangouts offer free or low-cost options. Because these services are in the cloud, they don’t require infrastructure changes or software purchases and they are always up-to-date. Plus using them you can launch a video conference anywhere with a laptop, tablet or smartphone, in addition to over a desktop system in your office.

Low-cost enterprise class: More sophisticated services with additional benefits such as business-class support, larger conference call capability, toll-free dial-in numbers, and mobile/tablet support are available for low monthly fees from providers such as Cisco (WebEx), Avaya and Skype for Business. Take advantage of free trials to try the services before you commit.

Keep the video conference professional

Easy as it may be to launch your video conference, you still want make sure that your call achieves the results you want. Here are a few tips to prepare and conduct your video conference:

  • Clear the clutter: Don’t distract participants with a cluttered work or other distractions or movement in the background.
  • Check lighting: Be sure the area is well lit and the camera angle is good on you or whatever else you are demonstrating or sharing.
  • Stay focused: You are on camera; wait till the call ends to check emails on your smartphone.
  • Dress appropriately: How you look is a focal point of your meeting. Dress as if you were meeting in person.
  • Be attentive: Stick to the topic at hand and listen without interrupting.

Try video conferencing and see for yourself how it can benefit your small business.