For a long time, videoconferencing was like a bad blind date. Everything seemed great on paper, but in person — well, the polite word was “disappointment.” Put aside issues of cost (high), technical complexity (lots), and user-friendliness (none), the pictures just looked bad: all fuzzy and jittery. And because video taxed a network a lot more than data did, even the specialized, expensive phone lines firms used for videoconferences couldn’t keep up. The result: annoying delays in the conversation. In theory, videoconferencing was a great way to do business — no travel hassle or costs. In practice, it was a pretty lousy one.

But videoconferencing has evolved, and just in time, because the world has changed in ways that make it critical to do as much work as possible without getting on an airplane. Concerns about terrorism and the economy — not to mention clients keeping an increasingly sharp eye on expenses — have put an end to the glory days of unrestricted air travel. But with competition for clients more heated than ever, firms’ need for face-to-face meetings has increased. So has their appetite for communications tools that aren’t just cheaper than traveling, but that come close to replicating the in-person experience.

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