Reducing User Anxiety is a Key to Driving Adoption of Room-Based Videoconferencing Systems

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Those of us who have been using videoconferencing day-in and day-out for decades, often forget what it is like to be a video newbie, and the anxiety that can come with using a videoconferencing systems for the first time.

Most people who are new to videoconferencing naturally worry about the technology when getting started. Videoconferencing can be expensive and unfamiliar and users worry about breaking “the system.” They can also be self-conscious about the possibility of being embarrassed in front of their colleagues when trying to operate the system, cameras, etc. People new to video meetings also worry that this new fangled tech will not work when they need it the most.

Couple those worries with the inherent nervousness that we all feel when seeing yourself on camera for the first time—and the “no-retakes” nature of real-time video—and you can understand why some newbies are not exactly thrilled with the opportunity to use the nice new videoconferencing system.

It is hard for those of us who use videoconferencing frequently to remember the trepidation we felt when we first experienced two-way video. When you realized that the person on the screen could see and hear you, did you immediately check your hair? Did you worry if your fly was open? Did you speak louder since the person on the screen was physically so very far away? Were you reluctant to speak? Regardless of how you reacted, it was a new experience, one that was out of your comfort zone and made you a little anxious. And you probably felt anxious for a while until you got used to the experience. Or perhaps you never did and still feel anxious about it!

New users bring their anxiety about videoconferencing to the work places where they use it and to the training situations in which they learn about videoconferencing. In each situation, we have the opportunity to either increase or decrease their anxiety level.

Do you have that one person who walks into the videoconferencing training session with a loud sigh, drops their notepad on the desk, and gives the trainer a look of disgust? I’d argue that this person’s attitude is probably not so much about videoconferencing per se, as it is about their own anxiety about using the technology. And for every one person who makes these outward signs, there are probably five others who have been dreading videoconferencing but are too polite to show it.

Your goal to win over that type of person. If you do then you will have gone a long way to making your investment in videoconferencing have a great return. The first, and most important step to turning an adversary into an advocate is to reduce their anxiety about using the technology. If you don’t win them over or at least get them to a neutral attitude, they will talk to others about how “bad” the new system is to use, and sour the attitudes, and increase the anxiety of others before they have even seen the system. By providing a good experience to one users, you are setting the stage for future success with other users who will come to adopt videoconferencing technology with less anxiety.

How people experience technology-related anxiety, and how that anxiety influences their work, has been well studied in the education field. Research supports the assumption that the level of technology-related anxiety that teachers experience directly affects their willingness to use technology in the classroom.

Way back in the 90s, several authors identified that the factors that influence technology-related anxiety that teachers experience. Honey and Moeller, 1990, Kerr, 1991, and Sheingold and Hadley, 1990, all showed that the fear of embarrassment is a major concern for faculty and negatively influences their motivation to acquire the skills necessary to effectively use technology in the classroom. Evidence also suggests that lack of confidence in the reliability of the technological equipment adds to this anxiety (Reed, et. al, 1995). However, we also know that training and effective support can reduce technology related anxiety (Terry Cicchelli, 1984).

Sorry about all the formal citations (the academic equivalent of geeking out). what do you expect, I’m a professor now!

Decreasing anxiety can be key factor in gaining supporters for using your videoconferencing systems, be they large room systems, or even cloud-based “web cam” type of setups.

In order to do so, it is important to determine the factors that can influence anxiety (both positively and negatively). Below is my attempt to make a model of user’s anxiety related to videoconferencing technology.

Christianson Videoconferencing Anxiety Flowchart

This model helps explain to help-desk and users support folks, what are the factors might influence the adoption of their new videoconferencing systems. For us technologists who support our videoconferencing users we can reduce their anxiety level if we:

  1. Provide “Worthwhile Training”. That means easing users into new technology with lots of hands-on experience.  Don’t tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it, do with with them and then have them do it. Rinse and repeat.
  2. Provide ready access to effective help. Nothing can shake an users confidence more that turning for help and finding none available. That might need you need to do a lot of handholding at the beginning, but it generally pays off with more productive use of the technology in the long run.
  3. And certainly, don’t promise technical support if it will not be there.
  4. Provide lots of clearly worded user documentation. This usually means creating documentation from scratch since most vendor and manufacture documentation is so heavily in tech jargon that is is not useful. And provide documentation in as many formats as possible: text, web, video, in-application, etc. This will help not only the users that use your documentation, but having it on-hand often makes users feel more confident just knowing that they have the documentation regardless of if they use it or not.  Just because users are not turning to your documentation, doesn’t mean it’s not serving a valuable purpose.
  5. Make sure that the likely hood of a catastrophic failure is as low as is reasonably possible. This means having backup systems, spare equipment or contracts that assure advanced replacement.
  6. Be ready to turn requests for help into just in time training. When little problems happen, that is a great opportunity to provide new training or re-enforce previous training. Show them how to access FAQs, and vendor documentation that would have answered their question. If they can get the answer more quickly by calling you instead of looking at a web page for two minutes, they will call you. So instead turn it into a training session on how to get the information they need. Turning the help call into some training will provide real help to those that need it, and discourage the users who are just too lazy to look up the information they need.

What are your thoughts? What other ways can we make sure that our users get up to speed quickly and make use of our investment in videoconferencing tech?

References

  • Cicchelli, T. (1984). Turning Teachers on to Microcomputers: Results of a Two-Year Staff Development Project. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED279613.
  • Honey, M. & Moeller, B. (1990). Teacher’s Beliefs and Technology Integration: Difference Values, Different Understandings (Technical Report No. 6). Center for Technology in Education.
  • Kerr, S.T. (1991). Level and fulcrum: Educational Technical in Teachers’ Thought and Practice. Teachers College Record, 93(Fall), 114-136.
  • Reed, M. W., Anderson, D. K., Ervin, J. R., & Oughton, J. M. (1995). Computers and Teacher Education Students: A Ten-Year Analysis. Electronic Publication (http://www.coe.uh.edu/insite/elec_pub/html1995/182.htm).
  • Sheingold, K & Hadley, M. (1990). Accomplished Teachers: Integrating Computers into Classroom Practice. Center for Technology in Education.
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About Author

J Scott Christianson is a successful instructor and business owner with more than 23 years of experience in networking, videoconferencing technology, and project management. A Project Management Professional (PMP), Scott has worked on more than 400 videoconferencing projects. He currently serves as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri and remains actively involved in videoconferencing technology and applications. The opinions expressed in Scott's commentary are his own, and are not representative of Let’s Do Video or the University of Missouri.

2 Comments

  1. dan@vdo360.com'

    Hi Scott,
    Really well done, as if you would produce anything less!
    One thing I noticed when training was the trepidation when then camera was simply pointed at someone, whether or not the image was being shown. This may change as the workplace becomes “younger”, but it is real. It is also why our cameras are not standard in configuration, no large lens, no big unit to intimidate, no motors grinding to move it around.
    Dan

  2. Dan,
    Thanks!
    That is a good point. If you can invent a camera that would be hidden and in the middle of the screen, that would be ideal from a viewpoint and user standpoints. You are definately right about a generational change. When we started, I think the first time I was “on camera” was when I was first in a videoconferencing room. Whereas, today’s 20 year olds snapchat and FaceTime daily.
    Take care,

    Scott

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