October 5, 2020 | Video Conference Toolkit

The Pros and Cons of Video Conferencing Chats

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Video conferencing calls have become the newest tool that attorneys are taking advantage of during this “new normal.” This way of communicating can be very effective, and a great substitute for face-to-face office interactions given the current circumstances.

Even though many of the vendors that provide these services have been around for years, their products and services are currently being brought to the forefront of technology as law firms seek to find effective ways to communicate internally, with clients, and as an alternative to typical court-related proceedings.

These products come with an array of additional services, features, and tools that go well beyond the mere video conference call. In this article, we are going to focus on the pros and cons of the online chat and/or instant messaging features that many of these vendors offer.

Pros

  • Enhanced communication
    The use of side chats during video conferencing can be an effective tool used to enhance the productivity goals of the call. These side chats allow for meetings to move forward with minimum interruptions as they allow participants to have conversations between one another, and without having to interrupt the speaker.
  • Private / Personal chat space
    Especially during hearings, it is imperative that attorneys be able to speak with their clients privately. Side chats during a video conference call can allow for private messages to be sent from one participant to the other. These “private spaces” or channels, can be pre-created before the online meeting (or hearing) takes place. Thus, allowing for the client/attorney relationship to be maintained, and not having the need to halt a meeting every time an attorney wants to confer with their client privately.
  • Polls
    Polling is a great feature of online chat that comes as an added benefit of many video conferencing tools being used today. Particularly with video conferencing calls that involve many participants, being able to poll the audience and get instant feedback can be very useful in achieving the goals of the meeting.
  • Integration
    One great feature of using the online chat during video conferencing calls, is the ability to instantly access and share documents with other participants, privately, publicly or in groups. Many of the top vendors provide video conferencing chat integration with online storage providers, such as: Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive just to name a few. This can allow for a much more fluid and interactive presentation where participants can instantly access and share documents with one another.
  • Chat History
    One very popular feature that many video conferencing vendors provide is the ability to save the chat history (see article on Where Does the Data Get Saved?). This feature allows participants to access documents and comments made throughout the video conference call. If the call is made up of many participants, it can be difficult for any one person to keep up with the conversations going on in the side chats in real time. Thus, being able to go back and the comments at a later time can be very useful.
  • Participant status
    These side chats allow participants to notify the rest of the group that they are stepping out momentarily, leaving the meeting altogether, or simply raising their hand to let the speaker know that they have a question which requires attention. All the while, the speaker is not interrupted by having everyone trying to talk all at the same time. This can be very useful when conducting video conferencing calls with large number of participants, as it helps provide a smoother and more organized discussion.

Having the ability to have side chats while a video conference call is taking place can provide many benefits to the participants. However, these features do not come without disadvantages, and we have listed some of them for you here:

Cons

  • Distraction
    Because side chats provide the ability to talk with other participants while the video conference call is going on, it can be very distracting to the speaker and other guests alike. Unless properly monitored, side chats can get out of control very quickly, particularly as the number of participants increase during a call. It can be very difficult to pay attention to the speaker(s), all the while maintaining written conversations on the side.
  • Security
    One major concern for users of the chat feature during video conferencing calls ought to be security. By allowing chats to occur, the potential for a security breach can be elevated. Particularly if participants are allowed to post outside-links and/or integrate with third-party software, which we know is available in many of these platforms.
  • Lag
    Depending on the video conferencing vendor being used, along with the speed of your internet connection, the potential for “lagging” or freezing periods may be increased by the number of people accessing additional video conferencing features such as chats or instant messaging. This is particularly true when it involves the sharing of documents of large files within the participants.
  • Clarity
    It can be very difficult to pay attention to the speaker(s) during a video conferencing call while at the same time one is participating in side chats. Particularly, if multiple participants are writing comments about different topics at the same time. Because of the scrolling nature of these chats, it could be challenging to reply to a comment that happened four or five lines above and still maintain clarity on what is being said and when.
  • Chat History
    Being able to save the chat history can be just as much a pro as a con of using the online chat feature during a video conference call. The things that go on during these calls and the issues discussed may or may not be meant to be stored. If it is the latter, it is imperative that attorneys have a solid understanding of where the potential data associated with the online chats is collected and how to retrieve it if necessary (see article on Where Does the Data Get Saved?).
  • Bad Etiquette
    Particularly during court-related proceedings, it could be seen as bad etiquette to be having side conversations while a speaker is addressing the participants. In many ways, it would be no different than having your mobile device in court and text messaging while the hearing is going on in front of you.

The question of whether it is right or wrong to activate the chat / instant messaging feature during a video conferencing call is one that can only be answered subjectively. Certainly, there are plenty of advantages for using this feature, but one must take into consideration the time, place, and reason for the video conference call in the first place, and evaluate whether in that particular instance, the pros outweigh the cons.


About the Author(s)

Carlos Baradat is the founding member of the Law Office of Carlos A. Baradat, P.A., where he focuses his practice on business, eDiscovery and technology related issues. He has been an adjunct professor at Hodges University since 2014, where he teaches eDiscovery, as well as Social Media & Privacy Law. With more than 15 years of professional experience working in business, administration, law and information technology, Mr. Baradat started The Baradat Group, an innovative business and IT consulting company that provides law firms with assistance in digital forensics, electronic discovery, cybersecurity, litigation preparedness and law office technology.