Many businesses are turning to video conferencing as an effective way to reduce travel costs. If your organization is in the market for a teleconference system, Jay Rollins suggests taking a look at Cisco’s new TelePresence suites.


Cisco Systems announced this week the new TelePresence 1300 Series suites, which promise to put the unbelievably good teleconference system within reach of more companies. If you have never seen a full-blown TelePresence setup, it is worth the introduction.

TelePresence setup

In the suite that I saw, Cisco set up several high-definition TV screens, a high-end audio system tied to its VoIP products, and HD cameras in each room. Cisco looked at every element of the solution to try to make the TelePresence experience as close to having a face-to-face meeting as you can get. Special backlighting behind the screens help diffuse the light so it appears the same way on either end of the conference call. Even the furniture plays a roll: Half-moon conference tables appear to be full-moon tables once the sessions become live. Camera setups and other elements of the interaction management make sure that people are all looking in the same direction when someone is speaking.

For example, you have three users on each side of a two-way conference: one group in Boston and the other in San Francisco. If the user on screen one in Boston talks, everyone in the same room in Boston would look right, and everyone in San Francisco would look left, just like if you were sitting across the conference table from them.

The screens are so large and clear and the spacing between the user and camera is so precise that after a while, you really begin to feel like the other party is right across the table from you. Freaky.

What comes with the 1300 Series

This latest release of the suite comes in at around $89k, and although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its $300,000+ big brother, it is a viable solution to help cut travel costs. Every excuse you can think of as to why you need to travel for a meeting starts to melt away. Even the telecommunications costs that used to make these technologies cost prohibitive are now manageable with HD TelePresence collaboration conferences being connected via straight T-1 connectivity.

Better teleconference experience

Cisco’s investments in WebEx are starting to make more and more sense, as the direction of the TelePresence products continues to evolve with a focus on collaboration as well. New additions and future enhancements are going to lend themselves to more interesting teleconference experiences. Desktop sharing and collaborative applications will allow teams to work more effectively across great distances. In addition, these suites are not just for multi-way conferences; you can also use the studios to produce HD recordings for meetings, training sessions, etc.

I am not sure the price point makes this technology widely adoptable for my current company, but it is getting closer. I was always a big fan of face-to-face meetings, but ever since I saw the full-blown TelePresence suite in action, I have been hard-pressed to find reasons not to have virtual meetings.

Cisco has built these suites in most major cities, and companies can rent them out on an hourly basis. If you have an opportunity to try it out, I highly recommend bringing your CFO in to see the suites in action.

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