We get it. Meetings are hard enough when you’re all in the same room, let alone when you’re distributed across the globe. It can be a challenge to facilitate the same level of collaboration and communication with virtual meetings.
But with the help of powerful video conferencing tools, it’s not impossible.
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Types of video conferencing solutions
When talking about video conferencing, webcams, laptops, and conferencing software are the first things that come to mind. However, desktop apps are only one of multiple types of video conferencing tools.
Desktop conferencing solutions
Desktop apps are so popular because nearly everyone owns — or is at least knowledgeable enough to operate — a computer. All the necessary features are included in one software package, and the program handles everything for you.
Desktop solutions make it possible to attend meetings virtually anywhere, as long as you have a reliable Internet connection. They’re especially useful for distributed teams and solo freelancers.
As the name implies, telepresence systems are designed to give the impression that everyone is in the same room, despite not actually being physically present in a single location.
Telepresence system setups use multiple displays, usually one for each participant. They’re set up next to each other to make it appear as if the participants are sitting together around the same conference table.
Compared to the previous conferencing setups, room-based conferencing is more suitable for teams in one workspace. Essential equipment like projectors, displays, and speakers are installed in one conference room for smooth presentations with high-definition video and audio output.
What’s more, it’s possible to connect with other meeting rooms with the same setup. Room-based conferencing is ideal for large corporations with teams spread across several offices.
Among all those categories, only desktop apps don’t require precise hardware installations to function properly. This means that if you have a computer, or at least a smart device, you can jump in and start conducting meetings right away.
Here are the top five video conferencing software platforms you should be using to make your online meetings more productive and engaging.
Zoom has several features built around its superb video capabilities. Its wide range of functionalities and services make it useful not only for remote teams, but also for office teams.
One of Zoom’s main services, Meetings, has neat features like HD video, audio detection, and remote screen control. Zoom also has direct and group messaging as well as screen sharing, making it a good collaboration tool.
All in all, Zoom has a strong set of features that make it a solid video conferencing solution, no matter which industry you’re working in or whatever the size of your team is.
Zoom vs. Skype — how do they compare?
Zoom is not the only software of its kind. There are other tools with good video conferencing services that are often compared to it. In fact, Zoom vs. Skype is one of the most popular comparisons in the software world.
Zoom and Skype have the same core features, and they’re two of the best conferencing tools out there. Skype has been around longer, but Zoom has made significant upgrades over the years and has established itself as a top competitor in its category.
In terms of sheer user count, Skype has the edge, primarily because it was released many years before Zoom. But when comparing each app’s respective features — and how well these features are implemented — Zoom can easily go toe-to-toe with its competitor.
At a glance, both apps have roughly the exact same features:
- HD video and audio support
- Instant messaging between individuals or groups
- Phone calls for non-platform users
- Screen sharing on both desktops and mobile devices
But Zoom has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that give it an edge over Skype when it comes to video conferencing capabilities.
In Zoom, you can create breakout sessions. These are smaller meetings created within larger meetings that allow you and your colleagues to discuss tasks that don’t involve the rest of the team so you’re not wasting anybody’s time.
Zoom also provides a more immersive conferencing experience. With Zoom, you can control who can speak and who the display is focused on. Any meeting participant can use the “Raise Hand” feature if they have something to add to the discussion.
In short, Skype is a good choice if you’re looking for a single platform to manage team-wide communications and one-to-one video calls. But if you’re looking for a video conferencing solution that can provide you with the best experience, Zoom is the way to go.
Both Zoom and Skype have flexible paid options, but Zoom’s pricing plans are more straightforward:
- Basic – Host up to 100 participants with a 40-minute limit on group meetings. Free to use.
- Pro – All Basic features, 24-hour meeting duration, user management, and reporting. $14.99/month/host.
- Business – All Pro features, admin dashboard, company branding, and custom emails. $19.99/month/host with a minimum requirement of 10 hosts.
- Enterprise – All Business features, host up to 1000 participants, unlimited cloud storage, and executive business reviews. $19.99/month/host with a minimum requirement of 50 hosts.
Skype for Business, on the other hand, is automatically included in Microsoft Office 365 Business plans. If you’re already using the suite, you’re good to go. But if you aren’t, you can’t purchase a subscription for Skype alone.
- Office 365 Business – $8.25/user/month (annual option)
- Office 365 Business Premium – $12.50/user/month (annual option)
- Office 365 Business Essentials – $5.00/user/month (annual option)
Skype for Business in included in any Office 365 Business plan.
G Suite Hangouts Meet – Google video conferencing
Meet is Google Hangouts’ video conferencing service. Setting up meetings with it is easy—all you need to do is share the meeting URL with your team just like any Google document, and they can quickly join by opening the link.
Hangouts Meet has iOS and Android apps, so you can join meetings even without a laptop. What’s more, it also supports dialing in numbers so anyone can join if an Internet connection isn’t available.
Hangouts Meet is included in Google’s G Suite, which has three pricing plans:
- Basic – $6/user/month
- Business – $12/user/month
- Enterprise – $25/user/month
ezTalks Meetings is a web conferencing software that simplifies online business meetings. You can start meetings on the fly, or use its scheduled meetings feature so you can include participants in advance and they’ll automatically be added to the meeting once it starts.
ezTalks allows you to create recurring meeting schedules. You can use these an unlimited number of times so you can save time on creating new meetings and inviting the same people over and over again.
- Starter – Up to 100 participants and unlimited meeting duration. Free to use.
- Standard – Starter features plus 2 GB of online storage per host and 500 recording online views monthly. $13/month/host.
- Pro – Unlimited meeting duration, 200 participants, 4 GB online storage per host, and 1000 recording online views monthly. $39/month/host.
- Business – Unlimited meeting duration, 300 participants, 10 GB online storage per host, and 3000 more recording online views per month. $65/month/host.
GoToMeeting is an online meeting software designed to help teams smoothly connect and collaborate. Its extremely friendly user interface allows you to create meetings and invite participants with minimal effort.
GoToMeeting has a unique feature called Smart Meeting Assistant. It automatically transcribes meetings so you can focus on the discussion without worrying about taking notes. You can revisit the script afterward to make sure that you didn’t miss anything.
GoToMeeting has a 14-day free trial, and four paid pricing plans.
- Starter – 10 participants, unlimited meetings, and business messaging. $18/month.
- Pro – 150 participants, meeting lock, and transcripts. $36/month.
- Plus – 250 participants, personal meeting rooms, and InRoom Link. $47/month.
- Enterprise – Up to 3,000 participants, volume discounts, and onboarding and training. You’ll need to contact their sales team.
Cisco Webex Meetings
Cisco Webex Meetings is an easy-to-use virtual conferencing platform that lets you start meetings with just a few clicks. Webex has all the essential features you’ll need to conduct great meetings, like screen sharing and high-definition video.
Like most leading conferencing tools, Webex is supported on multiple platforms, so you can join meetings from any device of your choice. Hosts can also record meetings so anyone who isn’t able to make it can stay updated.
Cisco Webex Meetings has a 30-day free trial. Get in touch with their sales team for pricing information.
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Other tools for virtual meetings
Having the right video conferencing tool for your team will help in making meetings a more pleasant experience. But there are also other types of apps that can enhance the quality of your discussions even more.
Hubstaff Tasks is a project management solution that uses Kanban boards and Agile methodologies to help teams get things done. It’s designed to streamline collaboration and task management.
A Kanban card represents a task, and the column it is in represents the current project phase. To move a task from one stage to another, all it takes is a quick drag and drop.
Hubstaff Tasks is perfect for screen sharing in video conferences, when you’re providing updates on projects and explaining tasks. You can label tasks, create checklists, and create custom workflows for each project.
Doodle aims to eliminate the hassle of scheduling meetings. Teams often waste hours searching through long email threads, checking who’s available and who’s not. Doodle helps makes sure that never happens again.
With a colorful interface and handy features like automatic reminders and time zone detection, scheduling with Doodle is easy. You can check who’s free and who’s busy with just a quick look at the team calendar, and plan meetings without trouble.
SoapBox is a screen recorder and video editing tool that’s easy to install and learn. All you need is a webcam and a Chrome extension, and you can start creating videos.
SoapBox is useful when you can’t find the time for meetings in your schedule, and there are some urgent things you need to discuss. You can record an explainer video ahead of time, share it with your team, and they can carry on with the meeting even if you are unable to join.
What video conferencing tools do you use?
Meetings can be difficult to prepare for, and can be time-consuming for everyone involved. This is why you should make every second count.
Whatever online meeting tool you choose, it should be able to help you engage in a smooth and clear discussion, as well as present to your team in a manner that’s easy to follow. It’s important that everyone is on the same page, and is able to contribute ideas to the meeting if they have any.
What video conferencing solutions do you use for team meetings? Are there any particular features you think every tool should have, or are there any apps that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
This post was originally published in August, 2018. It was updated by the Hubstaff blog team in September, 2019.