Out-Of-Office But Not Off-The-Clock: A Guide to Virtual Meeting Platforms

As you may know, our team not only offers live workshops and events, but online digital marketing training and webinars. To host these, we use a virtual meeting platform to connect with our clients and students. Like many other companies with clients both local and global, we also use video chatting software for meetings and regular check-ins.

Video conferencing is more important now than ever before as we work remotely and socially distance ourselves during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Many employers are having to choose a platform best-suited for their workflow and teams without causing a big disruption in their budget. If you’re not sure which platform may be right for your business, here are our top five:

 

1. Zoom

Zoom’s popularity has quickly soared in the past few weeks. Many schools are using this platform for e-learning and virtual lectures, and many individuals are getting on board to chat with their friends and community members. Our team uses Zoom not only for meetings, but also to produce our podcasts. The software has a recording function for both audio and video, and also has a screen sharing function and text chat bar.

It’s very easy to use – only one person (the Host) even needs to have an account for a group of people to use it! You just send them the meeting link and they can connect via their web browser. If you’ll be making regular meetings with the same people, you can even reuse your first chat link over and over again with them.

Pro Tip: Everyone on our team has their own “Recurring Meeting” set up under a single log-in. Although our team can’t be in two meetings at once, this allows for each member of our team to use the same Zoom URL when meeting with clients. This saves time since we don’t have to set up a new meeting each time we meet with a client. If security concerns you, set up a new password each time you have a meeting scheduled. Or check out Zoom’s Meeting Rooms feature to plan for more ways that your entire team can use the platform.

Key Features:

  •       Video, audio, and text communication
  •       Screenshare capability
  •       Recording function
  •       Reusable meeting link
  •       Digital backgrounds

Price Plans

 

2. Microsoft Teams

If your company interfaces with Microsoft products such as Outlook and OneDrive, you probably already have access to Teams. As part of the Microsoft 365 product line, Teams is a remote working platform where you can chat, call, video, conference, calendar, and share files with your coworkers and clients. While Teams comes with many great features, the drawback is that it works best between Teams users – external meeting participants can get added as a Guest, but there are limitations to their access.

Pro Tip: Download the app for faster access to communicate with team members via chat (similar to Slack). If you don’t want to use the app, you can still use Teams on a desktop and take advantage of its many features.

Key Features:

  •       Video, audio, and text communication
  •       Screen Sharing
  •       Recording function
  •       File sharing

Price Plans (for Microsoft 365 Business plans, in which Teams is included – Teams is not available solo nor available on the Personal plans)

 

3. Skype

If Teams is too much for you – technologically or monetarily – Microsoft offers Skype instead! A longtime frontrunning video chatting platform, Skype is especially perfect for one-on-ones and small team meetings. Something newer that you may not know about, however, is their unlimited free meeting links, no downloads or signing up needed as long as you use Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome web browsers. Also, you can even enable Skype calling via your Alexa virtual assistant now!

Pro Tip: Be sure to set up a professional Skype login that your entire team (or you) can use for meetings. Just like the options listed above, you can download the Skype app to your phone for meetings on the go.

Key Features:

  •       Video, audio, and text communication
  •       Screen Sharing
  •       Recording function
  •       Live automated subtitling
  •     Skype for content creators

Price Plans:

  •       Meet Now: Free! Create a reusable meeting link to share with your participants. No downloading or signing up required.
  •       Via your Microsoft account: While Skype For Business has been replaced with Teams, any of the paid Microsoft account plans will automatically provide you with Skype account access.

 

4. Google Hangouts Meet

Originally part of the now-defunct Google+, Hangouts is a virtual meeting platform that allows you to video chat, call, and text for free. Hangouts itself, while very straightforward, has only those three main functions. However, as part of the G Suite Business products, there’s also Hangouts Meet that’s being offered for free until September 30, 2020 to help companies manage during this health crisis. You do need a Google account to host a Hangout, but not to participate. Just like many of the others, you can invite participants with a link or email invitation.

Pro Tip: Hangouts is great for meetings with just 1 or 2 attendees. Larger groups can be a little difficult to navigate if you’re hoping to use its free version. For smaller groups, you can share screens or see each other over video. We use it as an internal tool only and utilize the free version. For client meetings, we use paid video conferencing software.

Key Features:

  •       Video, audio, and text communication
  •       Live stream to up to 100,000 viewers in a domain
  •       Recording function (saves to your Google Drive)
  •       Entirely in-browser

Price Plans

 

5. Facebook Workplace

The quietest frontrunner in the virtual meeting game is Facebook Workplace. A business-oriented amalgamation of Facebook Messenger and regular Facebook, this platform lets you chat, conference, post, poll, share, and create groups. You do not need a personal Facebook account to use it, nor will anyone on the platform have any more access to your personal Facebook profile than normal.

Pro Tip: If your company is tech savvy and needs something that integrates well with your business, this could be a great option– especially for teams that need to communicate globally. 

Key Features:

  •       Video, audio, and text communication
  •       Team/company internal feed posting and polls
  •       Auto-translate functionality to communicate across languages
  •       File storage
  •       External integrations

Price Plans

 

Whether you may be working from home for the foreseeable future or are going through a digital transformation at your office, it’s important that the virtual meeting platform your business uses has all the features your teams need. Especially while we all ride out this health crisis as safely as possible, it’s crucial for you to be conferencing with coworkers and clients digitally and not in person. 

We hope one of these platforms is the right one for your company to keep communicating smoothly from home! If you need any help assessing what processes could assist or enhance your digital operations, please contact us for a free consultation!

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