One of the benefits of the fast changing and ever-evolving world of digital technology is the advancements in tools and features available for small businesses. For example, only a few years ago, video conferencing was a tool only for the big corporations. It was expensive, required some robust hardware and software, and was therefore out of the reach of most small and medium sized businesses.
Now, however, affordable and even free video conferencing is available to any business.
Here are three tools for hosting online video conference meetings that any business can use.
Join.me offers ability for any person or business to host a meeting with audio and screen sharing.
This means a presenter can share their own computer screen and present what they want on the screen such as PowerPoint Slides, a Microsoft Word document or even themselves via web cam. This is a service under the LogMeIn.
The free version allows up to 10 unique meeting participants, ability to change who the presenter is, and offers chat feature for the meeting with ability to send file attachments in real time. Join.me is available to use on PC's, Mac, and there are iPad, iPhone, and Android apps for use on mobile devices and tablets. There is a more robust paid version that allows for more participants, recording of the meeting, and more.
This tool is a good choice when the primary focus is on the group viewing together the same document/presentation on one screen.
Google+ is the social media network by Google (Add me to a G+ circle). As a social media service it has many of the same features as Facebook and Twitter but also has additional tools such as Hangouts.
A Google+ Hangout is a free video conference with chat service that enables both one-on-one chats and group chats with up to ten people at a time. As compared to Join.me, Google Hangouts has a primary focus more on "face-to-face " group interaction as opposed to screen sharing. It's a great tool for hosting a small group! It does allow screen sharing, image taking during the session, file sharing, a chat feature, ability to collaborate on a shared "whiteboard" and more.
A uniqueness is that it uses advanced technology to seamlessly switch the focus to the person currently talking, bringing them from the thumbnail view to the foreground main view as they speak. Google Hangouts can be accessed via PC, Mac, and iPad/iPhone, as well as most Android mobile devices and tablets. The cost is free.
A related feature for speakers and trainers is Google Hangouts on Air. Think of it as a Hangout on steroids for speakers! It always a user to live stream a event and save it to YouTube as a video.
Skype started out as a way to make free or low cost online calls person-to-person. The service then added instant chat features and then enhanced their feature set to include video calls and conferencing. Skype video conference offers free one-on-one video conferencing and then if at least one member of a group has the $4.99/month premium service, the video conference can host up to 10 people. It includes chat, screen sharing, and with add on services the video conference can be recorded.
Like the others, there are tools so meeting participants can attend via PC or Mac, or on the go via the mobile and tablet iPhone, iPad, and Android apps that can be downloaded for free.
The value of video-conferencing is the face-to-face, real-time interaction that helps communication and relationship building in the process of business. Whether the video conference is "in-house", with partners, or part of the new prospect sales process, this high tech tool is now ready to serve any business. Typically for the user, the only requirement is a web cam and microphone, along with a high speed internet connection. For mobile devices and tablets these tools come built-in to the device.
So, consider saving time and travel costs by going high-tech for some of your business meetings! Starting small within your office to get comfortable with the technology can enable you to then use in multiple ways to expand your business reach and effectiveness.
I find that I was accustomed to using Skype for one-on-one meetings and that continues, mostly out of habit.
However, I don't have Skype premium and continue to use Google Hangouts and Hangouts on Air more and more. Google Hangouts are definitely my "go to" source when there is more than two of us needing to attend the virtual meeting. I like the technology, features and the default to have the person speaking move to the forefront. Plus, you can't beat the price for up to 10 attendees, free!
I do use other tools like GoToMeeting but primarily when I need to host webinars and need the advanced tools that it offers for registrations and event management.
How about you?