After my column last month, I received several questions about the use of virtual meeting and webinar software. To be honest, I’ve really used only a couple of the options, but I made it my duty to research some of the many options out there and report back. So, without further ado, here is what I found.
Probably one of the most common platforms out there now, Zoom has basically become a verb—“Excuse me, I need to Zoom in a couple minutes.”
So, what about Zoom makes it so popular? The biggest benefit to Zoom is the fact that you can get an account for free and accomplish quite a bit before having to pay. One of the other benefits to Zoom is that it’s pretty easy to use. Plus, it seems to give people a lot of joy picking out random virtual backgrounds for their calls.
As for cons, let’s talk about the elephant in the room—privacy. Zoom does not have a great track record when it comes down to it. Some of you who are reading this column have been a victim of Zoombombing, and it probably wasn’t Conan O’Brien doing a bit for his television show.
There are some ways to protect yourself by using passwords or creating a waiting room where each person needs to be admitted into the meeting. This is not always practical, but it’s one way to add some protection.
This is another one of the originals when it comes to video teleconferencing. Again, this application is one of the easier platforms to use and even offers a mobile-friendly environment. Alongside toll-free phone calls, GoToMeeting offers transcriptions of your meetings.
In my mind, the app falls short in its free department. They advertise a 14-day free trial, but the base subscription is $12 per month. Also, if you plan to do a webinar, you need to purchase the GoToWebinar product in addition to the GoToMeeting app.
This Cisco product also is a familiar name in the online webinar and meeting space. Webex offers a free plan that mirrors the others with up to 100 participants in a meeting, unlimited number of meetings and screen sharing options.
Another bonus for Webex Meetings is there is no time limit on the meetings for free accounts, but according to the Webex website, this is a limited-time promotion, as is the increase from 50 to 100 participants.
Much like Zoom, RingCentral Meetings offers a free plan that can accommodate up to 100 participants (with a 40-minute cap). It offers all the similar amenities—screen sharing, whiteboarding, and unlimited 1-on-1 meetings.
The knock on RingCentral Meetings is that it offers only local recording.
Another trusted name in the software world, Microsoft Teams also provides a quick and easy virtual meeting platform. Through the free account, you get online audio and video calls, screen sharing, and “customized” backgrounds. Microsoft doesn’t specify the number of people you are limited to on a call, but I’m sure there is one.
It’s important to note, however, that 99% of the chamber world probably has the Microsoft 365 subscription, and with that comes more features, like hosting online and video conference meetings for up to 250 people, online events for up to 10,000 participants and the ability to record your meetings.
Boardable is not really a video conferencing tool, but I wanted to add it as one more option to consider because many chambers have been using the other products to conduct board and committee meetings.
This board-specific platform offers features like an agenda builder, a meetings and document center, a task manager, goal tracking, reporting capabilities, polls and voting, and a directory of your people. Although this app is not a free option, it has offered a free 90-day trial account during the pandemic.
So, there you have it. This list is far from comprehensive. I could go on for pages and pages on the number of options, but I decided to stick to the most common ones out there. No matter which one you choose, I guarantee it will be a lifesaver.