Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Online Meeting & Video Conferencing Software

Online meetings are great.  I love being able to see someone's face and the demonstration or presentation.  I love video conferencing too.  I now DREAD conference calls even more because I can't see the body language or hear as well as I can on a video conference.

Online Meetings 
Online Meetings are best for screen sharing or larger meetings.  All below work on PC and MAC although some require additional fees to run on iPad.

The best free and impromptu meeting software is  Open and it is quick, easy and free to have someone join your meeting.  A great way to browse your website together to build ideas.  Even though I pay for GoToMeeting, I use this for impromptu meetings often.

My favorite and what we use at Geiger.  GoToMeeting includes the video feed for up to 4 participants and up to 25 participants can call in.  The screen share capability is great.  Pricing is reasonable, especially if you are a PPAI Member with the PPAI 15% discount.  For larger meetings they offer gotowebinar.

Webex is the original but no longer the best. I don't like their pricing (per attendee pricing) and I find their software has a lot of features most of us don't use and makes it less intuitive.

Video Conferencing
I work remotely about 50% of the time so I've become quite comfortable with video conferencing.  For me, there are 2 options.  Google Hangouts and Skype. I use Skype 99% of the time.

Video conferencing makes a huge difference in the value of distance meetings.  I'm a huge believer that video conferencing is nearly as good as being there and 10 times more valuable than a conference call.  I like Skype because it works on all platforms, Windows, Mac, IOS, Android, you name it.  It's very reliable and includes great instant messaging features.  It also has a large install base so existing customers are probably already on it.

I pay $50 a year for Skype premium for the ability to have more than 2 people on a video conference.  It also lets me make phone calls to any US number which I occasionally use.

Google hangouts is the coolest of the tools.   It's got amazing features and the price is FREE.  But I use it rarely.  The main reason is that so few people are comfortable with it. Thus, getting people setup to attend the hangout requires training.  But if I know people are comfortable with it, I would be happy to use it more.  Some neat plug-ins make it really powerful.  It allows up to 10 people to chat with video for free.  I suspect I'll be using it more as awareness grows.

No matter which software you decide to use, you need to make video conferencing and online meeting a part of your process.  Yes, Skype & Google+ both can share screens but they are designed for video conferencing so when you need to present, the online meeting tools are better.

For conference rooms at Geiger, we installed the Logitech BCC950 ($186 on Amazon) and it is amazing how easy it is to observe, hear, and communicate with everyone in the room.

If you want to get started with the simplest and most value, go with for meetings and get the free version of Skype for video calls.  These tools can help you as the trend of less face to face meetings continues as I wrote about in Face To Face Selling is Dying.

Geiger CIO Dale Denham, MAS+ provides practical insights on how you can benefit from technology in no nonsense terms. Follow him on Twitter: @GeigerCIO

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