For many traditional office workers, the evolution of the remote workspace has turned into something like a revolution. Collaboration is still key, but today we’re doing it online, resulting in a fundamental shift in the way organisations, teams and individuals communicate and hold meetings, both internally and externally.
You can browse through the different parts of our how-to guide for the best video conferencing solutions here:
- Why video meeting is powerful?
- Why video meeting is cost effective?
- Make sure the video meeting system you choose is easy to use
- Making the most of video meeting services
- Troubleshooting and technical support
- What are the different video meeting solutions?
As you’ve probably read, it’s a trend that’s only expected to accelerate. A survey of executives and office workers in June 2020 by PwC found that remote working was popular across the board.
More than one in two (55%) employers predicted that most of their workers would be working from home long after COVID-19 is no longer a concern.
They won’t have any arguments from staff, with the survey finding more than eight in ten office workers (83%) wanted to work from home at least one day a week, while almost three quarters (72%) said they would prefer at least two work days out of the office.
That’s not to say it wasn’t already one of the growing features of the modern mobile working environment. Back in 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that almost one in three (3.5 million) of all employed Australians were already regularly working from home.
Attitudes have definitely changed as web connections have got faster, commutes have got slower, and new video conferencing technologies, collaboration tools, mobile access, apps and other developments have seen employers become increasingly confident in the effectiveness of remote working.
One of the key drivers of this growing confidence has been the evolution of the video meeting. Our research shows that almost nine out of 10 employees at large organisations (1000+ employees) believe remote meetings will replace traditional calls as one of the key features of the enterprise of the future, and 63% of respondents in micro-businesses (up to 15 employees) agreed.
Whether it’s a client across the globe or a colleague across town, today virtual meetings, video conferencing, webinars and the like are more often the first choice for meeting organisers who want to boost collaboration and effectively communicate with staff and stakeholders.
For many organisations, video meetings and online conferencing platforms have become much more than a basic meeting tool or marketing platform.
Instead they’ve grown to become as much a normal part of daily work life as emails or traditional phone calls – so much so that it’s hard to imagine anyone being expected to travel across town or even a business campus, let alone interstate or around the world, to attend a face-to-face meeting without at least being offered a chance to join virtually.
There’s no doubt it has become increasingly easy for everyone to connect with colleagues, customers, and prospects using video thanks to the cloud, but the best video conferencing platforms today offer a suite of other options as well.
Today, the best video conferencing services offer real-time video conferencing on any video-enabled device – from a mobile phone to a boardroom system – and it’s easy for participants to join.
Not only do they enable people to meet, but they let participants share their screens and files, chat via public and private text, annotate and use digital whiteboards for collaboration.
They also let you meet with prospects and customers in live webinars, launch products with live Q&A sessions, conduct surveys and online sales calls, provide customer support, interact with apps, and manage formal voting at corporate meetings.
Why video meeting is powerful?
The best video conferencing services today are hosted in the Cloud, which means anyone in your business can run their own video meeting. And they can do it easily and effectively because the technology is so easy to use.
No more juggling meeting room bookings on a web app, or finding a room big enough to physically accommodate all attendees. You also don’t have to worry about making sure you’ve got the right cable connections so your presentation actually appears on the big screen, or so you can connect to the web.
A web-based video conferencing platform is powerful because it can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time as long as they’ve got a reliable web connection. There’s no infrastructure to buy or manage, and no new scripts for your IT team to learn, which means they’re suitable for an enterprise of any shape or size, from sole traders to the world’s biggest corporations.
Video conferencing also lets you hold meetings instantly if the situation requires. Whether it’s an urgent message to staff, a critical update to shareholders, or an emergency community briefing, the best video conferencing services let you set up a meeting in minutes.
Why video meeting is so cost-effective?
Another key factor in the move to online meetings has been the decentralisation of many organisations. While the bigger end of town will always want some kind of footprint in the major CBDs (although for many of them, that footprint is shrinking) many organisations and government departments have been spreading their wings for some time.
If you’ve ever organised a meeting you’ll know that it can be hard enough to nail down a meeting time for a bunch of stakeholders who work in the same building, let alone when they’re spread out across large geographic areas.
When there’s no reason to have everyone in the same office for a sales call, staff meeting or even a strategy day because you can hold a video meeting instead, it becomes harder to justify the cost of an expensive commercial lease. For those that have to keep some kind of commercial footprint, video meetings can help cut down on the physical space you actually need.
For many it is a lot more productive to have their employees closer to the customers they have to meet face-to-face, while for others, the cost of getting all their required stakeholders from further afield in the same room is restrictive, besides being a logistical nightmare.
A web-based video conference can make any online meeting as productive as its traditional counterpart – without the cost of travel, transfers, accommodation, meals, snacks and after-meeting drinks. That’s not to mention the cost of an office suite or conference room if you have to take it off-site.
Modern video conferencing platforms let you conduct a meeting as if everyone was in the same room, unlike traditional conference calls. Participants are real people with a face, not just a voice on a phone call, which means it is a lot easier to interact effectively, and collaborate and communicate intuitively. The range of new tools and integrated apps readily available make the experience even more effective.
Similarly, presenters are able to see and interact with participants, share ideas on a virtual whiteboard and invite participants to do the same.
Video meetings can also cut out the extra costs involved in booking physical breakout rooms, which can be replaced with virtual features where participants can join together and brainstorm in smaller groups and then return to the larger group to share their ideas.
Make sure the video meeting system you choose is easy to use
One of the most important considerations when it comes to choosing a video conferencing platform should be ease of use for everyone in the meeting – the host, presenter, speakers, attendees and audience. While some services are free, make sure they meet your needs.
The best systems are intuitive and easy to learn to use. For starters, it should be easy to create a meeting, invite participants and lock it in their diary.
If you’re the host, take a trial run or virtual tour of different systems so you can see how easy, or not, they are to navigate. You should easily be able to set up and join your meeting, control audio and video, interact with participants and call for collaboration.
It’s also a good time to investigate the suite of available tools. If collaboration is key, how long does it take to open a whiteboard? What kind of files does the system allow you to share? Can you run a live Q&A, survey or poll? Is it easy for participants to access a chat room? Can you add people to a call already in progress?
Another important factor to consider is how your participants actually join a meeting. While it might sound straight-forward, all video conferencing systems are not created equal when it comes to the actual step of getting everyone to take the call, so to speak.
Some services require participants to dial in using either local or toll-free numbers or via VoIP. If you’re asking users to dial in from overseas, make sure there’s an option to provide international dial-in numbers – not every platform offers this.
Some systems require users to download a plug-in online, while others need participants to install software – if that’s the case make sure you alert employees of any requirements around hardware compatibility and suitable browser options before you meet. It’s also a good idea to include instructions on how to download and install any plug-ins or software.
Other services require participants to enter a code to join the meeting, while the most user-friendly options simply require users to click on a link.
Making the most of video meeting services
The best online video conferencing services can be easily customised to create different meeting formats, and use a suite of different functions depending on your requirements. This includes basic options such as sharing files, and more sophisticated offerings such as sharing desktops, rebranding, and multi-camera support for larger meetings.
Even for straight-forward team meetings, you should be able to mute participants, enable and disable webcams, create a waiting room, lock out latecomers and share your screen as host.
If you’re holding a workshop, team-building exercise or strategy day, whiteboards, live chat rooms and the ability to share everyone’s screen and files make it easier to collaborate and give all participants a chance to provide input.
If you’re holding a presentation or panel, or fireside chat-style interview, you might want your entire audience to be muted, whereas for a marketing event, product launch, discussion or Q&A it’s often a good idea to have the ability to mute and unmute participants as required.
Screen-sharing is also important for presentations. Some providers let you choose to share just one document, image or application, while others also let viewers zoom in on an entire desktop.
For some meetings, such as annual general meetings, where it may be critical that everyone can have their say, cast a ballot or take part in a poll, some webinar services let you host an unlimited number of attendees from anywhere in the world who can interact online as required through Q&A sessions, chat rooms and live polls. Hybrid options also let you simultaneously broadcast your webinar as a teleconference to make sure your entire audience has the opportunity to listen in and interact if their video connection is unreliable.
When it comes to a more structured, formal environment where the message is key, a studio broadcast delivered online is often the most effective way to gather a larger audience. Broadcasts can be hosted by a moderator, including a single speaker, or a panel of stakeholders. They can also be live or pre-recorded, so you can edit, repackage and rebrand them for other marketing channels.
Troubleshooting and technical support
The best video conferencing platforms include live operator support, while others are limited to chat and email, and some only offer online documentation you have to read for yourself. With some platforms, you’ll be completely on your own so make sure you know what you’ll need before you start.
Take into account the impact that a technical glitch might have on your intended outcomes. If you’re talking to a single colleague, a switch to audio-only might not be a problem, but if you’re in the middle of an important pitch, a frozen screen or broadband drop-out could be costly.
If you have remote users that connect online via a virtual private network (VPN), be aware that VPNs can often slow down a user’s connection and impact the quality of their video.
Solutions that require plug-ins or software installs such as those from Zoom, Microsoft, Google and Cisco Webex, can be problematic when it comes to compatibility, as well as corporate IT policies.
Before you sign up to any service that requires a plug-in or software install, make sure you read up on all the tech requirements and run them by your CTO or IT service provider to see if you’ll actually be allowed to install it under your IT policy, and that it will integrate properly with any existing software and hardware.
Some services are only compatible with Microsoft software, while others will run on any device and operating system. You’ll also need to check the compatibility of web browsers – most platforms run on all the popular browsers, but you’ll probably need to make sure all users have the latest version.
What are the different video meeting solutions?
In the last few years, the video conferencing market has come along in leaps and bounds thanks to the growth of the cloud, and advances in the quality and affordability of video conferencing software and hardware.
Some of the names you might have heard of probably include companies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Google Meets, BlueJeans, Skype, GoToMeeting andCisco Webex, as well as Redback Connect, which all offer video conferencing solutions.
Before you choose a video conferencing solution, start with a list of everyone in your organisation who might need to host a meeting, and then make a similar list of all the people they might need to communicate with.
Consider the number of participants and video feeds you’ll need – while some platforms offer an unlimited number, others are restricted to as few as four participants.
That way you’ll be able to establish what types of meetings you’ll have to prepare for so you can compare the best video conferencing services that are able to meet your needs.
For some organisations, cost is the primary consideration, while others focus on security, reliability, and support.
Most providers offer 30-day free trials and some offer free limited use for smaller groups. You can often choose between monthly subscriptions or pay-as-you-go, yearly contracts or no lock-in contracts, limited use and unlimited use, as well as many other features.
To start with, it’s also important to establish if the cost of the service is based on the host or number of attendees.
If you’re planning a program of webinars, for example, you’ll probably find it more cost effective to choose a plan priced per host, while meetings priced per attendee are probably a better option for more collaborative events where any participant could be a host.