Affordable Videoconferencing and Collaboration Options For Start-Ups, Enterprise and Personal Users
What Does The Fox Say? If you have to ask, you need more collaboration time with colleagues or friends. Now there are affordable, professional collaboration and videoconferencing alternatives to WebEx and GoToMeeting that keep you in the know and your projects on schedule, whether you’re a C-Suite Exec or a new field sales rep.
Screen sharing and videoconferencing have been indispensable to me for:
- project management and status briefings,
- software training,
- expediting client reviews and approvals and much more.
I use six free tools to obtain the benefits of in-person meetings without the trip, the scheduling hassles of gathering everyone in one place, or the workplace interruptions. Whether the next several weeks take you home for the holidays, a vacation destination or on the road to close year-end deals, I recommendone of these six tools to work real-time with leaders and peers, when you can’t be there in person.
Uncommon Convenience and Utility
All the services I use are:
- Free, with inexpensive paid tiers ranging from $8 to $13/mo. to increase participants, collaboration features, tracking and administration tools
- Platform Agnostic – Each service works across operating systems – Windows, MAC, iOS and Android
- Accessible from laptops, tablets and smartphones, in addition to desktops – no compatibility issues
- Wi-Fi accessible
- Free internet calling enabled – use your devices speakers and microphone for the call, in some cases free telephone dial-in is offered as well
- Have screen and content sharing including video, with shared control between participants – great for training and document or creative review
- Instant messaging/Chat enabled – message to the group or privately to individual participants
- Require account set-up by the host – account registration and application download and installation to host a meeting.
The Big Differences between Services:
- The number of participants allowed in a meeting
- Whether participants need an account with the provider to join a meeting
- Ease of launching the meeting and invite participants – intuitive interface
- Limitations on meeting duration, availability of annotation, recording and scheduling tools, view-only functionality for smartphones, tablets
- Availability and quality of “Quick Start” and other support to get meeting host up to speed, able to launch a meeting
My Personal Favorites – So Easy Me, My Mom and My Boss Can Do It
If I’m missing mom’s missives over Thanksgiving dinner, need to pull partner’s together, or a client can’t wait; my stress remedies are Join.Me, Skype and Zoom for spontaneous screen shares or real-time, executive video meetings.
The six services I use regularly range from simple screen sharing to full-blown GoToMeeting competitors :
- Google+ Hangouts
- FuzeBox -can handle WebEx type paid webinars
- Zoom.US – can handle WebEx type paid webinars
…but I rely on Join.Me, Skype and Zoom because:
- they are so easy my mom can use them without help, which means anyone can,
- I get work done that would be delayed for client input otherwise,
- they save time and money.
Join.Me is the easiest screen sharing tool I’ve found. When a call isn’t enough, I can quickly explain a report finding or walk through site updates by sending out a Join.Me link to up to 10 people. Presto, everyone’s sharing my screen and going over details in a matter of minutes. The free VoIP internet calling allows everyone to ask questions and share ideas as though we’re in the same room. It has worked reliably for me with even the most tech-challenged.
To gauge reactions by facial expressions and body language, I turn to Skype and Zoom. I was introduced to Skype back in 2008 working with an entertainment start- up in the South, for brainstorming and business planning. For 1 to 1 videoconferences or group calls of up to 25 Skype to Skype accounts, its super simple interface and set-up can’t be beat. Skype is great for family face-time too, when you or your kids are far from home. New enhancements roll out December 2013.
I use Zoom for an “enterprise” look and feel to video-meetings with dispersed team members. I can start a video status meeting or training webinar for up to 25 attendees with the system generated email containing the meeting link.
Participants don’t need a Zoom account to click and join. In my experience the Zoom host and user experience are faster and better than Adobe Connect. The powerful content sharing and annotation features mean the team can revise and approve presentations or creative in one session, saving time and money. Zoom limits free service meeting duration to 40mins., but allows unlimited meetings per day.
Tips to Really Rock the First Meeting
- Set-up your accounts in advance. While Join.Me and Skype are “plug-and-play”, the others require host account set-up and software installation that you don’t want to initiate while people are waiting for the meeting to start.
- Try it out on friendlies –before you launch you first business meeting, try one with friendly colleagues, buddies or family. Test your speakers and mic; get acquainted with the tool bars, tools and menus to avoid annoying delays or missteps.
- Have the files and documents you plan to work on either open on the desktop or collected in one place so they can be found in an instant
- If you’re going to video-meet, look your best. Use an old telephone sales trick to keep your energy and tone upbeat — have a mirror facing you close by, and keep a smile on your face.
That’s my take. Now, share your experience with these or other favorite conferencing and collaboration tools with me.