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The fast-paced world of business has seen dramatic changes in how people work, with many teams moving to remote or hybrid working models. Digitalisation has also progressed at a similar pace, with new technology and tools helping us adapt to changes and do business more efficiently.
One area where such progress has been especially notable is communication. Companies now have staff worldwide, and their clients are likely to be just as spread out. Good communication – and good communication tools – have never been more important.
Virtual conferences have dramatically increased in use over the last two years. This has happened not just in business but in education, healthcare, and other areas too. But just what is a virtual conference? How do they work, what types are there, and how do we choose a good online conference platform?
What is a Virtual Conference?
As the name suggests, a virtual conference is a real-time meeting or multi-person conference online. It allows participants to access the meeting from any location on the planet, as long as they have internet access and a computer or mobile device. People can access such a conference through dedicated platforms or by accessing a specific website.
The numbers of participants can vary according to the tools/platform software used. For example, with RingCentral, you can invite up to 10,000 participants to your online event. Virtual conferences can be used for small team conversations, company-wide meetings, webinars, or live events such as live streams of a music concert or a product launch.
How Does Virtual Conferencing Work?
In many ways, a virtual conference works in the same way as its real-life counterpart. The presentation can differ according to the needs of the ‘host’ and also the platform or software being used. But, just as in real life, participants will receive an invite. However, instead of a physical location, they will be given a link to click on when it is time for the conference to start.
Just as with physical conferences, a virtual conference will have a set structure with set start and end times, an agenda, and possibly a setlist of keynote speakers or presentations. It could incorporate other media such as video presentations. It could be in the form of a webinar with one person presenting information and a question and answer session after they speak or in the form of a panel discussion.
Most users will have a webcam and microphone enabled, allowing you to see and hear them. However, they’ll often have the option to join audio-only too. Virtual conferencing can be between individuals in separate locations or teams in different offices, blending a mixture of in-person and online communication.
Types of Virtual Conferences:
Of course, there are several different types of virtual events that could be described as virtual conferences. There can be differences between them, even as they fall under the same category. But what are the types most relevant to your business?
This type may well be the one you choose to use the most within your organisation. You might also see it as the type that is closest to a real-life meeting as it is still ‘face to face, in real-time, and interactive. The main difference is that those faces are in different locations, rather than the same room! The big advantage of video conferencing is that non-verbal communication can play a big part, just as in real life.
And, if you are using an advanced communications platform such as RingCentral, you also benefit from high-quality audio and HD quality video. With an industry-leading 99.999% uptime included in your SLA, you don’t need to worry about your meeting being interrupted. This leads to a great event experience, making video conferencing good (if not better) as in-person meetings.
It is easy to confuse video conferencing with web conferencing as they are both very similar and use video as the primary medium to communicate. A web conference, however, tends to be a little more involved and collaborative. It can be used for training sessions and collaborative working (beneficial if any team is working remotely).
A web conference will likely see greater use of tools that allow sharing and interaction. This can include things like screen sharing, breakout rooms, or the use of virtual whiteboards that all participants can contribute to. As well as collaborative working, such multi-person conferences are ideal for training new staff who cannot attend a physical location.
In most cases, a teleconference will be an audio-only meeting where participants dial in to join. When they are invited, they will usually be provided with a dedicated dial-in number and an access code or participant code (usually in the form of a PIN). They are also best suited to smaller numbers of participants.
A major advantage of a teleconference is that you do not require internet access to join, just a landline or mobile phone and the dial-in number and code. But unlike virtual conferences that utilise video, you do not have the opportunity to observe non-verbal cues and body language.
Interested in seeing how Ringcentral can enhance your communications? Why not request a demonstration?
What Makes a Good Virtual Conference Platform?
If your business is considering implementing a virtual conference platform, then your first step is to list what your needs are. Do you need to hold regular team meetings with remote workers? Do you want to present webinars or panel discussions to a global audience? Do you want to train new staff?
Once you’ve decided what you want to use it for, it’s time to consider what features and functionalities your platform of choice should have. These should include:
You want any platform to be easy to manage and administrate. That means it should be easy to set up an event and invite participants. It should also be easy to manage during any meeting. For instance, having the option to mute people if needed.
You should be able to customise a platform according to your needs. That includes putting your own branding on virtual events and choosing what features you want to use in any given meeting.
What you want to present in a meeting may differ from event to event. It’s important to have a variety of options available. You may want to be able to live stream video and broadcast prerecorded content, too (for example, a training video).
There can be many reasons why you want to record your meeting. It can help confirm the information given or points made, or you may want to use the events of that meeting for training purposes or follow up on things. Having your platform include recording and storage of these meetings makes things much easier.
Information you share or present will not always be video-based. So you want your chosen platform to allow for easy sharing of other mediums. That can include screen sharing between participants and using a virtual whiteboard (which can be useful in collaborative working).
If you are having regular meetings, the last thing you want is to go through a repetitive cycle of choosing participants, sending out invites, etc. That means you want a good degree of automation to help you carry out those repetitive tasks with ease.
Just as in a physical meeting, you want to see and hear the other participants clearly. So any platform has to provide you with high-quality audio and video.
Benefits of Using RingCentral For a Virtual Conference
- Supports any device meaning fantastic accessibility
- Ease of screen sharing and other information
- Easy to set up for users anywhere in the world
- Easy to encourage attendee engagement
- Great level of reporting and analytics when required
- Ability to record audio and video meetings
- Efficient administration and setup
- Easy to start a meeting, even from a messaging thread
- Ability to switch from audio to video with one click
- Participants can access it via a browser; no need to download or install the software.
- The enterprise-level integrated business system including VoIP phones
- High-level security protects your meetings and your information
- Ability to set up breakout sessions within a larger conference
A Quick Guide on How to Set up a Virtual Conference With RingCentral
Let’s assume you have just signed up with RingCentral. You want to set up a virtual conference with some of your team working remotely for the first time. How easy is it to do?
- Log in to your RingCentral account.
- On your dashboard, choose ‘meetings’ from the tools drop-down menu.
- If you haven’t already done so, install RingCentral Video for desktop.
- Click on RingCentral Video to launch it. Sign in using your email or your RC phone number/extension.
- If you are an invited participant, select ‘Join a meeting’ and enter the ID you have been provided.
- If you want to schedule a new meeting, first click on ‘Schedule’.
- Then set the following information:
- Topic. Set a topic/subject for the meeting (for example, ‘July Email Marketing’)
- Time. Set date, time, and duration. (noting that some participants may be in different timezones).
- One-off or recurring. If a regular meeting (such as the email marketing example), you can set the meeting to happen at the same time every week/month.
- Choose video options according to your needs.
- Select audio options such as VoIP only, etc.
- Meeting options. This can include a password required to join, participants being able to join before the host, participants being initially muted on joining, etc.
- Calendar. RingCentral easily integrates with your existing calendar tools such as Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, etc.
- Schedule. Click schedule again, and your chosen calendar tool will send a meeting invite to your chosen invitees.
Have a successful meeting!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Best Virtual Conferencing Tool?
There are many good reasons why RingCentral consistently mentions manage by independent reviewers and tech sitting as an outstanding choice. This is especially true if you want efficient online collaboration or hold regular (and productive meetings). With great pricing plans and scalability that grows as you do, it’s not only the best choice for quality – it’s the best for cost-effectiveness too.
2. Does Virtual Conferencing Boost Team Productivity?
While virtual conferencing may be a necessity in some cases, case studies have shown it is also a great way of boosting productivity within our team or your company as a whole and for managers to offer thought leadership. There are various ways it can achieve this:
- Costs. By removing the need for participants to travel to a physical conference, a virtual conference reduces travel time and being away from any work project. This means you can assign funds and resources to other areas, making your business more productive.
- Collaboration. You already know that having input from different team members and having them brainstorm ideas offers many benefits. Virtual conferencing allows for a high level of efficient collaboration no matter where your employees are located.
- Remote workers. If you have a high percentage of your team working remotely, it can be a struggle to keep up with what they are doing. Virtual conferencing makes managing a remote workforce easier, allows you to see body language, and boost your overall productivity.
- Flexibility. Virtual conferencing adds another degree of flexibility to your employees. And people with a flexible work model tend to have higher levels of employee satisfaction. And, of course, happier employees will be more productive!
3. Why Should I Use a Virtual Conferencing Tool?
There are several reasons why you should start using a virtual conferencing tool:
- If any of your workforces are working remotely.
- When you want to encourage collaboration between teams or team members in different locations.
- To communicate with customers or potential customers.
- If you want to present webinars to a potentially global audience.
- To provide training to new staff without them needing to be in one physical location.
4. What Do I Need to Run a Virtual Conference?
It is very little you need to do to run a virtual conference. The main two things you need are an efficient communications platform such as RingCentral that offers the type of virtual conferencing you need. The second primary need is a device that can run the platform and offers easy internet access.
5. How Long Does it Take to Set Up a Virtual Conference?
Once you have your platform installed and ready to go, you can literally set up your first virtual conference in a matter of minutes. It is impossible to give an exact timeframe as everyone ‘works’ at different speeds, but from launch to invites being sent could easily be done in under 15 minutes.
Virtual conferencing is the option for many scenarios, from streaming live events to holding your monthly sales meeting with remote workers. It can also offer other benefits (such as networking opportunities with a LinkedIn group with common interests). With the technology available, you could even set up an online trade show!
This can allow sponsorship of virtual booths by exhibitors for viewers to browse. While this may not sound as interactive as an in-person event, it does open up the idea of people being able to ‘attend’ from anywhere. It could even be a hybrid event where you have people who can attend either the physical location or the virtual environment, and you can still offer things such as giveaways.
Virtual conferences aren’t just about those one-on-one chats via the internet. Think big, and you’ll be able to offer positive virtual experiences as close to in-person events as possible. Choosing a platform like RingCentral will meet all your needs and help you improve both your company’s communication and productivity, and collaboration.
Originally published Aug 02, 2021, updated Apr 10, 2023
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