Online meeting software comes in different shapes and sizes. This makes getting to grips with web and video conferencing a little harder harder than it should be—and choosing the right conferencing solution for your business even more difficult.
To help you out, let’s go through what an online meeting is, the benefits and challenges, and walk through how to choose your online meeting software.
- Before anything else, what is an online meeting?
- What is online meeting software?
- How to get online meeting software: Paid and free online meeting solutions
- Benefits of online meeting software to businesses
- Challenges to online meetings for virtual teams
- Running a virtual meeting or any virtual event
- What is the best online meeting software?
Before anything else, what is an online meeting?
Essentially, online meetings enable you to schedule, host, and take part in interactive video conferences and meetings via the internet.
An online meeting is a dedicated space on the internet where meeting participants can gather to regularly catch-up or meet on the fly. When you schedule a meeting, the online space is accessed through a browser, web app, or dial-in conference.
If you’re going from face-to-face meetings to remote meetings for the first time, you can expect to benefit from reduced costs, less travel required, and higher productivity. (More on that later.)
Conducted over a business VoIP connection, these meetings are usually equipped with modern business phone features like HD audio, call recording, and the ability to mute passive participants.
By upgrading your meeting from a simple conference call to an online meeting, you can also add features associated with collaboration software. (These range from instant messages to screen shares.)
What are a few types of online meetings?
You have more choices than ever before when it comes to having an online meeting in today’s world of conferencing and collaboration tools. Let’s look at some examples of virtual meetings so you know what’s what before you begin to shop and compare products.
Web conferencing solutions cover a broad range of online meetings. These include both cloud-based video and audio conferencing.
Audio conferencing is when meeting participants join a single conference space to meet—with audio only. You’ll usually have access to standard business VoIP system features like call recording and HD audio. This is your best option for quick catch-ups or as an alternative when video conferencing isn’t an option.
Using your laptop speakers and microphones (or specialist equipment), web conferencing allows for high-quality audio meetings or group calls using business VoIP solutions.
One of the most important aspects of successful remote meetings is maintaining the level of communication in face-to-face meetings. By enabling cloud-based video in your virtual meeting, you can pick up on the body language and physical cues that otherwise get lost in audio-only meetings.
There are two things you can do to make sure you’ve got good video quality:
- Check that your internet is ready to host a video call and
- Pick a tried-and-tested video conferencing platform.
(Maintaining video quality is important to getting your teammates to adopt remote meetings too.)
Adding a professional webcam to your setup ensures your video quality is crystal clear is advisable as well.
Aside from video itself, other common video conferencing features include file sharing, screen shares, instant messages, and cloud storage.
Webinar software allows you to hold virtual events from the comfort of your home or office. As an alternative to expensive event management software, video webinars are interactive presentations that encourage two-way communication and collaborative working. You could even go as far as creating a virtual classroom for distance learning events.
How it works: A presenter or presenters will “host” the webinar and display content via screen shares to add context. Participants can access features like an on-screen question and answer box or “raise their hand” to ask the host a question.
When using webinar software, you have a broadcast-only option. When you need to present information one-way, webcasts are a good alternative to interactive video webinars or event management software.
For example, if you’re presenting company figures to the board, you might want to encourage collaboration. But, when presenting the figures in your all-hands meeting, the topic may not be up for discussion.
With collaboration software packages, you can host an online meeting within your online workspace. Instead of scheduling a meeting in a new app, you can create one-to-one video chats or group video meetings where you send instant messages.
In cases where it isn’t possible to get all the meeting participants together at the same time, you can take advantage of unified communications platform features like file sharing, cloud storage, and team messaging to have asynchronous catch-ups.
For example, in RingCentral’s unified communications app, you can not only have online meetings, but also message your teammates and share files with each other anytime.
In some cases (if you’re using a free version of an online meeting software, for instance), you may see the option for audio and video conferencing greyed out. This means you probably need to contact sales to upgrade your communication platform.
By using conferencing and collaboration tools to their full extent, you might even be able to reduce the need to have web conferences and meetings as frequently. Think of the productivity gains!
What is an online meeting called?
Getting the terminology right for online meetings is tough. Each business (and each person within that business) will have their own word for it. There’s no right or wrong answer—but, it is important to choose a term when introducing online meeting software to your business for the first time.
If you roll out web conferencing software and label it video conferencing software, some people may be confused whether they can use it for audio and video conferencing or for screen shares.
Pro-tip: Pick the term that best describes your primary need for conferencing software. If you only intend to use it as a video conferencing platform, call it that. Likewise, if your only use case is going to be for teaching and training, opt for virtual classrooms.
What is online meeting software?
Online meeting software is the meetings platform that schedules, hosts, and stores your online meeting.
Providing options to connect via an app, a web browser, or a dial-in conference, online meeting software uses an underlying VoIP system to connect all meeting participants.
Conferencing features typically include:
- Web and video conferencing
- Instant scheduling
- Easy-to-join, one-click meetings
- Access via desktop and mobile
- HD audio and video
- In-meeting tools like screen shares and file sharing
- Meeting recording
- Calendar integrations
- In-meeting instant messages
How to get online meeting software: Paid and free online meeting solutions
Conferencing systems come in various shapes and sizes. Choosing the right solution for your business can be a minefield.
Free versus paid?
Desktop or mobile (or desktop and mobile)?
Red versus blue?
We get it. There’s a lot to take in. Let’s walk through the major differences.
Free online meeting software
Consumer video software has made video the new norm for many people. But while these tools are great for catching up with friends or hosting an online pub quiz, they don’t tick all the boxes for hosting a business meeting.
Moving into the business realm of meeting tools, free online meeting software includes all the basic conferencing features you need to run a remote meeting. By basic features, we’re talking about simple scheduling, HD audio and video, and screen shares as standard.
With free packages, talk-time may be limited, sometimes around 40 minutes. If your team hosts quick meetings that wrap up in under half an hour, there’s no need to upgrade. For businesses that need longer virtual meetings, you might consider upgrading to a paid version. With most video conferencing platforms, you have a few pricing tiers to choose from when upgrading.
Your business phone system may also include some of the functionality you are searching for. For example, standard VoIP solutions offer conference calling either built-in or as an optional extra.
Of course, pricing options will vary based on your needs. If you need additional time in a meeting or need advanced video conferencing features like reporting or 24x7 phone support, you’ll probably need to invest in paid online meeting software.
Paid online meeting software
Paid, or business-level, online meeting solutions take remote meetings to the next level. Communication and collaborative experiences can really be enhanced with a few neat video conferencing features in these meeting tools.
These range from single sign-on to real-time usage dashboards, which make life easier for admins.
As you explore paid video conferencing solutions, this is where you can dig into video conferencing features for hosting video webinars and large meetings. You may even choose to connect your virtual meeting to an in-person meeting in a boardroom environment.
Pro-tip: Compare product descriptions to ensure they match up with your genuine needs before making a buying decision.
The benefits of online meeting software for businesses
It’s one thing listing out features each web conference solution has. It’s another to understand how your business can benefit.
The benefits of features like scheduling, webinars, and connecting your remote attendees to your physical room can be split into a few big benefits. Let’s break it down.
Try as you might, it’s not always easy to schedule meetings that align with everybody’s schedule. The result? Needless commuting.
If you live in the US and drive to work, you could be spending about $2,000 per year commuting. By providing a virtual meeting option, you could save a considerable amount of money per person who doesn’t come to your meeting.
Instead, they can join remotely. No more commuting just for a single meeting.
On top of the monetary gains of not traveling to meetings, you benefit from the time saved too. Rather than losing hours due to travel time, you gain time to catch up on paperwork, finish your proposal—or plan the office party.
Less travel means fewer carbon emissions. If you’re looking to secure environmental accreditations or trying to be more green for the good of the planet, having more remote meetings is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
You could measure the number of joined meetings and attribute them to the number of miles saved in fuel.
It’s no secret that happy employees stay in their jobs longer and progress faster. One in four employees had quit jobs because their commutes were too long. Whether traveling between meetings or to the office, decreasing (or removing) travel can lead to happier, more productive, and engaged employees.
Finding new talent for your business is as important as retaining existing talent. By introducing meeting tools instead of in-person meetings, you remove geographical boundaries.
By meeting online instead, you’re potentially shortening the interview process while filling open positions quicker than ever before. Plus, your new employee is able to attend all meetings from the comfort of their home, their local coffee shop, or your office.
Want to gain access to a wider (and maybe better) talent pool than you had without being limited by your physical location? Try online meeting software.
Challenges to online meetings for virtual teams
Connecting to an online meeting can be challenging if you’re in a rural area, on the move, or not used to doing meetings online.
Some other challenges include:
- If meetings run over, there’s no meeting room to check if your guest is held up
- First-time users may be resistant to change
- Extroverts need time to adapt to lack of physical interaction
- Introverts may not enjoy video meetings at first
- Reviewing who joined meetings—just because a meeting is scheduled doesn’t mean all meeting participants attend
- Technical restraints like poor connectivity or lack of equipment
To resolve this issue, some conferencing solutions (like RingCentral) provide onboarding tutorials via blog posts and videos. These help you get set up and drive adoption throughout your business.
Running a virtual meeting
Like an in-person meeting, your virtual meeting will need structure. You can approach running a remote meeting as you would a face-to-face meeting. The only difference is the location—or lack of location.
So, you should always keep things like the meeting agenda, set times for speakers, and always leave time for Q&A.
For the specifics of running a virtual meeting, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty.
How do I do an online meeting?
To set up online meetings or web meetings, use these steps as your guideline.
Before the meeting
1. Integrate your calendar where possible
If your online meeting software integrates with, say, Google Calendar or Outlook, you can easily create meeting invites in your calendar and it’ll automatically generate a meeting link for you.
2. Check for meeting conflicts in guests’ calendars
3. Set up a meeting invite for your participants
4. Include your agenda and objectives
5. Add an internal dial-in number for overseas guests
6. Be mindful of timezones
Joining the meeting
7. Find a quiet space before joining
8. Join your meeting on-time (or early if possible)
9. Make sure your lighting is fit for video
10. Tweak your audio and video conferencing system settings where necessary
11. Use the participants view to make sure everyone is in attendance
12. Turn on your video—this will encourage others to do so too
During the meeting
13. Mute yourself when not speaking
14. Be aware of distractions you could be creating by moving around
15. Let other speakers finish before you talk
16. Stay a good distance away from your microphone
17. If using a headset, keep it in the same position
18. Be yourself!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when using web conferencing software for the first time. By following these guidelines, you’re one step closer to running the smoothest remote meetings. Nobody will know it’s your first!
How do I create a free meeting online?
To start a free meeting, first sign up to your conferencing system of choice (some offer a free trial so you can try them out before buying).
What is the best online meeting software?
It is important to have specific web conferencing systems that fit what your business needs.
This means there is no set answer for the best online meeting software.
But if video is a must-have in your search for meeting tools, there are some specifics you can look at…
What is best video conferencing software?
To host video conferences, you’re going to need the best video conferencing tools.
If you’re specifically looking for video conferencing systems, start by chalking off the basic features like HD video, screen sharing, and whether the meeting time limit is suitable. By default, some video conferencing platforms set the maximum meeting time to 40 minutes.
When you have your shortlist, call out specific video conferencing platforms that support your niche needs. For example, if you plan to host two webinars per month as a part of a new marketing initiative, make sure you won’t need to buy additional webinar software to facilitate this.
When your shortlist has been made shorter by factoring in bespoke items, take the options you have left for a spin. Ask for a free trial or use the free tier.
In these, test out the user interface. Ask the sales rep lots of questions. Is it easy to schedule a meeting? Can you integrate your calendar? What happens when you can’t access the internet?
Some video conferencing platforms are tailored by industry and some have limited functionality based on their pricing options. This often makes finding the best conferencing app hard work.
Pro-tip: Video conferencing solutions typically offer a wide range of conferencing features across all pricing options. RingCentral Video by RingCentral lets you try it for free along with instant messaging capabilities!
If video isn’t your primary reason for sourcing new web meeting software, make sure you triple check that your features match up with the meetings platform you’re looking at.
Key conferencing features for business
Conferencing solutions can come with a list of features as long as your arm.
When compiling your list of conferencing features, make sure you include these:
- Unlimited 1:1 web meetings
- Access for your desired number of meeting participants
- HD audio and video quality
- File sharing and screen shares
- Meeting recording
- Instant messages or persistent chat
- Calendar integrations
- Email integrations
- Tech support
- Reporting and analytics
Believe it or not, this is just a small sample of the things you can achieve with online meetings. Depending on your appetite for change or productivity, you can start using advanced features like machine learning.
Whether you’re a first-time user looking for a simple meetings solution or a video veteran trying something new, check out RingCentral’s easy-to-use meeting tools. Experience the benefits of RingCentral by trying RingCentral Video—it’s FREE.