Conference calls? So 1999.
Now, especially if you’re working remotely, it’s all about video conference calls. But don’t take our word for it.
The 2019 State of Video Conferencing report found that video conferencing is the next best thing to in-person meetings—which means software that only offers audio-based conferences didn’t make the cut.
Whether you’ve on a remote team or not, video conferencing app software gives teams everywhere the chance to turn any location into a working environment.
It’s the key to how companies can grow their staff in 20 different countries quickly, cut travel costs, and have meetings with globally scattered teams.
Some video conferencing apps even come with added features like chat, recording, and screen sharing. And if you’re one of the many businesses starting to embrace remote work, finding the right video conferencing software is absolutely crucial.
With more teams adding video conferencing software to their tech stacks (the industry is expected to be worth a whopping $11 billion by 2023), you must now answer a single question: which platform is the right one for your team?
In this article, we’re going to look at:
- What video conferencing is, and why it’s useful
- How to choose the right video conferencing software for you
- The 5 best video conferencing tools for 2020
What is video conferencing, and why does it matter?
Whether your company has embraced online work or not, the reality is, (almost) everyone is going digital.
According to a report by FlexJobs, nearly 4 million employees in America now work from home at least half of the time. To put this into perspective and show how quickly the modern workforce is changing, this figure has increased by 115% in just 15 years.
And for companies that are going fully remote, video conferences will be pretty much the only visible interaction that employees get with their teammates, so choosing the right software is crucial.
The obvious benefit of using video conferencing software is that you can move your meetings online—you’ll no longer have to spend hours (and endless email threads) trying to secure a time and place for everyone on your team to meet up.
But, with the evolution of video conferencing, you can now do far more than just have virtual meetings. The video conference apps we’ll be talking about later have multiple features including instant messaging, phone calling, and even online faxing—they’re true communication and productivity platforms designed for companies that are serious about making remote work their new reality.
How to choose a video conferencing solution that’s right for you
When picking software, it’s essential to look at the features and capabilities that match with your specific goals. (“The most expensive” doesn’t necessarily mean “the best.”)
Some software limits the controls participants have over meetings, while others integrate with other apps you use to organize your company’s daily life, like email and calendars.
When you’re shopping for video conferencing app software, think about:
- How many people will be using it: Take a look at the size of your current team, and consider how much you expect it to grow. Some software may have a limit on how many participants you can add to meetings, while others actually specialize in larger conferences.
- What types of meetings it hosts: Will you just be having virtual meetings, or do you need it to do a little more? While some apps cover the bare essentials (video link-ups, messaging, etc.), others host meetings where team members can be muted, participate in open-forum Q&As, and give presentations. If your team is big on group brainstorming and collaboration, you’ll need a video conferencing software with these features.
- How mobile-friendly it is: Part of what makes remote work so great is how accessible it is to everyone, no matter where they are. So, if a team member needs to jump on a meeting and they only have their phone handy, that should be A-okay. Check if the video conferencing software you’re looking to invest in works on tablets and smartphones to avoid this problem.
- Does it have virtual conference rooms: Virtual conference rooms allow different teams at your company to host meetings as if everyone were—you guessed it—in a conference room. Video conference rooms typically mirror in-person conference rooms (aka focus rooms, huddle rooms, training rooms) so you can provide the same experience to your team. These rooms usually have added extras, like online whiteboards, to add to the experience.
Now that you know what you should look for in a video conferencing software, let’s take a look at your top five options for 2020.
5 best video conferencing tools for 2020
Best all-around software: RingCentral Video
RingCentral Video is a complete video conferencing solution for businesses. And when we say “complete,” we mean it.
Not only does it offer HD video conferencing, there’s also team messaging, screen sharing, and large-scale webinars, meaning you can host meetings for up to 500 people.
It’s also completely mobile-friendly—whether your team is joining from a smartphone, tablet, or desktop, their experience will be the same.
There are a few features that make RingCentral really stand out. First up, you can record every meeting, which is handy because if someone can’t make a meeting, they’ll be able to catch up on what they missed.
The tool’s virtual whiteboard is also a great way for teams to brainstorm and share ideas—just like they would if they were meeting in person.
RingCentral Video’s screen sharing abilities are also more advanced compared to most other video conferencing tools on the market. Not only does this help in collaboration scenarios where you need to see what each other is doing, but it’s also super helpful for situations like virtual team training where seeing how people are progressing is crucial. Using the software’s screen sharing function, you can also share presentations and share updates on revenue and growth in just a couple of clicks:
Finally, there’s next to no learning curve. To start using it, all you need to do is download the RingCentral app for Android, iOS, Mac, or PC.
And if all you’re doing is attending a virtual meeting, you can just join from a web browser. If you need some of the more advanced controls like whiteboards or multiple shared screens, you can do that by joining from the app.
RingCentral Video comes included in the RingCentral Office® package, which you can get in three tiers starting at $19.99 per user per month.
Best for G Suite users: Google Hangouts
Are you searching for a video conferencing app that’s free? Well, Google Hangouts has you covered.
The tool, which was initially an offshoot to Google+, allows teams to host video conferences right from G Suite. All you need to do is set up a meeting and share the link with your colleagues. The direct integration with G Suite means you can join meetings straight from your Google Calendar without needing to install a plugin or create an account.
The free version of Google Hangouts has all of the basics packed into it, like video, audio, and messaging. Not only can you record your video meetings to keep on file (or share with your team members who missed out), you can also share your screen with everyone that’s attending.
Google Hangouts is geared towards smaller teams (unless you want to pay), so meetings are capped at 25 participants. However, Google has developed its own line of Hangouts Hardware, which allows teams to create a virtual conference room using speaker mics, state-of-the-art cameras, and wide-field-of-view cameras.
If you’re just conducting in-house meetings, you probably don’t need it. For larger companies, though, it’s a great way to upgrade your conference room for a fraction of the typical price.
The biggest draw of Google Hangouts is its price tag—it doesn’t have one. While other platforms on the list might charge a monthly fee, Google Hangouts is a good option for teams who want to see what video conferencing software is all about before investing in a more advanced platform.
The downfall of Google Hangouts—like with most free options out there—is that it lacks a lot of features. While other options on our list, like RingCentral, have pretty robust options for teams to collaborate using virtual whiteboards and larger meetings, Google Hangouts falls a bit short here.
The software also doesn’t have a unified messaging solution, so it’s not great for teams who like to share links and information during meetings.
Well, it’s free. For larger companies, upgrading to the Enterprise edition will give you access to meeting dial-ins, which is handy if you’ve got team members out in the field.
Best for mobile meetings: GoToMeeting
If your team is on the move, GoToMeeting might be a good option for you.
It offers standard features like video, audio, and screen sharing—and also a set of features geared towards mobile-friendliness. Teams can start a conference call right from their GoToMeeting app from anywhere in the world and have it replicate a virtual conference room.
Every aspect of the meeting, from the scheduling to the calling, can be done right from your mobile device.
GoToMeetings works seamlessly across Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, which means your team can continue to use their preferred browser (if you aren’t using the app).
Although GoToMeeting is packed with features, one of the main downsides to this option is the cost. It’s more expensive than other options on our list like RingCentral—without offering any unique features that make the heftier price tag worth it.
Unlike the other video conferencing software on the list, GoToMeeting’s pricing doesn’t have a free tier.
The entry-level package will set you back $14/month and allows 150 participants in a video call. The next tier, Business, costs $19/month and bumps your attendees up to 250.
Best for training teams: ClickMeeting
ClickMeeting is a popular video conferencing app for small teams—and when we say small teams, we mean four video streams. Tops.
But what ClickMeeting lacks in attendance numbers, it makes up for in options. The software has a suite of presentation tools so you can do things like present slides and share your screen with others to show information. There’s also a dial-in and VoIP calling option to give your attendees more attendance and collaboration options.
One of the main draws of ClickMeeting is that it’s multilingual. Because of its integration with Google Translate, the app is available in 11 languages, and if your team is using the chat, it can be translated into 52 different languages. The typed text, as well as the translated version, are shown side-by-side in the tool’s chatbox, which encourages your teammates to interact in their native languages.
The software has onboarding features so you can schedule training sessions, send out custom branded invitations to onboarding sessions, and use the Q&A function to test the knowledge of your new team members:
Although it’s hard to fault ClickMeeting’s software, the lack of phone support is a definite negative. Free accounts have to reach out to a customer support email address for help, while paid accounts have live-chat support during set hours. If you want to talk to a human being over the phone, it might take a while.
ClickMeeting’s pricing starts at $25/month for the Live package, which includes four video feeds, conferencing, and webinar functionality. However, if you want to host live trainings through the webinar function, you’ll need to upgrade to the Automated plan, at $40/month.
Best for quirky extras: Zoom
Zoom has become one of the best-known video conferencing apps in the world because of one reason: its options. (Want to have a beachy background behind you while you’re on a video call? Zoom’s got it.)
Like RingCentral, the platform lets you host a video conference using a URL link. Setup is relatively easy—just create an account and start a meeting.
Zoom also has a feature called Zoom Rooms, which emulates a real-life conference room. All you have to do is reserve a room for your meeting, send out the invites, and you’re done:
Zoom allows teams to host an unlimited number of meetings per month and has a handy chat feature inside the software that lets you message each other both privately and in groups.
If you’re thinking of consolidating all your communications into a single tool, though, note that Zoom doesn’t have toll-free dial-in numbers set up for UK or US customers—if someone wants to patch in to a call by phone, it’ll be a bit of a challenge.
And even though the platform has a free version, there are a few limitations. Virtual conferences can’t be longer than 40 minutes, and none of the advanced features—like support and custom meeting IDs—can be accessed for free. There have also been security concerns about Zoom using computers’ cameras in the past.
Zoom’s pricing options start with a free tier that allows you to host meetings for up to 100 people for 40 minutes. If you need more options, their Pro plan starts at $14.99/month, which includes all basic features, admin control, and access to the software’s API.
What’s the best video conferencing app software for you?
Investing in the right software for your team will depend on a whole host of factors.
Do you want to use it for training? Are you hoping to host in-depth virtual meetings using online whiteboards and presentations? Or do you just want a tool that’ll let you video call one person at a time for free?
Some of the video conferencing apps above are suited to smaller teams, while others let you replicate online conference rooms and prepare a whole business for a fully remote working environment.
Whatever software you decide to invest in, make sure it fits your goals and the way your team works. Don’t just go with the option with the most features or the cheapest price tag. The right video conferencing software can boost collaboration and dramatically cut your onboarding training times, so choose wisely!