Video conferencing software: How to choose the best online meeting software for your business
As the work-from-home trend grows, more and more video conferencing solutions are becoming available. But how are you supposed to know which one is the best?
It totally depends on your needs and why you are deciding to invest in video conferencing software. Are you looking for a collaboration tool to increase success among in-office and remote workers? Are you looking for easier ways to meet and chat with international clients and colleagues? Are you looking to cut costs, either through streamlining processes or employee overhead? Are you interested in hosting online events to share your expertise with other businesses?
All these questions are important when you're choosing your solution. But let's start with the most important question.
What do you mean by “video conferencing?”
Video conferencing is a term used by a lot of companies, from large corporations to small- and medium-sized businesses. But at its core, video conferencing is software that lets multiple people in different locations on a shared conference call collaborate and communicate through audio and video.
With so many video conferencing apps available, you’ve probably joined online meetings or used it before without realizing it. And given that dispersed workforces are increasingly ubiquitous, video chatting has become very beneficial for businesses.
Consumer versions of this software can, of course, be used for online meetings, but most options don't really give you the ability to share screens and share editing privileges for real-time collaboration, chat functions, file sharing, and live streaming, the ability to record meetings, among many, many others. To get all those, you need enterprise-grade solutons. (Don't worry, some of them are affordable).
How does video calling work?
Technology has come a long way, especially in the last few years—from smartphones to smart homes—and video calling is no different. You might have worked at an office with teleconferencing rooms decked out with expensive monitors, microphones, cameras, advanced audio and video systems, and a specialized phone system.
Nowadays, though, video conferencing can be done with standard desktop and mobile devices, like laptops, tablets, and smartphones, either through web browsers or dedicated video conferencing apps.
Most video calling software doesn’t require a login or an account to join an online meeting, but if you want to host a meeting, you’ll need an account. Luckily, a lot of companies offer free plans—the thing is, they often have limitations on the number of meeting participants you can have, users per month, or the ability to record meetings, so you might have to opt for one of their paid plans.
We’ve broken down the basics for how to host a meeting and join a meeting, since most work the same way. Of course, whatever software you choose might differ from our instructions using RingCentral below, but this will give you a basic idea of how easy it is to use this kind of software.
- Log in to your video conferencing app, which should give you the choice to host or join a meeting:
- From here, if you’re scheduling, you’ll be brought to a place to fill out your meeting name, the date and time, if it’s recurring, if you want to add a password, and which calendar you’d like to sync it to
- Click schedule, and you’re done—just copy the meeting details and send them to anyone you’d like to invite to your meeting
- If you’re setting up a spontaneous meeting, when you click “Meet,” you’ll be brought to the conference page and given a meeting ID to share out
Typically, you should have received an email with a link and a call-in number from the person who scheduled the meeting. Once you click that link, you’ll be brought to the video conferencing website, where you can join through a browser or download their meeting app.
If you don’t have a link or you only have a meeting ID, you have do slightly more work:
- Go to the company’s website
- On the homepage, usually at the top, you should see a link that says “Join a meeting” or something similar
- You will be brought to a new page where you’ll enter the meeting ID from the email invitation
- You may then be asked to open or download their program, but afterward, you’ll be brought into the meeting - though some solutions like RingCentral Video let you join meetings via a web browser
What is video conferencing used for?
There are endless possibilities when using video conferencing software. It’s a place for creating, brainstorming, collaborating, training, live streaming, file sharing, video chatting, and so much more—it really is an incredibly flexible tool.
Video conferencing has transformed in the last decade, becoming more affordable and accessible for any business, not just the huge companies with unlimited spending budgets. Instead of being used for business meetings between teams across the world, it’s now for all aspects of a business’ success, from marketing to strategy to budgeting to creative to management.
Collaborating among team members or with clients
Of course, the most all-around use for video conferencing is as a collaboration tool. Whether that’s between two people or two hundred, having a software that lets people come together, looking at the same screen at the same time is hugely beneficial. And with basic plans offering screen and file sharing, video chatting, the ability to record, you have options for finding what works best for you. If you decide to go with one of the paid plans, you’ll find even more options for increasing collaboration.
So say goodbye to wasted time and energy—and hello to everything you can do through video calling:
- Defining the services you can offer in a contract
- Strategic marketing between you and your clients
- Outlining or completing requests for new proposals or qualifications
Teaching new ideas and concepts
Online education has become a huge deal for people who have no easy access to traditional learning institutions. Thanks to the internet and business-grade video conferencing, learners and educators can have real-time interactions that make ideas and tools easier to understand.
- Learn new products and processes
- Teach students in a virtual classroom
- Present a new service you're providing to your clients
Interviewing new employees and pitching to leads
You’ve probably pitched to new clients in their office, interviewed applicants in your office, and toured new vendors’ facilities to get a better idea of what they can offer you. Those are very time-consuming activities, and they cost a lot of money. Using a video calling software can help reduce wasting those resources significantly:
- Qualify and pitch to new clients or leads through virtual face-to-face conversations
- Interview potential employees
- Have your vendors demonstrate their products and services to your business in real time
Meetings for strategizing, projecting, and project management
Meeting with employees, vendors, and practically anyone you work with is essential for keeping things on schedule and on budget. While this is often done in office, you have probably struggled with those off-site.
This scenario probably sounds familiar - you send an email asking for status updates, wait a day or more for a response that doesn’t answer your question completely, then email back for clarification to only wait for another day or two. Now, just jumping on a call with both audio and video can be the most efficient solution:
- Interdepartmental check-ins for prioritizing work
- Annual budgeting
- Strategizing best practices for project management
What are the advantages and disadvantages of video conferencing?
While using a video conferencing platform can be a fantastic solution for many of your business practices, it’s also important to know its limitations, so you can make the best decision for your business. You might find that you're doing alright now and don't need an upgrade at all. More likely, you may find only a few things are working fine now, and you want to explore other ways to drive your company forward with a digital solution.
Advantages of a conferencing solution
- Flexibility in location and time
- Staying connected from anywhere at any time
- Collaborating in real time for team-based solutions
- Expanding opportunities outside of your usual clientele
- Saving time and money and retaining talent
Disadvantages of web conferencing services
- Limited to what can be done digitally
- Reliance on internet connection and speed
- Some software need users to undergo extensive training before they can be used
- Personal connections and team building
- Coordinating schedules among multiple people
Advantages of a conferencing solution
Flexibility in location and time
When you’re traveling or needing to stay home to take care of the kids or waiting for the plumber to show at your house, you can miss a lot of important discussions with colleagues and clients. With the option of having a video meeting—either scheduled or spontaneous—you can stay on top of things. Working from home and traveling are no longer taking time out of the already little you have—you now have options.
Staying connected from anywhere at any time
Business happens around the world at all times, and it’s becoming increasingly vital to be available at a moment’s notice. Many conversations and decisions can be done via a phone call or email, but the ability to speak face-to-face with someone may help in coming up with solutions or building deeper, more successful relationships more quickly. Since most video conferencing solutions offer a mobile app to use on your tablet or mobile device, you won’t have to keep your laptop on you at all times.
It also allows you to maintain relationships with the contacts and talent you most value if they move to a different town, state, or country.
Collaborating in real time for team-based solutions
Collaboration becomes so much easier through business video conferencing—instead of a group huddling around a screen or emailing concepts back and forth, ideas and solutions happen in real time.
Many services offer screen sharing, specifically as a collaboration tool, so your whole team can work together and bounce ideas back and forth. And this isn’t even limited to connecting teams across the world (even though that is a definite plus). Sharing screens and brainstorming with coworkers in the same office without having to be in the same room allows each person the space needed to ruminate more effectively - resulting in better ideas and more unique strategies for moving forward.
Expanding opportunities outside of your usual clientele
To bundle all of the points so far, business video conferencing gives you an option to have face-to-face conversations in the comfort of your own space without wasting time and money. This lets you cast a wider net to reach new clients. Before, engaging with clients who are far away and possibly outside your typical target was costly and time consuming. With the ability to set up video conferences, those riskier clients might become a little less risky.
Saving time and money and retaining talent
How much did you pay for your work computer? How much did it cost last time you traveled to a client meeting? If it wasn’t local, did you take the train? Did you have to stay overnight?
Now think about this: Even before seeing a client or potential lead, you’ve cost yourself hours of travel time and probably hundreds of dollars for transportation, a night in a hotel, and even a few meals. That's a lot of money for just one account that may or may not pan out.
With virtual meetings, you save money because you’re using a versatile software that supports working remotely.
And speaking of remote work - you may think the lower costs are associated with not having to maintain a physical office (though, it would). But the real savings come from employee retention and happiness.
When your employees get to be remote workers for at least half of their time, you could see a savings of $11,000 per year. On top of that, people who work remotely are 22% happier than those who don’t. From here you’ll see better work-life balance, increased job satisfaction, and increased productivity (among other things - there are so many other benefits).
Anyone who's ever run a truly successful business knows that employee happiness is directly related to the success of a business.
Disadvantages of web conferencing services
Limited to what can be done digitally
As much as we love embracing new digital solutions, there are some tasks that just can’t be done through web conferencing programs, regardless of how advanced a tool is. For example, if you were looking for a particular conversation, you can’t search a word or phrase in a video like you could for email, and rewatching an entire meeting could take some time and energy.
Reliance on internet connection and speed
Using any service that relies on being online and connected has its risks: your WiFi could be down, your connection is spotty, your current speed isn’t enough to keep up with video streaming, and if you’re traveling, you’ll either be using a hotspot or, potentially, an insecure wireless connection. And if you’re recording meetings, your connection and speed could affect the quality and usability of the video file.
Some software needs extensive training
There are many, many options out there that are incredibly complex, but if it’s fulfilling your needs, it’s worth a try. This may require some extensive online training, which you may find more or less challenging when working remotely.
On one hand, you are able to learn using your own screen, but, on the other hand, you won’t have someone physically there to walk you through it. Regardless, training takes time, which costs money, and that adds up—especially if it extends to multiple employees. That's why you'll need to keep an eye out for less complex and more user-friendly solutions.
Personal connections and team building
Though it’s much better than strictly talking on the phone or email, most video conferencing solutions haven’t quite matched the quality of a connection made in person. This means more effort is required to sustain seamless team building - more check-ins and more conscious effort to connect.
Coordinating schedules among multiple people
This is more of an issue if you are looking for a quick answer that you're more used to getting from a quick stop at people's desks. When you're remote and video conferences have become your main means of real time communication, you’ll have to ensure all people involved are available for a discussion that gets everyone on the same page.
How to choose the best video conferencing for small business
When searching for the perfect video conferencing solution, there are basic features that are included in most free plans, like HD video, cloud storage, top-rated data security, the ability to record meetings, etc. When you’re looking at paid plans, make sure to compare them with others, so you aren’t paying for something you shouldn’t.
Some of the things you may want to look into are:
- Intuitive design for quick learning and ease of use
- Screen sharing for clearer conversations and stronger collaboration
- Multi-platform integration for multiple ways to connect
- Affordable options, especially for small businesses
- Customer service that works for you, not you for them
Intuitive design for quick learning and ease of use
It goes without saying that the perfect product for you will be the one that you understand. That way, you can take advantage of everything it offers. You may need some online training to get used to how the system works and figure out where to find the things you need (for both desktop and mobile versions), but when you use the software, it shouldn’t feel intimidating or overly complicated. It should simply be a tool to make your life easier, to help you have more successful meetings, to keep your business moving forward.
Screen sharing for clearer conversations and stronger collaboration
Screen sharing is a basic feature that should be included in all video conferencing softwares you are considering. It’s essential to making collaboration as easy as possible for a dispersed workforce. Without it, you'd barely be better off than having a phone call.
Whether you’re pitching to a client or reviewing goals with our team, sharing a visual will support what you’re saying and even clarify some things that aren’t as easily explained.
Multi-platform integration for multiple ways to connect
Having a desktop and mobile app is common for many video conferencing softwares, but it’s still incredibly important. Sometimes, you're away from your computer or in the middle of a long commute. If a client or business partner wants to meet to discuss new business plans and opportunities or closing a contract during any of those times and they can't reach you, you’re only giving them more time to talk themselves into a new, potentially worse decision. You want to be available in any way you can - so having conferencing on your phone can be a business saver.
Affordable options, especially for small businesses
Because of how common video conferencing software is, it shouldn’t be overly expensive. Of course, this is completely dependent on what you will need and how many users per month you’ll have. But you shouldn't have to pay for more than what your company could reasonably use. Find the one that fits your needs with a plan made for the size of your business.
Customer service that works for you, not you for them
Whether you are using the free or paid plans, you should have a positive experience with a knowledgeable agent when you contact sales or customer service.
You shouldn’t feel as if you are bothering them or potentially risking the price you negotiated—you are their client, and, as a business owner, you know how a client should be treated.
What is the best app for video conferencing?
Of course, there’s no perfect answer. The best video meeting app wholly depends on what you need for your business. This is going to differ from company to company, and certain video conferencing software companies may even customize the perfect plan for you. What we can tell you is why RingCentral is a strong contender for the best video calling software.
Why RingCentral should be your go-to video conferencing solution
- It’s affordable
- It works across operating systems and devices
- You have access to a customer service team who can answer all your questions
- It’s easy to pick up and use
You shouldn’t have to pay an outrageous amount for a quality product, especially if it’s filled with features you’ll never use. RingCentral offers various plans with a wide range of features, so you can get exactly what you need at a reasonable price. At our basic level, you get unlimited 1:1 meetings, group meetings up to 100 participants, screen sharing, desktop and mobile sharing, team messaging and collaboration, Outlook integration, joining meetings across multiple platforms, and the ability to record. All for the $0 per user per month.
It works across operating systems and devices
Work from your phone, tablet, laptop, or whatever hardware you choose, no matter where you are. Whenever you need to hop on calls, schedule meetings, or shoot quick messages out to your team, you can do it all with our easy-to-use mobile app or whatever device is most convenient for you at that time.
You have access to a customer service team who can answer all your questions
With offices in the United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Philippines, and Australia, our team is always available, no matter which time zone, to help you out. We love helping our customers have the best possible experience. Our customer service team is with you from the moment you engage with us and on. There are specially dedicated teams at all stages of your onboarding, and you work with an assigned technical account manager and an assigned customer success manager to help you with any questions you have.
It’s easy to pick up and use
Simply, our video conferencing software is intuitive and easy to use. You will be ready to use RingCentral in minutes with an onboarding specialist who will walk you through everything you will need to know. And before you know it, you’ll be sending messages, setting up meetings, and checking things off your list like a pro.