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What is web conferencing?

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Over the past several years, web conferencing has seen a steady rise in adoption across different industries. And as the technology develops further, conferencing solutions have become more sophisticated, giving businesses a host of collaborative options. This, however, also gave rise to lots of questions.

How is web conferencing different from video conferencing? Are there any similarities? Do free web conferencing solutions exist?

Let’s clear things up.

Mobile phone screen showing faces of employees in a web conference

What does web conferencing mean?

Web conferencing is any type of online meeting that involves two or more participants in different locations.

These participants could be anywhere in the world. With a reliable internet connection and conferencing software, they can see, talk, and hear each other in real-time.

What is the difference between video conferencing and web conferencing?

It isn’t uncommon for someone to think that video conferencing and web conferencing are the same technology that goes by different names. But the truth is, there’s a big difference between the two terms.

Web conferencing allows for the sharing of web-based content, and is often used as an umbrella term for different types of meeting solutions.

Video conferencing is one of these solutions. As the name suggests, it’s the technology that enables the sharing of video (and audio) in real-time.

Computer and mobile phone screens showing faces of employees in a web conference

Who are the people that make up a web conference?

To give you a better understanding of how web conferencing works, let’s define the contributors:

Host

The host is the person who organizes the meeting. They’re responsible for creating the agenda, inviting participants, and deciding what type of web conferencing is to be conducted (more on this later).

Presenters

Presenters deliver the content of the meeting, but aren’t necessarily the host. In fact, there could be multiple presenters in one conference.

Guests

Guests are the people who receive an invitation from the host. They are given the meeting details, dial-in number, and participant’s access code in order to join and contribute to the discussion.

Types of web conferencing

Presenting slide shows, explaining spreadsheets, and transfering files—you can do all this and more with web conferencing. This technology has brought an unprecedented level of communication and collaboration to businesses, and it’s one of the main reasons that so many companies have embraced it.

So what are the practical applications of web conferencing?

Interactive team meetings

Online conferencing technology makes virtual meetings interactive.

When the flow of information goes both ways, participants can make better decisions. Everyone can bring up ideas, share their opinions, and have access to numerous collaborative features like annotation and screen sharing. They can also use a webcam to support other visual cues.

  • Example

A sales team needs to revisit their strategies to attract more leads. Because many of them work in the field, an in-person meeting is impractical. The head of sales can set up an interactive team meeting so they can all work together on a shared document to amend their sales plan.

Video conferences

The main purpose of a video conference is to establish a visual link between the participants. It does have potential for collaborative capabilities, so it can also be used for team meetings.

Companies maximize the experience by setting up specialized equipment (screen, camera, and microphone) in a dedicated room. This way, everyone from the office can join a meeting from that specific location.

  • Example

The head of marketing wants to discuss matters with the marketing teams from their four regional offices. Since each of these teams is located in one of the company’s offices, it’s easier for everyone to gather together in a video conference rather than travel from all around the world for an in-person meetup. This way, they can just work together through the large display and starfish phones in their respective meeting rooms.

Webinars

A webinar (web-based seminar) is a presentation conducted over the internet. Potential guests typically sign up in advance to join. Over the course of the webinar, the presenter is in control and may solicit feedback from the audience through a poll, survey, or question-and-answer session.

  • Example

A company recently launched a new product and decides to use a webinar for a product demo. The goal is to introduce the product to potential customers in hopes of getting the purchase. Guests are encouraged to ask questions at the end of the presentation.

Webcasts

A webcast (web-based broadcast) is a live or pre-recorded show facilitated over the internet. While the audience can also participate by submitting questions or answering a poll or survey, control is primarily on the hands of the presenter(s).

  • Example

A doctor decides to start a weekly webcast to educate people on various health issues. He plans on inviting other specialists as co-presenters in every episode. Viewers can ask questions live or through any of the show’s social media accounts.

What is web conferencing software?

Web conferencing software refers to any app that makes online meetings possible. You'll need to install one on your device and create an account to be able to host or join any of the web conferences mentioned in the previous section.

Free vs. paid web conferencing services

A doctor decides to start a weekly webcast to educate people on various health issues. He plans on inviting other specialists as co-presenters in every episode. Viewers can ask questions live or through any of the show’s social media accounts.

Free services don’t come with advanced calling and collaboration tools, customer support, seamless integrations with other business tools, and other features that drive efficiency and productivity. (If you’re getting all these and more for a reasonable price, you’re actually getting better value in the long run.)

What makes a good conferencing solution?

Not all conferencing software solutions are created equal. Choosing the right one will not only keep your teams connected; it could also spell the difference between hitting and missing productivity targets.

So what are the qualities you should look for in a web conferencing solution?

Easy to use

Don’t expect everyone in your staff to easily adapt to any new technology. If the service is a little too complicated to pick up and doesn’t come with good customer support, your employees may abandon it before you even begin to reap its rewards.

Look for a solution that has a good user experience, no matter what device you’re using (a computer, a smartphone, a tablet, etc.).

Comprehensive features

Does it have an interactive annotations feature that allows for real-time brainstorming? How about a polling tool to instantly get the audience’s pulse on a question? Is it possible to record the conference for future use? Don’t be afraid to contact your potential vendors and ask in detail about the features they offer.

Security

Employees may share sensitive information during meetings. If your conferencing solution doesn’t have built-in multi-layer security, you could be compromising your conversations.

Value for money

Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean excellent—and cheap doesn’t always equate to low quality. Many of the top solutions offer a free trial. Sign up for them and see which one makes the most sense for your business and best addresses your specific needs.

Key conditions that make for an effective web conference

The success of a web conference lies in the hands of the participants and the conferencing software they’re using. In every situation, you’d want to make sure all technical aspects are covered.

Having the right setup will allow you to focus more on the agenda and less on technical difficulties and misunderstandings.

Clear video

Video and camera quality are a given. One thing many people probably aren’t aware of is the importance of proper lighting and placement of the camera. The way you set it up will make a difference in how other participants perceive you during a call.

  • Pro-tip

As a basic rule, make sure everyone on your end fills up a good portion of the frame and there’s proper lighting in front of you. A rule of thumb: Have good lighting that’s less than 45 degrees to the sides and also less than 45 degrees above eye level.

Good sound quality

Modern meeting rooms should be equipped with specialized audio systems to make them ideal for any type of web conference. Some conferencing solutions like RingCentral Video have built-in background noise reduction capabilities, so you might want to look into them.

Quiet environment

Sure, you can always mute your microphone when you’re not speaking or take advantage of the noise cancellation feature. But just like with face-to-face meetings, it’s probably better to have your conferences in quieter areas to minimize distractions.

The importance of a strong unified communications platform

Do you have the right foundation to handle online conferencing technology? The best conferencing solutions require a powerful, reliable, and secure communications system in place. One of these solutions is RingCentral, an award-winning worldwide leader in unified communications.

RingCentral’s platform integrates all the features and functionality you need to have effective meetings wherever you are and whatever device you’re using. And no matter the type of web conference you conduct, you’ll get the same experience each time.

Get a feel of how our web conferencing solution would work for your business. You may call our sales team, click "View demo," or fill out the form at the top of this page.
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