By Shae Geary — Senior Communications Strategist
Now that most of us are working virtually, video conferencing has become the new normal. But not all video conferencing software is created equal or suits every purpose. As communicators, we know that the vessel used to communicate is just as important as what we are communicating. In that spirit, we’ve taken a look at four video conferencing software solutions with our best advice for when and how to use them. Full disclosure: This is not a comprehensive list of video conferencing apps, rather those with which we’ve had some personal experience or knowledge.
FaceTime Takes the Place of the Office Drop In
Video conferencing software hardly gets easier than Apple’s FaceTime. Platforms like FaceTime are great for quick check-ins with co-workers or clients. However, they often have limited capabilities for anything other than chatting. In the case of FaceTime, all participants have to have an iPhone or Mac. Some people also find FaceTime’s group chat distracting since faces zoom in and out depending on who is speaking.
Alternatives: Alternatives do exist for Windows and Android users. Facebook Messenger has a video chat option and is easy to use with people in your follower network. Google’s Duo works across Android and iOS devices and allows you to chat with up to 12 people. Subscribers to Slack also have the option of video chats.
GoToMeeting is Ideal for Team Meetings and Smaller Group Presentations of 250 or Fewer
The team at (W)right On Communications has been using GoToMeeting video conferencing software on a fairly consistent basis. This is a paid platform, with a free 14-day trial, and has proven easy for our weekly company-wide team meetings and client partner meetings. Users have access to features such as screen share, text messaging with other participants and the option to highlight just the speaker on screen.
One feature especially useful is the choice of computer audio or audio via a dial-in phone conference line. In a household where several of us are using Wi-Fi bandwidth at the same time, the dial-in conference line allows you to continue to hear the conversation even when video may pause due to slow connection time. Another helpful feature is the personal join screen prompt. This provides you with the opportunity to adjust camera angle and background clutter before joining the call.
TIP: Find a list of video chat best practices in our blog post, “7 Tips for Pitching TV Reporters During the Coronavirus Outbreak”
Alternatives: Skype has many of the same functionalities and is free for up to 50 people to meet and collaborate. Microsoft Teams, which has video conference capabilities with Skype integration, is another alternative for those who use the Microsoft Office suite of software. G Suite users have free access to Google Meet, which supports multiple users and doesn’t require separate software installation.
Zoom Supports Large Group Presentations and Gatherings
Zoom has quickly emerged as the most popular video conferencing software. Quick growth has not come without controversy including security concerns (hello Zoombombing!) and allegations of sharing private user data with Facebook. Challenges aside, basic Zoom features can be used free of charge with paid plans offering enhanced video conferencing features.
While Zoom can be used for just about any purpose and has all the functions that you’d expect—shared screen, appointment setting and ability to invite people to chat on the fly—it has quickly become a standout for meetings and presentations to larger audiences. The video conferencing software offers a number of handy features for larger group conferences. Examples include non-verbal feedback (such as hand raising), screen annotating for both presenter and viewers and ability to record a session direct to your computer. I particularly like the virtual background option, so people don’t have to see that you are actually calling in from your bedroom!
For instance, check out these beautiful vineyard backgrounds from our client partner, Visit Napa Valley.
Invite Your Co-Workers to Happy Hour with Houseparty
Let’s be honest, all work and no play are no fun. When it’s time to just socialize with your team, Houseparty is where it’s at. This video conferencing app alerts you when friends are “in the house” and allows users to jump in and out of chats as desired. There are also some fun features like games, including Heads Up!, Quick Draw and trivia, so you’ll feel like you are at the local pub for happy hour!