So, what matters? In short, a lot: participant size, file-sharing capabilities, mobile accessibility, security, chat, polling, attendance monitoring, integration with internal scheduling/calendar/CRM, social media integration and ease of use.
Video conferencing has revolutionized the way we engage remote teams and geographically dispersed clients. The intimacy involved in real-time, face-to-face communication is invaluable to cementing relationships and conducting productive, collaborative remote meetings.
As the field of web conferencing software becomes increasingly crowded, meeting planners can easily end up with technology that fails to meet their needs or is overkill. It pays—in more ways than one—to have a clear understanding of your conference requirements and goals before selecting a video conferencing option.
In order to help you match a web conferencing tool to your organization’s needs, we’ve examined five popular platforms, as well as user reviews associated with each, and parsed out their most notable (and notorious) features. Here’s what we’ve found:
Best for small gatherings with geographically disparate participants
The granddaddy of videoconferencing platforms, SKYPE’s free webcasting video chat software boasts more than 300 million worldwide users. Since its voice delay echoing, video/audio quality and call stability are dependent on ISP connection, SKYPE is best suited to small gatherings comprising of only two to six meeting sites or presenters. User reviews on business software rating site, G2 Crowd, points to chat, ease of use and free cost as SKYPE’s top features, while its lowest-rated features include call stability and mobile access.
For Denver-based freelance meeting planner and organizer Desiree Kane, SKYPE is the platform of choice for frequent collaboration with geographically disparate partners. “I particularly like the individual and group chat features, screen sharing capabilities and responsive customer service,” says Kane.
Best for mid-sized organizations who use Office 365
Formerly Lync, SKYPE for Business was rebranded subsequent to its acquisition by Microsoft. SFB is bundled with Office 365 and provides video conferencing and file sharing for up to 250 people. More robust than its basic little brother, SFB provides multi-party videoconferencing for up to six different presenters. The meeting broadcast feature hosts large groups of up to 10,000 attendees. A step-up product for medium-sized organizations, SFB is favored most by G2 Crowd users for chat, screen share and ease of use, though some cite licensing use as confusing and a minor drawback.
Highly rated and versatile
Power users like business process and ERP consultant Elizabeth Nelson swear by GoToMeeting’s ease of use and slick on-demand meeting capability. “I host 20 to 30 meetings a month with clients in several locations,” says Nelson, president of Richmond, VA-based Acumen Tech. “Joining meetings is particularly easy as GoToMeeting embeds user identification codes right into the invitation link. It’s also very mobile friendly and integrates well with my calendar.”
GTM’s multi-tiered pricing options make it attractive for both small and large organizations. Real-time screen annotation, chat and on-demand access are GTM’s most highly rated features, though G2 Crowd users report that any add-on integration software can slow performance.
Best suited for large companies who want more security features
This CISCO product is intuitive, boasts high-quality video and audio and can host up to seven separate video feeds or split-screen presenters at once. Nelson notes that some of her large clients favor WebEx for internal use due to its reputation for strong data security. Like GoToMeeting, WebEx offers tiered pricing models and is strong in the medium-to-large organization markets. Slow loading dial-in and rescheduling features were cited by some G2 Crowd users as areas for improvement.
The most robust platform and favored by sales teams
One of the most robust webcasting platforms on the market, ON24 is best for large-scale users who can leverage its breadth of capabilities. ON24’s sophisticated tools are well suited for large sales presentations and trainings or far-flung town hall meetings. Do-it-yourself webcast and presentation templates allow users to create custom and branded presentations. Alternatively, organizations can take advantage of orchestrated webcasts guided by ON24’s customer service team.
Integration with CRM and marketing software makes ON24 favored by sales teams looking to enhance their prospecting capabilities. Its social media widgets and real time collaboration tools, such as polling, lend to highly interactive meetings.
The proliferation of webcasting platforms has led to near-commoditization of these products. Sorting through strikingly similar features and cost structures, planners can avoid taking on too much or too little tech by matching meeting and conference needs to product specs.