Your Guide to the Best Web Conferencing Software of 2021
Web conferencing has gone from being a nifty feature to a necessity, but don't rush to sign up for the first provider you find! There are a number of new video conferencing apps out there, but they differ wildly in quality, features, and price. We help you figure out what features your business needs so you don't spend more than you have to. Check out our in-depth comparison of video conferencing services, which include sponsored providers and our own personal favorites, all supported by user reviews and our own experiences. Make 2021 a successful year to remember.
What Can Web Conferencing Software Do For Your Business?
Web conferencing software went from being a niche service to a basic need in 2020. You can expect that trend to continue. But now that there are so many options available for web conferencing, it can be difficult to choose the best web conferencing platform.
The key is to consider the features that your business needs. We’ll review some of the most common features of top web conferencing tools so you can easily decide which services are right for you.
Why Do You Need Web Conferencing in 2021?
Although all of us hope for a swift end to the insanity, 2021 looks to be a continuation of 2020. In many ways, it may even be a regression back to the early days of 2020. Your workers will need to use web conferencing to communicate and for collaboration in general.
Even though virtual meetings and online work is nothing like in-person collaboration, the best web conferencing platforms make you feel like you’re really working together. Even thinking beyond 2021, web conferencing can actually help your business save money on travel costs and make it easy to communicate with clients.
Virtual conferencing can make you more productive and efficient. Since you don’t have to think about traffic or travel times, you can have more meetings in less time.
Web Conference Features to Look For
These are the main features that companies look for in web conferencing software. Some providers offer other features as well. Examine these and ask yourself which ones your company needs most so that you can prioritize these in your search. It’s extremely easy to upgrade or add on additional services, so don’t feel pressured to splurge on a top-tier plan for features you may not need right now.
High Quality Audio and Video
The whole point of web conferencing is to be able to see and hear one another well. Although the quality of your video conference depends largely on your internet connection and webcams, providers also offer different levels of video quality. HD video is what you want. Likewise, high quality audio is an even higher priority.
Read reviews to see what people think of their web conference experience with each platform. Ask for a free trial to test a web conference for yourself.
Mobile Device Support
Sometimes you’re on the go but you don’t want to miss a meeting. This is one feature you should definitely look for. A good web conferencing service will have a mobile app for both Android and iOS. Entering meetings on mobile may limit access to certain features, but in general, the experience is the same.
Universal Video Conferencing Software
While we’re on the topic of cross-platform web conferencing software, it’s important that you make sure your web conferencing solution has a way for everyone to enter your meetings. The best platforms don’t care how your users get into a meeting. They give you as many options as possible.
Many providers let users enter a web conference via the internet through a web browser. Google Meet is one such example. Others give users access to web conferences using a desktop application. This is the most common method for joining a meeting, and it’s the one that services like Zoom rely on.
Verify that your web conferencing software includes support for multiple operating systems. Now that many of your workers are at home, you can’t control what devices they use. Get a web conferencing solution that has an app for Windows, Mac, and even Linux if possible. Your IT staff will thank you for your consideration.
Online Events and Webinars
The number of video conferencing participants in your meetings is often capped by the provider. You may be able to have anywhere from 50 to 300 participants in a given conference. But what if you want to host a massive web conference for a live event or a webinar?
Some web conferencing tools allow you to host hundreds or even thousands of users online. You may be able to get this feature on an as-needed basis or pay for a subscription that lets you do it frequently. If you regularly host webinars or large online events, this is an option you should definitely look for.
Some web conferencing providers will even give you access to a sales page where you can sell tickets to your online conference. Users get a code that they must provide before they are allowed to join the meeting. Turn your webinar into a business opportunity by selling your knowledge!
Online Training and Customer Support
Web conferencing isn’t very complicated, but some users have trouble figuring it out. See if your provider includes free training. Do they offer a webinar or 24/7 customer service? Does their software have useful tips inside the program? Ease of use is important, if the software you buy is confusing, nobody will enjoy using it.
If you have a video conferencing expert in your office, ask them to set up meetings with inexperienced staff. Virtual meetings also have their own form of social etiquette. Before you get started, teach your staff how to behave in online meetings.
Some businesses need end-to-end encryption for their conference room to ensure that what they talk about or what they share is protected. This is especially important for medical professionals who have to comply with data privacy laws like HIPAA. There have been some scandals in the past with web conferencing companies claiming to provide this feature when in reality they did not.
Web Conferencing Tools for Collaboration
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about more specific features and collaboration tools. Web conferencing isn’t just about sitting in meetings and listening to each other speak. Your meetings are a place where collaboration happens. New ideas emerge and, dare we say it, your meetings can actually be fun.
Screen sharing is a vital feature for collaboration. With screen sharing, your colleagues can see your desktop in real-time. Just double-check your Chrome tabs before you get started!
When you screen share, you can share videos or programs on your computer. More advanced web conferencing software will let you share a portion of your screen or only the audio. Only the host can screen share by default, but most web conferencing apps will let you designate others as a host: or you can unlock the feature so anyone can use it.
Share Files Online
Besides sharing video or your screen, you can also share files directly with other participants in your video conference. While you might already use Google Drive or Dropbox for file sharing, sometimes it’s nice to be able to just quickly send a file directly to another user during a meeting.
Instant Messaging Between Users
We strongly recommend that your web conferencing service include private chat or instant messaging between users. While you can disable this feature, it’s a useful way for your staff to communicate quietly during meetings. Normally when you speak in the virtual conference room, your video is highlighted and audio is amplified.
Private chat lets you send texts to whomever you wish and you won’t be rudely interrupting the meeting. Encourage your staff to use this feature.
Zoom coined the term breakout rooms and the name has stuck. Imagine web conferencing, inside your web conferencing! We’ll give you a minute to recover from having your mind blown.
It’s extremely easy. Just activate the feature and you can generate as many rooms as you want. You can assign individuals to a specific room or even randomize them. It doesn’t matter if you’re on mobile or desktop, everyone can work in breakout rooms.
Integration With Other Software
You probably already use some form of software to schedule appointments and keep your team synchronized. Google Calendar, for example, is an extremely common choice. You can save time and schedule meetings quickly by integrating your web conferencing into your other software.
Check with the provider to make sure they have this option. Zoom, for instance, has a Google Chrome plugin, so you can link your account to Calendar and create meetings instantly when you schedule an event in your Calendar. All of the people you add to the guest list will then receive the access code to enter your online conference room.
Get started by comparing some of the options we’ve discussed in other articles and compare prices to find the right solution for you.