COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client's set-up,productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you'd typically have professionally or personally.
There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that's right for you. We've looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:
Standard Social Media Chat Applications
Let's get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They're completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you're ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.
Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you're provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length. The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend. Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you're on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.
Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you're looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.
Google's Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you're an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services. Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.
here's a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don't already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing. Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.
GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.
Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you're interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it. There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we've come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you're in the market for a new tool. What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!