Video conferencing has quickly become the star of the show in a COVID-19 economy. Previously, we were slowly adapting to the new remote workforce. But now, the pandemic has fast-tracked companies’ plans to accommodate flexible working arrangements.
When you’re looking for the best online meeting platform for your team, it can be overwhelming. There are tons of options out there, new and old (remember Skype for Business?), and it can be difficult to decipher which is best for your needs — and your team.
The benefits of online meeting platforms
It’s no secret that online meeting platforms are hitting their stride thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. But virtual meetings have had their advantages even in normal times, making it possible to connect and collaborate when it’s physically impossible to do so. Since 2005, remote working has grown by 159%, necessitating virtual communication tools. Plus, being fully remote is the most popular form of flexible working arrangements.
Video meetings are a whole lot more personal than a phone call. For virtual workers — and as everyone is isolated at home — human interaction is often welcome, even sought. Rather than risking misinterpreted cues in written communication, online meeting platforms allow people to catch non-verbal cues — tone, facial expressions, hand gestures, and more. In fact, more than half of communication is body language, and 38% is the tone of voice. And research has found that when verbal communication is combined with non-verbal cues, we process that information more effectively.
Online meeting platforms are team collaboration tools that make it easier and more efficient to work in a group. Rather than requiring a whole crew of people to coordinate schedules, travel, and find accommodation, you can send out a link where everyone can join from the comfort of their office, home, or wherever they work. It saves a significant amount of travel budget, too.
The importance of choosing the best online meeting platform for your business
One report from App Annie found that, globally, business apps reached 62 million downloads during the week of March 14–21, 2020. It was its biggest week ever, a 45% increase from the week before and 90% more than the weekly average in 2019.
As consumers and small businesses alike adopt more digital tools in the age of COVID-19, it’s becoming increasingly important to get set up with the right tools. Not every business has the same needs, and not every tool was created equally.
It takes time, patience, and money to implement a new tool — especially when the implementation is organization-wide. It also requires a lot of employee buy-in and flexibility, so it’s important to make the right choice and stick to it. You don’t want to take workers’ time away from more salient business matters. Regularly learning a new online meeting platform isn’t the best use of their time.
Features to look for in an online meeting platform
Even pre-pandemic, there were tons of online meeting platforms for businesses to choose from. While most have the same basic offering — virtual meeting tools — some platforms have built out added features to make online meetings more efficient, productive, and engaging. Here are some key features to look for when choosing an online meeting platform:
The ability to host events for large groups
According to our report, in the first month of the pandemic, online events hosted through ClickMeeting gathered more than 3.2 million attendees. The year before, there were only 870,579 attendees. That’s more than a 267% increase in the number of people using virtual meeting platforms.
As more people are using online meeting platforms, you need to be able to accommodate larger groups. Even if your team is small now, there’s a chance it will grow, or you’ll need to collaborate with external people. That’s why it’s important to find an online meeting platform that can handle meetings of all sizes — from 1:1s to groups of more than two dozen.
With ClickMeeting, you can see, hear, and talk to up to 25 team members in a single event room.
Easy screen sharing
If you’ve ever participated in web conferencing, you know how important it is to be able to share your screen with attendees. It makes it easier for your audience to follow along for presentations or walkthroughs, not to mention it can help reiterate any of the points you’re trying to make.
You’ll find that many online meeting platforms have this functionality. But sometimes attendees need to share their screens, too. And if your platform can’t accommodate attendee screen sharing, you run the risk of disrupting the meeting to email, download, and then broadcast the files onto your screen.
With ClickMeeting, anyone in the event room can share their screen without hassle. All they need to do is click the screen-sharing icon beside the camera and microphone icons at the bottom of the screen and voilà!They’re broadcasting their screen to the entire group. Note that only one person can share their screen at a time, so you’ll have to let attendees take over the screen share when needed.
Tools to present content during a meeting
Speaking of screen sharing and presenting, the best online meeting platforms also offer features that allow you to broadcast content during a meeting. ClickMeeting actually has three dedicated features that allow you to do exactly that:
ClickMeeting’s Presentation feature allows you to support your words with content in any format. In addition to displaying a traditional PowerPoint presentation, you can also upload any other files, like graphics, spreadsheets, and videos.
Playing a video clip directly from YouTube can give your audience a chance to refresh their minds. It can be overwhelming and boring to sit through a virtual meeting where someone only speaks into the void the whole time. A multimedia approach, incorporating video — so you have audio and visual — can cheer up the meeting and give your audience a break from monotony.
Perhaps ClickMeeting’s coolest content presentation tool is the whiteboard. With it, you can mock up your content with hand-drawn virtual illustrations and markups, allowing you to put down notes or draw supportive visuals during a meeting. You can even get attendees in on the action, encouraging them to collaborate and sketch on the whiteboard together. Not an artist? Use text boxes, shapes, and the eraser.
Multiple communication and engagement options
When you think of online meeting platforms, you typically think of the host and the attendees during a live streaming event. Often, the host takes the lead, and the attendees jump in and participate when required. But there are more ways than one to engage with folks in a virtual meeting, especially as groups grow in size.
Many tools offer the ability to have a live chat with the group. However, sometimes, attendees need to chat with the host or presenter in a private, 1:1 conversation. ClickMeeting can handle that. Apart from streaming video and audio, there’s also a chatbox where you can chat with the whole group or send direct messages to particular team members without distracting the rest of the group.
Polls and surveys
Group engagement is always a challenge when it comes to virtual meetings. That’s why it’s important to look for tools that allow your attendees to participate. Polls and surveys give them a chance to interact with the presentation while you collect important feedback and information.
If you want to take a vote on a subject, there’s no better way to do it but with a survey tool, like the one offered through ClickMeeting.
Asynchronous communication is becoming more mainstream, and the concept applies to virtual meetings, too. There are lots of reasons why someone might not be able to attend a scheduled meeting: another meeting popped up, they have to homeschool the kids during the pandemic, or they’re in a different time zone, and it’s impossible for their schedule.
That’s why you need an online meeting platform that can record meetings. You can always record the event and send the recording to team members that didn’t attend a meeting. It also gives you a chance to watch the video yourself, allowing you to see where you can improve for future meetings.
Safety and security
You might have heard the headlines about Zoom’s security snafus — “zoombombing,” as it’s been nicknamed. Using an online meeting platform without strong safety and security protections could put you, your attendees, and your company at risk. Outside trolling and bombing are real.
“We once had someone randomly connect to our meeting! It was very strange, and we’re not quite sure how it happened,” recalls Rhiannon Moore of Evopure, which makes farm-to-table CBD oil. “It must’ve been a case of similar Zoom IDs and passwords, who knows!”
With ClickMeeting, there are three ways attendees can access your conferencing services:
Open to all access: anyone who gets a link to your conference room can join.
Password-protected: you provide a single password for everyone; this is included in the email invitation.
Token protected access: assign each individual a token that enables them to join with a unique code that expires after use.
When choosing the access type for your event, we strongly suggest protecting it with a password of your choice or a unique token rather than leaving it open to all internet users. That’s the most secure way to guard your event from possible breaches because it’s an individual code that automatically expires after using it.
“Hi! Can you hear me?” “I can see you, but I can’t hear you.” “Okay, now your screen is frozen.” “Let me leave and rejoin.”
Does this dialogue sound familiar? It’s all too common in the virtual meeting landscape. As advanced as technology may be, some pitfalls are unavoidable.
Unless you can test your audio-visual before the meeting. With ClickMeeting, you can test your mic and video connections to ensure you’re ready to rock.
When you’ve had a chance to QA your audio and video prior to starting the meeting, that means you can jump right into the meeting, rather than waiting for technical difficulties to sort themselves out. Plus, this gives attendees a better, more professional impression.
Advance meeting setup
There’s one thing we can never get more of: time. We’re all busy juggling work and home life, and no one needs to have time wasted while you fumble around in your meeting software, sharing links and setting up permissions. Instead, it’s a good idea to be prepared and respect both your and your teammates’ invaluable time. That’s why you’ll want to find the best online meeting platform that offers an advanced meeting setup.
In ClickMeeting, you can do a number of things to prepare before the meeting starts. It ensures a smooth session from start to finish. Some of the things you can do to prep include:
Uploading your presentation content;
Building a survey for attendees;
Adding YouTube videos;
Creating CTA buttons.
In ClickMeeting, we call these settings “stages” — so if you want to repeat the online meeting room setup for another session, you can do it quickly and easily.
Learning new interfaces is hard, no matter how “intuitive” each promises to be. With ClickMeeting, you control the interface with synchronized layouts, limiting unnecessary customizations that distract from the web and phone calls.
It gives you full control over your event’s appearance and how your event looks for your attendees.
With ClickMeeting’s synchronized layouts, you can:
Make the chat window bigger so everyone can follow the discussion and react swiftly to questions.
Hide the chat window to put the focus on your presentation.
Dock, undock, drag and drop your AV pod, or make it disappear.
Broadcast the same layout you have on your screen to your attendees.
What is the best platform to host online meetings?
Sure, we’re biased, but ClickMeeting checks all the boxes for the most advanced features in an online meeting platform. Businesses that need to meet virtually should look for the following features:
The ability to host events for large groups;
Easy screen sharing;
Tools to present content during a meeting;
Multiple communication and engagement options;
Safety and security;
Advanced meeting setup;
Get started with ClickMeeting
Sign up for a 30-day free trial with ClickMeeting so you can explore our advanced features and improve communication and collaboration for your teams.