Getting More Done with Online Meeting Software – A Buyer’s Guide
Whether you run a one-man operation or work in a conglomerate, chances are great that you will have to conduct a few meetings each day with your suppliers, colleagues, subordinates, and/or superiors. Oftentimes, these meetings require real-time interaction on documents and presentations which are quite difficult to accomplish if these are done over the phone line or via email.
The biggest challenge in conducting a traditional meeting is getting all the participants to drop what they are doing to go to the venue at the same time. This challenge is formidable enough when the participants all work in one building. What more if they work in offices scattered all over the city, state, country, or worse, across the globe? Fortunately, the ubiquity of the Internet has provided a solution: Online Meeting.
Online meeting is not a new concept. Previously, this was conducted over domestic or international private data lines using videoconferencing hardware, but the heavy bandwidth requirements for such an endeavor made it cost-ineffective. Besides, it still required the participants’ convergence in a venue where the videoconferencing equipment was located. Nowadays, thanks to the flexibility of Internet Protocol, availability of large capacities of IP backbone and the growing sophistication of online meeting software, all one needs is a computer and access to the Internet to conduct an online meeting.
Are all online meeting software equal? As far as the basic needs-fulfillment criteria is concerned, i.e., gathering all the participants in one virtual venue, and allowing simultaneous public and private interaction via voice, video, and text, essentially the answer is “yes”. At the end of the day, this is what is important in a meeting. However, different software have different features, participation rules, and other parameters. How important these differences are will really depend on what your additional expectations and requirements are.
Before selecting the online meeting software you will purchase, consider first the following issues:
- Frequency of meetings – Are your meetings conducted regularly or on-demand? If regular, how regular? Determining the answer to this issue will guide you on whether it is more practical to acquire software that comes with a per use subscription or if you are ahead if you have a monthly (or annually) subscription.
- Average number and “makeup” of the participants – Do you regularly meet with the same people every time in general, or do your participants regularly change per meeting? How many participants, on average, do you have? Some software requires that the participants also register and pay, while others limit only the number of participants per session.
- Level of interaction – Are your meetings normally one way such as that all participants do is listens to you or do they actively participate? Do they revise presentations or make marks on your documents, etc.? This issue determines the type of interaction tools that your online meeting software must have, e.g., whiteboarding, sharing of desktop, transferring of keyboard and mouse control, etc.
- Confidentiality and documentation requirements – How confidential are your meetings. Is it normally required that the proceedings of the meeting are recorded in order that these can be played back and broadcast to the participants and others. This issue determines the level of security and requirement for efficient recording, storage, and broadcasting facilities in the software.
Online meeting has become a common way to interact and collaborate with others. The choice of software will determine the meeting experience of both you and the participants, so be sure to choose wisely.