As COVID-19 is spreading all across Europe and the US, all business travels are suspended, borders are closed and aircraft are grounded. Since we are living in a globalized world, we have to communicate somehow with our business partners around the world. That’s why today I’m going to write about how I’m dealing with this problem. Read on my review on the best video conference software.
There is nothing better than face to face meetings and shaking hands with your business partner – I agree. But let’s face it – currently, the only way to talk with people on the other side of the globe is a video conference.
I’m grounded too, so video calls are my daily job now. Currently, I’m using 5 different video conferencing systems at work and in my private life and I thought it would be good to share with you some of my experience from using this kind of software.
Let me guide you through my “best video conference software” tutorial to show, from my perspective, which features are important and what I expect from such applications.
After hundreds of video calls, I figured out that there are 14 features that are crucial for me. I will write a few words to explain what function brings each feature and why this particular feature is important from my point of view.
If you want to see the summary in the table jump straight to the best video conference summary table.
Usually, I have to gather a larger team on the call. That’s why I need a software which is capable to host large enough group of people on the call.
For me, it’s enough to host 20 people at one time, which is not a tough demand. On the other hand, if you want to host a webinar or a lecture, your participants will go into hundreds. That’s why it’s really crucial to have this feature in the best video conference software comparison.
Most of the video conference software offer so-called HD quality, but sometimes it does not mean the same in each case. That’s why it’s good to know which software can handle 720p and which 1080p video quality.
Keep in mind that the software feature of the 1080p standalone is not enough. To make the most of beautiful HD image, you need to use a good camera and have fast enough internet connection.
This is the must-have feature for me. Screen sharing enables you to show what you have on your computer screen to the meeting participants. For example, you can show Powerpoint presentations, Excel tables or display marketing movies to your audience.
Dial-in Conference Line
Sometimes, your internet connection is so bad, that your bandwidth suffices to handle your screen, but it’s not enough for the voice transmission. The voice starts to be shattered, delayed and finally you are not able to communicate with participants anymore.
If you face such a situation, it’s good to have a possibility, to call into the conference using your phone. Usually, this improves significantly the audio experience.
Toll Free Numbers
It refers to the Dial-in Conference Line feature. It’s even better if you can call in the conference using a toll-free number.
Conference Time Limits
You just don’t want your conference being shut down suddenly as you runned out of the allowed time limit per meeting.
None of the paid software has time limits, but some free subscriptions have that, so it’s crucial for the software comparison to know which calls are limited, and which not.
Usually, you plan meetings ahead, that’s why it’s important to be able to schedule a meeting and inform/invite participants in advance.
It’s even better if your scheduled meeting will appear in the calendar you are using (Google Calendar, MS Outlook) and enables you to send a meeting invitation using your calendar’s invitation template.
Personal Meeting Room
Sometimes you just want to organize ad-hoc call without all that scheduling, planning, inviting, etc. Personal Meeting Room is like a fixed place (fixed link) where, whenever you start the meeting, people can jump in and you can have a call conference.
Once they have your link, they can use it anytime to connect if a meeting is started by you.
Drawing / Annotation Tools
Another important feature. If you share your screen, sometimes you want to emphasize something, or simple show/mark on the screen. To do that you can use drawing or annotation tools in the software.
If the drawing/annotation tool is activated, your mouse turns into the paintbrush and you can mark/underline whatever you see on the screen. It’s a really useful function when presenting something at a call conference.
Recording the meeting
Sometimes you are showing your audience how to do something. Maybe showing this once is simply not enough and you would like to record this call conference (including this what you are doing on the screen) and distribute it to the participants after the call as mp4 clip. Or maybe you are the teacher and save the lesson for those who could not participate?
That’s possible if your video conference software has meeting recording feature.
Keyboard & Mouse Sharing
Keyboard and mouse sharing enables you to pass the control of your mouse or keyboard to one of the participants. It’s usefull function when, for example, somebody asks you a detailed question to a part of huge document, but only he can find it. Then, instead of voice navigation, you can pass the controls to that person and he can find it easily.
I don’t know what is your preference, but I like desktops apps. Maybe it’s a bit like a stone-age requirement, but I like to have an icon on my taskbar, where I can immediately start the meeting. Anyway, I consider that faster and more robust than just the web version.
I can imagine that a mobile app could not be a priority for a teacher or professor at the university, but for me, this feature is the crucial one.
Hundreds of times I was joining a call from my car, airport gate or any other place where I didn’t have or couldn’t use my laptop. Usually, that was caused by being in a hurry or being late, but that’s another story… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, a robust mobile app, with main features from the desktop version like screen sharing, is really important for each business traveler.
In the end, nothing comes for free. Software price is one of the criteria in my video conference software comparison. Additionally, I wanted to compare paid and free versions (if available) to see the difference in available features.
Base on my experience, I can tell you that if you are going to use the call conference software in your daily work (or at least frequent enough), you will come to the conclusion that free versions are good enough just for testing purpose and selection, which video conferencing software suits you best. After you pick the best one for you, you will no longer want to have any limits and will buy the full version.
As a side note, keep in mind that in my comparison some software is available as a stand-alone application and some as a part of bigger packages (G Suite, Microsoft Office). The price is always given as per the minimum pricing plan of the software or software package (G Suite, MS Office).
Major Players on The Market
Now, you already know which features I’m looking for in the best video conference software. Now, I want to tell you how I selected my shortlist of 5 applications.
Anyway, why 5? Why not 50? Well, I think it does not make sense to create more confusion and chaos than it is already in the market. That’s why I decided to combine software I’m using with major players on the market according to the popularity in the Google search engine.
The current statistics from Google Trends, as of April 2020 looks like below:
As you can see, COVID-19 just skyrocketed stats for queries about video conferencing software. Having this graph we can see that in April 2020, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Zoom seems to be the most popular. Additionally, I know this software from the private ground.
GoToMeeting and Webex Meetings were added as I use them personally in my daily work and I can tell about these a lot.
And here we are – the top 5 best video conference software picked by me. I hope you will find all the necessary answers in this table and you will select among them the one which suits you the best.
Best Video Conference Software Comparison
In this table I gathered all the features I explained above. You can select between the Free and Paid versions to compare available features.
Which Video Conference Software Is The Best Choice For Me?
Well, think about what do you want to use it for?
If you are a teacher, who needs to create short lessons with minimum or no cost, go for Hangouts Meet or Zoom. It’s also great for connecting with your family.
If you are a business professional who requires robust software with capable connection and a pack of most important features think to go for commercial plans of GoToMeeting, Webex (these two I use daily) or Microsoft Teams (my wife is keen on this one).
I think you can find on my list the video conferencing software that will suit you the best. Another thing is to use it in the right way to make the most of it. I’m going to share with you my experience in that too. You will learn that software is not everything – hardware and proper settings also play a major role. If you want to explore this topic more, check my Video Conferencing Guidebook or jump straight to the posts where you will know:
- How to pick the best headset for video conference?
- Which conference speaker is the best choice?
- Or which camera will show your best look?
So, stay tuned for the next articles on this topic and in the meanwhile, pick your best video conference software.
Featured image source: pixabay.com