Whether it’s to bring remote teams together or to meet with clients and customers, video conferencing abounds in modern work arrangements. These services are straightforward to install, easy to use and relatively cheap, expanding their use to businesses of all sizes.
Choosing the right video conferencing service for your business is essential. You’ll need to consider the number of meeting participants, software integrations, conference frequency and much more.
What is a video conferencing service?
Video conferencing services help you meet and collaborate with others via an HD video feed. Unlike a phone call, video conferencing lets you see meeting participants, almost as if you were in the same room.
Professionals can access video conferencing services from various devices, including internet-connected computers and personal or business smartphones. You can also set up video conferencing in a specific location, like a conference room. With this option, you can set up cameras to show the entire room and use microphones to amplify speakers.
Video conferencing services give hosts total meeting control. Hosts decide who can talk, who can be on video and who can share their screen. For example, if someone attending the meeting is giving a business presentation, the host can allow screen sharing so everyone can view the PowerPoint presentation.
For invitees who are unable to attend a meeting via video, many services offer the option to join by phone.
In a pinch, you can use an iPhone for conference calls. While you’re limited to five participants on audio calls, you can use the FaceTime app for up to 32 people.
How do you choose the right video conferencing service?
Take the following steps to determine the right video conferencing service for your business.
1. Consider your video conferencing needs.
Do you need video conferencing software for short one-on-one meetings, or will you use it for more extended client or vendor meetings? Your answer to this question can help you decide whether to accept a lower-cost platform with shorter meeting time limits and fewer advanced features. Other considerations, such as whether you’ll need screen-sharing or webinar features, can also help you narrow your choices.
2. Research the market for video conferencing services.
A few brands might immediately come to mind when you think of video conferencing services. However, big-name brands aren’t your only options, and other platforms may suit your needs better.
Researching the video conferencing market can yield unique solutions that may be right for your organization. For example, some platforms may be superior for one-click meeting access, while others may seamlessly integrate video conferencing with meeting-notes technology.
3. Compare video conferencing contenders’ video quality.
A video conferencing platform with all the features you could ask for means little if the video is low-quality. Some prominent video conferencing platforms offer paid plans with a quality of 720p, which is on the high end. Consider prioritizing these platforms in your decision-making process.
4. Review video conferencing contenders’ integrations.
A video conferencing service that integrates with your other software platforms will be easier to use across the board. For example, some video conferencing services integrate with the best online project management platforms and the best HR software to streamline communication. Consider how the integrations available for each potential platform might put it a step above the others.
5. Weigh video conferencing solutions’ prices against features.
Ask yourself whether a video conferencing platform’s price justifies its included features. Better yet, ask how this price compares with those of other platforms and their offerings. Your goal should be to balance your budgetary concerns with the features you need from your video conferencing platform.
6. Read customer reviews of various video conferencing services.
Video conferencing services’ official websites can only tell you so much; after all, they’re designed to paint the platform in a flattering light. Customer reviews may give you a more honest perspective because most reviewers have no incentive to share falsely positive commentary.
Look at whether most reviews say the product is worth its price, name any notable flaws or speak to the brand’s customer service. If negative customer reviews give you pause, read another brand’s reviews. They may be more positive, giving you a superior option.
7. Explore a video conferencing product demo or free trial.
Many video conferencing brands offer a product demo or free trial for a hands-on experience with the platform. This may be the best way to assess whether a video conferencing service fits your needs. You’ll get to use the platform without committing to it, and sales and customer service reps will be readily available to answer any questions. After trying a few products, you might instinctively know which one would serve you best.
Some of the worst conference call faux pas — for both phone conferences and video conferences — include being late, speaking over others and using an untested tech setup that causes glitches.
What factors should you consider when choosing a video conferencing service?
As with any significant purchase, understanding your video conferencing needs is essential. For example, a large company might need to loop in dozens of users simultaneously, while a smaller company might only require one-on-one conferences.
Keep the following factors in mind when you’re settling on a video conferencing solution:
- Number of participants: Consider the number of participants who are likely to sit in on your conferences regularly. Some services let you connect a handful of participants for free; if you won’t have many participants, you may not pay much (or anything). Other services specialize in connecting many users. The range is vast, so knowing what you need before you start looking can save time.
- Video feed needs: While many video conferencing services boast that their meetings can host hundreds, if not thousands, of participants at once, they typically limit the number of video streams. In contrast, other services impose no limitations. Determine how or if the service you’re considering limits feeds. Additionally, ensure the video quality is top-notch.
- Ease of use: Don’t let a confusing user interface hold your business back. Otherwise, you’ll start presentations without essential participants. Even worse, meetings will experience long delays and interruptions as people struggle to use video feeds, mics and screen sharing.
- Meeting types: With some high-end services, you can launch different rooms depending on the meeting type. Do you host open-forum Q&As where everybody can give feedback? Are you giving a presentation or lecture and prefer participants to be muted? Know what meeting types you’ll have; if you host various meeting styles, look for a service that accommodates all your needs.
- Mobile experience: The whole point of video conferencing is to connect to people remotely. Often, remote participants use mobile devices. Test any possible video conference service on tablets and smartphones to ensure participants have a positive mobile experience.
- Recording capabilities: Video recording capability is essential if you must review your conferences. Additionally, an online archive of past meetings can be helpful. For example, you could save snippets of meetings for effective training materials for new employees. Pay attention to how much recording space you’ll have available. Many services store the recordings in the cloud and limit each user’s storage space.
- Screen-sharing capabilities: Screen sharing keeps participants engaged and makes a meeting more interactive. If you must explain the finer points of a presentation or show a remote employee how to access specific documents, screen sharing can help you do it more effectively.
- Video conferencing room needs: Depending on your needs, you might want to set up a conference room specifically for video conferencing. Check whether the service you’re considering can integrate with your meeting room setup. Sometimes this requires using another vendor to equip the room with proper audio and video equipment. Other times, the video conferencing service can provide all the necessary equipment for an added cost.
- App integrations: Many video conference solutions integrate with third-party applications, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, making it easy to import presentations and documents. Additionally, many services have note-taking capabilities; some allow participants to add notes. Consider which applications you’ll use with your conferencing system and how much influence you want participants to have over a meeting. Another integration to consider is your calendar or email client. Some video conferencing services provide plugins for programs like Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook, making it quick and easy to schedule meetings.
- Smart meetings: Some video conferencing platforms have integrated artificial intelligence (AI) to increase meeting productivity. For example, some meetings can automatically take notes for everyone and send a summary after the conference has ended. Smart technology also may automatically assign action item tasks to participants. These added features are designed to keep participants more engaged because they won’t be scrambling to take notes.
- Customer support: Don’t overlook the quality of a company’s customer service. It’s worth your time to call the customer service line of the companies you’re considering to get a feel for how they’ll treat you. When something goes awry, you want a tech support line that responds quickly and accurately and access to representatives who treat you with the respect your business deserves.
What are the costs of video conferencing services?
Video conferencing service costs vary. Consider the following factors that affect the price of the service:
- Most services charge per host. Most video conferencing services charge on a per-host basis. This means that if you want multiple employees to host their own meetings, each one needs a user license. With multiple user licenses, multiple employees can host video conference calls simultaneously. With this cost structure, you pay only for each host; there is no cost for others to join a meeting.
- Some services charge per participant. Instead of charging per host, some services base their pricing structure on the number of participants in a video conference. For example, you might pay $145 per month for the ability to host video conferences with up to 500 people. This cost structure is designed for companies that host webinars.
- Pricing and service tiers vary. Most providers offer several service tiers that vary based on pricing, participant allotment and included features. Some services offer a completely free plan. These plans typically limit the number of participants and cap how long video calls can last. For paid plans using a per-host model, costs range from $5 to $50 per host per month. In addition, some plans require a minimum number of user licenses.
- Free trials are often available. Many conferencing services offer free trials that last anywhere from a week to a month; some offer free trials until a certain amount of data is used. There’s no need to sign up and pay for a service you’ve never used when companies offer so many test runs. Take advantage of the free trials, and ensure a service truly meets your needs and addresses your priorities satisfactorily before you buy.
Too much video conferencing might lead to Zoom burnout. Schedule conferences thoughtfully, and avoid exhausting your team.
What is the future of video conferencing?
Video conferencing’s effect on human communications is nearly comparable to the telephone’s effect more than a century and a half earlier. Emerging technologies will continue to enhance cloud-based video conferencing as it becomes an even more integral part of doing business in the digital age.
Here are some video conferencing trends to look out for:
- Augmented reality and virtual reality video conferences: Augmented reality and virtual reality allow collaboration across vast geographical distances as if the participants were physically in the same room. Imagine standing in a virtual space with your business associates, discussing operations amid a sea of interactive charts, schematics and prototypes. That future is rapidly approaching as technology evolves, creating a more immersive, impactful experience.
- App-less video conferencing: Video conferencing technology may move toward services requiring only a link, not a downloaded app, to access meetings. In fact, according to a 2022 Whereby survey, 56 percent of people dislike having to download an app to join a meeting.
- Enhanced video conferencing features: Additional video conferencing features that could become more common in the next several years include meeting audio transcription, translation services, secure file-sharing tools and video clipping.
- Platform-agnostic video conferencing: Some vendors have begun introducing technology allowing virtual meeting access from any platform. Through these platforms, users can start meetings from any video conferencing software, and anyone can join the meeting. This platform-agnostic technology may become more prevalent in future years as businesses focus more on unified employee and client experiences.
Check out our in-depth review of GoTo Connect to help you evaluate your video conferencing needs. GoTo Meeting has an impressive array of features, including desktop sharing, smart tools and calendar integrations. Its functionality may help you determine your own requirements.
Making the most of your video conferences
With the right platform and a handy video conferencing cheat sheet, your virtual meetings will go more smoothly than ever before. Choosing the right platform is key, and with the above buyer’s guide, you can easily find the right solution for your business. If you play around with enough demos and free trials, you’ll be sure to encounter a video conferencing service that your whole team loves.
Adam Uzialko contributed to this article.