Video conferencing is a great way to connect with people when it isn’t possible to meet in person. Right now, we face the COVID-19 pandemic and business, churches, and schools are all moving to online work and instruction. Video conferencing quickly went from being somewhat useful to being one of the best replacements for face-to-face contact. There are several solutions available that allow users to connect with a web browser and an internet connection, while other solutions require software and special equipment.
This video conferencing service round-up will present several easy to use options that can help you connect easily with your team, congregation, and family.
There are seven key features to consider before selecting a video conference service:
#1 – Accessibility
How will participants join the meeting and what types of devices or software are required to attend? Some platforms simply require a web browser and an internet connection, while others may require special software and mobile apps to connect properly. Some systems even require specialized servers and encoding equipment installed in conference rooms.
#2 – Call-in Options
Can attendees call in with a phone for audio-only participation, or is an internet connection required at all times? Some services will provide a telephone conference number, but many services are strictly online-only.
#3 – Stream Quality
Video conferencing providers use a variety of technologies and networks to host their conferencing technology. Some work better than others, and call quality can suffer if networks are not robust enough to handle changes in bandwidth or high participant loading. There can also be the consideration of whether the video quality is high definition (720p or 1080p), especially if used with a large display or projection screen.
#4 – Meeting Capacity
How many people do you need to meet with at one time? Will you host a one-to-many broadcast like a webinar, or will all participants need to see and hear each other in full conference mode? There are different services and plans that can meet your needs, but not always with one platform.
#5 – Screen Sharing
Is it important to share your screen during a conference? Many services allow this, others may not. Some services offer screen sharing for only the host, while other services feature guest screen sharing for all attendees.
#6 – Recording
Do you need to record your meetings and conferences? Some software options allow for local recording on a computer or they may provide online cloud-based recording storage. Some of the more basic services do not allow recording.
#7 – Price
Most video conferencing services have a free trial plan available and some offer a “free forever” plan. Many free plans provide limited call participation or only basic management features, while the paid plans vary in price and add-on feature sets. Most video conferencing services are priced around the number of total participants allowed to join the call.
And now, here are nine video conference services we recommend:
(The following services are listed in alphabetical order and are not ranked.)
#1 – 8×8 Video Meetings
This platform allows for a number of handy features like phone call-in, screen share, recording, and unlimited meeting duration. The service can run well in browser-based and app/software environments. Versatile features, ease of use, competitive pricing make this a valuable conferencing platform.
BlueJeans offers business-grade features with an interface that doesn’t require special software. This browser-based platform works with smartphones and computers. It even allows phone call access. Various subscription plans are offered, depending on the attendee quantity and desired features.
#3 – Crowdcast
Crowdcast is a combination of video conferencing service and live streaming platform all in one. The service only requires a web browser to participate. Event recording is available, but there is not a phone call-in option. Several different plans are available for large attendee requirements or longer event needs.
#4 – Google Hangouts Meet
Google Hangouts is available in the G Suite of products, so it can be a convenient tool if your church uses that already. You can easily invite people inside or outside your team to join a meeting using browser-based conferencing. They won’t need a Gmail account to join the meeting. Note that Google is in the process of restructuring its video conferencing services, so the Hangouts features and branding may change sometime in late 2020.
#5 – GoToMeeting
GoToMeeting is a robust software-based conferencing solution that offers features and integrations many other services don’t provide. Meetings are easy to set up and join from a computer or smartphone with the app. Business-class features like keyboard/mouse sharing, note-taking, hand raising, and reporting are available for those needing an advanced set of conferencing tools.
#6 – OneClick.chat
OneClick.chat is a service built around the idea that hosting and participating in a video conference should be as simple as clicking a button. The web browser-based platform is very easy to use. It does not have a lot of complicated settings that other services provide. However, this service does feature guest screen sharing, breakout rooms, and chat sessions that are unique for certain conference scenarios.
#7 – Skype
Skype has been a proven leader in the video conferencing space and continues to offer high-quality stream delivery. The software and app-based programs are available for computers and smartphones, and the Meet Now option provides a browser-based option that doesn’t require any download or sign in from participants. Group call features are available for up to 50 connected participants, including screen sharing, chat invites, and call recording.
#8 – Whereby
Whereby offers browser-based access for meetings with up to 50 participants. Conference rooms can be visually customized and recording features are available with certain plans. Custom conference room URL and screen sharing are also available for this easy to use platform.
#9 – Zoom
Zoom is one of the most popular conferencing services for businesses. It has robust features, including phone conferencing, chat, recording, and screenshare. There is a small piece of software or mobile app that is required, which provides enhanced quality. It’s solid features and high-quality audio and video make it a popular choice .
Gear for a Great Video Conference:
The following equipment can help improve your video conferencing experience.
- Logitech C920 webcam
- Flexible 25” Webcam Desk Mount Clamp
- Blue Snowball USB microphone
- Sennheiser Presence UC Bluetooth headset
- Jabra Pro 920 Mono Wireless Headset
- GripTight ONE Micro Stand for smartphones