In the era of COVID-19, many small business owners have temporarily or permanently moved to remote working with team members and now need to interact internally and externally via video conference. Overnight, video conferencing has become essential to so many businesses. Many companies have found themselves scrambling to select the right video conference software to meet their needs. If you are launching a new company or if you run an existing company, you may be looking to select or switch video conferencing providers. Each has unique features and qualities that should be weighed against one another. A video conferencing service that lacks certain features or drops connection can really impact your business – and not in a good way!

We spoke with several small businesses who have selected from among the best video conferencing services to keep their remote teams thriving. Each weighed in about why they chose their current service and the unique offerings that they look for in a video conferencing provider.

First and foremost, select a video conferencing platform with excellent connection and video quality

Dropped calls are no fun and can even result in lost business. Without face to face interaction, you’ll need to present your first impression to the world via real-time video call – a service that offers a crisp, HD video connection with minimal interruptions or lag is essential. Ryan Hulland, President of Netfloor USA which creates high-tech workplace solutions, has been through several web conferencing services for his small business and knows how essential it is to make a good impression to potential customers. He explained,  “Interactions with potential customers have to be high quality and as close to in-person as possible. We have set ourselves apart from the pack by using professional-grade A/V gear to boost the production value of our video conferences. A video stream resolution of 480p or 720p simply isn’t enough for us to show customers the details of our products. While Google Meet was compatible with our multi-camera setup, video resolution is still limited to 720p. Finally, we found Cisco Webex as our preferred solution. [Webex can handle] video feeds at 1080p, which is an absolute must when you need to showcase a product or service.”

When selecting the best video conferencing software for your business, consider if it will integrate with your existing apps and software

For example, you may want your video conferencing software to interface with your calendaring software like Outlook or Google Calendar, enabling you to seamlessly add video conferencing links to meeting invitations. You may also want your video conferencing software to interface with your digital storage provider, making it easy to store recordings of or files from your calls. You’ll also want to make sure that your video conferencing solution works across mobile devices, including Mac/Apple and Android.

Related Article | 6 Best Free Conference Call Services of 2019

Examine whether video conference add on features may be useful for your online meetings

Some video conferencing services offer recording, closed captioning, file sharing, text chat, virtual backgrounds, one-click dial-in, and other add ons that improve ease of use. Some cost money and others are free – simply toggle them on! Think about which of these your business might find useful before selecting your provider. Taylor Roberts, the owner of MoversChicago, selected Zoom for his business and finds that his employees make frequent use of the virtual backgrounds feature. A virtual background is basically a digital green screen – you can select from preset options like a jungle or conference room or upload your own background picture.  “A number of employees have mentioned they enjoy the virtual background feature that Zoom offers as it enables them to not worry about having to clean up their house before a call.” Scott Henry, a criminal and DUI defense attorney, has utilized the recording features of Webex and Microsoft Teams: “I use the recording function in meetings. I do not record court appearances. For meetings, it helps and you can have them transcribed and put together meeting notes very easily.” Some video conferencing services may have time limits, especially for the free version or free plan. Ken Eulo of the Smith and Eulo Law Firm prefers Google Hangouts (now called Google Meet, part of G Suite) for this reason: “I’m a huge fan of having no time limit on our meetings, especially when our meetings… have the potential to last several hours.” 

Cost is an important consideration and can vary widely – from free to hundreds of dollars per month depending on the video conferencing service

Be sure to select a service that can scale with your business – if the service charges per user per month, consider how many users might need licenses as your business grows. It can be tricky and annoying to switch software providers once you are entrenched with one, so it’s important to consider these decisions up front.

One of the most important features of a video conferencing software is the ability to use collaboration tools and share screens

These details can vary widely by provider. Some simply offer screensharing, while others can offer collaborative digital whiteboards and document creation, and others can even afford you the ability to write on a coworker’s screen. 

Related Article | The Best Technology To Work Remotely in 2020

Crowd control within the video meeting room can vary widely across video conferencing softwares

For instance, some softwares allow you the ability to mute all participants or to mute select participants. You may find that you need to use muting if you are giving a presentation to a large group of people or if you are hosting a call where you want to better control the “room.” Phil Maliniak of Wealth Avenue, a financial planning company, switched from face to face meetings to video conferencing abruptly due to COVID-19 to protect his clients, many of which are in the at-risk age group. Wealth Avenue uses GoToMeeting and they like that in addition to 1-1 meetings, they can “host 250 person webinars to keep our clients informed of portfolio changes.” Harrison Kramer, a magician and mentalist who has pivoted his successful business to doing virtual magic shows, uses Zoom and has selected the 1000 attendees option for his performances with a large number of participants. He also likes to use the “Spotlighting” feature of Zoom. “This allows me to put the focus on my guests and let all their friends see them enjoying themselves. Other platforms just don’t have the versatility when it comes to this feature.”

Finally, be sure to consider the security features in any video conferencing service that you choose, especially if security is essential to your business

Check whether the conferences are encrypted or password protected, how data files are stored, and how links can be shared to understand who might be able to gain access to your video conferences.

Related Article | The Best Security Practices For Teleconferencing and Working From Home

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