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Choosing the Best Platform for Safe Online Meetings

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As stay-at-home orders continue to reshape the ways that small business teams operate, online meetings are an important tool for getting work done, interacting with customers and prospects, and helping team members in different locations stay connected.

Choosing the best platform for your online meetings depends on a variety of factors, starting with the size of your company and whether features like built-in collaboration tools and file sharing can make your meetings more productive. Here’s a look at the most popular online meeting platforms and how they compare for small business users.

Common Features

All of the major platforms include video chat, using either your device’s built-in front camera or an external USB webcam. Most also allow users to call in to participate by voice, and some offer text chat features that allow users to exchange messages with all participants, or to send private messages to other users.

Screen-sharing is another important feature that lets users display slides, spreadsheets, or other files on everyone’s screen. Some platforms also enable digital whiteboards that allow users to collaborate on documents.

As you evaluate platforms, it’s important to look for compatibility with the devices your participants are most likely to use. You’ll want a conferencing tool that offers not only dedicated meeting software, but also web browser and mobile app compatibility to make it as easy as possible for the broadest number of people to participate.

Most platforms offer free plans that limit either the number of participants, the length of a meeting, or advanced features. Premium plans generally start around $12 per month, with tiers offering additional users, storage limits, or other features.

Basic Tools

If you’re only interested in group video calls with your team or customers, you probably have the tools you’ll need. Video-calling tools such as Facetime, Duo, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger allow you to create group sessions with varying size limits. Facetime, for example, supports 31 users at once, while Duo supports 12. If you don’t need screen-sharing or collaboration tools, these can be good choices.

Zoom

Zoom has seen its usage explode since work-at-home and stay-at-home orders were enacted. Part of Zoom’s success stems from its easy-to-navigate interface and scheduling tools, including integration with popular calendar apps. Participants can join Zoom meetings through a web browser, PC and Mac clients, and mobile apps.

Zoom also offers screen-sharing, collaboration whiteboards, and digital breakout rooms in which a smaller number of participants can be moved into what seems like a separate conference within the conference. Zoom free accounts support up to 100 users, with a meeting limit of 40 minutes.

Google Meet

Part of the Google G-Suite, Meet offers a wide range of video, voice, and text tools, including screen-sharing and integration with popular Google tools such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and others. Video meetings are offered in different tiers, with Basic accounts supporting up to 100 users. If your company uses Google tools, Meet is worth considering.

Skype

Skype has long been a popular choice for people interested in free or low-cost voice and video calls. Group sessions can support up to 50 users, and meetings can include file and screen-sharing options. Users can join a meeting through web browsers or a variety of apps, including integration with Amazon’s Alexa platform.

GoToMeeting and WebEx

GoToMeeting and WebEx both offer web browser and app integration, but their interfaces may not be as easy to use as the other choices we listed here. Both offer whiteboard collaboration and calendar integration tools. WebEx offers a free plan that supports up to three users in a call, while GoToMeeting doesn’t offer a free tier.

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