Chances are your company already has its preferred video conferencing tools. If not, here’s a list of the tools we’ve been using at The Palmer Group for the past several years.
Slack – If we’re already in a Slack internal channel or using a combined internal/external Slack channel where the client company has approved Slack video chat and screen share, we will just hit the phone handle icon and conference everyone in. There is a nice screen share tool and video as well. I like the highlighter pen and the ability to quickly choose the monitor (I use a multiple monitor rig) you want to share. It requires a fair amount of bandwidth for an emotionally satisfying experience, and the quality is OK to marginal. Slack is not a robust video solution; it’s an OK audio solution and absolutely not a great screen share solution for any more than a half dozen participants, especially if they are remote workers on consumer-grade broadband connections. That said, we use it for convenience.
Facebook Messenger – Messenger is not used by many of our clients, but we use it internally all the time. It’s great for group calls. Great when people are on multiple devices on varying kinds of connections all over the world. It has text chat and groups – we have had several people point their phones at laptop screens when no other solution would connect. When people are really spread out around the world, never doubt the power of Facebook!
Google Hangouts – We use Google Suite for Business, and it comes with Hangouts. The video quality is generally suboptimal; however, its integration with Google Apps for Business is excellent. When in a hardcore screen share meeting or working on a collaborative document, we often use Hangouts because it’s convenient. However, we are just as likely to use Slack and just open the collaborative Google doc, sheet, presentation, etc., in a separate window. I don’t think anyone has ever contacted me audio-only through Hangouts. However, one interesting thing is that you can make calls from your browser to a landline or cell phone. Most calls are free, but some come with a charge. It’s not something we tend to use.
Skype – Not anymore – It was good for cheap (or free) phone calls years ago. I just don’t use it unless a client contacts me with it or sends a calendar invite.
Teams – Nope. However, at the moment, Microsoft is offering it for free.
Facetime – Only for personal use – that’s what it was built for.
Webinars and Big Video Conferences
Zoom – This is the highest-quality video chat and webinar software we’ve seen. It integrates nicely with PayPal and is reasonably priced for up to about 10,000 participants.
WebinarJam – We have used WebinarJam for several years. They just upgraded their system, but unfortunately, the video quality is still far behind that of Zoom. WebinarJam is OK for internal use and online educational courses, but because of its lower-quality video we don’t use it for big, public-facing online presentations.
Join.me – An old friend, like Webex. It’s just OK — but not for events bigger than 100 people – the interface is too clunky and the video quality is also only OK. We occasionally use it to share side decks in pitch meetings because we have a vanity URL.
Text & Audio Only
SMS – An old standby that still works worldwide. Groups are easy. It is very rare that you can’t get a signal. Never doubt the power of SMS.
WhatsApp – The end-to-end encryption and the international user base of WhatsApp make it ideal for international group calls and chats.
Facebook Messenger – If you like it for video, you’ll love it for audio and text.
WeChat – We use WeChat on burner devices when traveling in China.
There Are Many Other Solutions
Please do not take this to be a complete list or an endorsement of any particular product. These are the products we use, have used, and sort of use, with a few sentences about why I like or dislike each and our experience with the solutions. There are literally hundreds of other solutions and combinations of solutions available, and your experience may be vastly different from mine.
Today, our company runs on a couple of different, well-integrated platforms: Google Suite, Microsoft Office (installed, not 365), Slack, and the collaborative and communications tools listed above. We have well-established protocols and procedures for each use case and have refined them over the years.
If you’re new to remote working, you will need to experiment to see what works best for you. If you want to save time, the information in this article may be a helpful starting point. Stay safe.
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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.