What to Consider Before Using Free Web Conferencing

It’s a small world. And, with advances in technology, it seems to be getting smaller all the time. In no area of our daily lives is this more apparent than in the world of communication. There are many available programs that make it possible to communicate with anyone at any time—even those who are halfway around the world.

From a business perspective, this development has been almost entirely positive. Gone are the days when one had to mail or courier information for action. No longer are we required to travel cross country or across an ocean to meet and discuss. Our businesses have the ability to have a worldwide presence in a way that is easier than ever.

Perhaps one of the most influential technological advancements, at least from a cost-cutting perspective, is web conferencing. The ability to set up a conference via the web that allows people to meet regardless of location without ever leaving their office is amazing. The savings in travel (airfare, lodging and man hours lost due to travel time) are likely beyond measure.

Many web conferencing services are free, which offers even greater savings. However, free services may not be the best choice for you. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

As with any decision, there are pros and cons to both free and paid web conferencing. We’ll look at some of the most important items you should know so you can make an informed choice in deciding whether a free or fee-based web conference service is right for your organization.

Here are some factors you should consider when comparing your options side-by-side:

  • Document Sharing

Examine the ease by which documents can be shared with all conference participants. If everyone is literally on the same page, true collaboration can be achieved.

  • Video Chat

The absence of non-verbal communication cues like quizzical facial expressions, smiles and shrugs can result in lost meaning of the message. Up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. Context matters. Also, the video feature should be high quality. Video is worthless if you still can’t make out the faces of your meeting guests because of a fuzzy picture.

  • Security

You want to make sure that all of your company’s information as well as the information of your clients are safe and secure at all times. Some products allow you to make your meetings private and require a password to enter. Some free sites may not have the strictest security settings.

  • Messaging

Does the web conferencing product you are considering offer the ability to create a break-out session for specific issues that need to be addressed by a smaller group apart from the general meeting agenda? If so, collaboration on those items can occur without the need for scheduling additional meetings, thereby yielding a more time-efficient process. It would be helpful to be able to message the group, or have a private message with an individual in the meeting.

  • Identification

This simple yet very effective feature tells you who’s in the meeting, who’s talking and which participant is sharing documents. This helps eliminate that awkward, “Hello, who has joined?” exchange that seems to occur each time you hear the tone. This can also help with security.

Online meeting tools are the ideal tool to enable meetings and discussions and to share ideas, concepts, opinions and solutions in a more productive manner. In short, web conferencing allows your staff to get things done. The question is: Does a free service meet your needs or is it worth trialing a more robust solution?

If you would like to know options you should consider when searching for a web conferencing tool, download our free IT Buyer’s Guide to Web Conferencing.

Photo courtesy of   Victor1558

About Lorna L.

Originally from Florida, Lorna moved to Atlanta to join the PGi team. In between trying to get used to Atlanta traffic and the crazy weather, she spends her free time playing with her dog, Mylo. Lorna enjoys writing about online collaboration tools and meeting tips.

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