Evaluating Your Online Meeting Tool

Whether you’re evaluating your current online meeting tool and its effectiveness, considering making a switch to a new online meeting tool or even if you’re getting into online meetings for the first time, it can be overwhelming how many different options there are available. And even if you’ve narrowed your choices down, the wealth of features that meeting tools can offer can be difficult to compare and contrast without a little research.

In order to help alleviate some of the difficulty, we’ve compiled some of the most important aspects of the online meeting experience that you should carefully consider when choosing or evaluating an online meeting tool:

1) User Experience
Don’t get so caught up in comparing feature sets that you overlook whether a tool is user-friendly or not. If a meeting solution has a confusing, overly complex interface, unintuitive navigation or difficult meeting entry, your team will end up forgoing online meetings for older, less productive forms of collaboration like email.

Remember: your online meeting investment is wasted if no one uses the tool. Choose a meeting solution that’s easy to learn, use, get into and get out of to ensure productive meetings and high adoption.

2) Mobility
Between megatrends like BYOD and flexible work, workers are increasingly on-the-go. Mobile apps and mobile access are no longer optional; these are must-have features of any business software, and online meeting tools are no exception.

More importantly, mobile meeting users shouldn’t be hamstrung by a lack of features. With the increased focus on mobile solutions, your mobile meeting guests should be able to view and share content, view video and webcams, engage in chat, take notes and more, all from their smartphone or tablet.

3) Ease-of-Entry
Alongside mobile access, overall ease-of-entry is vital to any collaboration technology. Meetings that start late because of technical difficulties, overly complex passcodes and PINs or confusing meeting invitations cost you time, money and productivity.

Your online meeting tool should be doing the heavy lifting to get you into your meeting, offering one-touch or one-click access, dial-out or auto-connect audio and simple, straightforward meeting invitations with all the numbers and URLs your guests need.

4) Audio and Video Quality
The quality of your online meetings—both audio and video—are the deciding factor between a productive collaboration experience and a jumbled, confused mess. Often, providers will focus heavily on one or the other, or, particularly in the case of free-to-use solutions, out-source their audio or video to another provider. These piecemeal solutions often lead to lower quality experiences.

Both high-quality audio and video place heavy demands on a provider’s network infrastructure and are a true test of your online meeting tool’s underlying technology. Weaknesses in these areas are often a sign of subpar networks. An online meeting tool that can consistently deliver crystal-clear audio and streaming video is vital for productivity.

5) In-Meeting Features
In-meeting features can vary widely between online meeting tools, and this is a key area of consideration that will depend heavily on your business’s unique collaboration needs:

  • If you and your team regularly collaborate on documents in real-time, you’ll want to carefully consider your tool’s screen sharing, application sharing and file sharing capabilities.
  • If your role calls for a personal touch, dig into a tool’s video features, including quality, number of webcams available at once, full-screen video availability and more.
  • If you regularly host larger meetings such as trainings, benefits presentations or company announcements, evaluate the tool’s capacity options and what engagement features are available, such as polling, Q&A, real-time chat and group note-taking.

6) Support
Support is an often-overlooked category for software purchases. Once you’ve deployed your new meeting tool, how will the provider continue to ensure consistent service, address issues as they arise and keep your business moving forward, rather than dealing with technical difficulties?

Customer support in today’s technology- and social-driven society relies heavily on choice, providing users with a variety of options including in-meeting support, live chat, phone, online forum and support communities and more to address any problems. You should carefully consider the variety and reliability of any support options your online meeting tool provider offers to ensure that your new purchase doesn’t become a support burden.

7) Cost
Finally, cost is often the deciding factor for any business software purchase. Flexible, streamlined billing and easy-to-understand pricing structures are a must-have in order to ultimately demonstrate ROI.

And while there are several free online meeting solutions available, they often come with heavy drawbacks in the form of low quality video or audio, a lack of security or stability, a lack of updates and polish or simply a lack of features that businesses need to get work done.

With the productivity and growth benefits that collaboration can bring to any organization, an enterprise-ready solution is more than worth the investment.

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