Virtual meeting tools that can help you connect with your team and customers
Being online at the moment is essential for businesses to get through. Not only for sales, but for connecting with customers and running events like book clubs and author events.
Here are three of the most popular options for hosting online meetings:
Zoom – Great for meetings with lots of people, has a corporate feel and is free for a 40 minute meeting with up to 100 participants ($15 p/m for larger groups and longer meetings). A local application needs to be installed.
Crowdcast – A nice blend of webinar and live stream, Crowdcast includes ticketing and the ability for attendees to interact before the event. $20 p/m for the starter package. No local application needed.
Google Meet (formerly Hangouts) – has many features including screen sharing. Invites can be sent to guests who don’t have Google accounts and the meetings can hold up to 100 participants. Free No local application needed
Meet is fully integrated with G Suite, so you can join meetings directly from a Calendar event or email invite. All of the important event details are right there when you need them, whether you’re joining from a computer, phone, or conference room. Have a try, go to meet.google.com
Google Meet for Remote and online learning | Tips and Tricks Episode 40 (this one is quite good for online learning ideas)
Zoom runs from a client so before you can join a meeting you need to run the download and install (on your phone, mac or pc). Zoom meeting holders generate a link which they can send to their customers to register for the event. The link provides an add to calendar option. This calendar event has all the details to join into the event from your desktop. While waiting you can work as normally, but with a window on top of your desktop
There are two main options for Zoom hosts; meetings and webinars.
Zoom meetings are ideal for hosting more interactive sessions where you’ll want to have lots of audience participation or break your session into smaller groups. Participants can see and interact with each other (or not). Think of webinars like a virtual lecture hall or auditorium. Webinars are ideal for large audiences or events that are open to the public. Typically, webinar attendees do not interact with one another. Though Zoom provides options for you to get more social with your attendees, your average webinar has one or a few people speaking to an audience.
Zoom presenters can present in many different formats, from a whiteboard, to a powerpoint, slideshow to themselves. Presenters can ask questions on the fly via a pop-up poll.
The Pro version is $15 per month, can have 100+ attendees and the meetings can run for up to 24hrs. Includes 1GB cloud storage. Additional storage can be purchased on a monthly plan starting at 100 GB for $40USD. The Pro version includes unlimited cloud storage.
In-meeting basics include the ability to chat – this allows participants to send messages to all participants. Private chat – hosts can send private messages to individual participants. The host can also use the file transfer feature – a document can be sent out during the meeting or create an instant poll which can be a great way to engage your audience.
Some great features which make this product very professional include breakout rooms (eg 10 people talk about subject A, 10 talk about subject B), Instagram like appearance filters and virtual backgrounds (these will hide anything behind you – including a messy office!).
To host or schedule a meeting you use your calendar. For outlook you can add Zoom to calendar and then it has a “start an instant meeting” There is a Gmail plugin. “Make it a Zoom meeting” You can also schedule a meeting straight from Google Chrome..
A Zoom host can share their screen in lots of ways, from a whiteboard to a portion of the screen. There are lots of whiteboard features including spotlight, stamp, text etc…
Have a look at this quick “How to Join a Zoom Meeting” video https://youtu.be/hIkCmbvAHQQ
Crowdcast sits somewhere between webinars (Zoom) and Live streams (think Facebook Live). With webinar providers (like Zoom) you own your data and can use it afterwards, you can integrate with business tools (CRMs / Mailchimp etc…) and there are no distractions like ads or news feeds. The downside is that you need to download and install applications – and it can be fairly expensive (from $15 per month) for anything beyond a short meeting.
Live stream services (Facebook Live / HouseParty) are consumer friendly and easy to use. They also have chat features and tend to have a higher production value. The downsides are that they serve ads which can be very distracting. Conversations are just chat messages too – rather than real one-to-one conversations.
Crowdcast combines webinars and live streaming into what they call one unified experience. A Crowdcast event or meeting also generates just one link that handles everything automatically. If you click on the link it will take you straight to the landing page, then you can decide to register. If you register (via email – easy) you enter the pre-event page (think a bit like coffee and chat before the main event). 20 seconds after the event has finished that same link will take you to the replay, meaning that people can still register for an event long after it has passed.
After the event it is easy to embed the recording in just a few clicks on any page of your website. On the landing page you can customise your URL, image, video, and description to capture leads with our built-in registration page.
Crowdcast encourages attendees to keep coming back by offering a “follow” button allowing push notifications or email about your upcoming events.
There are many ways to structure a live Crowdcast event too. You can present solo or Invite a co-host, guest, or attendee up on screen with just a click. You can have up to four people on screen at a time. You can also monetise / sell tickets to specific events.
A useful feature is import people to register in bulk (say you have an existing bookclub email list), this means they are automatically registered for the event.
Crowdcast integrates with marketing apps, eg mailchimp – it’s easy to send an email registration via mailchimp.
Have a look at https://youtu.be/B0xm3iBq5iQ
Crowdcast looks like an excellent option for presenting. Possibly slightly less interactive than Zoom although it does have a poll feature. Unlike Zoom you can’t co-host, but you can invite up to 3 others to present with you. A good option for reaching the demographic of people not so comfortable with downloading an application beforehand. The single link idea appeals, especially for things like author events/readings that people might like to return to to watch at a later date. Have a look at this author event for a recent example – and how they are promoting book sales.
Zoom seems to tick most of the boxes and in my (limited) experience the video and audio quality was excellent, possibly something to do with running on its own application. Multiple participants can share their screens simultaneously and co-annotate for a more interactive meeting. This would work well for a workshop type event. Their webinar option would be ideal for a presentation or author reading. You also have the option to pre record (which could be promoted in conjunction with a book launch).
Google Meet is probably the simplest and easiest to use, especially if doing fancy presentations (and using whiteboards) isn’t a priority. Users do have to make sure they are signed in under the correct email address before they can join. Audio and video quality can vary and with a larger group of people I noticed occasional lag. Advantages are ease of use and affordability; a good option for trying out online book clubs.
Hachette looks like they have been using many of these resources for their events…