5 Ways to Meet People Virtually

I’m working on a fun new webinar on the topic of… webinars! (And online meetings, but it didn’t fit well into that sentence.) As I researched the many ways we can get together from afar, I thought I’d write a post for you guys, too.

This is by NO MEANS an exhaustive list. For every tool I’ve listed, there are probably 50 competitors, and many (most?) of the tools in each category overlap into other uses. You can expect that almost every tool will work on multiple platforms and will have free/reasonable levels.

So don’t take this list as the be all and end all of online meetings, but maybe this will help you get ideas about what’s possible.

  1. “Let me show you what I’m talking about.”
    I’ve long admired the beautiful simplicity of join.me. It’s perfect for a quick one-to-one collaboration to literally get someone else on the same page. Sometimes people write me with a tech question, and instead of trying to write an answer, I simply say, “Jump on a join.me and I’ll show you.”Join.me lets you join from a computer or several mobile apps. It’s a tiny little download that takes a sec or two to install. The basic version is free and lets you show your screen to up to 10 people — and 5 of those could be brought in via video.
  2. “Let’s plow into this project together.”
    Despite some advances that Microsoft is making in the world of real-time document collaboration, Google Drive still wins in this category. It’s incredibly easy to jump on a call and talk to team members while you all add ideas to a Google Doc. Sometimes when I’m working with a client on a new presentation idea, we both throw verbiage down on the same page and hash things out in minutes rather than emailing drafts back and forth for days.
  3. “We need a face-to-face meeting.”
    You have lots of choices for video conferencing these days: good ole’ Skype, sometimes reliable (but improving) Google Hangouts and even Facetime. But my new favorite professional tool is Zoom, which lets you pull in up to 50 HD video streams at the same time. Meetings have a time limit for the free version, but you can look at this as a benefit. Imagine saying, “We’re trying to save the organization money, so we’re using the free version, which means that this meeting must last less than 40 minutes!” Everyone will love you.
  4. “The last time we had a video conference, Jim forgot to wear pants. We’re going back to teleconferences.”
    I still find myself on a number of teleconferences when I get together with a committee to talk about an upcoming event. Freeconferencecall.com is just that… free conference calls. I’ve heard from a few people that the connections can be a little unreliable, but for the most part I’ve heard good things. Bonus: Freeconferencecall now has online meetings for up to 25 people for free. I haven’t tried them out yet, but cool! For a different take on teleconferences, try UberConference. They have a free version, but the coolest feature is in the paid level ($120 a year): The system calls out to participants and the designated time, so no more pin numbers! Another bonus! If you have traditional conference calls with PINs and annoyances, try MobileDay, an app (iOS and Android) that monitors your calendar and automatically connects you.
  5. “We need to share this with our members. Let’s do a webinar.”
    Boy do you have options in this area, and many of them are pretty pricy. The good news is that GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar and WebEx have both recognized the crazy competition in their markets, and their prices are quite reasonable. I find both platforms quite reliable and flexible — the only challenge I have is that they both update their software quite frequently, and almost every time I do a webinar I have to update. Meh.

Another bonus… Have you checked out Blab yet? It’s a great way to bring up to four people together for discussions online. And it’s free….

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