Working from Home? Top Tools for Webinar and Conferencing to Keep Communication Running Smoothly

Amidst COVID-19 concerns and coronavirus quarantine policies, working from home has become a new reality for many companies. While a full quarter of the U.S. workforce already works from home, many businesses weren’t fully prepared to take their workflow completely remote – and if you’re looking for quick solutions for your team, you’re not alone. Many companies have had to scramble for a quick solution that will keep day-to-day operations sustained for what seems like an indefinite period of time.

It’s not all bad news, though: This is a great opportunity for many businesses to modernize their systems, allowing them to stay prepared for more crises to come – both small, like travel delays and weather mishaps, and large, like the pandemic we find ourselves facing today. It is also an opportunity for businesses to put their business continuity plans into practice, which should include cybersecurity standards to keep company and client data safe while working from home.

There are a few key functions that any remote conferencing and webinar tool needs to have to make your company’s transition as seamless as possible: The ability to meet virtually as a team, of course, plus the ability to offer managerial support, check-in with employees daily, schedule meetings, facilitate instant messaging, and create time for basic social interactions. It’s a lot of boxes to tick, but as businesses have made working from anywhere more and more feasible over the years, more and more platforms have stepped up to the plate to ensure that working from home is a piece of cake.

Social distancing doesn’t mean that your productive meetings, webinars, and conferences need to come to a halt. There are several useful software options with tools that incorporate screenshare, video, audio, and interactive collaboration. Here are our top 3 recommendations to keep your business communications running smoothly while working remotely:

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams capitalizes on the infrastructure of the entire Office 365 platform, making it a no-brainer for companies who already utilize the product suite. Aptly named, it facilitates team management for up to 10,000 people, making space for meetings, company-wide events, presentations, and check-ins of almost any size.

More features include:

  • High-quality audio, video, and screen sharing
  • Meeting notetaking
  • Meeting recording
  • Instant messaging capabilities
  • Access to previous meetings’ notes and recordings
  • Option for moderated attendee Q&A or open dialogue between attendees

Some of the major pros for Microsoft Teams includes:

  • Benefits from the security and compliance of Office 365, making it an extremely safe platform. (In fact, it’s even HIPAA compliant.)
  • Conferencing is accessible from mobile devices, thanks to a global dial-in number
  • Can schedule with anyone who has an email address – they won’t need to download any apps or plug-ins
  • Extreme organization – Teams has a very compartmentalized workflow
  • Completely seamless integration with other Microsoft applications
  • Background blur technology to minimize distractions and any embarrassing wall decor

There are a few cons, too, depending on what your existing platforms are:

  • Teams really only works well if you’re already integrated with Microsoft
  • The extreme organization can be a bit much if you’re used to more casual instant messaging apps such as Slack

The price for Microsoft Teams varies. It’s included with Office 365 Business or Enterprise accounts, which means you may already have access to this awesome tool. You can also sign up for the free version so long as you and your employees have Microsoft email addresses. This is also what makes it difficult to compare the price of Teams to other conferencing platforms – all the other Office 365 apps come with it! If you’re looking for a major update for your business that will last far beyond the coronavirus pandemic, this may be your best bet.

Prices for the various Office 365 accounts, all of which have different benefits beyond Teams, are as follows:

  • Business Essentials: $5/user/month
  • Business Premium: $12.50/user/month
  • Enterprise E5: $35/user/month

Zoom Conferencing

Zoom is perhaps one of the most well-known conferencing and webinar platforms. It’s easy to set up, easy to use, and integrates with most web browsers, email platforms, and sales tools. Zoom is a great option for companies who use video conferencing and webinars to communicate with their audience in addition to their staff, thanks to robust marketing automation.

Features include:

  • Online meetings
  • Virtual conference rooms
  • Instant messaging
  • Virtual phone system
  • Automatic recording
  • Closed captions and keyboard shortcuts
  • Auto-generating transcripts
  • Multiple user screen-sharing
  • Virtual backgrounds (to hide potentially embarrassing wall décor)

The major pros of Zoom include its ability to track attendee information in detail, the way it aggregates meeting and webinar data, and its ability to allow multiple people to facilitate presentations.

Other pros are:

  • Attendee attention tracking
  • 10,000+ attendees
  • Public events can be broadcasted to Facebook, YouTube, etc.
  • Integrates with Salesforce, Panopto, and more
  • Heavy-duty encryption
  • Monetization options
  • Live polling capabilities
  • Lead/attendee tracking
  • Co-annotation
  • Virtual hand-raising

Cons:

  • Zoom’s security is good, but it’s not HIPAA-level unless you opt for their special healthcare plan, which can make it less ideal for storing sensitive client information

Prices for the different levels of Zoom are:

  • Basic: Free, up to 100 participants and a 40-minute meeting limit
  • Pro: $14.99/month/host, allows for cloud recording and longer meetings
  • Business: $19.99/month/host, allows for more participants and branding
  • Enterprise: $19.99/month/host, allows for even more participants and cloud storage (but requires more hosts)

GoToMeeting / GoTo Webinar

Last but certainly not least is GoTo Meeting and GoTo Webinar. Like our other recommendations, GoTo offers screensharing, virtual meeting, business messaging, personal meeting room, and dial-in conference capabilities.

It has a number of other fun, useful features that are unique to their brand, too:

  • Siri integration
  • Slack meeting launcher
  • No meeting time limits
  • Unlimited cloud recording
  • Smart assistant capabilities
  • Keyboard and mouse sharing

GoToMeeting has impressive security measures as well: It has SSL encryption, is HIPAA-compliant, and uses risk-based authentication to prevent shady, unwelcome guests from entering a meeting.

Other pros include:

  • Automated email reminders for conferences and webinars
  • A highly converting registration page, if you’ll be interacting directly with customers (particularly while so many are stuck at home)
  • Polls and surveys
  • Automatic recording
  • Integration with Zapier, Salesforce, Unbounce, etc.
  • Virtual hand-raising
  • Branding capabilities

Cons:

  • It’s not quite as automated as some other options
  • It has lower caps on participants

GoTo Meeting and GoTo Webinar offer a free seven-day trial. After the first week, the prices are:

  • Professional: $12/organizer/month, 150 participants,
  • Business: $16/organizer/month, 250 participants
  • Enterprise: Price is unlisted, up to 3,000 participants, bundles many of their other services

The best things about all of these virtual conference and webinar tools? They offer more than safeguarding against future catastrophes. Each of these platforms creates global, efficient meeting options that can be a boon even when everyone is back at the office.

COVID-19 has been a major setback for many companies, but it also offers the opportunity to make your business workflow modern, flexible, and resilient.

And working from home doesn’t mean that your marketing efforts should stop. Now is the time to consider what can be done to adjust your marketing strategy and tactics. Need some help? Contact Gate 39 Media.

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