Web Conferencing Software Overview
What is Web Conferencing Software?
Web conferencing software allows participants to conduct or attend meetings via the internet. This is also known as online meeting software. It enables remote meetings based on VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging, file and screen sharing.
Web conferencing tools have become fundamental to how many organizations conduct business. The software enables remote employees, customers, and partners to connect easily and often. Specific uses for web conferencing software include:
- Presentations or webinars
- Conference calls
- Video meetings with multiple participants
- Running product demos and training
- 1-on-1 meetings with remote employees
- Face-to-face customer support
The top three benefits of using web conferencing software are:
- Enhanced communications
- Reduced travel costs
- Increased efficiency
Web Conferencing Features & Capabilities
Audio and video quality
Web conferencing software should facilitate audio calls and video conferencing. The quality of audio and video is a key factor to consider. Buyers should also consider the bandwidth usage of the software.
Meeting presenters should be able to share their screens with participants.
Web conferencing software allows users to schedule meetings or initiate impromptu meetings. Participants should be able to easily join meetings—and mute themselves. The ability to record meetings (and save or download recordings) is offered by some, but not all vendors. Buyers should investigate to make sure meeting recordings meet their needs.
Many web conferencing software products include collaboration features such as live chat, audience polling, Q&A, and file sharing.
Enterprises and companies in highly regulated industries will need enhanced security. Security features include user authentication, permissions, and confidential attendee lists.
Some web conferencing software products offer a mobile app. This allows easy access to video meetings from a mobile device or tablet. Others allow users to call in from mobile devices (audio-only), or join meetings from a mobile-friendly web link.
Other features include:
- Slideshow presentations
- Meeting scheduling and recording
- Live chatting
- Audience interaction features
- File sharing
Web Conferencing Software Comparison
To compare different web conferencing solutions, consider these factors for each product offering:
High-Quality Audio & Video
Audio and video quality is of the utmost importance to web conferencing software. Users want to feel like they’re having authentic face-to-face conversations with other participants, and quality video is a major component of that. Beyond the quality of your webcam or microphone, the software itself can feature tools that enhance the overall quality of your experience such as noise cancellation, auto-mute for non-speaking participants, and settings adjustments for users with low bandwidth.
Screen sharing allows users to display their screen with other meeting participants. As online meetings become more collaborative, this is a must-have feature for most buyers. Screen sharing must not only be high quality, but easy to toggle on and off as well. The option of having multiple participants sharing their screen at once is also gaining steam, but not every tool on the market offers this feature. If this is important to your team, be sure to confirm that your preferred tool has this feature before subscribing.
People lead busy lives, so web conferencing software has evolved to keep up with the ever-changing ways in which employees engage with their work. Users want to be able to quickly and easily dial-in to meetings not only from their desktop computers, but from laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. Having web conference software with sophisticated mobile application features are a must for many companies. Additionally, for ease-of-use, mobile versions of web conferencing software should compliment the desktop versions and be as congruent as possible to ease implementation and access to meetings for guest users.
Ease of use is essential for online meetings to run without a hitch. Participants need to be able to easily—and quickly—join meetings whether they’re in an office or on the go. Not only that, but for hosts, setting up meetings and managing them must be a simple process as well. A well-designed user interface is key because it facilitates collaboration between participants and ensures that they are engaged. No one wants to spend several minutes figuring out where the “mute” button is or awkwardly fumbling to hang up a call.
Chat is now ubiquitous, from text messaging to private messages across social media platforms. Web conference participants also want to be able to communicate via text during online meetings. In-meeting chat features are designed not only for note-taking, but for quietly conveying information to the host and other participants without interrupting the flow of the meeting, especially during Q&A sessions. Chat features also allow participants to communicate before and after the meeting, and act as an additional means of collaboration.
The reality of online meetings is that not everyone can always participate. This is where meeting recordings come in handy. Ideally, users would have access to unlimited recording, but many web conferencing tools limit the amount of meetings than can be recorded and stored based on file size. Some vendors may limit the number of minutes in a meeting that can be recorded, or limit the available editing features. When searching for web conferencing software, buyers should be mindful of just how often they’d like to record meetings, and if they will need to make extensive edits.
Web Conferencing vs. Video Conferencing
Web conferencing traditionally referred to “one-to-many” interactions. This included presentations, training, and webinars. Individuals could participate via chat or “hand-raising” but the presenter was the key communicator. In contrast, video conferencing
traditionally referred to face-to-face interactions between equal participants, typically two people or a small group.
This line between web conferencing software and video conferencing software is blurring. Web conferencing no longer refers just to calls with a single presenter. The term now includes group discussions, 1:1 meetings, and video calls. Most online meeting vendors offer both traditional web conferencing features (e.g., screen sharing, presentations to large groups, meeting moderation) and traditional video conferencing features (e.g., two-way video and audio).
Free Web Conferencing Software
There are many free web conferencing software options available. Some are personal tools, like Skype
and Google Hangouts
. Others are focused on small businesses, including AnyMeeting
, and Zoom
Free web conferencing software (and free tiers of paid products) may have some limitations. This includes lower video/audio quality, fewer features, and restrictions on the size of meetings, for example. Paid products typically have more features and better performance and security compared to free web conferencing software. But they can be cost-prohibitive for smaller companies, especially if online meetings are only needed now and then by a few individuals.
Paid Web Conferencing Software
For paid plans, web conferencing software is usually priced per seat by the number of meeting participants and included features. Prices start as low as $15/mo. per host for up to 100 participants, as with the Zoom Pro
plan. For enterprise-wide web conferencing software, prices can run into thousands of dollars per month. This includes multiple hosts, virtual meeting rooms, integrations, security & administration, enhanced support, and more.