Video Conferencing Tools

The video below is a recording of the live stream which took place on Friday 27th March 2020 at 13:00 GMT.

On this page you will find the notes that were showcased on this stream.

Contents

1) What is a Video conference?

A video conference is a live, visual connection between two or more people who are in different locations for the purpose of communication.

Many of you will have used 1-2-1 video calls before to loved ones using apps on your phone like Skype, WhatsApp and Apple's Facetime.

However, if you want to talk to a group of people at the same time (aka 1-2-many conferencing), then you may wish to consider using one of the free tools showcased below.

2) How can video conferencing help me?

Due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak many people are working from home, making face for face meetings impossible. Video conferencing enables you to have virtual meetings, where you can see all participants and work collaboratively on documents, agendas and minutes with all delegates, as if they were sat in the room with you, no matter where they are in the world.

In short, video conferencing can help your business remain operational, allowing you to operate as normally as possible during this challenging time.

3) What equipment do you need to be able to video conference?

To take part in video conferencing you will need:

  1. A sufficiently powerful computer/tablet/smartphone - If your smartphone/tablet is under 3 years old, chances are it is powerful enough. However when talking about computers it will depend on the speed of your processors and the amount of RAM your machine has, ideally you want at least 2 GB of ram and a quad-core processor (don't worry if you aren't sure about this, you can always try video conferencing with your computer and, if it doesn't work, switch to your laptop or tablet).
  2. A stable broadband internet connection - The exact speed of internet connection you need will depend on the quality of the sound and video you wish to send and receive. As a minimum you will need at least 1 Mbps but ideally should aim for a connection of at least 4 Mbps. This assumes that no other devices are accessing the internet during the call, if they are then you will need a faster connection to accommodate everyone using it.
  3. A high resolution web cam - typically these are now built into laptops, tablets and smartphones so if you have one such device you probably have one.
  4. A microphone - These days almost all tablets, smartphones and laptops combine with a microphone built it. However if you are using a desktop PC you may need to attach an external microphone to your computer, most modern webcams have these built in though so this shouldn't be an issue.

4) What software should you use?

There are a number of great free options which you may wish to consider using when video conferencing. The one you pick will come down to which one you, and the other people you are conferencing with, find easiest to use.

Here we will showcase 3 of them:

4.1) Zoom

Zoom is a popular choice with businesses, with users rating it at or near the top of most lists, along with Skype. Available in both desktop and mobile versions, the platform lets you share video, audio, and screens across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Zoom Rooms, and H.323/SIP room systems.

Pricing

Zoom offers a free version alongside multiple paid for plans which provide greater functionality and features. Today though, we are focusing on the free version.

Please click here to view Zoom's pricing plans.

Key Features

    • Hold video conferences with up to 100 people
    • No limit on the number of meetings you can hold
    • No time limit on 1 to 1 meetings
    • 40 mins time limit on group meetings (although you can always make a new meting when your 40 minutes are up).

Sign Up Options

If you want to host a meeting using Zoom, you will need to create an account. This is easy to do by logging into the app using your Google or Facebook credentials.

4.2) Skype

Skype is one of the longest running and most well known video conferencing platforms.

Acquired by Microsoft in 2011 there are actually TWO versions of Skype:

  1. Skype
  2. Skype for Business.

Skype is perfect for personal use and small businesses (20 or fewer employees).

Skype for Business lets you add up to 250 people to online meetings, provides enterprise-grade security, allows you to manage employee accounts, and is integrated into your Office apps.

Features

  • Hold HD video conferences with up to 50 people (250 with Skype for business).
  • Screen sharing
  • Conference recording
  • Live subtitles
  • Location sharing
  • Background blur (in case you don’t want everyone on your video conference call to see that your home office needs tidying)
  • File sharing – Drag and drop files of all kinds, up to 300 MB, into your call window
  • Real-time translation
  • Video call mobile phones and landlines (requires Skype Credit or a subscription)
  • Included with Microsoft Office 365
  • Initiate video calls straight from your inbox

Signup Options

Skype is free to download but you will need to create a free Microsoft account to use it.

4.3) Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a free tool which allows groups of people to communicate via voice, text or video.

Like all things Google, Hangouts is completely cloud-based and accessible via laptop/desktop computer or mobile device.

Features

  • Hold HD video conferences for up to 25 people
  • Automatic screen focus
  • Screen sharing
  • Intelligent muting
  • Custom administrative control options
  • Share photos, videos, maps, emoji, stickers, and animated GIFs

Signup Options

To use Google Hangouts you just need to have a free Google account.

If you are going to use it on a computer then you will need to install the Google Chrome web browser, if you are running it o a tablet or smartphone then you will need to install the Google Hangouts from your device's app store.

5) Summary

The purpose of the live-stream and these notes is not to tell you which video conferencing tool is best for you, but rather make you aware of three free to use options which you may consider using.

It's also worth noting that these are not the only options, there are many other tools which you might wish to consider.

The best thing to do now would be to try some of these tools, see which ones work best for you, and then go from there.