There is no doubt that technology has caused us to withdraw from face-to-face interaction. Have you noticed what people do while standing in a crowded elevator or waiting for luggage at the airport? You barely see people’s faces because they are buried in their smartphones. God forbid you actually say something to the person standing next to you. We cry foul over this societal development, and we aim to do something about it.
SOFTWARE, OF ALL THINGS, CAN HELP
So if technology has caused the problem, why can’t technology help us solve it, too? That is why we have been using Zoom, a web videoconferencing solution that is easy to use and easy on your budget. With a free personal account and a quick download of the client app to your computer, smartphone or tablet, you get a full-featured web meeting application that allows you to set up instant meetings or schedule meetings for the future.
Obviously, our favorite feature is the ability to turn on our webcam and conduct a videoconference with one or multiple parties. The videoconference brings a personal element back to our meetings, regardless of whether we are interacting at the office or with a colleague who is working remotely. Moreover, when meeting with clients or prospective customers, we think videoconferencing adds value to our interaction and gives us the ability to conduct more business remotely without sacrificing a personal connection. And it really works great with expert witnesses and saves money in travel costs, travel time and out-of-pocket expenses.
IS THERE A CATCH?
In days past, if you wanted to do a quality videoconference from your computer, you had to invest in incredibly expensive equipment and software. Those days are mostly over. With a free Zoom account and a nice HD webcam that we purchased at Best Buy for less than $100, the quality of the videoconference is outstanding. However, the free version of the software limits the duration of your meetings to 40 minutes. (We think 40 minutes is more than enough time for an efficient meeting; you can always take a break and start another one.)
There are various subscription options for corporate use that remove the 40-minute limitation. In addition, if you want to use Zoom in a larger setting like a conference room, you might need more sophisticated equipment to be able to show a room full of people on camera. Zoom works well with these advanced conference room systems as well. So — from personal use all the way up to large corporate meetings — Zoom certainly proves itself as a scalable solution.
THE OTHER BENEFITS
Beyond just showing our smiling faces, the Zoom application is loaded with web conferencing features that are great for business. You can share your screen with the conference participants and allow for on-screen annotations. You can directly access cloud-based files from popular file-sharing sites like Dropbox and Google Docs. And you can record the video call — which is one feature we really like. So if we are conducting a training session via Zoom and want to save the session for future use, we can make that happen very easily. The recording is saved as an MP4 video file and can be uploaded to a cloud repository or even to YouTube. (The recording feature is only available in the paid subscription packages.)
The Zoom application is still very useful for simple audio calls, particularly when there are many call participants. You get a visual representation of who is currently speaking in the app. In addition, with the text chat feature you can send a private IM to someone on the call or send a message to the entire group.
We have used several web conferencing tools over the years, and right now Zoom is our favorite for both its ease of use and its scalability from one-on-one meetings to large multiparty collaborations. So if you want to have a meeting with Bill or Phil, get ready to accept our Zoom link (you don’t have to be a subscriber to respond to a meeting request) and get ready to see our noggins on the screen (you can always cover your eyes). We are all about making meetings personal again. We’ve got the technology to do it, and Bill has his makeover artist on retainer.