How US Business Will Change in the Last Half of 2020: Virtual Meetings

by | Mar 25, 2020

Though no one knows the future, it’s possible to read the signs of the present and make some strong predictions. Right now many business owners are sitting at home, forced to “close up shop” either temporarily or permanently because of the 2020 coronavirus / COVID-19 situation. That “idle” time, for many, has created worry but for a few it has created opportunity. For pretty much everyone, it’s created a new way of thinking about how to do business.

In this and the following posts, I want to dive into a few of the ways the 2020 coronavirus “outbreak” is causing small (and large) businesses to re-think how to conduct business once we all get back to work. Perhaps the most obvious change is how small businesses will use streaming technology and video.

Video meetings and video chat certainly aren’t new. From Facetime to Facebook Live to YouTube to Cisco’s enterprise (and aging) WebEx platform, American businesses and their clients are familiar with the tech.

Though large companies with offices scattered around the country have more heavily used video conferencing tech, it falls into the “I don’t have a use for it” or “I prefer to do business in person” categories for the majority of small businesses. That is, until early March 2020, when the US government “recommended” that certain businesses shut their doors and all Americans stay put in their homes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Small business owners, churches, and city governments scrambled to find the right video meeting tech in order to hold onto that “face to face” mode of business as usual. That scramble overloaded networks and created frustration on top of worry when business owners realized the tech they had ignored required a little more “know how”. After the networks cleared up and Americans settled into stillness, business owners are left with genuinely thinking through how video conferencing tech might actually be a good option when America is out and about again.

In a post-2020 Coronavirus America, where we now all know the meaning of the term “social distancing”, small business owners need to think through how meetings could be handled with emails, how trainings could be handled with video, and how conferences could be handled with virtual online meetings. Social distancing aside, business goals like improving efficiency, lowering operating expenses, and even team building and employee engagement can be improved through the use of video tech.

I found this great info-graphic from financesonline.com/video-web-conferencing-statistics/ that shows both the benefits and barriers to video conferencing. Of course this was created prior to COVID-19 so the barriers may not be as relevant or difficult to overcome.

 

 

 

 

Below are my recommendations for video meeting. Please comment and let me know any feedback if you’ve used these systems – whether positive or negative.

Zoom
It seems that the one virtual meeting platform most everyone knows about is Zoom – at least in my circles. It’s the one I hear mentioned the most. Perhaps that’s because they have a Free plan that offers everything you need for smaller meetings. You can host up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. But you can also have unlimited 1 to 1 meetings and as many of them as you want. There are also some basic group collaboration features like group chat and breakout rooms.

The paid plans start at $14.99/mo/host and give the host more granular control of the meeting as will as a 24 hour meeting duration limit (can you imagine?). To move into larger meetings and webinars, you’ll have to move up into their Business plan which starts at $19.99/mo/host with a big “catch”. The Business Plan requires a 10 host minimum. In other words, your $19.99/mo x 10 brings you to $199.99 a month. Still, with better audio and video quality, you can host a highly productive meeting without having to bring in lunch. That’s still quite a costs savings!

I’ve only used Zoom a few times on the Free plan and I wasn’t impressed with the quality. The audio and video lagged throughout my meetings but we got it done. On the plus side, Zoom was very easy for everyone to set up and join.

www.zoom.us

GotoMeeting
GotoMeeting is one of many business tools provided by LogMeIn (including Join.me, another virtual meeting platform). They don’t offer a Free plan but they do offer a Free 14-day trial. Then their professional plan starts at $14/mo/organizer. With the Professional plan you can meet with 150 participants and have unlimited meetings. Like Zoom, meeting participants don’t have to have a GotoMeeting account to join so if you have a group of over 100 that needs to meet, $14 a month will get you there. If you don’t need to meet the next month you can simply cancel. Not a bad price for a meeting that doesn’t require anyone to leave their home or office.

Though I have little experience with GotoMeeting, I have used Join.me (same company) extensively for conference calling and screen sharing with very few issues. Their market is for smaller teams and is better suited for training scenario and situations where people want to call in verses streaming a webcam. At $10/mo, it’s only slightly cheeper than GotoMeeting. Since GotoMeeting also allows for call-ins by phone, that extra $4/mo may be worth it.

www.gotomeeting.com

FreeConferenceCall
This is one I just discovered but definitely the most interesting of the online meeting services. It really is free video based meetings for up to 1,000 participants! Though it’s “free” they have a pricing model of “pay what you think it’s worth”. According to their website, the average user pays $6 per month, which, as you’ve seen, is less than half the market rate for other platforms.

This is a full featured system and offers everything a meeting organizer needs to have virtual meeting. This includes HD audio and video, screen sharing, recording, remote desktop, chat, drawing tools and more.

www.freeconferencecall.com

Though many employers have resisted the trend of remote work, employees working from home is becoming the new normal. As we’ve been thrust into an “at home” situation by the fear of a highly contagious virus, that new normal is starting now in 2020. In a very short time, America will be back at work but as a business owner or manger, it’s more crucial than ever to think through your “virtual office” strategy now.

Though it’s only one component of embracing a “work from home” mindset, find an online meeting solution that you can learn, afford, and train your employees on while you have the time.

Ben DeLoach

Ben DeLoach

Owner, Marketer, Developer

Helping small businesses choose and develop online marketing strategies that drive business growth.

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