Video conferencing meetings can change the way that remote employees work and how they are integrated into the team. When they work well, they are a game changer for remote workers, but when they fail, they can be extremely frustrating.
Since video conferencing performs 30% better than audio-only setups for communication, it’s worth investing in a great video conferencing setup for your team. Lucky for you, there are many great, free options for video conferencing software that can be paired with reasonably priced audiovisual products like team video conferencing cameras. For hybrid teams with a mix of in-office and remote employees, a simple but high-quality web camera is a must-have to be inclusive to remote teammates and provide a collaborative atmosphere between employees in multiple locations.
When meetings are audio-only, it creates an unequal experience for remote team members. By not being able to see visual cues, not knowing who is speaking, and usually not being able to hear well, remote team members are less included in team meetings and therefore have less impact on the team. Adding a working video element to team meetings, 1-1 conversations between managers and remote employees (or vice versa), and quick chats between remote team members helps build relationships and improve employee effectiveness. If you make meetings more inclusive for remote team members, the results will show immediately and employee happiness and productivity will drastically improve.
To get started, take a look at these 8 free video conferencing options for a multitude of business use cases. Some of the products listed are great for 1-1 conversations, some for teams, and others for live broadcasts or larger scale team meetings. Pair one of these online meeting platforms with a 360-degree video camera that allows your remote team members to see everyone in the room, read body language, and hear the full conversation on the other end. Once you choose your combination, make sure that your conference rooms or huddle rooms are equipped with all the right audiovisual equipment and necessities to make meetings as easy as possible.
Who should use it: Zoom is ideal for anyone who works remotely or has remote team members. Zoom allows for simple, easy setup meetings or regular meetings in your personal meeting room. Quickly create and share a private meeting link with an individual or team and connect remote team members through video.
Top free features: Host up to 100 participants, 1-1 and group meetings, unlimited meetings, HD video and audio, screen sharing, scheduled meetings, private and group chat, host controls
Who should use it: Google Hangouts is a simple way to connect with Google contacts (or those outside of your network) and can be used for personal or business reasons. Use this tool for individual conversations, team meetings, recorded demos, and more.
Top free features: Video, audio, and messenger conversations, video meeting recordings, up to 25 video participants, join calls using Google Calendar, screen sharing
Who should use it: The free version of Skype works well for small teams with less than 10 total members. It is a good tool if you need a simple way to video chat from your computer, phone, or tablet and tend to have smaller group meetings or 1-1 conversation. Skype also offers a tool called Skype in the Classroom specifically designed for online education.
Top free features: HD video calling, screen sharing, video call recording, up to 10 people on video calls, interactive video chats, location sharing
Who should use it: Slack users can take advantage of the call feature by simply using the command /call or clicking the phone icon at the top of the conversation with another Slack user. This is an easy way to make calls right from Slack if you need to ask a teammate a quick question. You can also Slack with up to 15 people if you start a call from a channel, enabling the rest of the channel’s members to join. This tool is good for teams looking for a supplementary video calling solution for small teams.
Top free features: Individual calls, group calls up to 15 people, messenger
Who should use it: Appear.in can be used by remote employees, remote freelancers, or those working with clients who rarely host larger group meetings. While they have priced plans that include solutions for bigger teams, the free version offers a nice amount of features for individuals and small group conversations. It does not allow for a presenter view screen so when screen sharing, the shared window takes up the whole screen.
Top free features: 4 participants, custom URL/meeting space, locked rooms, screen sharing, stickers, video chat
Who should use it: Facebook Live is a great fit for businesses, influencers, or individuals who are looking to broadcast demos, videos, or showcase their company culture while streaming live. Your followers on Facebook can comment and chat live, you can select a custom audience for the video, and you can schedule videos ahead of time to gain excitement.
Top free features: Broadcasts up to 4 hours, advanced scheduling, custom audiences
Who should use it: YouTube Live, like Facebook Live, is a platform for demonstrating a product with live Q&A, hosting an educational session to teach your audience while screen sharing or using a whiteboard, or hosting a live conversation with members of your team.
Top free features: Three stream quality options (normal latency, low-latency, ultra-low latency), added delay, live questions from the audience, private live streams (people can only access with the link), advanced scheduling, live automatic captions, location tags
Who should use it: TrueConf offers a free plan with up to three participants in video calls. This solution is great for small teams or individuals who need a simple tool to host video calls or collaborate with small groups. The collaboration features like remote desktop control are helpful for those in support who may need to help a client solve a problem.
Top free features: Up to 3 participants on team calls, HD video, collaboration tools (screen sharing, remote desktop control, recorded calls, file transfer, and shared virtual whiteboard)
Video conferencing calls should be made using a strong WiFi connection and a high-quality web camera like the Meeting Owl. (Here’s a list of supported video conferencing platforms that work with the Owl.) Many of these products have more advanced paid plans if your team grows or there are pro features that you require. When considering which video conferencing tool is best for you or your team, take a look at our report, the 2018 State of Video Conferencing to see how you stack up with your audiovisual needs and which products are trusted by other teams and businesses. Don’t forget to bookmark this AV conference room checklist as well so that meetings can get started right away every time.