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Apr

Tools for Virtual Meetings

Corona paralyzes the world – not only within a business context but also within our private life. No matter if you are forced to work from home or if you are in quarantine. Tools for virtual meetings or private meet-ups become even more important both within business and private context. Take the headline of my article, type it into one of the common search engines and see what happens. You will be literally flooded with millions of articles about possible tools for virtual meetings. There are so many options – ready to be tested.

In my article I want to focus on the four most commonly used and – presumably – most known tools within a business context to clearly show you an extract of their features and possibilities.

Skype for Business Online and Skype

Do not confuse Skype for Business Online (a tool included in Office 365) with Skype. Skype for Business Online has been the most commonly used tool for virtual communication within the business environment – independent of time and location. Currently, Skype for Business Online is however, step by step replaced by Microsoft Teams. You will get more information about Teams within the course of this article.

I assume that almost everybody is familiar with the normal and well-known application “Skype”. It is mainly used in a private context when simple communication features have priority instead of comprehensive business functions, e.g. an integration of common office programs and features.

It is possible to chat and make video calls with other persons with a PC, laptop or smartphone. Group-video-calls with up to 50 participants are for free. Since 2016 it is also possible to host simple video calls without a Skype account or initial registration. You just have to create a link that you can send to all the other participants via email.[3]

With a Skype account you also have the option to make so-called Skype-to-Phone calls which means that you can make very cheap international calls by topping up your Skype account with credit. However, you have to register, create a Skype account and subscribe. For more information, just follow the link: https://www.skype.com/de/,

Some positive features of Skype at a glance:

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, or simply “the central spot for team work”, is the Microsoft business communication tool integrated into Office 365 since 1st of September 2019. It comprises numerous business functions such as (group) chats, calls, video conferences, collaboration and a targeted communication within defined teams – almost anything seems to be possible. Up to 10,000 participants can attend a virtual meeting no matter where they live or work. Files of common office programs can be opened, shared and processed in real time.

That is by no means all. You can also integrate even more programs and features via apps, to design your team collaboration successfully – for instance OneNote or Trello.

To support and encourage you and your business teams in times of the Corona crisis, Microsoft offers the usage of Teams for free within the next six months (until January 2021).

Some positive features of Microsoft Teams at a glance:

  • Numerous business functions
  • (Group-) chats, calls, video conferences
  • Stored communication data
  • Formation of teams and communication channels for projects
  • Up to 10,000 participants possible in one meeting
  • Processing data in real time
  • Integration of several apps
  • Integration into Outlook possible
  • On-the-go version available

Zoom

Zoom is a remote conference service with a basic version free of charge in which a host can start a video conference by simply sending a link via smartphone or email to the participants. A registration is not necessary – neither for the host nor for the participants. However, when you use the version free of charge for a group video call, the meeting is automatically stopped after 40 minutes. A meeting for two people can be held without any time limit. All these things considered, Zoom is an uncomplicated and stable basic version that makes it easily possible to get in touch with several persons at the same time.

Some positive features of Zoom at a glance:

  • Basic version free of charge: unlimited time for max. two participants and limited to 40 minutes for more than two persons.
  • No registration necessary
  • Starting simply by sending an invitation link
  • Integration into Outlook possible
  • On-the-go version available

Update 2nd of April 2020: Please be careful when using Zoom and double-check what you would like to share. We heard about serious security risks and unwanted persons joining Zoom meetings.

WhatsApp

Yes, you have read correctly. Also WhatsApp can be used e.g. as a backup solution for a “mini” video conference. This can be interesting mainly when all the other tools are simply overloaded or you have a very bad internet connection. The video functionality is limited to max. four people, but free of charge at all. This is why WhatsApp is often used perfectly for informal meetings among colleagues, friends or family – e.g. for a virtual After Work beer.

Some positive features of WhatsApp video conferences at a glance:

  • Practically everyone has WhatsApp
  • Free of charge
  • Video conference can be started in the chat window
  • Easy handling

The four tools described above are only a small selection of all the tools available online waiting to be tested.

Feel free to make use of the comment field below and send us your comments, impressions and experiences that you have made with the available tools so far. Which tools do you use? Do you maybe know even more tools that we should consider? Let us all participate in our experiences. This is the only way how we can all benefit from each other.

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