LessMeeting and Web-conferencing

Here at LessMeeting we often get asked how our product compares with web conferencing solutions like WebEx or GoToMeeting. The answer is that LessMeeting and web conferencing tools are two different categories of tools aimed at solving two distinct problems.

A web conferencing product allows you to have meetings with your co-workers, partners, and clients, whether they are across town or across the globe. These tools are a way of connecting people through audio, video, and desktop sharing. Once the connection is made, it’s up to you to ensure that you’re following effective meeting practices.

LessMeeting, on the other hand, is aimed at helping you have more effective meetings. LessMeeting focuses on helping you define clear agendas and create high quality meeting minutes that clearly note what decisions were made and what action items came out of your meetings. LessMeeting is just as beneficial for in-person meetings as it is for virtual meetings. Thus, LessMeeting is compatible with, and will enhance, the web conferencing solutions that you know and use.
There are a growing number of web conferencing solutions, and it can be confusing trying to select one to match your needs. Therefore, we put together this guide to help you out.

A Tool for Every Need

There is no single web conferencing tool that’s going to be the best fit for every situation. You should define your use case scenario in order to pick which web conferencing tool best fits your needs. The following are some of the most common web conference usage patterns and the tools that we think fit them.

Usage Pattern A. Sales demo to a potential client

Problem: Marty is in charge of sales for a small independent software vendor. One of the most valuable tactics at his disposal is the demo. When a potential client is out of state, however, he needs a way to bring the demo to them. Being a small ISV, he needs to keep expenses low, so he tries to keep travel to a minimum. A web conferencing tool would be great, but it needs to be reliable and professional looking.
Solution: Marty chooses the open source meeting solution DimDim. DimDim has many tiers of service. However, the one that best fits Marty’s needs is DimDim Pro, currently at $25 / month. DimDim Pro has the following features that meet Marty’s needs:

  • He can customize the meeting site with his ISV’s logo and brand
  • Meetings are secure, so there is less risk of Intellectual Property getting leaked
  • He can record his demos to be used later, if needed
  • Attendees just browse to the url to join the meeting. No software download or complicated setup is required
  • He can share his desktop, a presentation, or he can co-browse a web-site with meeting participants

Alternates: Other tools that Marty may investigate based on his usage pattern include Vyew, TeamApart, and Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Usage Pattern B. Daily status call for a small team

Problem: Asha is the lead of a 4 person multi-site project team. Every day they have a 15 minute “standup” status meeting. Having worked on multi-site teams before, Asha knows that regularly seeing each other’s faces is key to that team feeling. However, because this is a daily meeting, she wants something that won’t take 10 minutes each day setting up.
Solution: A possible solution for this situation is tinychat. Tinychat is free and it’s requirements are minimal (just a browser with Flash, a microphone, and optionally a camera). Another plus to tinychat is that you can create your own tinychat.com url (e.g. tinychat.com/<whatever_you_want_here>). Asha can reserve that url and re-use it day after day for added convenience. Tinychat is ad-supported, so it doesn’t look as professional as some of the other web conferencing tools. However, Asha doesn’t care about the ads if it helps her get the job done.
Alternates: Other tools that Asha may investigate based on her usage pattern include Skype (Beta video conference up to 5 people for free), ooVoo, iChat (Mac only).

Usage Pattern C. Large business that wants a standard tool

Problem: Casey is the CIO of a company that has grown in the past year to over 5,000 employees across the globe. Each department has their own tools for conducting virtual meetings. It’s time for Casey’s company to purchase and standardize on a web conferencing product so that each department does not waste time selecting and configuring their own tools. She needs a product that provides video and audio conferencing, is easy to use for international attendees, is secure, and allows for centralized management of user accounts.
Solution: Casey narrows the field down to GoToMeeting and WebEx. Both products have similar features. They are commonly used in large corporations, so it’s a proven solution. Casey will get all the features she was looking for, along with premium support and the peace of mind that comes with working with a company that has a large number of installs at other companies like hers.
Alternates: Other tools Casey may investigate based on her company’s usage pattern include Polycom, Intercall, and Bapti.

Asking the Right Questions

As you can see from the above scenarios, there’s not one tool that’s right for all situations. It’s best to ask yourself some questions to assess your needs.

  • How do you want meeting participants to access the meeting? By phone? By a microphone attached to their computer?
  • Where are your meeting participants? If they are spread across multiple countries, do you need toll-free dial-in numbers for them?
  • How important is video to the success of your meetings? Is it the primary focal point? Or is video just a nice-to-have, as people will be focusing on an application or document that you’re sharing?
  • Do you need to share your computer screen or a document with meeting participants?
  • Are you selecting a tool for use by your entire company? Or are you selecting a tool for your small business or department?

Hopefully these questions and the scenarios above will help you in your quest for a web conferencing tool. We hope you won’t forget that once you select a web conferencing tool, LessMeeting makes a great addition to make sure that you get the most out of those virtual meetings.

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