Traditional in-person meetings are out of the question for startups and other small businesses that employ remote teams — they’re expensive, impractical and just so easily replaceable with a reliable video conferencing solution. And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as if every small business has gone virtual. While free consumer-grade apps such as Hangouts or Skype can be extremely useful in the beginning, you will need to figure out better options as you grow. In this article, we outline the top video conferencing features and tools for small businesses to help you choose the video conferencing solution that best fits your company.
Video Conferencing Features for Small Businesses
Before you pick a video conferencing solution for your small business, you need to first step back and think of all the features you will need as a growing company. Here is a comprehensive checklist of features you should consider when choosing the best video conferencing technology for your business.
1. Call size and scalability
Take a look at the size of your team and the types of clients you deal with daily. How many people do you need to connect on an internal call? How about with external vendors, partners or customers? Most free video conferencing services max out at 8–10 participants, and many are limited by 30- or 40-minute call durations. VoIP calls face similar limitations, and also lack the face-to-face component of video conferences. Hosting larger online meetings like webinars is one of the biggest reasons companies move to paid subscriptions for their mission-critical video calls.
2. Video/audio quality and reliability
The quality of your video call is of the utmost importance when you are relying on it for connecting your remote teams and growing your business. You need a solution you can trust when you need it the most. Recurring loss of connection or poor signal during video or audio conferencing will not only decrease your productivity but also put off potential clients. Businesses that conduct calls with customers or prospects should be especially aware of call quality and reliability as they have a big impact on first impressions.
3. Conference room cameras and systems
Team meetings in conference rooms need to support remote participants without having them revert to an outdated audio conference call. Tightly integrated hardware and software solutions provide the best experience in both quality and ease of use. Remote teams get to know their coworkers better through regular, face-to-face video meetings. In fact, 89% of employees who have video conferences say that it helps them feel connected.
4. Integrated screen sharing
Screen sharing is an important part of presenting over a video conference call. Without it, your presentation’s punch could be limited; 90% of remote workers say video meetings make it easier to get their point across to their teams. When you can share your screen during a video call, your colleagues can easily comprehend what you are trying to explain. Having a video conferencing solution with integrated wireless screen sharing lets you easily present and share documents in real time during the meetings, without the need to find and pass along dongles or cords.
5. Chat, email and calendar integrations
To be truly productive across all your teams, collaboration is key. But the catch is: it has to be seamless. This means chat, email and calendar tools need to easily integrate with your video conferencing solution. Video integrations for chat apps and email make it simple to transition from text exchanges to a video call without interrupting your workflow. For marketing and sales teams, adding email marketing integrations into your workflow gives you a winning formula for growing your business. Another important integration that your video conferencing tool needs is a streamlined calendar integration. It allows you to schedule and keep track of video meetings from your work calendar without having to open a separate video conferencing app. The calendar integration lets you know your colleagues’ available schedules so you can find the optimal time to host video meetings instead of asking each team member when they are free.
6. Bring-your-own-device capability
Your clients and prospects shouldn’t have to download an app or create an account just to meet with you over a video call. Find a solution that is standards based that allows anyone to join your call via a SIP/H.323 video system or right from their mobile phone, tablet or laptop with just a single click of the meeting invite link whether they're using an Android, Mac, or any other kind of device.
Conference call recording functionality is great for training and documentation purposes or for sharing useful meeting recaps with team members who were not able to join the scheduled call. Good video conferencing software will have easy recording functionality from within the call. It will also have the option to easily share the recording with team members. This is especially helpful when you need to go over specific points of discussion after the meeting or use the video for training new employees.
8. Tech Support
Of remote employees, 48% said that technical difficulties most often detract from video communication experiences. What’s the point of having a video conferencing provider if their tech support can’t answer basic questions? Or worse, free services without anyone to call if something breaks? When your video calls are business-critical, you need a video conferencing provider support contact. This will ensure that you have someone to reach out to if you have technical difficulties. It will also allow you to minimize downtime and enjoy video conferencing without the disturbances.
Security is equally as important for small businesses as it is for large enterprises. A security vulnerability could be a devastating setback for your company. With the recent news articles around security vulnerabilities with companies like Zoom, it’s important to evaluate security requirements and risk tolerances. This should be one of the most crucial criteria when you are choosing a video conferencing provider for your business.
10. Price and ROI
If employees worked from home just half the time per year, it could result in $11,000 in savings per person. That means a small company of 25 employees could save $275,000 a year with employees working from home but still being productive and connected through video conferencing. In addition, video conferencing has drastically cut down on travel time and costs since employees can join team meetings regardless of their physical location. Although video conferencing in itself has reduced many company costs, it is still important that you choose one that is easy on the budget but will scale as your company grows.
5 Helpful Video Conferencing Tools for Small Businesses
Keeping all these features in mind, we’ve rounded up a list of five great video conferencing tools that will help your team have more personal and productive meetings. These tools either are free or require a minimum investment, making them perfect for small businesses and startups concerned about their bottom lines.
1. Lifesize Dash
Lifesize Dash™ is a free and easy way to add video conferencing to any meeting room. This free conference room kit connector can integrate with third-party USB video cameras and audio devices by manufacturers like Aver, Huddly, Logitech and Polycom. It has support for Chromebox and Windows PCs and offers you the freedom to use any existing hardware that you have in your office, all while giving you an amazing user experience, reliability and centralized management of the Lifesize service. Lifesize Dash allows you to save up to $1,000 per year per room by ditching hidden per-room licensing fees.
2. Lifesize Icon 300
The Lifesize® Icon 300™ is an all-in-one huddle room solution for under $2,000. Its ultra-wide field of view (FOV) is perfectly optimized to capture everyone seated at the table in even the smallest meeting rooms. The Lifesize Icon 300 gives you unmatched 4K screen sharing quality so you can present in the huddle room without sacrificing quality. Setup is plug and play, controls are intuitive and every call is encrypted by default.
3. Lifesize integrations with Microsoft
Many small businesses have standardized on Microsoft tools for their email, calendar and real-time communication solutions. The Lifesize integration for Microsoft adds best-in-class audio and video quality to your existing Microsoft® Teams and Microsoft® Outlook® workflows for persistent collaboration. Easily schedule and join Lifesize meetings directly from within Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Outlook. Additionally, Lifesize enhances the Microsoft Skype for Business environment by giving users and their guests a superior video experience in the meeting room and on group calls.
4. Kaptivo Digital Whiteboard
Whiteboarding sessions are great for brainstorming and collaborating with your team, but it can be difficult for remote team members to see the board and participate during a video conferencing call. Whiteboard Sharing with Lifesize Share and Kaptivo lets you capture interactive whiteboarding sessions without the cost of a smartboard or proprietary digital whiteboard. Kaptivo attaches to any standard dry-erase whiteboard or glass board, digitally captures whiteboarding sessions and, when paired with Lifesize Share, presents a clear, sharp and accurate image to everyone in the meeting or on the call in real time.
5. Lifesize Account
For the truly cost-conscious small-business owner looking for a better way to meet over video, Lifesize allows you to host free and instant video calls with up to 25 people. Invite attendees by sending your personal meeting ID and meet face to face, present your screen and collaborate instantly over a fully encrypted network right from your phone or browser. Unlike other free video conferencing services, Lifesize gives you unlimited free meetings with no restrictions on the meeting length. And in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lifesize is offering 6-months free for all businesses. Simply navigate to signup.lifesize.com to claim your free account.
When you run a small business with a remote team, regular face-to-face meetings are crucial not only to knit the team together but also to collaborate more effectively. Before you pick a video conferencing tool to help you grow and scale your company, go through this checklist and see if the tool has the features you require. Are you able to accommodate all your team members on regular video conferences using the tool? Is the video conferencing tool robust enough to streamline your workflow? Are the necessary integrations available for you to sync between team members and function smoothly as a business?
You need to carefully consider your options and go with the tools that promise you the best ROI and are scalable as your company grows. Remember, web conferencing is an integral part of keeping your remote teams connected and engaged and is one of the best investments you can make for your small business.