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What are the Best Web-Based Video Conferencing Tools?

Learn about some easy-to-use video conferencing tools to virtually "be there."

By
Aliza Sherman
August 20, 2009
Episode #067

 

Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

The age of the video phone is practically here, at least the video-enhanced calls via your computer and Internet connection. Video conferencing on the Web doesn't have to be sci-fi, complicated or expensive. I use a free video conferencing solution every single day.

In this day and age of virtual teams and farflung co-workers and clients, video conferencing can really make the difference when communicating. Video gives you the opportunity to see facial expressions, body language, and other visual subtleties that can can be missed when using a phone for complex communications.

Tips for Video Conferencing

Here are some quick and dirty tips for using video conferencing:

1. Get a good Webcam. These days, many laptops come with Webcams built in, but if you're in the market for a good camera to attach to your computer, check out the options from a company such as Logitech.

2. Get a good USB headset. I wouldn't recommend doing video conferencing without a headset, otherwise, your call could be plagued with echo and slapback as well as hissing and high pitched whines from your laptop. Also, without a headset, the sounds of your typing can be very distracting. Logitech has a line of USB headsets for under 80 bucks.

3. Pick a well-lit spot. Regardless of where you set up your computer and Webcam, make sure you have sufficient lighting on your face and watch out for backlight which will put your face in shadows. If others cannot see your face, you're reducing the inherent value of video calls.

4. Pick an uncluttered spot. While we can't all have fantastic video production studios with fancy backdrops, we can pick a neutral background, such as a blank wall or draperies. Whatever you have behind you, make sure it properly reflects the right professional image.

5. Test, test, test. Don't attempt to use any video conferencing tools for an important call without having tested the software or application with the computer you're going to use, your camera, and microphone setup. Every tool has a test mode so make sure you do the trouble shooting in advance.

6. Pick your resolution. If you aren't on a very high speed connection, go into the video conferencing software settings and pick an image resolution that is Standard or slightly lower to reduce the bandwidth load.

Three Reliable Tools for Video Conferencing

Video conferencing on the Web usually comes in three flavors, free, low-cost, and higher fee for enhanced features and services. My favorite video conferencing system is Skype. There is no cost for signing up for Skype or for Skype-to-Skype calls. The quality is usually fine. The big limitation, however, is that Skype will only video conference two people, although you can use Skype for audio calls with multiple callers.

You do have to download Skype software and may have to do some troubleshooting to make sure Skype recognizes your camera and microphone or headset.

Oovoo

Another video conferencing system that has a free level for 2-way video chat and can accommodate up to six simultaneous users all on video is Oovoo. If you need service for more than two users, the pricing is as follows:

  • $7.95/month for 3-way calls,
  • $12.95/month for 4-ways calls,
  • $17.95/month for up to 6-way calls, and
  • $39.95 for business calls.

The package for business calls also includes priority customer service.

You can easily record your video calls on Oovoo, but if you want this option you’ll have to sign up for one of the premium services.

Oovoo does require a download but setup is pretty straightforward and the software is quite elegant.

Projecho

For enhanced video conferencing with many users, you might want to try the Web-based, Flash-driven Projecho. You don't have to download a thing but just simply sign up and invite others to a call, scheduled or on-the-spot. The nifty thing about Projecho is that you can also share a PowerPoint slideshow or show a whiteboard to everyone on the call. Though these features can be combined so the presenter can actually markup a slideshow, they are for presentation only and are not collaborative.

Projecho can accommodate a lot of callers on the video call -- over 30, believe it or not. Usually at that number, most people will be in listening mode and watching a presentation, so Projecho can be used for live video-based seminars using a moderator mode for a classroom-style event. You can combine text chat with audio and video and use a setting called Document Camera to stream an additional video source to the participants in real time. You can also embed Projecho into your website.

You can use Projecho for up to 300 listener minutes free per month. Then you can choose their Pay-As-You-Go level at 7 cents a minute or premium costs range from $24.99 a month up to $129.99/month. If you're looking to go over 50 users, you can contact the company for custom packages.

Bottom line: There are many reasons to use video conferencing in today's business world, and you have many choices in terms of tools, features, and pricing to find the solution that is right for you.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com .

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com. 

Tune in for another business boost from The Digital Marketer, the host who's not afraid to go under the Internet's hood & get a little dirty!

Resources

1. Skype - http://www.skype.com

2. Oovoo - http://www.oovoo.com

3. Oovoo Pricing - http://www.oovoo.com/Buy/Buy_ooVoo_Plans.aspx?sc_lang=en

4. Projecho - http://www.projecho.com

5. Projecho Pricing - http://projecho.com/about/pricing.php

6. Projecho video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZyUZ3Noojc

Online Community image courtesy of Shutterstock

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