You get out of a meeting what you put into it

Making a meeting effective is quite a task: Who needs to attend? What is the agenda? Is there even an agenda? There is some effort involved in a meeting before it actually begins.

This effort is increased when it comes to online meetings. When you remove the meeting from a physical space you loose many ways of interaction. You get no feedback on the other attendees’ body language. And, let’s face it, the other attendees might just be checking their email while you lead the discussion. As you can see, the planning of an online meeting or any face-to-face meeting needs to be given a lot of thought.

So we did just that. We sat down and thought about how to best plan a meeting ahead. Well, to be honest, we were shown how to do this. We sat through a presentation of the software “Meeting Efficiency“ which was developed by the Parmenides Foundation. And we were impressed. Although the tool offers a ton of features and functionalities we could instantly follow the workflow involved.

“Meeting Efficiency” can be a valuable aid in organizing and structuring meetings. If you want more than simply a mind mapping tool to assist you, you can check out the Parmedines Meeting Efficiency website.

We are not through testing after all

No time to lean back and take a breather! With 30+ tools we do offer a very broad overview of the web conferencing market. However, there are many new solutions being pushed on the market and those tools that we already tested need a lot of re-evaluation to keep you up to date on upgrades and enhancements.

So we will sure be keeping busy and have some new evaluations and upgrades for you soon. To our list of evaluated tools.

Video conference or web conferencing?

Due to Eyjafallajökull’s activity, air traffic throughout Europe will continue to face restrictions. And even if planes are allowed to fly again throughout Europe by tomorrow, there will very likely be delays for the rest of the week.

In various media it has been stated that business travelers, companies, and even governments are looking into video conferencing technologies to keep things running. While video conferencing certainly is an option to create a meeting-like situation – in that you can see whom you are talking to – web conferencing gives business travelers additional options to successfully conduct business meetings when on the road.

Web conferencing tools allow participants to quickly set up meetings and then share documents, show presentations, chat and have an audio conference at the same time.

In our evaluation of online meeting solutions we present a number of tools and give you information on functionalities, user friendliness, and cost. So if you are looking for a way to have a meeting while you are waiting at the airport – or to prevent you from having to fly altogether – and feel you need a different set of functionalities than provided by video conferencing, you will very likely find a fitting tool in our evaluation of online collaboration software.

Stranded in Europe and scheduled for a meeting? – Just take the meeting online with web conferencing

Business travellers will have to be very patient this weekend. Flights will be cancelled at least until Saturday morning and even then no one seems to know when the situation will normalize itself. The volcano is still active...

The bright side of this chaos: If you have a meeting scheduled you do not have to miss out on it and perhaps let a good opportunity go. Simply invite your contacts to a web conference and make sure that your business does not suffer due to the situation. Check out our evaluation of  online collaboration tools and find the solution that suits your meeting requirements best.

Good look with your further travel plans - and your online meetings.

Why we kept Microsoft NetMeeting in our ranking

Microsoft NetMeeting is by far the oldest product we feature in our ranking: It was originally distributed together with Windows 95. NetMeeting also is the only web conferencing solution in our ranking that is not being further developed and for which there is no support.

We still tested it and included it in our overview for various good reasons. For many business-users “web conferences” and “NetMeeting” are synonymous, which shows what natural and exclusive usage this simple Microsoft tool continues to get – for internal online meetings that is. And NetMeeting’s time is nowhere near to being over.

A manager of one of the leading Cisco distributors recently gave us an interesting insight into how collaboration tools are actually being used. For “big” online meetings connecting multiple locations, personnel reserve meeting rooms in which they gather for the meeting and make use of the pre-installed video conferencing solution Cisco Telepresence. Since for every instance a large internal cost is accrued this solution is not the most popular. This is also due to the fact that staff must prove that using this solution leads to less travel cost. For the occasional online conference with external attendees, distributors most regularly use Cisco WebEx Meeting Center. For internal virtual gatherings regarding daily business the number-one solution is NetMeeting – for the simple reason that “NetMeetings” are easy to start.

So if even organizations that have the most up-to-date web conferencing tools in place still make use of good old NetMeeting that means for us:

NetMeeting obviously is far outdated, which means that usually we wouldn’t consider it for evaluation. But since millions of business-users are not aware of any solution other than NetMeeting, we want to at least show the difference between this early software and the current, far superior solutions for web conferencing.

User-friendliness of web conferencing tools

As is clearly visible in our evaluations of online meeting solutions, user-friendliness weighs in heavily. And for good reason too, because if you want to present information online or have a virtual team-meeting you can’t waste time trying to figure out how to get a specific gadget to work. Meeting organizers and participants need easy-to-use software to operate quickly and smoothly.

User-friendliness does not mean – at least for us – hoarding functionalities in one tool. We favor the less-is-more approach to web conferencing. Packing loads of functionalities into one tool may make for a powerful software, but it takes time and effort to learn to operate it properly (e.g. WebEx). Splitting services into multiple tools with only a limited number of features gives the user an easy-to-use solution for his requirements (e.g. Citrix GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, GoToAssist, GoToMyPC, and GoToTraining)

More details on our criteria for evaluation can be found on our homepage.

Web conferencing appliances

Testing appliances is currently not on our to-do list. And here’s why: To thoroughly test an appliance for online conferencing a complete in-house test environment needs to be set up. That is a very time consuming procedure, which directly leads to the fact that our focus is on easy to install SaaS (Software-as-a-service) solutions, since small to medium sized businesses hardly have the need for any online conferencing tool that requires the installation of hardware within the company’s infrastructure.

So we have to turn down the request for evaluation of the RHUB web conference appliance for now. However GoMeetNow, the SaaS offering from RHUB, is on our backlist of online conferencing tools to be tested.