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Video Conferencing Tips & Applications for the COVID-19 Lockdown and Beyond

Screen Sharing Apps, Video Chat Apps, and Online Presentation Apps

Although video conferencing applications have been around for a long time and are fairly stable and established, there is plenty of room in the market for better applications. Although the photo depicts a VR headset, virtual reality applications have not taken off, such as in videoconferencing.

Caution: Know that the video, audio, and chat (text) log of these video calls might be kept permanently and distributed to persons not on the call. Determine what that means for you and act appropriately.

A good resource is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, visit their recommendations on privacy

Also, the global COVID-19 virus outbreak (a Coronavirus) has the staff from many industries in a "Work From Home" (WFH) mode. In order to maintain a connection with teammates in a city or across the planet, they are using video conferencing tools. For companies that were already remote (or virtual or distributed), the use of video conferencing and collaboration tools is not new.

One online meeting tool company, Lucid Meetings, also has great advice, so I've decided to highlight a post on 5 tips, which is really 5 x 12 = 60 tips. Top 5 Tips for Smarter Meetings (Times 12!)

Online Sales & Marketing: Chat, Videoconferencing & Presentation

Before the virus hit, many sales teams had a suite of marketing tools to enable immediate and direct connection with prospective customers. These tools include a chatbot on a website connected to a calendaring tool for appointment self-scheduling with the aim of a 1:1 (one-to-one) video conference or demonstration to inform and sell. 

Video Teleconference Applications

These video conferencing applications enable collaboration needs by allowing calls via audio or video call. Some have tools for presentations, screen sharing, or drawing on a virtual whiteboard. These are considered conference calling and web meeting apps. Here is my latest list of applications for video conferencing:

Amazon Chime

Clearly, with Amazon's lead in cloud computing with Amazon Web Services, the existence of AWS-powered applications is a given. I like this because it is lightweight; it does not require a download and code on your machine to run. This makes your computer more secure.

Around

Around is a new video call and video conferencing app. It claims AI for camera framing and AI to eliminate background noise. It has auto-mute for background distractions, claims no echo, and handles up to 15 connections (calls) right now. It integrates with Slack to permit launching from inside Slack. I found this on Product Hunt.

BigMarker

BigMarker says it is the #1 video platform for webinars, summits, and virtual conferences. It is browser-based, requiring no software download, a plus in my book. Also, you can do demos or hold classes online.

BlueJeans

BlueJeans is a conferencing app that offers video calls, screen-sharing, and live streaming. It does not require you to install any app to join; you can connect from a web browser. I was on a call recently where a vendor used BlueJeans for what ended up being a voice call and I was satisfied with voice quality and connection.

Cisco Webex Conferencing

Cisco Webex Meetings is video conferencing software with a collaborative whiteboard while seeing everyone's face in the video call. There is a bundled Webex Work offering for small business, priced monthly by the number of users. They have a number of work from home (WFH) technology solutions, such as access points, network routing, virtual private network (VPN), and information security.

Facebook

Facebook is launching a "Messenger Rooms" offering with group calls for up to 50 participants and no time limit according to Venturebeat.

Google Hangouts

Hangouts is a great part of Google's GSuite business applications that begin with GMail. Your GSuite administrator can turn on or off the ability to create a Hangout automatically when you create a meeting invite with Google Calendar within GSuite.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting.com is part of LogMeIn I have to admit that I do not like apps that require a software download to run. In addition, this company makes LogMeIn which can take control of your computer for remote support, but I see this as an information security issue.

Hopin.to 

Global online platform. DrupalCon Global was held on hopin.to with thousands of attendees and multiple tracks. https://hopin.to/

Houseparty | Face to Face Social Network

Houseparty was recommended by friends that used it to connect with other friends remotely https://houseparty.com/ Ironically, my friend ended up in a photo while on Houseparty that showed up in this article at the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/03/17/video-happy-hour-coronavirus-st-patricks-day/

Jitsi

Secure, flexible, and free video conferencing. Jitsi Meet is the name of the video conferencing tool.

  • Video chat with the whole team
  • Fully encrypted
  • 100% Open Source
  • Share your desktop, presentations, and more
  • Invite users to a conference via a simple, custom URL
  • Edit documents together using Etherpad
  • Pick fun meeting URLs for every meeting
  • Trade messages and emojis while you video conference, with integrated chat
  • Use Jitsi all day for free—with no account needed

Join.Me

This is another lightweight app that makes it easy to log in with a link or just the name of the presenter (or company). However, it is also part of the  LogMeIn family of conferencing products but appears to have less of a security issue for the conference viewer/participant.

Livestorm

Video communication for any context https://livestorm.co/

Livewebinar

Join and run webinars without downloading software. Embed into your website. Features screen sharing, live streaming, and recording, plus branding, social media broadcasting, and audience analytics.

Lucid Meetings

Lucid Meetings offers a platform plus training and consulting to encourage better results (outcomes)/ https://www.lucidmeetings.com/

RingCentral Meetings

Hundreds can be on a call at once. It includes screen sharing and a whiteboard with annotation tools.

Screenleap

https://www.screenleap.com

Slack (now has built-in screen sharing)

https://slackhq.com/

StarLeaf

Starleaf has web conferencing, audio and video calls, and team chat that is like group text.

Telegram

Telegram intends to add a video call feature soon according to TechTimes.

Whereby

They say, "No logins, no downloads, no fuss." Whereby (earlier Videonor, started by telecom veterans of Telenor) was started in the small coastal town of Måløy on the most rugged Western point of Norway, with 2000 inhabitants.

Workcast

Virtual events, webinars, and webcasts. They say, "Virtual events are large, multi-session events or conferences that are hosted online. Webcasts are online video streams of a single event or conference that can be viewed by registered attendees. Webinars are online events that allow your registered audience to engage with content and presenters through a webinar hosting platform."

Zoom

https://zoom.us Wow, with half the planet at home because of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), mentions of Zoom have taken off. Zoom has screen sharing and prefers that you download software. Now It does run in a web browser, but I'm not sure you can initiate the conference from a browser. I've joined from a browser and been limited in what I can do, such as use a background image. Canva, an online design tool, has a number of free, funny and serious, background images for use with Zoom.

Audiovisual (AV) Advice, Behavior For Videoconferencing

During the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many business and personal videoconferences with customers, prospects, colleagues, prospective employees, friends, and family. These may be 1:1: or very large groups. Many businesses and non-profits are also broadcasting helpful seminars as webinars to keep in touch with customers, prospects, allies, and staff.

Better videoconferences for the attendees start by you considering the following tips:

  1. Mute your microphone when you are not talking or presenting.
  2. Have sufficient lighting from in front of the person speaking.
  3. Pick a non-distracting background. A solid background can be good.
  4. Avoid backlighting, harsh bright lighting, or side lighting that casts shadows.
  5. Some videoconferencing tools let you have a virtual background, even without a green screen
  6. Wear appropriate clothing. The joke about not having to wear pants is over-done.
  7. Position the camera as if you were a movie director. I like slightly below center.
  8. Avoid moving your camera. Don't jiggle your laptop on your lap. Don't walk around with laptop or mobile phone.
  9. Be a news anchor or movie star. Sit up straight, sit still, and face the camera.
  10. Look at the camera, not your dog, your phone, or images on your screen.
  11. Pay attention or leave. Yes, meetings can be boring, so choose, but be polite, too.
  12. As an organizer, you may mandate that attendees to leave their video on but mute audio if not speaking; it forces attendees to focus, if not participate. They are unlikely to be distracted.

I've collected these tips from many srouces, but a May 2020 newsletter from the Vermont Apple Computer Sales Specialists at Small Dog Electronics had the best list I've seen.

More Guidance On Video Conferencing Apps

One of my favorite sources on app advice is the Zapier blog: Zapier Blog: Blog Home The 12 Best Video Conferencing Apps for Teams

https://zapier.com

Another source of video conferencing software, especially new offerings, is Product Hunt.

https://www.producthunt.com

Lucid Meetings has lots of meeting advice on its website. One tip I derived from a presentation is to let attendees post a link from a panel discussion or presentation to their own blog post with related tips.

Background Noise Suppression App

The Krisp App mutes background noise on a call or video conference using software downloaded to your machine. Right now it only supports Apple Mac OS X. This is a helper app for your voice or video call application from any developer. https://krisp.ai/

Real-Time Transcription of Videoconferences

Otter.ai is one of many transcription tools that may be used in real-time, capturing the audio running through your computer. Otter just released an integration with Zoom to capture the audio and read the transcription in Zoom. It requires a pro-level Zoom or Otter.ai account.

Event Management

As online meetings and events replace large conferences, there need to be tools to handle the virtual conference registration and execution with tools like an event app. Socio enables building tools, such as an app and integrating with some other software tools.

Information Security and Video Conferencing Applications

I don't like apps that let another person take over your computer; this is an information security (infosec) issue. Therefore, I don't do LogMeIn or remote desktop applications. If you really force me to, I have allowed this on a spare machine with me watching the process and then wipe the disk clean and reinstall the OS).

There are many recent examples of online attendees sharing offensive images. If you are the organizer, make sure you understand whether attendees can share without your approval.

Lastly, Zoom had used a software development kit (SDK) from Facebook in building its IOS (Apple iPhone) application. As a result, data about Zoom users was passed to Facebook without any notice or user approval. Although Zoom removed this in late March 2020, it is an example of privacy and infosec issues in these apps.

In response, Zoom said, "Zoom takes its users' privacy extremely seriously. We originally implemented the 'Login with Facebook' feature using the Facebook SDK in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform. However, we were recently made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting unnecessary device data."

Which brings up the point that maybe you should not use "Login with Facebook" if you don't want to be tracked by them.

Revised frequently; most recently on 5/19/2020