When everyone has to stay at home and work remotely for an indefinite period of time, it could feel pretty isolating: no chit-chat, no in-person brainstorming or spontaneous ideas, no Friday night get-togethers, etc.
Luckily, high-speed internet is nearly ubiquitous today, and the rise of video conferencing software means we’re always just a click away from any meaningful conversation.
The problem for most teams and companies right now, however, is to find the best free conference call services (or paid) for their particular needs as well as supplying everyone with the right video conferencing equipment. How do you go about it? Let’s explore.
What Are The Best Video Conference Tools?
There are so many online meeting apps available today that it’s easy to get lost in the variety. So you need a structured approach to compare the options available and choose the one that suits your needs the best.
And once you find the right call tools for you, you can keep using them far beyond the current stay-at-home environment. After all, consider how much more effective it would be to simply hop on a call than travel to visit your clients in person. You could also think about extending the work-from-home policy indefinitely, giving your employees more freedom in managing their days. Anyway, here are some qualifying categories to help you choose the best conference call service.
Video and audio quality. Delivering a perfect picture and crisp sound to dozens of participants in real-time is no easy feat, and some web call tools do better than others. It’s important to try a few options under different conditions (e.g. home WiFi, mobile LTE network) to pick one with the best video quality available.
Screen sharing. One of the most useful features that you’d be likely to use every day at work is sharing your screen with others — for example, running a presentation or walking someone through a certain issue.
Screen recording. Not everyone can attend every meeting, and it’s generally considered to be a waste of time to repeat yourself. So the ability to record your presentation once could yield benefits for a long time. Plus, it’s a great way to make communication in your company more transparent overall.
Number of participants. Depending on how you want to make video calls, the amount of people you’re able to invite is an important constraint. Do you want to keep it small and go with free video conferencing or do you occasionally hold company-wide meetings with dozens or hundreds of participants? The answer will largely determine the free conference call app you need.
Price. Since video conferencing software is so difficult to create, it’s no wonder that most of it is not free. If your team is small, you might be able to squeeze into some free online calling plan, but otherwise, most apps charge a set price per certain number of seats per month.
Interface. The usability of some free web conferencing tools leaves much to be desired. Thus, it’s important to pick a tool that doesn’t require a lot of training and is naturally easy to use.
Platform availability. As the work today is done from anywhere, an ideal video conference app would be accessible natively from desktop, but also from mobile devices and the web.
Now let’s look at some of the best conference call services on the market right now through the prism of these requirements.
As one of the original players in the video conferencing space, GoToMeeting (founded in 2004) is still considered to be a frontrunner by many. This video conferencing software features a straightforward UI that anyone can pick up right away and lets you share your screen and even record meetings (on a Business plan). While not a call free online tool, GoToMeeting costs a reasonable $12 a month on a Professional plan and $16 on a Business one. Full-featured mobile apps are also a great plus.
Since the start of the pandemic, Zoom probably has been discussed more often than any other app for its suitability to the work-from-home environment.
On the positive side, Zoom has been praised for its call quality, both video and audio, user-friendly interface, the ability to run meetings for free with up to 100 participants (for up to 40 minutes), the screen-sharing as well as screen-recording (for paid users only) functionality.
As for the negatives, Zoom has recently been criticized for its attitude towards privacy and user security. In addition, the paid plans are per host per month and could get pretty expensive if you want to have multiple hosts or run a meeting with more than 100 people.
Office 365 users: Microsoft Teams
Those who use Microsoft Office 365 on a daily basis don’t have to look far for a viable option for free calling online. They can already use the Microsoft Teams collaboration software that comes together with the Office suite.
Microsoft Teams is natively integrated with other Microsoft apps, which makes it easy to send invites to your colleagues via Outlook, for example. This secure video conferencing software supports up to 10,000 participants and has some interesting features, such as blurring the background and putting the speaker in focus — perfect for those work-at-home moments when all kinds of stuff can be distracting in the background.
Small teams: Skype
So far the apps reviewed above have mostly targeted medium and large-sized companies. But what if your team is just a few people working remotely and you don’t need any extra bells and whistles?
Skype is a free video-conferencing software you might’ve only used in your personal life before, but it actually works great for small teams too. The app is stable and truly multi-platform. The quality is good, and screen sharing is available.
The only limits are video calls that can handle up to 10 people and the price you have to pay for Skype phone if you want people dialing in from a landline (plans are quite affordable). As a bonus, since acquiring Skype, Microsoft has done a good job at integrating it into its own software ecosystem.
When it comes to any type of software, free is the most powerful feature. Similarly, once you know you need a free conference call app, you should definitely give FreeConference a try.
FreeConference allows you to call free online (international dial-in plans are available) and hold online meetings over video with up to five participants. The app works seamlessly just over the browser and doesn’t require any installations. And it’s free!
How to get your Mac ready for video calls
When you feel like you’ve found the best free conference call service, your next step should be ensuring that your Mac is up to the task as well. After all, it could’ve been a while since the last time you gave your Mac a marathon video conferencing workout.
First, check that your Mac camera is working properly. If it’s not, refer to this handy step-by-step guide to fix it. Second, inspect your WiFi connection. Streaming video requires a lot of bandwidth, so it’s good to make sure that your desk is right at the optimal WiFi spot in your home. How would you know that?
WiFi Explorer is a robust wireless connection analyzer that can not only show you the strength of your reception in any corner of your home but also help you troubleshoot and suggest optimal changes to get the best results possible. Use this app to rearrange your modem or even move your workplace in a way that gets you maximum internet speed.
How to join all meetings in a click
Whether you use Zoom, Google Meet, or both, you can have one consolidated spot on Mac where all your upcoming meetings appear. It’s called Meeter. The app pulls meetings information from anywhere on your Mac and puts it into one handy schedule.
When the meeting is about to begin, Meeter sends you a notification with a link. Click on it and get right in. No more pasting meeting links anywhere — you don’t even need to open Calendar to find a path to your next video call.
What’s more, Meeter has an awesome Speed Dial feature for 1:1 calls. It allows you to quickly jump on a call with your colleague from the menu bar. All you have to do is add the colleague’s contact information and dial them in one click from Meeter. You can schedule recurring Speed Dial calls if needed.
Learn to be an excellent presenter
The show-don’t-tell rule is still the best — even in the times when virtual conversations prevail over face-to-face ones. This is why you hear “let me share my screen” so often during video calls. Here are two tips on how to share your screen more effectively.
Use PliimPRO to hide distractions
This is an app that instantly brings your Mac into a presentation mode — hiding whatever might distract your audience’s attention. With the presentation mode enabled, there’s no desktop clutter, no notifications, no active apps — basically, no sign of your recent activities visible on Mac. You can also use PliimPRO to mute your mic or change wallpapers in a click from the menu bar.
Go holographic with Vidrio
If a clean desktop sounds too boring — either for you or for your audience — you can make screen sharing holographic. Just like the Tony Stark movie. Vidrio is the first app that allows you to put your webcam behind the screen, producing a holographic effect. This is a great way to immerse yourself into the presentation — use gestures to guide your audience or literally point at specific items on the screen.
The real secret for productive meetings
After you choose the best conference call service and configure your camera and WiFi, you’ll soon find yourself drowning in meetings, which will be coming at you from all sides. How do you make sense and keep track of all the notes and to-dos?
iMeetingX is an all-in-one, get-things-done solution for managing meetings of any kind. This straightforward but powerful app blends together the ability to plan ahead, assign tasks, track progress, manage people, and more. iMeetingX is the first step to truly effective team collaboration you need to make.
How to share video recordings
Recording meetings and saving them to your shared cloud drive is a great way to promote transparency and make sure everyone in the company is on the same page. Lots of video call tools would let you record the meeting at the click of a button, but doing even the most simple edits to those videos is a complete mystery to most.
Capto is a simple screen recording and (most importantly for us) video editing app that you can use to improve your meeting videos. Easily cut out waiting time, long pauses, add annotations, create transitions, and more. Plus, sharing or uploading your video to your storage (even using FTP/SFTP) after you’re done is possible with just a single click.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to online meeting software, from traditional players like GoToMeeting to lightweight and free online calling tools like FreeConference. Just don’t forget to make sure your internet connection is as fast as it can be with WiFi Explorer, use Meeter to consolidate meeting links in one spot, get PliimPRO and Vidrio to enhance your presentations, take notes with iMeetingX, and lightly edit your videos later with Capto.
Best of all, WiFi Explorer, Meeter, PliimPRO, Vidrio, iMeetingX, and Capto are available to you absolutely free for seven days via Setapp, a platform with more than 190 top-grade apps for your team. Explore the curated selection today and see what your process has been missing all along!