As the pandemic forced everyone to find new ways to ensure business continuity, many turned to technology. Web conferencing suddenly became the lifeline to society.
Our entire day-to-day lives were reimagined practically overnight. Any baby steps toward automation and digital transformation were accelerated by leaps and bounds. From "everyone in the room" to "please share the meeting link," web conferencing became a norm.
And this trend is not going anywhere soon, with the web conferencing software market expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.95% between 2021 and 2028 to reach $10.24 billion.
So, what is web conferencing and how does it work? How is it different from video conferencing? Why do you need it? What is acceptable web conferencing etiquette? These are some of the questions we'll answer in this post.
What is Web Conferencing?
Web conferencing is an online meeting between two or more people in different locations using a web conferencing platform. It is the best way to conduct online or remote business meetings, webinars, seminars/demos, and presentations. Most web conferencing software supports features that boost engagement, including polling, chat discussions, speaker management, shared whiteboards, etc. It requires a web browser and stable Wi-Fi connectivity.
How is Web Conferencing Different from Video Conferencing?
Video conferencing and web conferencing are often used interchangeably. Yet these two have a major difference.
A video conferencing solution requires dedicated resources such as a large screen, a webcam, a spider phone, and other equipment. In contrast, web conferencing is an umbrella term for various meeting solutions, including virtual conferences, webinars, and webcasts. Think of it as video conferencing 2.0.
Web conferencing only requires a web browser and stable internet connectivity. It usually has unlimited participants across different locations and allows online content sharing. It is used for conducting training sessions, large business meetings like townhalls, virtual or hybrid marketing events, webinars, and more.
A web conference meeting has a:
- Host: The host is the meeting organizer responsible for deciding the agenda and the event type and sending a meeting invite to the guests.
- Speaker: The speaker is the meeting presenter who delivers the content. The speaker may or may not be the event host. In some cases, there can be multiple presenters in a single conference.
- Attendees: These are the people who receive the meeting details, agenda, and other information to join and participate in the event.
Web conferencing uses WebRTC technology, enabling web apps to stream video, audio, and other data in the browser without any integration or plugin. WebRTC is an encrypted software that features real-time photo, text, video, and audio exchange without needing an app. Because of this, it is highly preferable for instant messages.
Types of Web Conferencing
Web conferencing has created an unprecedented level of collaboration and communication among businesses. From presenting slide shows to transferring files and spreadsheets, web conferencing has various applications, some of which are explained below:
Example: A sales director sets up a virtual team meeting with his sales managers to revisit their strategy. But his team isn’t in the office. Spread across different client sites, they can only join remotely. Therefore, the sales director can use web conferencing software that allows his team to join from various locations and brainstorm ideas on how they can close more deals.
If you have an international team like us, create the best online event experience for them using specialized web conferencing platforms like event management software, which lets you send invites, create registration pages and do a lot more from a single platform. A web conferencing solution allows you to share slides and seamlessly run live Q&A and polls to give everyone a voice, celebrate success together, and keep the entire organization aligned.
Example: Think of a company town hall. Web conferencing platforms help you save on travel costs and allow everyone to join important events no matter where they are.
A webinar is a web-based seminar. A host usually invites the participants for an educational session, product updates, or, in some cases, product demos. It is usually a 45-minute to an hour-long session that concludes with an interactive Q&A. The presenter may ask for attendee feedback through surveys, polls, or "raise hand" based on the webinar platform's features during the webinar.
Example: A thought-leadership webinar for your readers to understand the best practices in your industry. It requires you to send an invite and reminders to your marketing list, track registrations, create a registration page, generate a web conferencing meeting link, and send the post-webinar recording. These are some of the tasks you must remember while planning a webinar.
Web conferencing solutions let businesses host a live or pre-recorded session. Webcasts are a perfect solution if you want to broadcast your event to anyone online.
Unlike a webinar, which requires a specific meeting link and password to join, webcasts can be virtually accessed by a much larger audience from any device. It also allows you to conduct polls, ask questions, and host live Q&A sessions.
Example: Suppose you are inaugurating a new office space. You want external stakeholders and clients to participate virtually. In such cases, you can host a webcast and make your event accessible to people worldwide.
Other use cases of webcasts are hosting live shows, educational programs, and interactive events.
Benefits of Web Conferencing Platform
There are several benefits of using web conferencing software, including:
Time and Cost Savings: Before the popularity of web conferencing solutions, teams had to travel to meet customers. Traveling not only involves costs but also takes time. When you use web conferencing software, you save both.
Increasing Efficiency: Web conferencing software saves travel time along with time spent on booking venues, preparing agendas, and, in some cases, coordinating catering. It makes scheduling and planning meetings quicker, easier, and more efficient.
Providing Flexibility: Impromptu meetings without web conferencing software are almost impossible. Web conferencing software eliminates geographic barriers and creates conversations with customers and employees worldwide. When you use it, you can send the meeting invite, and the participant can join the meeting even if they are not in the office.
Instant Content Sharing: Web conferencing makes it possible to share applications and desktops. Using the screen sharing feature, you can present information on different applications such as PowerPoint or Excel Spreadsheets. This ensures everyone is on the same page and your meetings function smoothly regardless of where your team is.
Improving Work-Life Balance: At a time when organizations are focusing on mental health and work-life balance, a web conferencing platform is a means to that end. The traditional approach to business meetings meant that employees had to travel regularly. In contrast, virtual meetings present an opportunity to reduce this travel time. The time saved could help employees be more rested and enjoy time with friends and family. This, in return, benefits the organization as happy, rested employees are likely to be more alert, productive, and less likely to quit their jobs.
Features To Look for In a Conferencing Solution
The world has indeed changed, and not all employees want to return to the office full-time. According to a Gallup poll, 91% of workers either want to work in a hybrid model or continue working entirely remotely.
As cubicle farms make way for more dynamic and creative workspaces, choosing the right web conferencing tool will keep your employees connected and be the difference between missing and hitting productivity targets.
Here are the top four things you must look for in a web conferencing solution:
1. HD video/audio: Most web conferencing solutions offer VoIP or dial-in options to let participants choose the best way to join a meeting. Dial-in options can save you a lot of money, while HD videos can give users an awesome viewing experience. But this can be a premium feature, so check with your vendor about it.
2. Screen sharing: This is an essential feature for remote teams. Screen sharing has different use cases, including sharing, presenting, collecting feedback on collaterals and proposals, conducting product walkthrough sessions, and the like. See if your tool allows swap capability so that multiple hosts can share control during events like webinars.
3. Recording: Most of us spend an insane amount of time in meetings. Studies suggest that an average employee spends 12 hours per week preparing or attending meetings. And in some cases, it is impossible to participate in all.
In such a situation, the ability to record a meeting is precious. Watch missed meetings on-demand and review all the information shared during the session. While meeting recording is a standard feature in most web conferencing tools, consider any storage limitation of the platform.
If you feel recording is a feature you absolutely need, scope out a tool that provides more storage, even if it means paying a premium.
4. Collaboration and engagement tools: Let's face it, it's hard to get people's attention these days. And it's even harder when they are not in the same room.
Creating voluntary engagement and getting people's attention in a virtual setup demand the right tools and features. For instance, a study shows that 81.8% of online meeting organizers use polling to improve interaction.
So, before you consider any web conferencing tool, understand how it can help you collaborate remotely and make meetings even more engaging. Look for features like polls, live quizzes, reactions, chats, screen shares, and annotation to foster engagement and boost collaboration within your team.
How to Choose the Best Web Conferencing Tool?
While choosing the best web conferencing tool will depend on your business needs, there are a few things you must consider, including:
Ease of use
Don't expect everyone in your team to embrace new technology quickly. If the tool is complicated and doesn't have excellent customer support, your team members may abandon it even before you realize its ROI. Choose a solution with an excellent user interface and ease of use regardless of the device.
As mentioned earlier, features that facilitate engagement and collaboration are a must. Don't shy away from asking your potential vendor about different features like polling, interactive annotations, real-time whiteboarding, or meeting recording for future use.
Your teammates might share confidential and sensitive information during team meetings. Check if your web conferencing solution has built-in multi-layer security to avoid data breaches.
Separate communication tools complicate collaboration and communication because it requires you to switch between platforms. It can result in a lot of manual data transferring, which is prone to human errors and can hamper productivity.
Ask your vendor about the solution's integration with your tech stack. You can also opt for a consolidated system that allows your teams to conduct live meetings, make calls, and get work done from a single interface.
Top Five: Web Conferencing Etiquette
1. Mute yourself when silent: Always mute yourself when you aren’t speaking, as microphones can pick up background noises. It’s distracting for the speaker and other participants. Make it a practice.
2. Check your technology: If you want to be on time, ensure you’ve tested the technology before the meeting starts. Last-minute glitches are out of our control, but these can easily be detected and resolved by doing a few test runs.
3. Wear work-appropriate clothing: Yes, you may be working from home, but it is always best to wear work-appropriate clothing. Nothing fancy but choose anything you would have worn if you were in the office.
4. Check if the camera angle is correct: When you are in web conferencing with the camera on, make sure the camera frame is in a way that feels natural. Have sufficient light in the room to avoid your video being unclear and grainy.
5. Look into the camera: When speaking to the remote participants, look into the camera instead of the video feed. When you look into the camera lens, it appears that you are paying attention to what is being said.
The Next Level of Business Communication
The global health crisis has accelerated and strengthened trends already in motion, and web conferencing is one of them. It has become most companies' second nature for various reasons. It provides a single platform to inspire, collaborate and create a team that gets things done together.