More people are working remotely than ever before, many for the first time. But which is the best program to use? We spoke to business leaders to see what they recommended for virtual office communication.
For any video conferencing app:
Before starting, familiarize yourself with where the mute button is located. Don’t be the one with the barking dogs, loud kids, random kitchen appliances, etc.
If you’re going to share slides or other materials, have them ready and familiarize yourself with where to post them.
Consider your background. Keep it clean and professional. Some programs let you choose a different background. Make sure you have a good lighting source. Don’t make others wonder if you live in a cave. Try out the lighting and background before you log on to see how you look.
“Whether it's Zoom or any other conferencing platform, allow 10-15 minutes to get everything set up before your meeting or event is scheduled to start. Test audio, video, turn off notifications, etc.” ~ Carmen Hill, principal content strategist and writer, Chill Content, @carmenhill
“Make sure you check your time zone and check which account type will suit your needs best.” ~ Social Media Manager Hannah Richards, @actPRHannah
Wear pants. You might think that no one will see your lower half, but you never know when you may unexpectedly get up--to retrieve notes, get the door, etc. Don’t let your co-workers see your superhero pajamas.
What: Zoom is for remote video conferencing and meetings, webinars, chats, and phone.
Recommendations: Since the start of stay-at-home, Zoom has been the #1 downloaded app each day in both the iOS Apple Store and Google Play, according to the firm Apptopia,. In the past three weeks, several clients as well as several family members have contacted me to use Zoom for the first time.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Zoom. I find it easy to use, and effective. On Zoom, I’ve given presentations as well as taken classes and attended meetings.
“Zoom is my go-to for video-conferencing with colleagues and friends/family. Zoom is the next best thing to being in the same room.” ~ Nathan Firer, Founder of Megilla, @megilla_co
“I rely on Zoom to provide me with high-quality HD video conferencing I can count on. I use the recording feature regularly to have conversations transcribed for use in my content marketing programs.” ~ Erika Heald, Founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting, @SFerika
“Of all the conferencing apps, Zoom has proven to be the easiest to use.” ~ Carmen Hill, Principal Content Strategist and Writer, Chill Content, @carmenhill
What: Slack is an instant messaging program. It stands for: Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.
Recommendations: Ever been part of a project where you kept getting endless emails, including plenty where you opened them and wondered, “Why am I even getting this? I’m not on this part of the project.” Slack channels are chat rooms divided by topic. For example, if you were planning a banquet, you could have one channel for those involved with catering, one for fundraising, one for volunteer coordinators, etc. The idea is that you don’t waste time hearing about topics that don’t apply to you. And for topics that do apply to you, responses arrive quickly in the app so you save time not opening emails, and they are sorted in the app so nothing gets lost in your email.
“Slack is a great texting app and is easy for fast communication.” ~ Hannah Richards, Social Media Manager, @actPRHannah
“Slack is easy, versatile and integrates with Google Drive.” ~Carmen Hill, principal content strategist and writer, Chill Content, @carmenhill
“Slack isn't something I'd recommend to my mother though that would be hilarious she'd probably set up chat rooms with her friends, but it's the go-to communication app for work as I use it every day with developers and colleagues.” ~ Nathan Firer, Founder of Megilla, @megilla_co
“Slack is critical for internal communication regarding clients. In some cases we use Slack for client communication as well.” ~ Jason Hunt, CMO - Merged Media, @jayhuntofficial
“Slack plays a critical role in allowing me to communicate with clients and colleagues on projects, and to stay connected with my virtual network.” ~ Erika Heald, Founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting, @SFerika
“To make Slack a more seamless part of your everyday workflow, make sure to integrate it with the tools you use. I love having some of my Buzzsumo searches feed into Slack, along with Twitter, and my Gdocs comments.” ~ Erika Heald, Founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting @SFerika
“Create channels for each client on Slack so conversations can be streamlined effectively.” ~ Jason Hunt, CMO - Merged Media, @jayhuntofficial
Microsoft Teams evolved from Skype for Business and is used for video conferencing, chat, and screensharing, but it’s also for file sharing and storage.
Recommendations: According to Apptopia, Microsoft Teams has been one of the top 50 apps downloaded in the past few weeks for both Google Play and the iOS Apple Store.
“Teams gives us the ability to work within our Microsoft suite. It is better than other apps we’ve used, because we can have 1:1, small group, or full team conversations. The ability to add files increases productivity, and gifs add a human and fun tone to our correspondence. With both desktop and app versions, our team can stay up-to-date real-time. We also really enjoy the Teams calls (and the callback feature), and the video call option has proved very useful as of late.” ~ Stephanie Stahl, General Manager, Content Marketing Institute, @editorstahl
“I’d definitely recommend adding each of your team members as favorite contacts so you can very quickly see if someone is available. Doing video calls or screenshares during Teams meetings also helps so people stay engaged, and aren’t multitasking. And download the app! Working from home also means stepping away from the computer now and then, but our phones are usually always by our side.” ~ Stephanie Stahl, General Manager, Content Marketing Institute, @editorstahl
FREE CONFERENCE CALL
FreeConferenceCall.com is for remote video conferencing, chat, and conference calls.
“FreeConferenceCall.com is extremely user friendly. My 84 year old mother decided that she wanted to launch a podcast for Women’s History Month. The challenge was that she is not tech savvy at all. So we set up a robust Free Conference Call system for her recordings. She has transformed from cassette tapes to the digital age! She is off and running!!!” ~ Nathalie Gregg, Adjunct Faculty/Speaker/Executive Coach, @nathaliegregg
GoToMeeting is for remote video conferencing and meetings.
“I have utilized WebEx and GoToMeeting since it’s launch. I partner with remote teams all over the globe and the platform has been extremely stable. My customer service experience had been very professional and solution driven.” ~ Nathalie Gregg, Adjunct Faculty/Speaker/Executive Coach, @nathaliegregg
Google Hangouts has evolved into two apps: Google Hangouts Meet for video conferencing, and Google Hangouts Chat for chat. Google says that in June, they will be shutting down the original Google Hangouts, which does both video conferencing and chat. According to Apptopia, Google Hangouts is one of the top 50 downloaded apps in the past two weeks for both Google Play and the iOS Apple Store.
SHOUTOUTS TO OTHER BUSINESS APPS
Our team of business leaders wanted to share some additional app suggestions:
“I began to use Crowdcast and Whereby because one of my business partners in the UK utilizes them for her virtual calls and webinars.” ~ Nathalie Gregg, Adjunct Faculty/Speaker/Executive Coach, @nathaliegregg
“Smartsheets is a powerful, collaborative spreadsheet tool that allows for multiple formats, including Kanban and Gantt views, as well as the ability to attach files to specific rows.” ~ Carmen Hill, principal content strategist and writer, Chill Content, @carmenhill
“Google Drive is also super useful for sharing and accessing files—with a lot less hassle than Microsoft.” ~ Carmen Hill, principal content strategist and writer, Chill Content, @carmenhill
“Evernote. I use its notebooks for saving resources and for sharing notes with my team in a more organized, multimedia-rich manner.” ~ Erika Heald, Founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting, @SFerika
“StreamYard is a great app for hosting conversations. Conversations can be recorded and churned out into podcast episodes.” ~ Jason Hunt, CMO - Merged Media, @jayhuntofficial
“Trello gives you a visual representation of the projects due, projects in the pipeline, and projects you've completed. You can add in details to each project and divide it into different steps with the help of the checklist. This way you know where you are with each project, helping you better manage it. And you don't miss anything too.” ~ Masooma Memon, Freelance Writer for SaaS, @inkandcopy
“Todoist: Not every project on your Trello board is due everyday. So what's due today? Keep track of that with Todoist that helps you make lists. Once you're done with the task, you can check it off (and feel that tiny sense of accomplishment!).” ~ Masooma Memon, Freelance Writer for SaaS, @inkandcopy
“Toggl: You don't want to spend all of your time on one project and neglect others, which is where Toggl comes into the picture. It helps you protect your time so you're not spending a lot of time on one project (say emptying your email inbox) and wondering where your time went all day. And, second, you can better manage your work-life balance with this time management app by noting how much time you've given to your work and when it's time to clock out.” ~ Masooma Memon, Freelance Writer for SaaS, @inkandcopy
Thanks to this amazing team of business leaders for their contributions to this article. See you next time!