In the world of remote, geographically disperse workforces, harnessing the power of the internet for staff and team meetings and collaborations has never been more important. Here at NSI Partners we have been testing and using various online solutions for meeting and collaborating for several years now. There are advantages and disadvantages to each solution, and I’d like to share some of what we’ve learned.
GoToMeeting, a product/service run by Citrix, is one of the most-used online meeting tools today. A simple download gets you started, and once you have created an account, you can start a meeting, schedule meetings, or join open meetings from the website or from a plugin on your computer. Once inside a session, you and the other meeting attendees can share and view programs running on computers, or view entire desktops. You can chat via a built-in text chat feature, or speak live using a headset/microphone attached or built into your computer, or dial in with a phone. The active presenter can be rotated, meetings can be recorded, and there are also drawing tools for members to “markup” displayed documents or windows. Any member of a meeting may also give another member control of his/her mouse and keyboard, which is really handy for troubleshooting or providing remote support to someone.
Microsoft LiveMeeting is another great option for collaborative online ventures. LiveMeeting offers all of the same features that GoToMeeting does, from text and voice discussions to screen and program sharing, to presenter rotation, to giving other members control of your keyboard and mouse. In addition, LiveMeeting adds some useful tools, such as a shared notes section for all meeting members. Members in LiveMeeting gatherings can also provide signals or feedback to the active presenter via color-coded icons. LiveMeeting also gives presenters a Question and Answer tool, including the ability to create polls or series of questions ahead of time. LiveMeeting also enables video sharing for webcams, should this be a benefit to meetings. Lastly, LiveMeeting provides some specific ways to share certain types of content, like documents, websites, and a WhiteBoard for collaborative brainstorming. Microsoft also offers an Outlook plugin for LiveMeeting so you can schedule and adjust meetings from inside Outlook easily. One limitation of LiveMeeting is that it does not have its own telephone dial-in system, and so adminstrators must subscribe to and configure third-party teleconferencing solutions for their meetings if that feature is desired.
These are only two of the many programs and services available in today’s marketplace for online collaboration. Other well-established products include Cisco’s WebEx, Fuze Meeting, Glance and a new beta app from LogMeIn titled LogMeIn Express. If you have a dispersed workforce in your organization and you haven’t yet tied into the power and efficiency online collaboration tools provide, you are missing out! Hopefully this review of some current options and features points you in the right direction.