The Best Online Presentation and Collaboration Tools
Here at Loud Dog, we’re constantly trying to refine our client experience, which includes presenting our work as digital files. There’s a lot left to be desired when you initially see a screenshot of your new, soon-to-be website in your email inbox. That experience lacks a grand unveiling and friendly human element. When we deliver designs, we like to provide a presentation experience that matches the quality of our designs. Because of logistical constraints, in-person meetings can be impractical, and virtual, online presentations are often the way to go. In this evaluation, we’ll go through a few tools we’ve experimented with and discuss some of their advantages.*
When looking at the various online presentation and collaboration offerings, we looked for reliability, quality, ease-of-use, and flexibility. The must-have feature was screen share. There are times when a client may want to interact with design or prototype, so being abel to switch screen control was another plus. Finally, we’ve found that video chat makes the experience far more personal, and that it’s easier to really understand each other when we can see each other’s faces.
GoToMeeting makes it easy to join an online meeting and share your screen. It’s easy to hand the controls over to a client and let them present and show their screen. GoToMeeting also allows you to share your screen and video chat at the same time with multiple users. This simulates an in-person meeting, allowing you to see the client’s reactions and the presentation at the same time. It offers VOIP (Voice over IP) in addition to a conference call number. As an add-on to our premium subscription, we also have a toll-free conference line that is available for our clients who may be dialing in long distance. These features come at a premium price, though we find that the value provided for our presentations is worth the investment. If you’re into marketing presentations, GoToMeeting also offers webinar and training tiered services.
Strengths: Has the most complete set of features for presentation and collaboration. Flexible conferencing options.
Weaknesses: When using both screenshare and video chat features, users experience a significant amount of lag.
join.me is incredibly easy to get started with and it is free. You can get the basic version running in a couple minutes and you don’t even need to set up an account. If you’re joining a join.me meeting, you can view the screencast through your browser (even mobile browser!). This means meeting attendees can hop onto a meeting even easier. Along with screen share, you can share your control over your screen as well. This gives both/all parties the option to collaborate on a working file. We use a paid version of join.me, which allows us to offer our clients a few more features, including our own personalized URL and background image, which is a bonus when you are a creative agency. One feature we like from the paid version is the ability to change presenters, passing screen share controls to the client. If someone wants to become the new presenter, they need to download an applet onto their computer that is uninstalled once they leave the meeting. Join.me makes virtual presentations very, very simple. The shared screen control and assigning presenters features make join.me a great collaborative tool, too. A downside is that there’s no video chat. You have the option to use VOIP or to call into a central conference call line provided by join.me
Strengths: Free version offers quick and easy bare-bones setup.
Weaknesses: Significant performance loss in shared screen control. Poor VOIP quality. Lacks video chat.
What we love about Skype is that it’s so easy to video chat and share your screen with others. Plus it’s free! Skype has the features of a basic presentation tool in its free version. Our evaluation experience with Skype, however, has only been with a one-to-one session. Skype Premium is a complete collaborative tool with shared screen control and group video sharing, but we have yet to evaluate Skype Premium for ourselves. If you’re already a Skype lover, Skype Premium might be the way to go.
Strengths: Good video quality. Free, easy setup.
Weaknesses: Skype Premium lists no known way of scheduling calls ahead of time and no known way of creating a dial-in conference line for recurring meetings.
For Mac only, iChat is a free application that’s already installed on the operating system. What’s great about iChat is that it has all the video chatting and screen control features we’re looking for in a presentation and collaboration tool. Also, the video/audio quality is good. Unfortunately, it’s Mac only when a lot of clients are on a PC platform. This product is great for internal reviews when Loud Doggies are out of the office.
Strengths: Good sound quality. Built into Mac OSX, so quick setup time for screen share, video chat, and/or screen control. Free!
Weaknesses: Mac only.
Summing it up
GoToMeeting is our pick as the professional, all-inclusive presentation and collaborative tool. It offers a level of quality and flexibility that other screen share services don’t match. In a close second is join.me as it’s very easy to get started and easy to collaborate on projects.
|Share Screen Control||X||X||X***||X|
|Conference Call Line||X||X|
|Schedule Meetings in Advance||X||X**|
*Note: the following is an evaluation of how Loud Dog uses these services and may not accurately represent all of the above tools’ capabilities in detail.
**Available with join.me Pro.
***Video chat and screen share that is more than one-to-one (groups) is only available via Skype Premium.
Hey! This wasn't written by a quiver of finches! It was written by Brian Kwa, who does awesome work at Loud Dog, a digital branding firm in San Francisco that helps businesses express themselves authentically via identities, websites, and marketing collateral.
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