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What is Video Conferencing? The Best Setup for Your Team

From choosing the right software to achieving the perfect lighting, get your video conferencing setup sorted with this complete guide.

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Your team wants to start working remotely and your client base is expanding in new locations. Your company is on the lookout for ways to be leaner and maximize operational efficiency. Now is the time to ask: what is video conferencing and what are your best setup options?

The answer is simple: video conferencing is the most efficient way to collaborate remotely with your team and communicate with clients. It’s the only way for modern companies to manage internal communications when traditional office setups are dying out.

But there’s no reason to rely on ad hoc setups or outdated software. From choosing the best software to lighting your workspace like a pro, this guide will help you get set up for video conferencing.

What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing definition

Video conferencing is when two or more people use the internet to communicate with live video. Until recent years, the software behind it was pretty basic. But workplaces are changing all time to accommodate remote working trends. Video conferencing has evolved very quickly to keep up.

When it comes to video conferencing, there are lots of different terms that you might have heard without ever really knowing what they mean. In case you need help getting your bearings, take a look at the definitions below.

What types of video conferencing are there?

There are a few different types of video conferencing like video calls, virtual meetings, web conferences, webcasts, webinars and telepresence. We'll explore them in more detail below:

  • Video call. You might call it ‘Facetime’ if you’re an iPhone user, but a video call refers to any conversation that takes place using live video. Typically, video call technology can be found in social apps, like Whatsapp, and is used for informal catch-ups between two to five people, rather than work meetings. However, you can make spontaneous video calls using workplace apps like Slack when you need to quickly communicate with a colleague.
  • Virtual meeting. Virtual meetings occur when two or more people use technology to collaborate online. Virtual meetings typically involve video, but it’s a broad term that can cover various virtual formats. For example, some participants may join a call with video, while others dial-in over the phone.
  • Web conference. Ideal for large audiences, a web conference (or online conference) involves a single host or panel of speakers delivering a presentation or training session over the internet.
  • Webcast. Adapted from the term ‘broadcast’, a webcast occurs when an event with a live audience is also recorded and watched over the internet. Since it’s primarily an in-person event, it’s different from a web conference, which happens entirely online.
  • Webinar. Like a seminar, a webinar brings a group of people together to discuss a topic. Usually, the discussion is led by a single speaker or instructor, but the audience may also have a chance to participate. While seminars happen in person, webinars use technology to connect participants virtually.
  • Telepresence. Using ultra-high-quality video and audio technology, telepresence is a more advanced version of video conferencing that gives the impression of actually being in a remote location. It’s closer to virtual reality (VR) because of how effectively it limits ambient distractions.
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Web conference vs. video conference

While there may be technical differences between a web conference and a video conference don’t be surprised if you hear people using these terms interchangeably. Here’s how we distinguish between the two:

A web conference is like a lecture or a TED Talk: the hosts present and the audience listens. Web conferencing tends to focus on larger groups and includes webinars, large conferences, and panel discussions. It’s ideal for training or onboarding sessions aimed at a wide audience in a variety of locations. During a web conference, the audience will usually watch and listen with their camera and mic switched off, while one or more speakers will deliver presentations.

A video conference is a meeting between collaborators in which everybody is expected to participate. Video conferencing is better suited to smaller groups and one-to-one meetings. It’s ideal for ad-hoc or pre-planned discussions and collaboration. During a video conference, most participants will have their camera and microphone switched on to allow for a more natural conversation to occur. There may also be times when a single speaker will share media or deliver a presentation during a video conference.

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Discover the Biggest Trends in Video Conferencing

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What are the pros and cons of video conferencing?

We know that video conferencing is a powerful tool for professionals in a range of industries. But you may still have some concerns about implementing it for your team. Let’s take a look at the key advantages and disadvantages.

What are the advantages of video conferencing?

Video conferencing will give businesses a whole lot of flexibility when it comes to communication. With the right software you can:

  • Connect instantly. No matter where you, your team, or your clients are located, if you have a good internet connection you can use video conferencing to meet instantly.
  • Boost sales. You can connect with clients all over the world and meet with even more people in one day. You can also use pre-recorded, downloadable product demos to boost conversion on your website.
  • Save money. You don’t need expensive meeting rooms or rented office space if you and your team can meet remotely. Choose video conferencing software that suits your needs and internal communications will continue just as smoothly.
  • Be more efficient. Host meetings that will automatically sync with your calendar, invite your chosen attendees by email and send automatic reminders so that you’re spending less time on admin.
  • Use the data. Use video conferencing services with reporting tools to understand audience trends and keep improving your live events.

What are the disadvantages of video conferencing?

When it comes to using a video conferencing platform for your business, you might be worried about how it could negatively affect your internal communications. Let’s talk about some of the potential disadvantages (and how to overcome them):

You might face technical issues

Of course, there’s nothing more frustrating than having your time wasted with poor software and faulty connectivity. Avoid technical issues by testing your software ahead of time and opting for a browser-based platform. Using browser-based software means all your attendees need to do is click a link to attend, eliminating time spent downloading apps and creating accounts.

man is drilling into a wall to fix a technical issue

Your meetings might feel less personal

If you’re not in a room together, how will you read each other’s body language and establish a human connection? Encourage everyone to have their cameras on, for a start. Of course, some people may choose to keep their camera off (for privacy reasons) but you can still incorporate a few icebreaker questions and activities to build a sense of connection. Don’t forget that features like chat boxes and emoji reactions can also help people feel comfortable contributing.

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Meeting attendees might get distracted

When everyone is joining a meeting remotely, you have limited control over their environment. They might be in a busy coffee shop, commuting, or at home with the kids off school. Establish some basic video call etiquette from the top (like muting yourself when you’re not talking) and use the poll feature to keep things focused. You could also record the session for participants and non-attendees to replay later.

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How can a video engagement platform help?

The best way to address the disadvantages we’ve talked about is to use a video engagement platform. But what is video engagement?

Video engagement takes video conferencing to the next level. It’s not just two people in a video call: it’s about using your video capabilities to full potential and getting the best out of your team.

What is video engagement?

Video engagment is total amount of engagement an audience has before, during, and after your event. It can be measured by metrics like registration signups, chat messages sent and replay views. To go further and discover the future of video, check out this video where we break down our top 5 predictions for the future of video.

If your whole team is suffering from meeting fatigue, try using video engagement features to capture their interest:

  • Chat. Chat boxes are a handy place for meeting attendees to post ad hoc questions, interact with each other, and share links all without interrupting the flow of the speaker.
  • Polls. You can introduce polls any time you want to check understanding or gather feedback during the meeting.
  • Q&A. Built-in Q&A functionality will make dealing with audience questions really slick. Platforms such as Livestorm will notify you when a participant asks a question and give other audience members the chance to upvote questions they’re interested in.
  • Digital whiteboard. Get creative as you brainstorm with your team in real-time or set mini tasks for participants to complete on the whiteboard.
  • Multimedia sharing. The ability to easily share a presentation, play a video clip, or pre-recorded audio will make your meetings more dynamic and keep your audience alert.
  • Screensharing. Perfect for problem-solving or training, a good video conferencing platform will allow you to share your screen and demonstrate a workflow on camera.

If you’re using a strong video engagement platform, like Livestorm, you’ll have all the tools you need to host interactive meetings and meet your business objectives. With the right software by your side, you’ll keep your team engaged, wow your clients, and get results for your business.

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What are the best uses for video conferencing?

As we mentioned before, video conferencing is really versatile. It can be used in all sorts of professional contexts and could have huge potential for your business. Have your heard of legal video conferencing for instance?

While there are many excellent uses for video conferencing software, these examples are some of our favorites:

Collaborating with your team remotely

In order to hire the best talent with skills that are relevant to new international markets, a major digital marketing agency starts hiring freelancers on remote working contracts. Video conferencing becomes a vital part of the agency’s internal communications strategy and helps maintain a sense of community across hybrid teams. With the help of video conferencing software, managers find that everything, from 1:1 mentoring to collaborative team meetings, runs just as smoothly while their teams are working from home.

Onboarding a new client

A software company has built a networking platform for education institutions. The platform has lots of potential for engaging alumni and other student communities, but the benefits can’t all be explained via email. The company uses video for sales and discovers that clients love the flexibility of meeting online. This way, they get a real overview of the product, and can revisit recordings any time they need a refresher. Plus the sales engagement team loves that their video conferencing platform can sync with their calendars and send automatic meeting reminders to save time and reduce client no-shows.

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Hosting a webinar

A business coach offers one-on-one mentoring and web development services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. She decides to host a live webinar on the subject of UX design. Her current customers promote the webinar online, which helps establish her authority to new audiences. During the event, she uses Q&A and polling features to understand her audience’s pain points and desires. Using this data, combined with attendee registration information, the business coach can accurately market paid products and services to her new potential customer base.

Best software for video conferencing

Ever sat through an online event where technology fails and things fall apart? It’s the worst-case scenario, but it can be avoided. When it comes to achieving the best video conferencing setup, the software you choose will have a big impact.

What are the key features of video conferencing software?

Like any productivity tool you use at work, your video conferencing platform is something that you’ll use all the time. It’ll have a big impact on your work, so it should tick every box.

Before you commit to a subscription, make sure your video conferencing platform has the following features:

  • HD camera streaming
  • Screen and media sharing
  • Automatic recording
  • Dial-in by phone (in case of poor connection)
  • Calendar and email integration
  • Automatic reminders for attendees
  • Engagement features like chat boxes, Q&A, emoji reactions, and polling
  • Capacity to host enough attendees (depending on the size of your audience)
  • Browser-based platform for instant access
  • Compatibility with a range of devices
  • Security features (we've listed the most secure video conferencing platforms for you)

5 best video conferencing platforms for your business

Now you know the basic features to look out for, it’s time to choose the right virtual meeting software for your business. We’ve dug right into the reviews of the best video conferencing software on the market to help you decide. Here’s what we found:

Livestorm: Best for engaging video conferencing

Livestorm is a video engagement platform to help you build truly interactive meetings that will drive results. At Livestorm, we believe that meetings should never be dull, so our platform is the only choice if you’re looking for powerful engagement features to motivate attendees.

Why should I use Livestorm? Livestorm is browser-based, so meetings are super easy to set up and access: all your attendees need to join is the meeting link. If you’re looking for secure video conferencing, this is also a strong contender. Plus, Livestorm is the number one choice for engagement because it includes all of the following:

  • Screensharing
  • Media sharing
  • Chat
  • Q&A
  • Polling
  • Automated email invitations and reminders
  • Question upvoting
  • Custom branding
  • Detailed reporting for post-event analysis
  • Integration with useful apps like Miro for digital whiteboards

Livestorm is also one of the only video conferencing platforms that offers an unlimited free trial, so you can give it a complete test drive before you hand over your credit card details. Take a look at our pricing page to see all that’s included.

Zoom: Best for simple video calling

Zoom is a household name for video calling, setting the precedent for simple-to-use video conferencing software designed for mobile apps.

Why should I use Zoom? Zoom has become a popular choice for webinars and professional training. Zoom has important features like presentation sharing and breakout rooms for more in-depth discussion. With Zoom, you can customize your plan with add-ons to host events just how you like them. The Business plan includes:

  • 300 participants
  • 30hr meetings
  • Private and group chat during meetings

Are there any drawbacks to Zoom? Zoom can now be used in your browser but it was originally built as an app-based product. It works best in-app, especially on smaller devices, but even then users do report difficulty using the mobile app. Be warned: the free version caps meetings at 40 minutes.

Webex: Best for collaborating outside of calls

Webex by Cisco first came into the market as a business communication tool, geared towards cloud-based collaboration.

Why should I use Webex? Webex offers co-browsing, in-platform messaging, and file transfer outside of traditional video calls, making it a combined communication platform for businesses to collaborate online. The Starter plan includes:

  • 50 hosts
  • 24hr meetings
  • Chat during meetings

Are there any drawbacks to Webex? Webex is billed as “one app for everything” but, as a result, the user interface is over-complicated. Unfortunately, some engagement features like polling can only be used in-app, plus you will have to pay extra for encrypted cloud recordings and cloud storage.

Google Meet: Best for a budget

Google Meet is a pillar of the ever-growing Google Workspace, but you don’t actually need a subscription to host a meeting.

Why should I use Google Meet? With a free Google account, you can host 60-minute meetings using Google Meet at no extra cost. If you do decide to go down the paid route, a Google Workspace subscription starts at around $6 and includes:

  • 100 participants
  • 24hr meetings
  • Chat during meetings

Are there any drawbacks to Google Meet? Although Google account holders will find the free plan pretty accessible, it’s not as well-rounded when it comes to built-in features. You’ll need to pay extra for basic engagement features like polling, Q&A, and hand-raising.

Microsoft Teams: Best for document collaboration

Microsoft Teams integrates with Office apps like SharePoint, Word, and Excel, allowing users to collaborate on live documents in a shared workspace.

Why should I use Microsoft Teams? If you’re looking for more ways than just a video call to collaborate remotely with your team, this is a good option. As well as working on shared documents, you can schedule virtual meetings that integrate with your Outlook calendar. The Microsoft Teams Essentials plan includes:

  • 300 participants
  • 30hr meetings
  • Chat during (and outside) meetings

Are there any drawbacks to using Microsoft Teams? Microsoft Teams definitely isn’t the best option if you’re looking for straightforward, slick video conferencing. Its focus on document collaboration makes it a complicated beast that many users find difficult to navigate and prone to outages.

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Best hardware for video conferencing setup

You’re hosting your first virtual meeting, everything is going great, but is that really what you look like from that angle?

Most laptops come with built-in hardware for video calls, like a camera. But let’s face it, they can be pretty mediocre. From poor camera quality to crackling audio, your built-in features could be holding you back. For a more professional (and flattering) video conferencing setup, you’ll want to pick out your hardware yourself.

Let’s take a look at the key considerations for your video conferencing setup.

Sound

Crisp sound quality is a must when hosting professional meetings: you don’t want to miss anything your clients are saying. A strong pair of headphones with a built-in microphone will ensure you can be heard clearly, too. Try these top picks:

  • Apple Airpods. With exceptional sound quality and portable design, Airpods are a must for busy professionals who want discreet headphones to use on the go.
  • Jabra Evolve2 40. Designed for comfort with built-in noise isolation, this Jabra headset is ideal for those who expect to be in and out of calls all day.

Do you need a microphone? Not with a good pair of headphones, but it does depend on how you expect to use video conferencing for your business.

If you’re attending regular work meetings online, a microphone is an extra expense that might even get in the way of having natural conversations. However, some hosts do like to use a microphone for webinars, and you’ll definitely want one if you’re going to use video conferencing software to interview guests for a podcast. If that sounds like you, Blue Yeti is a versatile and inexpensive mic that’s worth looking into.

Sound pro tip:

Try free noise-canceling software like Krisp if you’re expecting to host meetings in noisy locations. Krisp uses artificial intelligence to reduce distracting sounds like traffic, pets, keyboard strokes, and echoes.

Video

Ditch poor camera quality and unattractive angles and never look back, because you’re about to get a proper webcam.

Even if you do have a laptop with a camera, there’s no reason why you should be hunched over it while trying to impress important stakeholders. Choosing a new webcam is going to give your video calls a total upgrade. Try one of these top video conferencing cameras:

  • Logitech Brio 4K. You’ll be in good hands with most Logitech cameras, but we’re especially fond of the Brio 4K, which includes facial recognition technology for extra security.
  • Razer Kiyo. A powerful little camera with a built-in ring light for extra illumination, the Razer Kiyo is a great solution if your desk faces a wall and you want to skip expensive lighting solutions.

Lighting

Whether you have an office or work from home, it can be very tricky to get the best lighting for video conferencing. Bright, natural lighting works best, but you can’t rely on the weather, and not everyone has the luxury of a desk near a window. If you need to bring artificial light into your setup, try one of these:

  • Cyezcor Video Conference Lighting Kit. This lighting kit is smaller than your average ring light, and clips to your computer screen, so you don’t have to find space for an unwieldy lamp. The ring shape distributes light evenly onto your face for a more flattering appearance.
  • Neewer Video Conference Lighting Kit. The Neewer kit opts for a square, LED light with the handy addition of a remote control to help you control the brightness from where you’re sitting. You can even try out its color filters if you’re interested in achieving different camera effects.

Lighting Pro Tip:

Avoid mixing light sources if you can. Sitting next to a window with a desk lamp switched on isn’t ideal for light clarity as it may cast shadows and interfere with your camera's light adjustment settings.

Tips for how to set up video conferencing

You’ve chosen your software and got the gear. Now it’s time to curate a professional background and brush up on your virtual meeting etiquette. Follow these video conferencing tips for the perfect virtual meeting setup:

  • Find a quiet room. You’ll want somewhere calm and quiet so that you can focus on hosting.
  • Fix your background. Paying attention to what can be seen on your camera will make you a more professional and polished host. If you don’t have the best wall color for video conferencing you could choose a virtual background instead.
  • Make a plan. Set an agenda and keep the conversation moving to avoid anyone dozing off. If it’s going to be a long event, be sure to include comfort breaks and audience participation.
  • Do a trial run. Always test out your software in the location where you plan to run the event to avoid awkward mishaps and delays on the day.
  • Use a strong browser. Most video conferencing software will operate best on Chrome. Check the advice from your software provider if you’re not sure.
  • Check your internet connection. For smooth meetings, we recommend 15Mb/s upload and download speeds. Apps like Speedtest can help check your connection ahead of time, but always have a backup plan in case of outages.

7 Steps to Make Your Video Conference a Hit

In this video, we break down how to host a successful virtual event in 7 easy steps. From planning to promotion and following up with your event registrants, you'll learn what steps to take before, during, and after your video conference.

What’s the next step for setting up video conferencing?

If you’re looking for a way to upgrade your communications strategy, this is it. No matter what industry you’re in, there are many benefits of video conferencing in business. It’s super fast, super flexible, and makes meetings easy to record and revisit.

If you’re ready to get started, why not try Livestorm? Easy-to-use software and carefully curated surroundings are key to hosting impressive online meetings. But to really make the most out of your video conferencing setup, you’ll need a strong video engagement platform with a range of features to support results-driven, collaborative working.

With the right video engagement platform, you’ll boost your team’s productivity, deliver powerful onboarding sessions, and even reach new audiences.

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