Software designed for video conferencing applications has one simple goal – make the conferencing experience as intuitive and effective as possible. Video conferences can be tricky, especially when several parties are involved in the call. Coordinating everyone, maintaining audio and video quality, and ensuring that everyone remains engaged in the meeting takes a lot. Fortunately, video conferencing software has come a long way in just the last 10 years, and conferences involving high-definition quality and excellent stability are par for the course.
Must Haves for Video Conferencing Software
In general, people don’t want a ton of bells and whistles packaged with the video conferencing software. The more frills, the more things can potentially go wrong. Instead, professionals typically want something that works to makes conferencing easy to execute, and something that is built with maximum compatibility. To this end, this is what video conferencing software should bring to the table:
1. One touch conferencing with calendar integration – It’s good practice to set up audio and video devices prior to a meeting, but there’s always that lingering doubt that the settings won’t be saved. Video conferencing software makes this a matter of course, storing several user profiles and configurations depending on what kind of meeting is to take place. When it’s time to start the conference, one button press and both video and audio are ready to go, with the prior configurations put in place. There’s no need to fiddle with anything seconds before going online, so meetings start when they are supposed to.
It’s standard for conferencing software to also integrate easily with user or company calendars. A common problem for larger conferences is ensuring everyone has a door into the meeting. Everyone knows the anxiety of combing through hundreds of e-mails to find an access key or link, moments before the meeting starts. With calendar integration, meeting members can access the meeting interface from a shared calendar that everyone can see. This allows everyone to coordinate properly prior to the meeting’s start.
2. A simple interface that can be used during the meeting without disruption – As the meeting progresses, it may be necessary to change the layout (if there are multiple parties in the meeting) of the conference display. For example, some people prefer that the active speaker always be front and center, while others want to see everyone at once. Conferencing software should allow switching back and forth with little trouble. You should be able to see who you want, when you want.
Likewise with muting and unmuting. If, for some reason, someone’s mic is picking up too much ambient noise, then quickly muting and unmuting may be the only way to deal with the sound.
And if a meeting member’s lighting or sound is off, then the software should allow for some quick adjusting on the fly, without bringing the meeting to a halt. Smart software makes this easy.
3. The ability to bring in supporting media and material – Not every conference needs to be a data-driven ode to statistics, but graphs and charts are an essential part of project management. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of that collated data could be shared with several managers and decision makers at once? Properly designed video conferencing software does just that. File sharing capabilities are a must for modern software, and most top pieces of software go beyond just that – they also make it easy to bring in any media. Drag and drop interfaces are common, allowing presenters to pick out any graphic or video from their hard drive and plop it right down into the middle of the meeting.
Ideally, video conferencing software should also come with basic annotation tools so that other meeting members can comment visually on the media. It’s a perfect solution for teams that deal with construction, event planning, architecture, graphics or serious number crunching. The media, annotated and all, can also be sent to all of the meeting’s participants for their future reference.
There is a pervading belief that video conferencing is just about face to face communication. That is, of course, a large part of it, but modern conferencing software makes all sorts of communication easier and instant.
4. Audio and video stability – If the signal isn’t stable, then it doesn’t matter what other features a piece of software offers. This is something that every company covets from their video conferencing software, but is also something that is difficult to judge from the outside. What does stability even mean in the world of video conferencing?
Put simply, conferencing software should output everything that is input, in real time. This is much more demanding than it sounds, and one only has to go back a decade or two to see what unstable conferencing looks like. It looks like a slideshow. And there are still a lot of software providers out there that still struggle with signal stability. In general, this tends to be an issue among startups and poorly financed software developers, as guaranteeing stability requires a robust, redundant network. Building and perfecting such a network is something that takes time and money.
5. Interoperability – It sounds like another one of those technical buzzwords, but in this case, there’s an important meaning behind it. Interoperability speaks to the ability for hardware and software to communicate with each other on the backend, ensuring that there are no technical foul ups when people attempt to connect using various devices. Extensive interoperability is an attractive feature when available, as it minimizes the time IT personnel have to spend making the meeting work.
A strong sign of interoperability is a company that has an established software product line. As hardware and software providers partner up, the software is kept up to date so that it remains compatible with all of the provider’s partners. In other words, the older and more established a piece of conferencing software is, the more likely it will be compatible with various brands of hardware. There is a strong incentive to maintain compatibility with the most popular pieces of conferencing software on the market.
That’s a lot to check off when searching for a conferencing software fit, but it isn’t too hard to find a piece of software that fits the bill, especially when an A/V integrator is helping to put the system together. Integrators are keenly aware of what software to target for a particular system, taking the guesswork out of the equation.