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Over the left shoulder image of person using hand movements to communicate with a woman onscreen on laptop via video chattingLooking to broaden your customer reach and strengthen communication between employees and clients? Embed video calls into your website for better connections and better business.

Your brand comprises a logo, colors, a tone of voice, and other brand specifics. These are all important components but it’s a well-known fact, especially in our modern digital world, that a brand speaks more loudly than what it looks like. It’s about how it functions and appeals to customers as well as how it carries users from beginning to end.

Not only does your website need to look good, but it also needs to set the tone for how your brand is perceived. This is the chance to really drive home your website, product, or app for increased awareness and interaction.

Here are 8 reasons embedding video chat and calls on your website pays off:

Smiling student wearing headphones typing away on laptop, seated at table with coffee, a notebook and penFast To Set Up

Rather than wasting months researching, developing, and implementing your in-app video, cut time and save money by embedding a video conferencing solution that’s already created. You can hit the ground running knowing that the solution you’re relying on has already proven its efficacy. You don’t have to think twice or worry about what your IT team is designing when you can embed video calls on your website quickly and without a lot of downtime that could delay or derail other work.

Save Resources

Your team already has tasks and projects in the pipeline. Their time and energy are precious. Why take them off the deliverables that make your business money to build video chat for a website when you can get one that’s ready to plug and play – plus it’s proven to work? Re-allocate your resources to where they are truly needed instead, especially when you’re scaling up your video conferencing which can quickly put a strain on developers.

If you want to get your product out to users as fast as possible, consider how much time, effort, and costs go into building a video feature from scratch, especially when an out-of-the-box video call API solutions for websites is readily available.

Improved Overall Customer Experience

Let’s face it: It’s all about the customer experience. Beyond your logo, brand colors, and tone of voice, it’s about how you show up to wow and support your customer from the beginning of their journey to the end. Every point of contact becomes an interaction for the customer that shapes their opinion of your business, service or product. Just one negative interaction can affect how your business is perceived.

Provide a top-notch experience that offers frictionless transitions between customer touchpoints on your website or app. Embed video calls that allow for instant and hassle-free access that’s simple to navigate. Eliminate unnecessary steps and have control over how customers interact with your site such as no downloads which means no one has to download anything to access your website or app. There’s zero equipment and customers never have to leave your app or page to go somewhere else.

More Time On Your Site

By embedding video calls into your website rather than choosing to use a third-party video conferencing service, you’re able to have visibility and manage the customer experience. Plus, you’re able to receive important insights about customer behavior. This data becomes critical for businesses that want to optimize engagement and predict churn rates. Once a customer is on your platform, sending them away from your page isn’t a business-savvy move when you can keep them where you want them – on your website, product or app.

Woman sitting cross-legged, leaning against bed’s headrest, smiling and looking down at her phone in her handsTotal Customizability

When you embed video calls into your website, you’ll notice just how much control and functionality you actually have. First off, you can enjoy collaborative features like the online whiteboard, screen sharing, messaging and more. Plus, with integrations for Google Calendar, Outlook, Slack, and Live Streaming to YouTube, you’ll reap all the rewards of being digitally relevant and accessible.

Security and Compliance

Embedding video conferencing needs to be safe and secure. Try premium features like One-Time Access codes and Meeting Lock, so you can embed video calls with peace of mind. With features like these, it’s safe for people to use your website or app for video calls and chatting, plus sharing information and using high-quality features.

Fair Pricing

FreeConference.com is free! There are no hidden fees or contracts and you can cancel at any time. All plans include audio and video conferencing with NO time limits. Want more? It’s easy to upgrade to a Starter or Pro package for additional features and add-ons. With embedded voice and video we do charge a rate but our pricing is extremely competitive and can't be beaten. To learn more about our APIs, SDKs, and how you can embed video today, book a meeting with our parent company iotum.

Leave The Hard Work Out

With years of WebRTC experience, and know-how of the industry and technology, you don’t have to worry about anything. Leave the back-end operations and maintenance to FreeConference.com. If there’s a cutting-edge feature that hasn’t yet been implemented or an improvement that needs to be made, you can rely on FreeConference.com to get it done.

Also, FreeConference.com has offices around the world and offers live telephone support Monday through Friday for any of your online questions, concerns, and needs.

With FreeConference.com, you can expect ease of use, a solid return on investment (it’s free!), and a spike in business that makes customers feel seen and heard. Add a whole other layer to the way your product, service, or business is put out into the world. Enjoy using free video conferencing where you can embed free video calls into your website to enhance your online presence and get you the impressions and traffic you’re looking for. Learn more here.

New bottom tool barOver the past few months, we’ve been taking into consideration how our clients use our video conferencing technology, especially on the new Meeting Room where most of the magic happens! Through research, planning and diligently reaching out to clients, we’ve been assessing what we can do in the back-end to improve the customer in-call experience in the front-end.

Based on current trends, how clients are using the current technology, and how we see video conferencing shaping over the coming year, here’s what we’ve done to make FreeConference.com stand out and be a key player in the industry:

  1. New Toolbar Location
  2. A Dynamic Toolbar
  3. Better Access to Settings
  4. Updated Information Bar

By updating these functions, we’ve been able to improve the meeting room user experience and make it work more smoothly. Welcome to the updated FreeConference.com Meeting Room that is decluttered and easier to host and moderate meetings. Here’s what we’ve got in store for you:

upgraded bottom tool bar-min1. The New Toolbar Location

While researching to see how participants were navigating the Meeting Room, it became clear that the floating menu with key commands (mute, video, share, etc) wasn’t easily accessible because it was only seen when the mouse was moved on-screen or the display was tapped. Not being able to view the toolbar at all times was less of a help and more of a hindrance!
Now, the toolbar is stationary and visible at all times. There is no need to search the screen for the menu/toolbar. It’s permanently at the bottom of the page and will no longer disappear if the user becomes inactive. Users can enjoy this more intuitive and user-friendly approach to being able to view and click the toolbar at any time.

new upgraded tool bar2. A Dynamic Toolbar

Still keeping in line with a toolbar that works for you instead of you having to work for it, what was once two toolbars (one located at the top and one at the bottom of the screen) has now become just one toolbar at the bottom.

Participants will notice that all secondary features are neatly tucked away in the new overflow menu labeled “More.” This change in location offers instant control to the commands that are used more frequently and to neatly “put away” commands that aren’t used as much like Meeting details and Connection.

The most important controls – audio, view and leave – are made visible upfront and center so there’s no time lost hunting on screen for an important function. Intuitively designed, the participant list and chat buttons are also located on the right, whereas everything else is on the left.

Another addition includes the instant resizing of the menu that dynamically snaps to fit the device it’s being viewed on. On mobile, the important commands will be viewed first with the buttons and remaining commands pushed up into the overflow menu.

Audio options3. Better Access to Settings

Looking to make your experience more customized? We’ve recreated the user navigation to accommodate what you need and have it readily accessible to you when you need it, like when you need to sync your headset to Bluetooth on your laptop or have to adjust the settings on your camera for optimized viewing. Settings like Bluetooth or switching from the built-in to external camera are quick to click.

Changing your virtual background or accessing the camera icon to verify which device is being used is also painless. No need to click, dropdown, and search for minutes to find it. It’s all there for you to see on the page.

Need to troubleshoot? It only takes mere seconds and fewer clicks. Just click the chevron next to the mic or camera icons. All settings can be reached via the ellipsis menu.

4. Updated Information Bar

To make it easier for current clients and more appealing for guests coming in from other services, the view change (Gallery View and Speaker Spotlight) and full-screen buttons have been brought up to the top right of the information bar. At the top left, the timer, participant count, and recording notification have remained in place. This information bar now remains static.

meeting information button

Furthermore, participants can click the New Info button where they can easily see the meeting details. This information can also be accessed from the bottom menu bar.

FreeConference.com is proud to offer these updated functions and bring clients the best user navigation and experience possible. As a result, we’ve been able to declutter the page and make it more visually appealing and intuitive to use. With more commonly used commands available upfront and less used commands accessible via the overflow menu, plus settings that are only a few clicks away, participants can expect a high-quality calling experience that mirrors today’s current video conferencing trends.

Ready to sign up and try it for free? Sign up here or upgrade to a paid plan here.

Man outside sitting with a suspension bridge in the background, focused on his laptop while pushing down his ear bud with left handWho knew that one day video conferencing would be the modus operandi of most people in the workforce? What was once a pipe dream – seeing someone on the other end of the line with whom you are speaking to – is now available in the palm of our hands or used with friends on game night, interviews with c-level execs and hiring employees for remote jobs around the world.

Here’s the thing though; As much as video conferencing has been revolutionary in connecting people, there’s also the option to host an audio conference. It has just as important a role in keeping business and people aligned and on the same page minus the pressure of having to turn on your camera.

So which option is better for you? Which one might you require in a given circumstance? Here’s what you need to know first:

What is Audio Conferencing?

It’s when multiple people connect from different devices via the same phone call. Audio conferencing is akin to what was a conference-call function on a desk phone – which is still used and available – but these days, it’s more commonly done via the Internet, where one number or host dials to connect from their device to reach others. No cameras turned on.

What is Video Conferencing?

Young woman in mid-sentence using her hands to gesticulate while seated at a table in a retail store in front of laptop in a video conference

Same idea but with the camera on. Video conferencing is designed to bring together multiple people from different devices in an upfront, face-to-face virtual environment that simulates being in front of one another. Participants need to use the Internet and can only access the video chat using a dial-in number or a link provided by the host.

What’s The Difference Between The Two?

Other than both being real-time communication channels – their most obvious similarity – the differences between the two mediums are aplenty. First, they are both two completely different formats. Second, they require different technology and third, there are different costs involved.

Video conferencing requires audio, but audio conferencing is standalone and doesn’t require video which makes video conferencing more demanding in terms of technology. Video requires faster high speed internet, more bandwidth, audiovisual equipment and potentially a few other bells and whistles.

On the other hand, audio conferencing needs only the bare necessities to make a connection. It can be as low-tech as plugging in a phone and making a call, or simply turning off the camera when you use a device. That being said, audio conferencing requirements might change depending on the need of the specific business circle, but by and large, audio conferencing generally requires very little set up.

Both, however, come together seamlessly for working remotely. They are the two pieces that comprise a well-working, and well-oiled machine. Businesses that adapt to using audio and video conferencing have the upper hand when it comes to working with employees from around the globe.

Here are a few benefits of both video and audio conferencing solutions depending on what you need them for:

Video Conferencing Pros

It’s The Second-best To Meeting In Person:
The number one reason video conferencing has wildly picked up in popularity over the past few years is because it’s the closest you can get to another person ir group. It’s become expected from most companies now to meet over video.

It’s Very Visual:
Most of our communication is non-verbal, therefore video offers a more in-depth look into what a person is communicating, via their micro-expressions, head leaning, gesticulations and more, all of which contribute to a larger and deeper meaning behind the words.

It’s Feature-Heavy:
Video conferencing isn’t just only video. These days, all sorts of extras come loaded with the technology to make the experience as collaborative and productive as possible. Features like annotation, sentiment analysis, screen sharing and more are modern additions that make for a pleasant online experience.

Audio Conferencing Pros

It’s Familiar:
It’s what’s been done over and over again for decades. There isn’t much set up, and it’s easy to connect through a phone or cloud-based conferencing solution to anyone from anywhere at any time.

It’s Uncomplicated:
Typically, audio conferencing comes with a few selections and that’s it. There aren’t a lot of fancy options to choose from. It’s straightforward, to the point and a great choice if you don’t want to show your face, or share your screen.

It’s Very Cost-Effective:
Since audio conferencing doesn’t require the trimmings like higher internet bandwidth and extra equipment like mics and webcams, this solution becomes quite affordable – even FREE!

View of smiling business-casual dressed woman outside, holding a phone to her ear and a tablet in the other, while walking and workingIt’s More Anonymous:
When the camera is off, you can remain a little more invisible. This is advantageous for people who’d like to lead with a voice call instead of video. Furthermore, an audio call is more casual and off the cuff.

The Takeaway:

Both methods are worth their weight in gold. It would be impossible to function in this day and age without them – both of them. In fact, they support each other and both exist under the term teleconferencing or web conferencing. They are not mutually exclusive options, you can (and should!) have both to tun your business effectively.

With FreeConference.com, you have the option to communicate as you please! Whether by video or audio, the choice is yours with how you want to connect. Especially for modern businesses whose success relies on their remote workers, clients and future prospects, it’s the smart thing to do to be able to stay connected in as many ways as possible.

FreeConference.com comes with a wide range of features – FREE! – like Screen Sharing, Document Sharing, Online Whiteboard and more. Upgrade to a paid plan for more options like Annotation, Custom Hold Music and YouTube Live Streaming.

White brick background with art hung on wall, and analog clock, plus plants and a desk with a vase, more plants, books and a paperweightNow that a lot of us are at home using video conferencing to connect with everyone from the office plus family and friends, we’ve gotten pretty used to having to work from different locations. Maybe you’re set up at your kitchen table, or you’ve moved things around to accommodate an at-home office. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to lounge by the pool with your laptop!

For those of us who’ve had to figure out ways to make working from home work, it’s all too common that your space gets cluttered, or looks messy. Save time, and money while spicing up your everyday backdrop – try a virtual background. Especially if you’re looking to come across as put together, adding a Zoom custom background helps keep the meeting distraction-free.

So if you don’t have a pretty place to work or your family or roommate needs to walk around in the back, don’t stress. Here’s how to use and change up your Zoom background. The best part? It’s easy and there are plenty of appealing options to choose from.

How To Change Your Zoom Custom Background

Before a meeting:

  1. On your Mac or Windows computer, download the Zoom Desktop Client.
  2. Log into your Zoom account.
  3. Select the gear icon at the top right-hand corner to navigate settings.
  4. Look to the left menu. Select Virtual Background.
  5. Choose a Zoom background or select the “+” icon to upload and use your own image.

Changing Zoom background during a meeting:

  1. Click the “^” arrow next to Stop Video.
  2. To swap or turn off your Zoom background, Click “Choose Virtual Background”

Zoom comes loaded with options to choose from and gives you the option to upload your very own background, like your brand or business’ logo and proprietary colors. Depending on your mood, the nature of your meeting, and the type of work you’re doing, there’s a perfect virtual background for you.

Here’s the thing though; While Zoom might be at your top-of-mind awareness for web conferencing needs, there are many other hard-working Zoom alternatives on the market that pack just as much punch and come with sophisticated features like custom meeting backgrounds to make your business stand out.

Two in-situ templates of smiling woman using FreeConference.com geometric and plain virtual backgroundsTry FreeConference.com for professional background images for your virtual meetings. Start your free video or voice conference call, share your screen or create a meeting room – for free! No credit cards are required, no contracts, and no extra equipment. FreeConference.com offers high-quality conference call service at no extra charge. You can host or join a free conference call with up to 100 participants, create a free online meeting room for webinars and presentations and use free screen sharing and free video and audio calls with your colleagues, clients, family, and friends.

Plus, FreeConference.com comes with industry-leading features and technology for your free conference call – virtual backgrounds included!

With FreeConference.com, it’s just as easy to find, select and use a default background or upload your very own. Here’s how to change your FreeConference.com virtual background:

  1. Start your meeting
  2. Select the cog icon “Settings” from the right side menu
  3. Select the Virtual Background tab
  4. Select one of the following:
    1. To upload a background
    2. Blurr your current background
    3. Select a default option
    4. None

n-situ smiling woman using FreeConference.com geometric background in video chat with two more virtual background options behind the firstUse a virtual background to blend in or get noticed during an online meeting. Choose a beautiful landscape or abstract shapes and designs; Or pull up your own background image to enhance the visual appeal or showcase your branding. Some of the dynamic and fun, professional-looking backgrounds include abstract glass, Denali mountainscape, houses in the sun, a stylish work office, waterfall rainbow or geometric.

If you’ve never tried a virtual background for your Zoom meeting, it’s really simple and so easy to get started! Try 1 or 10 different options from FreeConference.com right here:

Country house background-min

Country house background

 

Pretty books on bookshelves background-min

Country house background

 

Green plants background

 

Palm leafs with shadows background-min

Palm leaves with shadows background

 

Desert Window Background-min

Desert window background

 

Want more? You can upgrade your account to include all the free features like virtual meeting backgrounds plus more call and web participants, audio and video recording, audio and video transcription, high security, caller ID, custom hold music, YouTube Live Streaming, and so many others.

Let FreeConference.com help jazz up your online meetings and virtual social gatherings with an exciting variety of backgrounds. Pull up bold and inviting colors or exciting and dynamic images. Plus, with FreeConference.com, you can upgrade your services to include audio and video recording, YouTube Live Streaming, Annotation, and tons more!

View of woman at home in office in front of desktop looking down and pointing a pen at notebook, while speaking and engaging with screenReal-time transcription and closed captioning (CC) are changing how we send and receive messaging – especially in a crowded space or when reaching out to an audience used to being bombarded with pop-ups, flashing screens, and autoplay.

As a moveable audience who flips between consuming content on mobile and engaging in online meetings for work, school, and social events, if the content isn’t accessible and inclusive, it’s possible you could be missing out on key opportunities to reach and include anyone receiving your message.

You’ve definitely come across it before: Closed captioning is when spoken dialogue is transcribed and shown at the bottom of the video. Closed captions can inform the reader of sound effects, speaker identification, background music, and other labeled audible sounds.

Unlike subtitles that assume viewers don’t have hearing difficulties, closed captioning can be turned off or on and include identification of all audio sounds. On the other hand, open captions which aren’t used as much, are “burnt” onto the video or stream and are permanently attached to the video. There’s no turning them off or on.

Not only is real-time closed captioning absolutely a necessity for video content, but it’s also continually showing us just how valuable it can be when it comes to accessibility. Did you know you can use video conferencing software like FreeConference.com in conjunction with closed captioning available on Google Chrome? Together, you can make all your online meetings more accessible.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Google Chrome browser.
  2. At the top right, click the Kebab Menu (three vertical dots)
  3. On the drop-down, select Settings
  4. On the far left, select Advanced
  5. On the drop-down, select Accessibility
  6. Move the Live Caption toggle to the right.

While Google Live Captions is considered an accessibility feature, it really comes in handy across the board. It works for local audio and video files saved on a hard drive – as long as the files are played in Chrome.

Plus you can customize the font size, and color, turn on the volume for autoplay and make a few other adjustments for optimal viewing. More info here.

(alt-tag: Young woman wearing business casual, moving her hands and speaking in front of laptop on a ledge in a communal workspace.)

Here are a few of the benefits of live-caption technology:

Young woman wearing business casual, moving her hands and speaking in front of laptop on a ledge in a communal workspace1. People With Hearing Disabilities Get Access To Your Content

Folks who are hard of hearing are limited when it comes to watching videos, especially if captions are missing or don’t exist! Over 5% of the world’s population experience hearing loss of some degree – that’s 430 million people!

As we rely more on video content for learning, entertainment, and business purposes, people need access to content. Every country has its own compliance laws, and captioning content is a step that comes with a dramatic impact. With accessibility, comes possibility!

2. Better User Experience

Let’s face it: We watch content everywhere and we take calls and meetings from the car, on lunch breaks, or while waiting to pick up the kids! We can’t always listen to what’s happening if we’re in the presence of others, but we can still receive the message via captions. What's helpful, too, is if during an online meeting you can’t quite make out what someone is saying, chances are, Google Live Captions will catch it.

Another option: If you’re viewing a recording of a meeting, you can take a look at the transcription that’s already included to double-check. Either way, you can’t miss an important comment, action point, or idea!

(alt-tag: Man seated, facing the right and smiling while engaged and typing on laptop on lap with piece of art in the background. )

Man seated, facing the right and smiling while engaged and typing on laptop on lap with piece of art in the backgroun3. Support English-As-Second Language Speakers

For anyone who doesn’t speak English as their first language, Google Chrome Live Caption becomes another way for learners to strengthen their learning. This is learning accelerated, especially considering how much of an educational tool captions can be. Not only are learners hearing the language, but they can also read it to help capture nuanced features like jokes, idioms, sarcasm, and so much more.

Even for English speakers, sometimes having the added option of seeing spoken words transcribed is helpful for remembering and really getting a grasp on the information.

4. More Engaging Watch Time

Some people learn by listening while others learn by watching. If you have both, just imagine how much more info you’d be able to absorb. By engaging multiple senses, your brain can receive content and be reinforced with both audio and text.

Especially in an online meeting, it’s helpful to have both audio and live captions turned on as a way to keep participants engaged.

Pro-Tip: If you’re using video conferencing software to record for training purposes or to send out recordings to participants who couldn’t attend the live meeting, encourage them to use Live Captions and see if it works to help them stay focused, keep better notes, or make for a more well-rounded experience.

Also, there’s a reason why social media giants have implemented auto-play videos without sound; People simply can’t listen to what they’re watching if they’re in mixed company, watching something confidential, or find themselves within a very limited time frame.

With Live Captions and or transcription for recording online meetings, you’re providing clients, employees, and your audience another way to receive your message. Captioning services make your content – whether internal or external, recorded or live – more memorable and far more engaging!

With FreeConference.com, you can run your meetings alongside Google Chrome’s Live Captions feature for an extra layer of inclusivity and reach. Imagine your browser-based meetings using FreeConference.com’s platform loaded with features like Screen Sharing, Smart Summaries, and transcription PLUS real-time live captions for a deeper experience. Together, your meetings can benefit even more people. Learn more here.

Close-up view of hands holding a smartphone with recording screen zoomed in on man playing guitar at desk with laptopIf you want to make your video an interactive experience that invites participation and engagement from your audience, then broadcasting to YouTube is the way to draw a crowd. This gives your following another way to join your live video conference. It opens up viewability because anyone can tune in live now or record and save to watch later. Choose to make your YouTube video conference call private or public depending on the nature of the content and who’s viewing it.

Here’s how to broadcast a live video conference on YouTube Live with FreeConference.com (more details here), and below, are tips on how to use YouTube Live:

STEP #1: Linking to your YouTube Account

Enable Live Streaming:

View of man in living room, speaking and interacting with smartphone held at arm’s length whiles gesticulating and pointing fingerAdd your YouTube streaming details to your account:

(Note: From time to time YouTube will update these settings, so it is suggested that you confirm these details before each live streaming event.)

STEP #2: Share your live stream link with participants

STEP #3A: AUTO LIVE-STREAM

STEP #3B: MANUAL LIVE-STREAM (This feature is only available to a moderator)

A Few Tips For Your Live Stream Conference Call

Get off to a good start by implementing the following steps to ensure everything is in place for a smooth and successful live video conference call on YouTube:

  1. Get Set Up For Success
    What’s your goal from going live on Youtube? What do you hope to achieve? Is it to include more viewers, expand your online presence, add to your communication and marketing mix? Promote or demo a product? Take viewers on a tour of the site?From there, you can work out the live stream setup. If you’re a team, you will have to delegate roles to each member. Will you need a host? Can you use a tripod for the camera or do you need someone to manage it?
  2. Figure Out Timing
    It will be impossible to please everyone, but depending on the size of your group and who’s participating, you can cater to many! When deciding a date and time for your live conference, if no one can see eye to eye or if your reach is very broad, try consulting YouTube Analytics to see what time your videos get the most views.Still don’t know? First YouTube conference call ever? No sweat. Pick a time that suits the majority of participants. A YouTube live conference call can be recorded too. If there are people who can’t attend, they can catch it later.Just make sure to schedule your live video conference in advance so that you can promote it and give people the chance to lock it into their calendars.
  3. Test And Check
    View of man holding tablet on lap while reclined on couch, looking through YouTube videosAvoid snafus and failures by checking you have everything ready before you go live:

    1. Remove distractions and busy backgrounds.
    2. Adjust the lighting so you can appear well lit and not dimmed or shadowy.
    3. Find a quiet space free of background noise. Check your mic to ensure it’s up and running and smooth-sounding.
    4. Test your connection and network diagnostics.
    5. Check batteries and have a power supply nearby.
    6. Turn off your phone, notifications, and ringers.
    7. Shut down unnecessary tabs and clean up your desktop for easy access to files, especially if you might be screen sharing!
  4. Engage The Audience
    Whether a conference, online meeting, seminar, live series, or any other format, keeping your audience engaged is key.

    1. Remember: People will jump into different parts of your live video conference. Share a quick recap or if you have a guest speaker, mention their name and specialty.
    2. Try getting viewers to make it all the way to the end. Reveal something that will have them watching from start to finish. Save the special announcement, the good news or a piece of important information as the final word.
    3. Use Text Chat or Live Chat for people to chat on the side, ask questions or gain clarity.

With FreeConference.com, you can wow your audience by live streaming to YouTube easily. Seamlessly connect your FreeConference meeting to a YouTube Live Stream, broadcast live to various channels in just one take, and give your following multiple ways to join. Sign up for free here or upgrade to a paid account here.

The key to running an effective formal meeting is a well thought out agenda. When you prepare ahead of time by writing an agenda in advance with detailed information about the meeting, you will not only save time for everyone involved, but the outcome is more likely to be a success.

Here are 5 items you should always include when creating an effective meeting agenda:

5. Define the meeting goal. (Or goals)

FreeConference Puffin waving handsThis might be the most important part of the agenda. It specifies the purpose of the meeting and the outcome or decision you are hoping to reach at the end. It allows everyone involved to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and why their participation is valued.

When the agenda includes starting with the goal, you are more focused on the end result. while creating the rest of the meeting agenda, improving the efficiency of your meeting before it even begins.

Check out the meeting list!

4. Outline a list of meeting agenda topics for discussion

Once the goal of the meeting has been established, prepare for the meeting with a list of important topics for discussion.

Each discussion topic should assist in achieving the meeting goal. The list can be brief but should be detailed enough so that team members can prepare for the team meeting to make an effective contribution.

A common method is to position each topic as a question. This kickstarts the thought process for your participants and provides a check-in on its relativity to the meeting goal.

Each topic should have an owner and a specified amount of time to cover the topic. Topic ownership provides accountability. A time frame keeps the meeting on schedule. Download our free meeting agenda here: FreeConference Meeting Agenda Download

3. Identify the list of required attendees

The challenge presents itself, not when deciding who to invite, but who not to invite. Only people who really need to be at the meeting should be on this list.

If you’ve established your meeting goals and assigned meeting topics, you should have a good foundation to work with to finalize your list of attendees. With that in mind, ask yourself three questions when considering each meeting participant. If you answer yes to any of the questions, add him or her to the list of agenda items:

If you’re unsure, consider making his or her attendance optional. You can always send a post-meeting summary, recording, or transcription instead. Meeting minutes from a note-taker, not always required.

One of the biggest complaints about business meetings is that they are a waste of time. Managing meetings becomes easier when syncs stay around 30 minutes. Be respectful of your colleagues’ time without wasting time or losing out on results.

2. Leave a section for action items and off-topic discussions at the end of your meeting agenda

man using phone and laptop for meetingFollow-up is just as important as the meeting itself. At the bottom of the meeting agenda template, it is beneficial to include a section where attendees can take notes, document action items, decisions, and takeaways. Having this section organizes the conclusions made in the meeting and allows attendees to visualize the process that has to take place afterward.

Unexpected topics can arise during the meeting that steers focus away from the end goal. To stay on track and on time, “park” the off-topic discussion in the “Parking Lot”, usually at the end of the agenda, to revisit outside of the previous meeting. Another common term for this is “Let’s take this offline.”

1. Last, but not least, double-check meeting details, such as time, place, and conference logistics

This is particularly important if attendees will be participating in your meeting remotely. Make sure that all conference details are clearly outlined and correct, including dial-in numbers, access code, and any links to your online meeting room.

Or, create a meeting with FreeConference.com and the conference details are populated in all invitations and reminders, along with your meeting agenda. 

Try to send out the agenda at least 48 hours in advance.

Advance notice provides attendees with the time to prepare for the board meeting and to ensure that they don’t have any conflicts in their schedule.

Try to send out the agenda at least 48 hours in advance.

Advance notice provides attendees with the time to prepare for the meeting and to ensure that they don’t have any conflicts in their schedule.

Webcam’s view of a young stylish woman working on her laptop and looking at her screen working from a table in the kitchen.Before jumping into any online meeting, you’re going to want to make sure everything is in working order, especially your webcam. More and more, it’s expected that participants turn on their cameras to participate in the meeting. Why? Seeing each other’s faces forges a better human connection. It’s helpful to put a face to the name if there are people you haven’t met and if you can’t meet in person, well, video chat is the perfect placeholder!

Whether you’re hosting or participating, you want to leave a good impression and that means your face should be coming through clearly without disruption or delay. Are you using a standalone camera or embedded? It totally depends on your device and while most mobile devices (like smartphones, tablets, and laptops) come with embedded cameras, standalone is still commonly used.

Here are a few ways to test your webcam before a meeting, plus some troubleshooting tips.

Typically, stand-alone webcams are pretty pain-free. They are designed to be effortless by simply being plugged in and played, and turned on and turned off. Issues aren’t common, but in the case of a problem, consider the following common possibilities:

Close-up, angled view of standalone web camera attached to the top of laptopOnce you’ve ruled out all of the above methods, you can jump online to find a site that will help you sort through your technology. Most video conferencing software comes with its own test (and with FreeConference.com you get an all-in-one diagnostic test that checks more than just your video!), but if you want to make sure that the camera itself (external or embedded) is fully functioning, then try the following options:

How to Test Your Webcam Online

Connected to the internet? Good! From here, you can search “online mic tester” to come up with a few sites that give you a fast and easy way to check your camra. Usually, all you have to do is open the page and click “play.” You will receive a prompt that asks you for permission to use our camera. Click allow, and you will be able to see a live preview.

How to Test Your Webcam Offline on Mac

This is a great hack that most operating systems on laptops come with:

  1. Click on the Finder icon.
  2. Click on Applications from the list on the far left-hand side.
  3. In the Applications folder, look for Photo Booth. This will pull up your web camera’s feed.
    1. If you have an external webcam, look at Photo Booth’s drop-down, drag your cursor to the menu bar towards the top of the screen and click Camera.

How to Test Your Webcam on Windows

Over-the-shoulder view of man chatting with happy woman waving on-screen of laptopWindows has a camera program that can be opened up using the Start menu. Your external or embedded camera can be accessed from here and opened up for further investigation. The camera app also comes loaded with settings and controls for navigating how your camera works. Look to the Settings option on the bottom left window

For Windows 10, open the Cortana search bar on the taskbar then type Camera into the search box. You will be asked permission to access the webcam. From there, you will be able to see the camera’s feed.

How to Test Your Webcam With FreeConference

While all the above are excellent for testing your webcam, FreeConference has a Call Diagnostic Test that allows you to run through all your gear in your video conferencing platform. You don’t need to venture anywhere else, everything is conveniently located in one place. FreeConference.com tests your microphone, audio playback, connection speed, and video before your meeting. Just one click of a button and all your tech is checked for a frictionless experience in your online meeting.

With FreeConference.com, you can feel confident entering any meeting knowing your video conferencing technology is top-notch. You cover the hardware, and FreeConference has you covered for the software. Browser-based technology ensures your connection is fast, easy, and seamless.

This blog post probably wouldn’t exist 20 years ago (insert modern globalization cliché here), as more companies find employees that are spread all over the globe, the demand for a Time Zone management was formed. Here are Top 7 business tools for managing Time Zone differences for remote team members.

Timefinder1. Timefinder

Let’s start with the big picture, the Timefinder is a simple but handy app that shows time zones on the globe. The app lays out the countries of the globe. The handy tool bar on the left allows you to pick your cities. When a city is picked, the local time is shown on the tool bar and the map.

2. Boomerang

boomerang time zone app

Boomerang helps you schedule emails so they could be sent out later. This is handy especially for team members abroad in case you send something urgent while they are off duty. Boomerang integrates with Gmail to help you send certain emails at certain times, simple enough.

3. Time Zone Converter

time zone converter appLike a calculator or currency converter, this app is as simple as it gets, 2 clocks, the one on the left always displays local time. The clock on the right is where you enter a major city, it will give the local time in that major city, perfect for time zone emergencies and quick searches.

4. World Clock Meeting Planner

timeanddate time zone appEver get frustrated with planning a meeting with colleagues overseas while dealing with different time-zones? Well the World Clock Meeting Planner allows you to enter multiple locations so you get a clear view for the answer to “What time is it there?” Allowing easy planning for trans-national meetings.

5. Timezone.io

timezone.io appTimezone.io allows you to keep track of the local time of your team members. Simply put your team members and their affiliated cities on the website so you get a clear view of all your team members and their local times. A useful visual interface.

6. World Time Buddy

Ever get frustrated with planning a meeting… wait a minute didn’t we go through this already? World Time buddy is similar to World Clock Meeting Planner in that you chose 3 or more cities to see what time it is in other locations compared to a certain local time. This app has Widgets and mobile app integrations too.

world time buddy time zone app

7. Just use your phone (iOS)

Feeling repetitive? You’re not alone, apparently there’s only so much you can do with Time zones. If you have an iPhone, simply use the World Clock feature to add specific locations to compare different time-zones.

world clock feature for iPhone

 

P.S. We have our own!

If you're feeling flustered by all of these choices, don't fret just yet. FreeConference.com has our own time-zone management app to manage your international conference calls! You can find it under the Schedule function or in Settings – > Time Zones.

a pair of hands hold a clock and have three different time from three cities aside

Echo is one of the most annoying distractions that you can have on any type of conference call.

How to Eliminate Echo on Conference Calls

Echoing can happen on any type of conference call: a video conference, free conference calls with a dedicated dial-in or even on a conference call with toll-free numbers. As someone that has tried to communicate with a caller while they were echoing, I can honestly say that being unable to hear someone is extremely frustrating. While conference calling technology has enhanced our communications, it has created unique issues that need to be addressed – namely, conference call echo. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when dealing with it.

1. Conference Call echo is usually caused by someone using a speakerphone.

laptop with headphone to eliminate conference call echo

Try using a pair of headphones to eliminate echo! Photo by Gavin Whitner

Even though conference call echo is a legitimate issue, it might surprise you to know that if everyone on a conference turned their volume down halfway, it might just eliminate conference call echo forever. Why?

Echo occurs when a person's microphone picks up sound from their speakers. That sound is once again played by the speakers and picked up by the microphone, creating an infinite loop that we call echo. When audio is played through headphones, echo becomes virtually impossible. This is why echo is usually caused by participants using a speakerphone.

TIP! During the call, ask if anyone is using a speakerphone. If there is a group on speakerphone, ask them to either separate the speaker from the audio output (which causes the echo) or throw on a pair of headphones.

2. Figure out who is causing the echo on the call.

TIP! If your conference participants are complaining about echo, but you do not hear anything, you are the cause of the echo.

Most people assume that if they cannot hear the problem then it is unrelated to them, but this rule does not apply to conference call echo. Most of the time, the only person who can't hear the echo is the one causing it.

TIP! If you are in a conference where one or more participants is complaining of echo but you don't hear it, try muting your line to see if that fixes the problem. If you are causing the echo, simply turn down your speaker volume, use headphones, or more your microphone farther away from your speakers.

3. As a conference moderator, you can use the online participant list to easily determine who is causing the echo.

in call page with text chat window open

Expand the participant list located on the right-hand side of your online meeting room. Select "MUTE ALL". Then, unmute them one by one by clicking their unmute button in the participant list to determine who is causing the echo. If they are the cause of the echo, keep them muted to keep the line clear and free of distractions.

 

 

 

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