By Scott Baughman

Life in the time of the coronavirus surely has put a strain on all of us, and the death toll has been staggering. But as humans we’re anything if not adaptable and even as our medical professionals are struggling mightily to tame the contagion, the rest of us also have our struggles – not the least of which is how to keep earning a living. American unemployment rates are at all time highs due to the all-too-necessary shutdowns and those who are still working have found themselves embracing a new acronym – WFH. It stands for Work From Home and while it had been somewhat used in a few online circles as far back as 2014, it was thrust to the forefront when we all had to decamp from our concrete jungles and set up shop in front of an entirely different monitor, or even bank of monitors depending on your vocation. 

As I’ve filed article after article on the laptop that I’ve got connected to the main monitor at my home office – which now takes up space in my living room, BTW – I’ve asked myself just how different it really is than when I’m filing articles at my desk in Uptown Charlotte. The answer? Not all that different.

But what IS different is the collaboration with my co-workers. We once held plenty of meetings together in board rooms and conference rooms when the only electronic component was basically a few folks dialed in on a conference call phone line. But now? Now it’s ALL virtual connections isn’t it? And there are certainly a variety of choices out there to decide on how you’re going to virtually connect.

 So, as is customary in this space I’m going to give you a brief rundown on the top choices for telework and let you know the pros and cons of each virtual meeting space out there. Here’s hoping that they’re useful even when we come out the other side of this thing. Here in no particular order are the top virtual meeting softwares and websites I’ve found to be helpful right now:

  • Zoom: By now you’ve likely heard about Zoom as it is seemingly ubiquitous during the Coronavirus lockdown being used by everyone from NBC News to CNN to my Star Wars podcast crew (incidentally you can listen to me pontificate on A Galaxy Far, Far Away via Zoom as part of my podcast “What A Piece of Junk” which you can find on Apple Podcasts and a billion other platforms). The major attraction of Zoom is how fast it is to get it up and running and how easy it is to integrate across platforms. Also during a Zoom meeting you can not only see all the other attendees but you can use the built-in chat feature to send direct messages to individuals. And it has collaborated with many other apps like Outlook, Slack and Egnyte to make your experience better.
  • GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting had been the Go To host for webinars long before the quarantine overtook us and it continues to be a full-featured team messaging app including video transcriptions and customizable team settings. One of the best features of GTM is that it allows you to host up to 100 participants and it is also great at acting cross-platform with a Smartphone App and features a GoToWebinar option. The big difference there is the Webinar option – a seminar via the web – also features polling, automatic webinar invitations and follow-up emails, attendee data, webinar performance, and a sharable video library. 
  • Google Hangouts: Want something that is a bit more low key for your videoconference but still fancy a reliable connection and good speed? Your friends at Google have you covered. The company that reinvented email via Gmail and of course pretty much invented the current format of the Internet – Google has been handling hangouts for all of its users with aplomb for more than ten years now. Google Hangouts doesn’t even require any new software to be installed on your machine as it is included as a part of your regular Google account. Do you use Gmail? Congratulations you already have all the credentials you need for Google Hangouts. But there’s a little wrinkle in Hangouts that not a lot of people are aware of even those who have been longtime users – like yours truly. You can stream your video calls live on YouTube via Google Hangouts. How cool is that? Therefore, if you’ve got a more traditionally one-way announcement with a partner that you need to send out to the rest of your crew, you can have yourself talking to one other subject and set it to where thousands of other co-workers can watch the results. Or, you can just hangout with a bunch of other Google users for a virtual brunch.

So, there you have it – the basics of videoconferencing are now at your fingertips. It might not be the videophone from the Jetsons or the subspace radio from Star Trek, but it certainly has helped us all keep in touch and stay connected during the Coronavirus quarantine. Until next time….download complete.