Web conferencing

If you’re working remotely, you’re probably no stranger to web conferencing. And with the way things are going, it’s safe to say virtual meetings are here to stay for the long term.

And if you’re not familiar with the nuances of web conferencing tools, then good news, we’ll walk you through the different features to look for. You don’t need all of them for video conferencing with clients and colleagues, but we’ll talk about which ones are more important (and why).

So, in this guide, we’ll introduce you to web conferencing and explain more about what the rise of virtual meetings is likely to mean for you.

First, we’ll do a quick refresher on what web conferencing is, before moving on to the top features you should look out for when choosing a web conferencing solution.

What is web conferencing?

Web conferencing might seem self-explanatory, but let’s do a quick pit stop to define it in more detail. (It’s not your average conference call!)

Web conferencing tools allow you to have remote meetings or video calls over the internet. You might’ve also heard them referred to as web conferencing platforms or online meeting software. Both large and small businesses alike have widely adopted these in their day-to-day work.

👉 Fun fact: Web conferencing tech is pretty wide-ranging. It includes anything from VoIP (or Voice over Internet Protocol, which lets you make phone calls using the internet) to file sharing, to screen sharing (also known as desktop sharing or content sharing).

To have an actual web conference, you’ll need a webcam (or a built-in camera if your laptop has it) and a web browser or app at the very least.

Most web conferencing tools make you download a desktop or mobile app to run web meetings, but some, like Dialpad, let you have “browser-based” video conferences, which means you can just use your web browser as a virtual meeting room—instead of an app:

(Yes, you can even run a contact center from your browser without downloading any apps. Wild, huh?)

👉 Dialpad tip: More and more web conferencing platforms are saying that you can “join meetings from your browser,” which is great! But Dialpad is one of the very few (might even be the only one, actually…) truly browser-based web conferencing tools. Meaning: You can start / host a meeting from your browser too—not just join from a browser.

So what makes web conferences such awesome team collaboration tools? Well, the uses are pretty diverse:

  • Voice-only conference calls (just turn video off)

  • Video meetings

  • Training

  • Webinars and online events

  • Customer support

  • Product demos

When choosing a web conferencing tool, you should look carefully at the features it offers and think about which of these are most essential to your business. We’ll explore this further later.

Web conferencing platforms can take the form of desktop and mobile apps, available on both iOS and Android. There are many such tools to choose from, including Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Cisco Webex. But if you’re looking for a more user-friendly, unified option that follows your workflow across all of your favorite apps within the same interface, Dialpad could be the video conferencing software for you.

Web conferencing in 3 easy steps

No matter which platform you choose, web conferencing should be pretty intuitive. Let’s quickly walk through how to have a web conference using Dialpad as an example. (The general steps should be the same—provided you didn’t go with a ridiculously user-unfriendly tool…)

1. In your Dialpad app (or in the browser at dialpad.com/app), select “Send conference invite”:

2. That will pop up a screen that lets you either put in someone’s number or choose their name from your list of contacts:

3. Once you’ve chosen the person (or people) you want to invite, hit Send. That’ll take you to your messaging conversation with them, with a new message that contains the conference invite for them:

Alternatively, you can also start a conference call straight away from a chat conversation (using the phone or video icon in the top right).

By the way… Did you know that with Dialpad, you can easily start a web call with prospects and clients too? Again, they don’t even need the app—they can join your meeting from a web browser. (We support all the big ones including Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari.)

But wait! You ask. How are they messaging me in Dialpad if they don’t have the app? Great question. Because Dialpad has SMS built right in, the messaging conversation that you see in the Dialpad app actually shows up as a text/SMS for them. So the invite that you see above will get sent to their phone via text—all they need to do is click the link included in the text message to join the video meeting.

👉 Dialpad tip: Oh, and don’t worry about taking meeting notes. Dialpad’s AI-powered Voice Intelligence (Vi) technology automatically transcribes your call in real time (more accurately than Google). After the call, Dialpad will email you a call summary with the call recording (if you chose to record it), important excerpts, and action items. It’s like magic.

The 8 top features to look for in web conferencing software

Now, let’s look at some must-haves (or nice-to-haves, depending on what your team needs) to look for:

1. Call quality

For us, this is a must-have. Make sure your web conferencing tool offers excellent call quality. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re trying to get through a video meeting, and the connection keeps cutting out, or the quality is glitchy or otherwise unreliable.

But! Even though good real-time audio and video quality are crucial when choosing a virtual meeting solution… There’s one thing to remember.

It all depends on your internet connection. Got a great web conferencing software—but a shoddy network or connection? Then it won’t matter if the platform comes with HD video and audio or not. The internet won’t support it and you’ll still get poor quality picture.

👉 Dialpad tip: If you and/or your team are working from home for good, make sure you have a good network! Speaking of which, Dialpad’s collaboration with T-Mobile gives you lightning-fast 5G connectivity for the very best call quality… and it comes with our unified communications platform too, so you can call, video chat, and message to your heart’s content.

2. Audio and video conferencing options

You might think this goes without saying, but it’s worth emphasizing: your chosen web conferencing tool should support both audio and video calls. (Hey, sometimes a phone call is just more convenient. There, we said it.)

3. Multi-device access

Like it or not, smartphones have become an integral part of our everyday routines; it’s pretty much impossible to get by without them. So, your web conference tool needs to offer full functionality across mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) as well as desktop or laptop computers.

For example, Dialpad’s desktop and mobile apps work across iOS, Android, Mac, and PC.

Oh, and as we mentioned earlier, you can just use your web browser too—without losing any functionality. (Most web conferencing platforms give you the option of using your browser too, but with significantly fewer features… because they want you in their app.)

4. Instant calling, easy invites

You never know when you might need to jump on a conference call. Customers and clients often come through with urgent, last-minute requests. Teammates have a tight deadline they need your help with… In these situations, a video hangout can help everyone hash things out quickly.

So, when choosing a web conference tool, look at how easy it is to make instant calls. One thing to check: What does the process look like to issue invitations to meeting participants (a point we’ll discuss more in the next section)?

One of the main reasons to use web conferencing in the first place is the flexibility it offers. Don’t miss out on this area—test it out yourself and see how straightforward (or difficult) it is to organize a call with other people.

👉 Dialpad tip: When you’re testing out a web conferencing software, try inviting other people onto a call—and make sure you choose a group of people who use different devices. Not just Apples or PCs!

5. Different communications options in one place

This is a big one. When you’re choosing a web conference tool, look at the bigger picture. How do your clients and teammates and prospects (and so on…) like to communicate?

Beyond just online meetings, what do you need out of a good communication solution? Will you all be okay with using one app for making phone calls, another for video calls, and another for messaging? Some businesses don’t mind, but for others, this creates too fragmented and disjointed of a workflow.

(Not to mention that’s a lot of monthly software fees to pay for, and even more time spent training and managing different tools. It’s way easier to have one dedicated pricing plan for one multifunctional solution.)

This is where you might want to look into a unified communications platform. For example, Dialpad gives you video conferencing—and also regular ol’ phone calls, voicemail features, fax, and more, all in the same place. Ultimately, this keeps all your conversation histories in one convenient place (and is especially important if you’re in Sales or Customer Support).

Maybe your organization needs to do business text messaging because you need to communicate both externally and internally via everyone’s favorite communication channel: SMS....

Actually, some of our customers are educational institutions, and you’d be surprised at how many of them are starting to text students instead of emailing them, because students just love texting that much:

There are also other features you should consider when choosing a web conferencing solution. Instant messaging is a valuable feature that allows members of your team to stay in touch with one another while they work, helping them to collaborate more efficiently—and without interrupting any other conference calls that might be ongoing.

6. Screen sharing

Screen sharing is another beneficial feature to have in a web conferencing solution.

It’s pretty indispensable for online meetings, and our own team uses the screen share option pretty frequently to share presentations and decks.

With Dialpad, screen sharing is really easy. Both meeting organizers and other participants can share their screen during a conference call. Better still, you can choose what you share with others—whether it’s your main screen or a secondary screen, a specific window or a tab within a window, or a specific file or document:

7. Meeting recording

While it’s now much easier to arrange client meetings thanks to web conferencing, there will still be times when not everyone can attend. That’s why, when choosing an online meeting platform, you should make sure you choose one that has meeting recording and playback capability.

That way, you can share call recordings with people who couldn’t attend the call—or just as a way for people to review what you talked about in the meeting.

Call recording is pretty straightforward in Dialpad—you can record conference calls right from your call’s main screen (where you’ll also find other security features). Just hit “Record” in the on-screen menu, and hit the button again to stop the recording. It’ill also stop recording automatically if you hang up:

Your call will then be converted into an easy-to-use audio file that’s automatically added to your Dialpad inbox under the “Recordings” tab. It’ll be titled as the caller’s name, and will display the duration of the recording in minutes and seconds along with the date of the call:

8. Conference room whiteboard

Virtual whiteboards are another handy feature to have in a web conferencing solution. (Maybe more of a nice-to-have.)

They’re useful though, especially in brainstorming meetings because it’s just easier to explain your thoughts with a visual tool sometimes. It’s just like being in a conference room with your team in real-time scribbling down ideas—only some people are on the conference call, of course.

This feature is particularly handy during webinars, as they allow for real-time annotation and can help speakers convey their points much more effectively (it probably helps attendees retain more information too).

FAQ time

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about online video conferencing:

What are the benefits of web conferencing? Who cares?

There are so many benefits to web conferencing! It opens up a world of possibilities and empowers teams that are scattered around the world to collaborate more closely. Same thing for businesses that have international clients.

Plus, most tools make it easy to set up video meetings and talk face to face with colleagues and clients. No more commuting or expensive business travel. Just dial-in or join a meeting via a link! Web conferences are definitely not just a phone call with video—you can use your favorite web conferencing tool for things like file sharing (which is better than email, in our humble opinion), polling, and screen sharing.

From joining meetings via an online video link to using your favorite web conferencing tool or app for things like file sharing (which is better than email, in our humble opinion) and screen sharing, web conferences are definitely not just a phone call with video.

Ultimately, this makes your business as a whole more efficient and frees up funding and resources for other, more crucial things. It’s no wonder web conferencing has become so popular.

Who can benefit from web conferencing tools?

Pretty much anyone who needs to have conversations for work. We might be a bit biased, but most businesses and customers alike can benefit from web conferencing services.

A diverse range of companies and other organizations—including freelancers, nonprofits, academic institutions, government organizations, small and medium-sized enterprises, and large, multinational businesses—can all reap real rewards from online video calls.

For businesses especially, web conferencing is a cost-effective way to grow and facilitate expansion into new markets. These businesses can use conference calls and webinars to reach out to new clients and demo their products, services, or just general expertise.

We’d argue the more tight your budget is, the more you need some kind of web conferencing in order to run your business efficiently.

Are online video calls secure?

Security is obviously a vital consideration for businesses, and web conferencing tools or video conferencing software usually offer some level of security. This helps to provide reassurance and keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands and away from prying eyes.

Always check what security features are available before choosing a web conferencing software!

👉 Dialpad tip: Dialpad offers robust security and privacy protection. It uses the Google Cloud Platform, and your data—stored across several different physical locations—is protected at all times by the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. Our security team also works around the clock to monitor and combat potential security threats!

What’s the etiquette for video conferencing?

There are no hard and fast rules as far as video conferencing etiquette is concerned, but there are a few general pointers to keep in mind. For a start, remember to mute your microphone when you’re not talking (a video conferencing golden rule if there ever was one) because, well background noises.

It’s almost impossible to fully avoid talking over others, no matter how considerate you are, because it’s just harder than being in the same room together… but hey, we can do our best.

And finally, be on time! It’s no different than an in-person meeting—you wouldn’t make a habit of showing up late all the time and being the last person in a room, so why wouldn’t you be as conscious of that in a video conference?

Web conferencing takes business communication to the next level

We’re truly in the world of web conferencing now. As far as technological revolutions go, this is probably one of the biggest changes at work in recent years.

With online video calls, you can not only make your business more efficient in its day-to-day operations, but also give your clients a better and more convenient experience.