I tried for a long time to get along with free video conferencing tools. As my business grew and I streamlined, I got tired of the hassle of not having a single solution or process for all of my meetings (regardless of how long they were, how many people would be on the call, or whether or not I needed to record it). After evaluating several solutions I ended up subscribing to Zoom Pro and here’s why you might want to as well.
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If I was restarting my business today with the same shoe-string budget I’d invest in a quality video conferencing service to avoid workarounds!
Why I don’t like meeting in person
When I started my business I was mostly marketing to my local area. So when potential clients or partners reached out it was always for in-person meetings. I didn’t know any better (and my boundaries were practically non-existent) so I’d say sure even though it was often inconvenient for me to meet in person.
It felt like I was constantly going out for coffee. And of course, a half hour coffee wasn’t just a half hour of my time, it usually ended up being an hour when you factor in driving time and searching for parking. That was an entire hour that I wasn’t getting paid plus I was also shelling out for coffee and parking.
And because of my husband’s health I often had to reschedule in-person meetings due to last-minute appointments or trips out of province. I was always stressing about potentially having to reschedule things and how that would be perceived by potential clients.
There is also another aspect of in person meetings that I find a lot of people don’t talk about because it can be awkward: liability/safety.
If you always meet in coffee shops, restaurants, or coworking spaces then this probably doesn’t apply to you. But . . . if you are going to someone’s private office or residence (if they work from home) you should be asking questions like:
Do I know/trust this person well enough to be alone with them?
Am I walking into an environment that could be unsafe?
Am I walking into an environment that could be detrimental to my health?
If I am injured at this location while doing business, does this person have the proper business liability insurance?
Your brain might be going somewhere nefarious, so let me give you a couple of real-world examples:
One year I had to go to a service provider’s home to pick up documents and have her go through them with me. She was a smoker. I have asthma and allergies. Guess what I did for the rest of the day? If you guessed “recover from an asthma attack” you’re the winner!
A colleague went to a client’s home office for their first coaching session. This business coach was afraid of dogs and didn’t know the client had a german shepherd. When the dog jumped up on the storm door it scared her and she startled backwards and fell down the stairs. Luckily, the coach got away with bumps and bruises and didn’t have to take any significant time off work (so a loss of income) so no insurance claim needed to be filed. This was even luckier for the client, who didn’t have insurance to cover liability insurance to cover accidents/injuries occurring on their premises.
When I realized everything didn’t have to be in person
I started collaborating with another business owner who lived out of town and took great interest in her process:
During the winter when the weather sucked and the roads were bad people could only book phone meetings with her.
The rest of the year she had specific days where she would come into the city for meetings and would try to batch them all.
If someone insisted on an in-person meeting on one of her non-travel days/seasons her consulting rate increased.
Her business was thriving and her clients were happy - it was the example I needed for my brain to go “Hey, local doesn’t always have to be in person.”
And maybe more importantly, maybe those people who insisted on having to meet in person weren’t my ideal clients.
I took a lesson and pretty quickly put together some copy to let people know that, because I was out of town so frequently, meetings would take place over the phone or video conference so that we could still meet even if I was unexpectedly away - the key for me was to be able to explain the benefits of phone or online meetings for them. I live in a small city, and the way srs bsns happened was in person with handshakes and the like.
Ugh. Thank God that’s changing - or maybe I just don’t care anymore!
Video and Audio FTW!
One of the reasons people claim in-person meetings are superior is because you can see the other person’s face and read their body language. No reason you can’t do that on a video call!
I prefer video calls with most people because it’s the perfect balance of personal + convenience. Sometimes I’ll turn off the video if I’m someplace busy with lots of distractions in the background. If I’m talking with someone that I know quite well then phone calls are OK as long as there is nothing we need to screen share.
These days I’m perfectly comfortable letting people know we’re having an online call because:
I don’t want to waste time driving
I get anxiety about finding parking spaces in busy areas
I don’t want to put on pants
I’m breaking out and my zits won’t be so high definition over a webcam
I’m not feeling well and have probably gone slightly too long without a shower
It’s more convenient for them as well
I also really value punctuality & accountability - I get super cranky with no shows. At least with an online meeting I won’t waste my time getting ready, travelling, buying a coffee or a snack, and then deciding how long to sit there like a dumbass before I go back home (or until my ride is able to come back and get me, because I live in a 1 vehicle household)!
I even have video calls with someone who lives 2 streets over :)
Zoom vs Other Platforms
When I started implementing video calls I chose Zoom* because I’d always found the quality and reliability of Skype pretty iffy. Zoom worked great until I suddenly needed to have a 1hr meeting with 2 people - Zoom’s free plan allows you to have an unlimited call with 1 person, but caps it at 40 minutes when you have 2 or more people. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to invest in the paid plan, so I started looking for alternatives.
I used Join.me for a bit and was happy with them, but they recently removed their free plan option, so that went out the window.
I used the built-in Google Meet that is included in my G Suite* account, which was great except for 1 big feature that I needed pretty frequently - the ability to record the call (note: Meet actually does have this feature but you need to be on the Enterprise plan and all I need is Basic).
Whereby (formerly Appear.in)
Then I got a request from a certain social media scheduling company asking if I’d be interested in beta testing a new feature and could they give me a demo. They used Appear.in for that call (now known as Whereby), which allowed 4 people at a time and didn't have a time limit - but you had to pay extra for call recording.
So after all of that I ended up back at Zoom*, which I’m now happily paying for.
Why is $15USD/month worth it?
I don’t need to worry when other people show up at the meeting unexpectedly (for example, bosses or business partners or VAs)
It integrates with G Suite, so I can set up video calls right from my calendar
It integrates with my appointment booking software (Book Like a Boss*) so a Zoom meeting is set up at the same time the booking is made and those details are sent via email
I can save meeting recordings on the Zoom servers instead of my computer so they’re not clogging up space
If I want to run a traditional webinar in a given month I can temporarily upgrade for $40 and then downgrade when the webinar is over
I can livestream to Facebook and Youtube
I can screenshare my iOS devices in addition to my desktop during meetings (this is part of the free plan as well, I just thought it important to mention!)
If you just can’t do $15/month right now I’d still recommend the free version of Zoom, just be aware of the following limitations:
If there are 3+ people on the call you’ll get cut off at 40 minutes
Solution: keep your meetings to 30 mins or less; use another service if you don’t have to record anything
Some integrations are only available if you have a paid plan
Solution: use the link to your personal meeting room as this link doesn’t change
You can only save recordings to your desktop
Solution: delete what you don’t need and save everything else to your own cloud storage
You can’t livestream
Solution: use my workaround for the livestreaming right over here