Virtual Meeting Software
Meetings Have Moved Online
The pandemic caused a radical change in the ability for many Canadians to work remotely.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 80 percent of Canadian employees were working primarily at external workplaces. This decreased to 27 percent during the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, only six percent of employees were working remotely for most of the time before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Working from home has both freed us from the office commute and disrupted our personal lives.
Twenty percent of the Canadian workforce working remotely is an astounding increase from pre-pandemic numbers, as, in 2016, only four percent of Canadian employees worked from home.
However, the latest numbers are still significantly lower when compared to the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, an estimated 40 percent of Canadian employees worked from home.
— Made in CA
Virtual Meeting Software
Download the dedicated meeting client from the vendor for a better experience.
If you're going to be working with colleagues on a regular basis I strongly recommend you choose a paid plan that takes security and privacy seriously.
Free plans allow 100 participants for 40 minutes (Zoom) or 50 minutes (Webex).
Those connecting to family and friends may find these more suitable options:
- Apple FaceTime is build into iOS and macOS.
- Join a FaceTime call from an Android or Windows device.
- Facebook Messenger requires a Facebook account.
- Skype video conference. No sign ups, downloads or time limits.
Be aware of software limitations including supported devices.
The last thing anyone wants is to have unauthorized access to sensitive meetings.
Privacy breaches or revelations of confidential information could damage your reputation. Consider the security and privacy of whichever solution you choose.
Never share the meeting ID or passwords where they are visible to unauthorized viewers. Email invitations work best and some apps will sent the invites from within the app.
Make Privacy & Security Features the Default
When setting up your meeting, default to the best privacy and security options.
[N]ew users…may not be familiar with apps' optional privacy and security features.
For this reason, we urge companies to make privacy and security features the default option.
Reviews can help you choose the right solution for business or social.
- Video call apps privacy rated from not creepy to creepy.
- Best video conferencing software compares features.
- Cisco Webex Meetings review.
- Zoom video conferencing service review.
Business Meeting Etiquette
If you're using the meeting software for business, don't forget that you're in a business environment and act accordingly.
Take care to ensure your ID is clear to the meeting host and participants. Showing up as an anonymous “User” could leave you stranded in the “waiting room.”
This is especially important when everyone doesn't know each other or when a guest may not know the role for each person.
Create an account with the software vendor. In most cases this is free and provides you wish a credible ID (especially if you use your work-related email address for meetings with colleagues).
Make the best use of your online time together.
- Distribute an agenda and documents via email well before your meeting.
- Assign a time for each agenda item then stick to it.
- Meeting slides keep everyone on track.
- Google Jam Boards are useful for brainstorming sessions.
- Hold questions by scheduling a Q&A at the end of the meeting.
- Email a post-meeting summary.
Because you're at home, don't forget that you're in a business meeting.
- Dress appropriate for the meeting (business attire or what you'd wear in the office).
- Centre yourself on video and make sure you're paying attention.
- Test your mic and sound prior to the meeting.
- Use chat to avoid disrupting the speaker.
- “Raise your hand” if you want to speak.
- Avoid going to other apps unless it is necessary for the meeting.
- Mute your microphone except when speaking to avoid background noise (pressing the space bar unmutes you temporarily).
- Hand-held devices can be distracting. Use a stand or prop up your device.
Remember, it is harder for a speaker to judge whether they are reaching their audience if video is turned off. This is important in online meetings; doubly so when it is an online class.
You'll want to control your surroundings as best you can.
- Let the people you live with know that you'll be in a meeting and unavailable.
- Use a separate room and close the door, if possible.
- Use a headset for privacy.
- Turn off or silence your phone and devices to avoid interruptions.
- Check the background for anything distracting, personal or inappropriate.
Audio and Video Settings
Configure your hardware before the meeting to ensure everything is working so you can both hear and be heard.
- Be sure that your video is running and that people can see you.
- Mute your microphone when not speaking to avoid background noise. The space bar can be used to temporarily activate your mic.
Meetings Can Be Recorded
Be aware that meetings can be recorded and that transcripts of the meeting and your chats can be made available to your boss.
- Only the host should be able to record the meeting to control privacy.
- Get permission from attendees to record the meeting, even if it is only for ensuring accurate transcripts.
- Permission may be automatic in work environments (you may have no say about who has access).
- Don't upload meeting recordings to any publicly-accessible location.
I recommend storing the recordings locally on a hard drive rather than online for security.
When Mute is Not Really Muted
Engaging your conferencing software's mute button may still broadcast it to the software's servers.
A new study shows that pressing the mute button on popular video conferencing apps (VCA) may not actually work like you think it should, with apps still listening in on your microphone.
More specifically, in the studied software, pressing mute does not prevent audio from being transmitted to the apps' servers, either continually or periodically.
They found that no matter the mute status, all apps occasionally collected audio data, except for web clients that used the browser's software mute feature.
You can physically unplug an external microphone or use your computer's audio settings to mute your microphone rather than depending upon the meeting software's mute button. (Cisco Webex has since fixed this issue.)
Consumer Reports questioned Google, Microsoft and Cisco about the data collection outlined in their privacy policies and sent recommendations on how the firms can improve.
No company refuted the findings, but Cisco said “privacy is a basic human right, and we never rent or sell our customers' information.”
Improve Your Meetings
These articles offer advice that can help your meetings succeed:
- 15 tips to make meetings more accessible for everyone.
- Waste less time in meetings with these 4 simple tips.
- How to hold video meetings like a pro (YouTube).
- Best practices for great online meetings.
- 8 tips for better video conference calls.
Learn from others' mistakes.
- How not to embarrass yourself on Zoom.
- 24 video conferencing tips to go from telecommuting zero to hero.
- 13 things to avoid doing.
Configuring Your Hardware
I strongly recommend testing to ensure that sound and video are working correctly before each meeting.
Familiarize yourself with the features on the app you'll be using including how to adjust sound and video. This will allow you to optimize your experience and deal with any issues quickly and without disrupting the meeting more than necessary.
Join the Test Meeting
Most vendors provide test meetings while using their app:
Prepare Your Environment
There can be a lot of competition for your WiFi bandwidth, especially if you're working from home while others are present.
Prepare your environment and take precautions to avoid being disturbed before your meeting, especially if you've experienced issues in previous meetings.
- Test your Internet speed before the meeting.
- If possible, use a hard-wired connection rather than WiFi.
- Ensure unnecessary devices are turned off (or turn on “airplane” mode).
- Netflix can use a lot of bandwidth. Discourage use when meeting online.
If you're having difficulties, try these troubleshooting tips, beginning with restarting your computer or device.
Headset Strongly Recommended
Having a headset or earphones with a microphone greatly decreases the chance that either feedback or background noise will interfere with your meetings.
Webex is strongly recommended for better security and reliability. It integrates well with Microsoft 365, Google Drive and more. Media coverage is sparse but positive.
Learn how to join a Webex meeting using their app (recommended) or via your web browser.
50-minute Limit for Free Accounts
Webex's free client provides for one host, up to 100 participants with maximum meeting duration of 50 minutes.
A paid account has more options if these limitations don't work for you.
- Webex plans and pricing (select the appropriate currency).
Installing the Webex App
The Webex desktop and mobile apps are strongly recommended for the best experience. This site has a simple tutorial for downloading the app then connecting to a Webex meeting.
- Download the Webex meetings app for Windows, macOS (Intel or Apple M1 chip), Android and iOS.
- Get Started with Webex App.
However, you can join a Webex meeting using just your browser:
Webex Meeting Suggestions
There are a series of tools in the bottom menu.
- Raise your hand when you wish to speak or choose from several reactions.
- Use chat for suggestions, to provide online links or to speak privately to another participant.
- If everyone isn't visible, click Participants for a list of those present.
You can use virtual backgrounds to mask what is behind you during a meeting. Your image may be jittery if you don't have a fast computer.
Webex Support & Setup
Check the Webex support resources if you're having trouble:
- Join a Webex meeting.
- Get started with the Webex app.
- Get started with Webex Meetings for hosts.
- Sign-in issues (only if you've registered). You can join meetings as a guest.
Webex Security and Privacy
Because Webex was built for business, it came with good security and privacy. When signing up for a Webex account or using the Webex apps, you are asked to agree with the following:
Webex is secure by default, and doesn't make it the user's responsibility to opt-out of sharing their data, or change meeting settings in order to be protected. This is a part of Cisco's belief that it should never trade convenience for security.
Zoom is very popular, but had significant bad publicity and security issues.
40-minute Limit for Free Accounts
Zoom's free client provides for up to 100 participants with maximum meeting duration of 40 minutes (unlimited one-on-one meetings).
Purchase a paid account if these limitations don't work for you or your business.
- Zoom plans and pricing (select the appropriate currency).
Zoom installers work in Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.
- How to sign up & download the Zoom meeting client (YouTube video).
- Release notes for Zoom client.
- Updating Zoom to the latest version.
The Zoom Web Client
Zoom offers a web client that avoids the issue with having to download and install software, but there are limitations on controlling how participants are identified and not all browsers support it equally. You may find that not all the meeting controls are available to you.
The Zoom web client allows joining a Zoom meeting or webinar without downloading any plugins or software. However, the web client has limited features and functions best on Google Chrome.
— Zoom Support
The Zoom web client can impair your meeting's security and privacy.
Zoom Support & Setup
Check the Zoom support resources if you're having trouble:
- Getting started with Zoom meetings.
- Updating Zoom to the latest version.
- Joining a Zoom meeting.
- Zoom video tutorials.
- Getting started on Windows and macOS.
- Getting started.
- Zoom host and co-host controls in a meeting.
Improving Your Zoom Experience
Make the most of your Zoom experience with these resources.
Zoom Virtual Backgrounds
A Zoom virtual background hide what's behind you but can be jittery and distracting unless you meet the system requirements.
To achieve the best virtual background effect, Zoom recommends using a solid color background, preferably green.
- Zoom virtual backgrounds from Zoom.
- The 36 most realistic Zoom virtual backgrounds for business meetings.
There are lots of articles on how to make the best of your Zoom meetings.
- 13 things to avoid doing on Zoom.
- Top Zoom tips for better videoconferencing in a locked-down world.
- There's a secret Zoom filter to make you look better on video calls.
- What Can You Tell me About Zoom?
Zoom Security and Privacy
In general, Zoom's problems fall into three broad buckets: (1) bad privacy practices, (2) bad security practices, and (3) bad user configurations.
— Bruce Schneier
Improved Security for Everyone
Zoom responded positively by working hard to correct the deficiencies. Significant security and privacy improvements led New York's attorney general to approve Zoom again.
Zoom's approach to data routing has also changed. Now your video call will not be routed by mistake to a Chinese or other foreign server. Free conferences will stay in the domestic region, and paid subscribers…can choose which countries their information goes through.
Zoom free account users will have to turn on this security feature plus verify their identity with more than an email address.
- Want to opt-out of Zoom's AI training? Well….
- Your meetings will be safe and secure if you do these 10 things.
- 5 things you can do today to make Zooming safer.