Between clients, consultants, and telecommuters, chances are you work with a lot of people who never step foot inside your office -- if you even have a physical office at all. Plenty of entrepreneurs run virtual companies that exist only in cyberspace.
One way to keep employees and clients on the same page is by conducting virtual meetings. But how do you get started? Beyond much-used digital conferencing tools such as Skype or Go2Meeting, a crop of new options have emerged that allow entrepreneurs to efficiently collaborate over video.
Here's a look at three tools that can help you keep everyone in the loop:
1. Google Hangout
All your team members or clients need to join a Google Hangout is a Google login and a webcam. Launch the application from inside Google Plus then invite up to 10 people to join you.
What makes Hangout unique is that it allows you to view and collaborate on Google docs while still maintaining visual contact with multiple people on the webcam. You can also add voice-only participants by clicking the "Telephone" tab at the top of the page, or the "+telephone" link on the left side of the invite screen.
Voice calls are free in the U.S. and Canada. International fees range from 2 cents to $1 a minute depending on the country and if it's a landline or mobile phone. Since no download is required, Google Hangout is one of the fastest ways to set up a virtual meeting.
2. WebEx Meetings
Cisco's WebEx Meetings can be a handy tool for group projects. The selling point for this app is a feature they call Meeting Spaces. It's a cloud-based file sharing site that houses all the documents your team needs for the meeting. Upload presentations, checklists, budgets and agendas. Team members can access the information prior to the meeting so there's no wasted time once you get started.
Since it's cloud-based, participants can log on through the browser of their PC, tablet or smartphone. While you're on the call, you can use the instant messaging feature to have a side chat with another member. This is an excellent way to have specific questions answered that don't pertain to the whole group.
WebEx Meetings if free for up to three people per meeting. The premium plan includes up to 25 people for $49 a month.
Fuzebox is a glossy, high-tech tool for conferencing that can handle any kind of high-definition content including slide shows and movies. You can have up to 12 participants, each on their own HD video feed so it's as close as you're going to get to a face-to-face meeting.
The secret to Fuzebox is using its native apps. Instead of sending everyone to a browser site, users connect through apps specifically designed for the iPhone, iPad, Android phone, PC or Mac. That means no connection or compatibility issues.
When you run a Fuzebox conference, you can share your desktop or files, annotate on screen and control another computer remotely. You can also assign permissions to users blocking some participants from engaging directly with the content or and mute mics during a presentation.
Fuzebox starts at $15 a month for up to 15 non-HD attendees and goes up to $69 a month for full-featured service. If you routinely share videos or large files in your meetings, Fuzebox might be worth the price.
What tools do you think are best for conducting virtual meetings? Let us know in the comments below.