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7 Vital Virtual Communication Tools for Financial Executives

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7 Vital Virtual Communication Tools for Financial Executives

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Stay Connected While Working Remotely with These Essential Virtual Communication Tools

In response to the continuing spread of COVID-19, Illinois’ shelter-in-place protocols have been extended through April 30. For many employers, that means either starting or continuing a work-from-home policy for their employees. 

Navigating the new terrain of remote work comes with challenges. One of the foremost challenges is how to communicate and stay in touch with employees. After all, team members can no longer walk across an office and ask a question. So, how do you make sure everyone is getting their work done? 

At Frontier Marketing, we understand the struggles businesses are facing right now, and we want to help. We are a digital marketing agency that works with small businesses and nonprofits, including FEI Chicago. Furthermore, we share FEI Chicago’s dedication to helping executives stay informed on the best remote working tools available to them. 

In that spirit, we wanted to share a list of virtual tools that have helped our team stay connected in our many years of working remotely. The tools include Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Hangouts Meet, Slack, Monday, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Teams Meetings. 

Read on to learn what each of these tools is, how to set it up, and what its key benefits and drawbacks are. 

Zoom

Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool that works on laptop, desktop, and mobile devices. It contains an all-in-one interface that allows you to video conference, dial-in, make presentations, message people, and more. 

One of the major benefits of Zoom is the easy-to-use platform for setting up and joining meetings. You do not need an account to join a meeting, but you do need one to create the meeting. 

Who Should Use Zoom?

Zoom is ideal for businesses with larger teams who might conduct a larger meeting. Its capabilities allow for more people to be involved in video calls. 

How to Set Up a Zoom Meeting

  1. When you sign up for Zoom, you need to create a Zoom account and install the Zoom app. 

  2. Open Zoom on your desktop

  3. Use your account info to log in. 
  4. Select “Start with video” and then select “New Meeting” if you want to start an instant meeting. 
  5. If you’re scheduling a meeting, click the “Schedule” icon. 
  6. From there, fill in the necessary information, including the topic of the meeting, the time it takes place, the duration, and if it’s a video meeting or not. You can also determine whether the participants will need a meeting password to get in
  7. Once you have the necessary information added, select “Schedule.” The information for the meeting, including your identification and password, if selected, will appear.
  8. To invite participants, you need to copy the information presented into an email and send it to the participants’ email. 

Key Benefits of Zoom

  • Multi-Platform Capability: Zoom works across multiple platforms, including desktop, mobile devices, and room systems. 

  • Screen Sharing: Both Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet can have participants share their screens. Zoom, however, lets multiple people share their screens at once. Google Hangouts Meet only allows one person at a time. 

  • Integration: Zoom integrates with platforms like Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, Workplace, Outlook, and Google Calendar. You can schedule and start Zoom meetings directly from your calendar, as well as share files across those platforms. 
  • Video and Sound Quality: There are no latency or echo issues with Zoom video chat, and it works even in low-bandwidth areas. 
  • Number of People on Screen: Zoom lets you include up to 45 people on the screen at once. Google Hangouts will only allow for 10. This works well for larger teams and meetings. 
  • Number of People in a Meeting: All of Zoom’s plans allow for up to 100 participants in every meeting. You can upgrade to a Large Meeting add-on for 500 – 1,000 participants for an additional cost. A five hundred participant meeting costs $50 per month per host, and a one-thousand-person meeting costs $90 per month per host. 
  • Mute Capability: The host can mute any of the participants in a meeting and then unmute them as well. So, if there is background noise, then you have the ability to turn off a participant’s microphone when they are not speaking. 
  • Virtual Background: Zoom lets you choose a different background image to display behind you on the other participants’ screens. It’s ideal for teammates who don’t want to show the inside of their house or home office. 
  • Waiting Room: Zoom lets participants who are early “wait” until the meeting is ready to begin. 
  • Smaller Group Options: Once you’re in your meeting with a larger group, if you need to split up into smaller groups for any reason, you can. You can designate each group and break into smaller teams. 
  • Pricing Options: Zoom comes with four different pricing options, including the free basic version, Pro, Business, and Enterprise.

Drawbacks of Zoom

  • Security Concerns: Zoom recently found itself at the center of security issues with users’ information. Outside users were able to gain access to different meetings, a practice called “Zoombombing.” There have also been issues involving the potential to leak users’ emails or photos. As a result, Zoom has frozen any new features for 90 days as of April 2, 2020. 

  • Privacy Issues: Zoom also recently came under fire when it was revealed that Zoom would send user’s data to Facebook, even if the user didn’t have a Facebook account when they had a video meeting on an Android or iOS. While data transferring isn’t uncommon, it was not explicitly stated in Zoom’s privacy policy.  

  • Increased CPU Usage: During video conferences, it is possible that your CPU usage will increase. As a result, your computer will slow down during those times. This problem seems to be most prevalent in computers that are older than two years old with less advanced graphics cards. 

  • Navigation Issues: While setting up basic Zoom meetings is easy, navigating through all the features can be overwhelming. However, there are live trainings and tutorials available

  • Time Caps: The free basic version of Zoom only allows for 40 minutes per each meeting. In order to get unlimited minutes per meeting, you need to upgrade. 

 

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Google Hangouts

Google has two options for video conferencing. There is the free version, which is called Google Hangouts. And then there is the paid version, which is called Google Hangouts Meet. 

The free version is intended for one-on-one meetings with people, rather than in groups. To schedule meetings with the free Google Hangouts, you need to have a Gmail account. You can invite more than one person to Google Hangouts, but the paid version is ideal for groups of more than two.

Who Should Use Google Hangouts?

Because it works best for one-on-one interactions, you should use Google Hangouts if you have a relatively small team.

How to Set Up Google Hangouts

  1. Go to hangouts.google.com, or you can find it on the sidebar in Gmail. 
  2. Find the person you want to meet by searching their name or email address from your contact list. Select their name. 
  3. Select “Video Call.” 
  4. Your webcam should automatically start up, and when the participant answers, you will be in the video chat. 
  5. Select “End Call” to finish your call. 

Key Benefits of Google Hangouts

  • Multi-Platform Capability: Google Hangouts works on desktop and mobile devices. 

  • Screen Sharing Capabilities: One of the participants can share their screen with another participant.  

  • Unlimited Time: This free version of Google Hangouts does not have a time limit for video calls. 

  • Pricing: Google Hangouts is offered for free if you have a Gmail account. 

Drawbacks of Google Hangouts

  • Browser Compatibility: For both Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts Meet, they might not always work correctly on browsers that are not Google Chrome. This problem happens especially with screen sharing. 
  • Google Account Needed: While you can join a meeting without a Google account, in order to set it up and get all the features, you will need to have at least a Gmail account. 
  • Limited Number of People: While you can invite more than one person to Google Hangouts, it does affect the quality of the video. Google Hangouts also limits the number of participants to no more than ten. 

Google Hangouts Meet

Google Hangouts Meet is the paid video chat option offered by Google. You need a G Suite account to schedule and set up meetings. 

Along with Google Hangouts Meet, a G Suite account also gains you access to Google Hangouts Chat. This feature is an instant messaging system that allows you to quickly collaborate with other teammates. 

Google Hangouts Meet works better for businesses and companies than the free version. It is also more comparable with Zoom. 

Who Should Use Google Hangouts Meet?

Google Hangouts Meet works well for smaller teams. The integration with G Suite and Google makes it ideal for teams who are already using G Suite. 

How to Set Up Google Hangouts Meet

  1. Log into your G Suite account.
  2. Go to meet.google.com.
  3. Select “Join or start a meeting.” 
  4. If you want to give the meeting a nickname, such as what the meeting is about, you can do so. Otherwise, you can leave it blank and select “Continue.” 
  5. Click “Join now.” 
  6. To invite someone to the meeting, you can copy the joining info and paste it in an email and send it to them. Or you can click “Add people” and type their email address into the “Invite” section. 

Key Benefits of Google Hangouts Meet

  • Multi-Platform Capability: Google Hangouts Meet works on desktop and mobile devices. 

  • Screen Sharing Capabilities: One of the participants at a time can present their screen to the other people in the meeting. This makes it ideal for presenting work or going over reports with a smaller team. 

  • Integration: If your team already has Google accounts, then integration is very easy. Hangouts can automatically update your Google Calendar, and you can join or start meetings from there as well. 

  • Number of People on Screen: Google Hangouts Meet lets up to 25 people join a video call. So, it’s good for smaller teams. However, Google Hangouts Meet will also only display the ten most recently active participants on screen. 

  • Number of People in a Meeting: Google Hangouts Meet lets you include up to 100 participants with the Basic G Suite package. The Business package gives you 150. The Enterprise package gives you 250. 

  • Mute Capability: The host can mute different participants’ microphones during video calls. However, the participant needs to unmute themselves. Currently, the host cannot do that. 

  • Unlimited Time: The Basic, and cheapest, package for G Suite does not place a time limit on Google Hangouts Meet video calls. Conversely, the free version of Zoom, which is also called the Basic package, limits it to 40 minutes per video calls. 

  • U.S. and International Calls: You can have participants call in from around the globe. Calling in works for the dial-in option but not the video conferencing option. 

  • Google Hangouts Chat: All the G Suite plans come with Google Hangouts Chat as well. Chat allows you to instant message other teammates and send and transfer files. 

  • Private Chatrooms in Google Hangouts Chat: Google Hangouts Chat lets you create chatrooms for different conversations. 

  • Pricing Options: G Suite packages start with the Basic package at $6 per month, which includes Google Hangouts Meet and Google Hangouts Chat. The other packages—Business and Enterprise—allow you to include more people on calls and cost $14 and $25 per month, respectively. 

Drawbacks of Google Hangouts Meet

  • Higher Bandwidth Needed: You need a higher bandwidth connection for clearer and crisper video conferencing than with Zoom. 
  • Browser Compatibility: For both Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts Meet, they might not always work correctly on browsers that are not Chrome. This problem happens especially with screen sharing. 
  • Google Account Needed: While you can join a meeting without a Google account, in order to set it up and get all the features, you will need to have at least a Gmail account. 
  • No Waiting Room: There is no waiting room feature like in Zoom for participants who are early and are waiting to join.

 

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Slack

How do you keep your co-workers and employees organized? If you are all working on different projects, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Furthermore, this is especially true now, with everyone working remotely. 

Slack is a task management tool that helps keep everyone focused on their different projects. 

Who Should Use Slack?

Slack is great for big and small businesses to balance different projects. However, if you have too many people working on one project at once, the threads of conversation can be distracting at times. 

How to Set Up Slack

  1. Enter your email address at slack.com/create. 
  2. You will receive in your email a 6-digit confirmation code, which you enter in the site. 
  3. Name your workspace. 
  4. Create a new channel for your workspace. You should designate each of these channels for a different project your team is working on.
  5. If you want to invite others to your workspace, you can enter their email addresses to send an invitation. 
  6. Select “See Your Channel in Slack” to view your workspace. 
  7. You will have to select “Finish Signing Up” and enter your name and password. 
  8. Here, you can review your workspace. Once you like how it is set up, click “Finish” to save all your work. 

Key Benefits of Slack

  • Channels: You can create different “channels” for each client that includes who is working on it and what the status of the project is. You can also set up these channels as private, public, shared, or multi-workspace. 

  • Instant Message: This feature allows you to collaborate in real-time with Slack team communication. You can instant message co-workers who are part of your Slack Team with quick information. 

  • Integration: Slack allows you to integrate outside products, such as Office 365 and G Suite. If you’re set up with any of these already, Slack will work for you. 

  • Data Protection: Slack securely protects your data and files being transferred with encryption technology. 

  • Desktop and Mobile Capability: You can use Slack on your desktop or through the mobile app. 

  • Search Feature: You can search through your history of communication with others to find the topic you’re looking for. 

  • Pricing: Slack offers a free plan for small teams and upgrades, depending on how big your business is. 

Drawbacks of Slack

  • Pay More for File Transfers: The free basic plan only allows for a certain amount of storage when sending files. However, you can get unlimited storage with paid upgrades. 

  • Easy Distractions: With multiple channels and thousands of conversations, it can be hard to keep track of everything, especially when you’re just starting out. 

Monday

Monday, like Slack, is another one of the online collaboration tools that are useful for tracking client and project progress. 

Unlike Slack, Monday uses project boards instead of channels to organize different projects. You can also assign co-workers and employees to different projects and schedule deadlines. Its messaging ability allows you to stay in communication throughout the project as well. 

Who Should Use Monday?

Monday works well for teams who have numerous projects going on at once. It helps both small and large teams organize and control how they are working on assigned projects. 

How to Set Up Monday

  1. Once you have signed up for Monday.com, you can “Create a blank board.”
  2. There will be default lists and items created for your blank board. You can change the name of the board, the description, and the item and list names by clicking on each one. 
  3. You can continue adding projects and details, such as “Status,” “Timeline,” and “Priority” in each of the columns on your project board. 
  4. You can invite other teammates to your Monday account through your profile and send them an invitation to their email account. 
  5. Once they have accepted, you can add them to individual projects on your project board by selecting the picture of the person on the board. They will be notified via email. 
  6. You can also use the messaging system, found in the speech bubble on individual projects, to communicate with anyone on your team by tagging them.

Key Benefits of Monday

  • Project Boards: You can create new boards for every section and within them, assign individual projects. You can also create deadlines for each project. 
  • Messaging System: If you want to communicate with someone about a project, you can tag them in the assigned project and message them. 
  • Integration: Monday integrates with platforms like Dropbox, Excel, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Slack, Trello, and Zapier to keep you in sync and connected. 
  • Data Protection: Monday uses Amazon AWS and Google Cloud Platform to store data and is only accessed by developers in order to solve client-related issues. 
  • Search Features: You can search for individual project boards based on keywords or individual sections of the project board. 
  • Flexibility: Monday’s versatile format allows different types of companies to utilize its platform. Because of its more simplistic nature, it’s easier to both manage and create new projects based on your company. 

Drawbacks of Monday

  • Pricing Plan: The pricing of Monday depends on how big your company is and how many users are involved. It is ideal for smaller teams. 

  • Mobile App: The mobile app is not as in sync with the online platform, and updates do not always carry through. 

 

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is an all-in-one platform that keeps your team connected and organized. There are two main functions for Microsoft Teams: online collaboration and video conferencing. The entire platform is called Microsoft Teams, which includes the meetings function. The video tool is called Microsoft Teams Meetings or Meetings for Teams.

Microsoft Teams combines both the organizational tools of platforms like Slack and Monday with the video conferencing capabilities of programs like Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet. 

The organization and collaboration tools allow you to create “teams” for your business. The teams can be organized by departments or sections of your company. Within the teams, you can create “channels” for individual projects and work assignments. 

Who Should Use Microsoft Teams?

We would recommend Microsoft Teams to larger businesses with many different departments. After all, Microsoft Teams allows each individual person to be part of 1,000 teams, and each team can hold up to 5,000 members. 

If your team also already uses Microsoft products, this is the one you should go for. The integration allows for all of Office 365 to be used across Microsoft Teams. 

How to Set Up Microsoft Teams

  1. Go to teams.microsoft.com and sign in. You can create an account for free if you do not have one. 
  2. Once signed in, select “Get The Windows App” to download and install the app on your device. 
  3. After it is installed and you are in, select “Sign Up For Teams” to begin setting up. 
  4. If you are using the free version, it will show you the pricing and plan options. Microsoft Teams is free if you are not using it with any Microsoft Office 365 products. 
  5. Enter in the name of your organization when prompted. 
  6. Teams will then begin creating your organization and then guide you through setup. 

Key Benefits of Microsoft Teams

  • Channels and Teams: The organizational method of Microsoft Teams segments your departments into teams. Within each team, you can have multiple channels for specific projects and work assignments. 
  • Tabs: Tabs easily organize your channels based on what each part is. The default tabs are Conversations, Files, and Wiki. Conversations are your chats within each channel. Files are the files stored and transferred. And Wiki is a smart text editor where you can draft and edit your work. You can also add more custom tabs if you want. 
  • Chat: The intuitive chat feature on Microsoft Teams allows you to instantly communicate with other teammates. You can also hide notifications for chats if you don’t want to delete a thread. You can also use the chat feature to transfer files. 
  • Integration: If you have a Microsoft Office 365 account, every one of those programs will integrate. This lets you share files and presentations through the Teams platform. 
  • Search Feature: You can easily search for different files, channels, and threads to call up what project you’re working on. 
  • Multi-Platform Capability: You can use Microsoft Teams across desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. 
  • Pricing Plan: Microsoft Teams is based on your Office 365 account and the pricing for that. 

Drawbacks of Microsoft Teams

  • Microsoft Integration: If your team isn’t already using Microsoft products, the integration will be harder. You also need to have a Microsoft account in order to begin using Teams. 

  • Limited Flexibility: Teams operates by you building your individual teams and channels. However, you can’t transfer channels to other teams. And because the individual pieces of Teams aren’t flexible, it can lead to replication of teams and channels.

Microsoft Teams Meetings

The video conferencing tool for Microsoft Teams enables your teammates to speak with each other, share documents, and put on presentations. You can use it for one-on-one meetings or entire team meetings. 

Who Should Use Microsoft Teams Meetings?

The video conferencing tool for Microsoft Teams works well for businesses who already have Microsoft as their mainstay product. It easily integrates with the rest of Office 365. You also can collaborate with those apps in real-time while communicating.

However, the video conferencing application limits you to 250 people. So, if you need to hold meetings with more people than that, this may not be the platform for you.

How to Set Up Microsoft Teams Meetings

  1. You can setup Microsoft Teams Meetings through the browser version, the installed app for Microsoft Teams, or through Outlook. 
  2. Decide whether or not you want to “Meet Now,” meet in private for one-on-one conversations, or create a meeting based on a specific channel. 
  3. If you want to meet now, go into either Microsoft Teams or Outlook and select “Meet Now.” You can then select the names of the invitees to send an invitation. If they are joining the meeting, participants can select “Jump In.” 
  4. If you want to schedule a meeting from Outlook, click on “New Teams Meeting” in the calendar view. Add the people you want to include in the “To” field. 
  5. You can also invite guests from outside your organization with Outlook. Select “Teams,” then click “(More Options)” and “Add member.” Then enter their email address. 

Key Benefits of Microsoft Teams Meetings

  • Multi-Platform Capability: Microsoft Teams works on Android, iPhone, Windows, and Mac. 
  • Screen Sharing: Microsoft Teams lets you share your screen with other teammates. You can choose to share your screen, one of the apps integrated, or a PowerPoint presentation. You can also give control to another teammate, and they can help with the presentation. 
  • Integration: Microsoft Teams integrates with Office 365 automatically. You can also integrate other programs like Roby, Google Analytics, and Constant Contact. You can present PowerPoint presentations and share Microsoft documents across the platform. Microsoft also has a plugin for Outlook to invite others to meetings. 
  • Number of People in a Meeting: Microsoft Teams allows for a maximum of 250 participants in a meeting. This applies to both guests and users of the meeting. 
  • Mute Capabilities: You can mute individual participants in a meeting as the host. You can also mute the entire meeting except for yourself. Each participant receives a notification informing them that they’ve been muted. From there, participants can unmute themselves if they want to talk.
  • Audio Conferencing: You can invite guests with a dial-in number for them to call in to the meeting, rather than participate in a video conference. 
  • Unlimited Time: You can have video conferencing without a time limit. For audio conferencing, the limit is 24 hours. 
  • Virtual Lobby: If you’ve invited someone not part of your organization, they will appear in the Virtual Lobby. The host can decide whether or not to let them join, which controls who is in what meeting. 

Drawbacks of Microsoft Teams Meetings

  • Need a Microsoft Account: At the very least, to get the free version, you need to already have a Microsoft email account. And to get all the benefits and features, you need to sign up for Office 365. 
  • Integrates with Microsoft: If you’re team is already using exclusively Microsoft products, then the integration will be easy. If they aren’t, then the transition will be tougher and you could miss out on a lot of the benefits. 
  • Works on Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge: Microsoft Teams Meetings does not currently work with the Linux application. For the best quality, you need Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge as your browser if you’re using the website version. 
  • Number of People on Screen: You can only see up to four people in a Microsoft Teams meeting. The rest of the participants are shown as icons along the side or bottom of the screen. 

Do You Want to Know More About Staying Connected?

We hope you found this comprehensive review of remote working tools useful. At Frontier Marketing, we are supportive of FEI Chicago as they help their members. 

Of course, we also realize that remote working might not come naturally to a lot of companies right now. It’s a big transition. But we want to help make that transition easier. 

Frontier Marketing specializes in helping businesses grow through thought-provoking branding, innovative web design, and engaging content creation. You can learn more about Frontier Marketing’s digital marketing services on our website.