Very user-friendly. Free trial. No credit card required.
No phone support.
- Bottom Line
ClickMeeting is affordable, easy to use, versatile, and our top pick for video conferencing services for small businesses.
We have all been stuck in conference calls with poor connectivity and various disruptive noises in the background from those who have forgotten to mute themselves. ClickMeeting (which begins at $30 per month) aims to take away much of this pain. Though it can't control the content of a meeting, ClickMeeting offers a lot of controls to improve your audio-visual experience, plenty of meeting controls for the host, and it's affordable. For all of these reasons, ClickMeeting is our Editors' Choice video conferencing service for small businesses.
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Getting Started With ClickMeeting
ClickMeeting offers several plans, which begin at $25 per month for two presenters and 25 attendees and top out at $165 per month for four presenters and 5,000 attendees. If you opt to pay annually for any plan, then you can save up to 20 percent. A free 30-day trial is also available. To sign up, you first choose a page name, which will be part of your custom URL for meetings, and then you provide your name and email address. You can activate your account via email or by pairing your account with Facebook, which seems odd considering this is business-focused software. The Welcome email includes instructions to get up and running; you can also sign up for a Get Started webinar.
Like many newer web services, ClickMeeting has a progress bar that encourages you to complete your account profile, which after activation is at 25 percent. You can choose to complete your profile via Facebook, or add your details manually. You can represent yourself with either an avatar or upload a profile photo or take a photo with your webcam. ClickMeeting prompts you to create a meeting right away, which adds to your progress. The interface is very friendly, colorful, and non-cluttered. It's not terribly corporate-looking like InterCall or dated like StartMeeting. ClickMeeting is also easy to navigate and it guides you step by step when setting up a meeting and handling other tasks. From your account panel, you can see events you've created and statistics, such as meeting length, attendee numbers, and more.
You don't get a personalized dial-in number, but you can choose from a list of numbers for cities in the US and abroad, including London and Sao Paulo. You can also purchase add-on toll-free numbers. A full list of keyboard shortcuts is available on ClickMeeting's website, including how to mute yourself, turn off/on hold music, and more. Presenters and participants can also use ClickMeeting's Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service to join a call.
You can customize your meeting space with a choice of background skins, and enable features such as a thank you page redirect URL, automatic thank you emails for participants, auto recording, and reminders.
Setting Up a Meeting
To set up a meeting, create an event directly from your dashboard. Then give it a name, and create a unique URL. For example, my custom URL is mollymcl.clickmeeting.com, and I can add to that when I create a meeting by appending something like "/weeklystatus" to the end of the URL. From the "Start a Meeting" page, you can test your connection, which is helpful, since video conferencing can go very wrong if the Wi-Fi or network connection is faulty.
When creating meetings, you can choose between a scheduled event or a permanent event. A permanent event is always accessible and has no start or end date, ideal for recurring or on-the-fly meetings.
Next, add an agenda if you wish. Finally, invite participant and presenters, either manually or by choosing from saved contacts or past sessions. When inviting people, you're able to add them to your contacts as well and also link up your Facebook and Twitter contacts. To send invites, you can use one of ClickMeeting's email templates or copy the meeting details and paste those into your own email client.
Then you're ready to go. Helpfully, you can either start the meeting right away or enter the meeting room and prepare first and start the meeting later, which is a nice touch. A virtual waiting room is available for other participants, the meeting won't start until a presenter arrives.
As a presenter, files can be uploaded for sharing, either from your computer or from Dropbox. If you want to share your desktop, you have to download an application. From the meeting dashboard, there's access to YouTube, which is pre-populated with ClickMeeting how-to videos, but you can search for any video you want. You can also create polls. Additional attendees can be invited right from the meeting room.
If you're invited to a ClickMeeting as a participant, then simply click on the meeting URL in your email invite. Next, input your name and email address and then test your connection. Check for plug-ins and set up your camera and microphone. I had some trouble the first time I tried to join a meeting. I saw a "this site uses a plug-in that's not supported" message, and ClickMeeting didn't detect my camera and microphone. On my second attempt, everything went smoothly and I was sent to the waiting room, since the presenter had not yet arrived. The waiting room includes "hold" music but you can disable it.
The Meeting Experience
Once a presenter has joined, the meeting can begin. Features available include a lock option, which denies access to participants who show up late. Presenters can record the meeting; a blinking red light indicates recording is active. You can't record audio separately; everything in the conference window is captured as well.
Attendees can either use their computer's mic and speakers or dial-in by telephone. The presenter can choose between Audio modes. In Presenter mode, only presenters are allowed in for meeting prep. Q&A mode lets attendees, all of whom are muted, ask questions by pressing a button; presenters can then grant voice privileges. Once the question has been asked and answered, the presenter can then mute that participant again. Listen-Only mode mutes all attendees for the duration of the meeting, while in Discussion mode, everyone can hear and speak to one other. In Drawing mode, presenters can highlight text, draw arrows, sketch, type and erase. When you click the End Meeting button, as a presenter, you can either exit yourself or end session and log everyone out.
All attendees can enable audio and webcam, raise their hand, post icons indicating agreement or disagreement, and speak louder or softer. Chat is available to all, and can be translated into several languages. Participants can't request desktop control of other attendees or share their screen.
Video conferencing is built into every meeting, so you can choose on the fly whether to use it or not. What's nice is that you can use webcams at the same time you're sharing your screen or using whiteboard tools. Up to four webcams can be active per meeting.
Features and Getting the 411
You can manage access to meetings by setting a password or a token or simply leave it open to anyone who has the meeting URL. For token-protected meetings, each participant receives a unique token that only one person can use to enter the meeting.
The software is available in 11 languages and the chat text can be translated into 52 different languages. Both the original text and the translation text can be seen at the same time.
ClickMeeting is compatible with PCs and Macs and with all the major browsers: Internet Explorer 8 (to access the meeting room) or 9 (32-bit only) (to use the account panel); Mozilla Firefox 3 or higher; Google Chrome, and Apple Safari 4 or 5.
An Office plug-in integrates your account with Outlook and other Microsoft programs, while a Chrome plug-in hooks into your Google calendar. Apps for Android and Apple devices are also available, and let you schedule meetings, stream audio and video, share your screen, and record your events.
When you need help, ClickMeeting offers support by email and live chat seven days a week. You can also consult the Knowledge Base, which includes PDF guides to get you started as well as video tutorials covering subjects like Audio and Video, Presentation and Whiteboard, Room Layouts, and Desktop Sharing. I used the live chat feature to ask about plan features and was answered promptly, in a friendly manner. Phone support is not available.
ClickMeeting Makes Meetings Fun
With a variety of presentation tools, video chat with up to four participants, and both dial-in and VoIP calling options, ClickMeeting helps you create engaging meetings, whether you're looking for lively participation, a training seminar, or a brainstorming session. Its interface is appealing and easy to use, and its plans are just the right size and price for a small company. Thus, ClickMeeting is our Editors' Choice for video conferencing services for small businesses.
Juan Martinez is PCMag's Senior Editor, Business. His work and commentary has been featured on ESPN.com, NBCNews.com, FoxBusiness.com, Entrepreneur, Reuters TV, Esquire.com, Publishers Weekly, ClickZ, ZDNet, TechRepublic, TechRadar, Content Marketing Institute, CRM Magazine and Direct Marketing News. He has a master's degree in creative writing from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree from Bard College. Prior to PCMag, Juan was the Senior Editor of TechRadar Pro, and a Technology Editor at CBS Interactive. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow Juan on Twitter at @jrobertmartinez…. More »
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