By Wayne Turmel

The most frequently asked question from my clients is, “which virtual meeting platform should I choose?” There are over 120 web presentation and screensharing platforms out in the world, and they all do some things well, and some not so well. This is an ongoing series designed to help you figure out what’s important to you and help you choose the best tool for your team’s needs.

The two most popular webmeeting platforms are GoToMeeting from Citrix, and WebEx. In fact, they are both sort of generic names for virtual meetings. They are both perfectly useful tools in the right hands and when used properly. Take this only as a high-level discussion. As always, do real hands-on research before agreeing to use a virtual meeting platform.

What I like about GoToMeeting:

  • It’s incredibly easy to use. This is the simplest of the major tools, and that has its charms.
  • It crosses platforms easily. GoToMeeting works very well on tablets, phones and computers.
  • Webcams are easy to use in this platform and the quality is superb.
  • The video integration is seamless.
  • Audio works really well regardless of if you use phone or your computer.
  • It’s very stable.
  • The GoToWebinar version does a superb job of making registration, invitations and all those tasks seamless. It also integrates really simply with your finance tools and databases.
  • Recording is easy to export for editing and website purposes.
  • Quick screen sharing is very easy and if you have to have someone share their computer quickly, it’s a snap.

What’s not so great about GoToMeeting:

  • You show everything by sharing your screen. This makes it difficult to move between screens you want to show.
  • Having multiple presenters takes considerable coordination, and generally you can only show what’s on your own computer.
  • There’s no white board feature. There are workarounds like sharing a word doc, but it’s not as easy as most of the other well-known platforms.
  • There’s no polling feature in the basic version.
  • The annotation tools need to be turned off so you can progress with your presentation.
  • There’s no file transfer capability.

What I like about WebEx:

  • You can upload multiple files in advance and navigate back and forth easily.
  • The whiteboard is simple, and you can have as many of them as you want, and save the files for later use.
  • Even the low-end “meeting” version has most of the features you want in a high-end product.
  • Annotation tools are easily shared and make collaboration easier than in GoToMeeting.
  • You can use thumbnail views and slide navigation tools to go off-book easily when you have to.
  • Adding new content is easy, even when you’re not the active presenter.
  • File transfer is a really helpful tool most people don’t even know about.

What’s not so great about WebEx:

  • Logging on can be a pain. Because using WebEx requires a downloaded plug-in, there are often delays because of version updates or problems with firewalls.
  • Everything is in WebEx default formats like .arf and .ucf unless you set them otherwise. It’s just annoying.
  • WebEx doesn’t yet work fully with Office 2013. Really?
  • The whiteboard is easy to use, but you can’t edit or cut and paste.
  • The Mac and PC versions don’t have the same interface. Some Mac snob came up with this, no doubt.
  • When using WebEx across different devices, you lose a lot of the interactive tools. Don’t present a complicated presentation less you’re at a computer.
  • Using third party audio is a pain in the…..neck.
  • The default permissions limit audience interaction. It’s easy to fix once you know where the commands are. Good luck finding them without training.

The verdict:

Personally, I’m a WebEx guy. I find that for collaborative meetings, effective interactive training, and really rich conversations, the tools are simply more robust than with the Citrix products. The lack of a whiteboard feature in GoToMeeting is a serious limitation to my team working together. If you’re only meeting occasionally, or that high degree of collaboration isn’t important, GoToMeeting has less of a learning curve.

If you’re doing webinars, GoToWebinar has the edge over the Event Center version of WebEx because the administrative tools are simpler and integrate with other tools so easily.

Remember that no matter which web platform you choose, it will only be effective if used appropriately and effectively. Training, coaching and ongoing support are critical if you want to get your money’s worth from any of these tools.

About the author:

rsz_wayne_turmel-2Wayne Turmel is the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings.com, and the co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute. For 20 years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It- a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com. Marshall Goldsmith calls him “one of the unique voices to listen to in the virtual workplace”. Follow him on Twitter at @greatwebmeeting!

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