Doctors, lawyers, and dozens of other professionals are facing a major issue with Coronavirus (a.k.a., COVID-19). Here they have dozens of clients, patients, etc., who all need to be seen, and cannot be admitted or briefed because of the shutdown nationwide. If you are a professional who relies on face-to-face meetings with your consumers/clients/patients, then you are experiencing this very difficult problem too.
However, you also live in an age where technology allows you to do much more than any other time period in history. Thirty years ago it would not have been possible to ask a doctor if you had strep without actually visiting the doctor. It would not have been possible to conference-call a dozen people and have everyone in the meeting at the same time without being physically present.
If you had to cancel a very important business trip, you are not alone. Yet you are also not without dozens of pieces of technology that will allow you to carry on with your meeting all the same. The following are some examples on how you can continue business as usual, even if you have to remain at home for months until Corona virus wears itself out.
Smartphone Video Chats
If you and the clients or potential business partners all have smartphones with video chat, you might be able to conduct your meeting anyway. Agree on a time and date, and then arrange for one party to call the other. If you have to conference in a third party, that is possible with some smartphones. However, some video chat features are not compatible with other smartphones manufactured by a different company, nor can they conference in several parties at once.
Amazon Echo and Amazon Chime
Amazon Echo video calls using the Echo video screen is one new way that people are communicating via a larger video chat screen. The unique feature of this device allows the screen to track your movements and follow you around a room if you need to get up and move to find something for your clients/patients/etc.. Echo video calls can only handle one-to-one video calls, and only if the other person has an Amazon Echo video screen too.
Amazon Chime is a little different. It still requires that you have a business membership with Amazon, but you can use the Chime app to communicate and video conference with several parties simultaneously and choose how you want to communicate. The app works best on Amazon devices, but as long as everyone has a computer or laptop, it can work. A free trial is given, but you will be charged a monthly rate after the trial is over.
Skype has been the tried and true means of video teleconferencing for a couple of decades now. Even if the people with whom you are supposed to meet cannot make the video part of the Skype work on their computers, you can still call them and talk at length over the Skype telephone line. Skype also allows you to silence or mute your end of the meeting if you need to discuss something with someone else in the room on your end of the call.
If you have never used or signed up for Skype before, you will be happy to know that Skype offers some sign-up credits to use on video calls. The downside to using Skype is that not everyone is open to using it, and not everyone in every country can access this program. You may need to contact Skype directly to see where their services are currently available and then instruct your business meeting partners on how to use this communication application on their end.
Zoom is a lot like Skype, except that it operates on a Cloud platform. This allows you to use Zoom on all computing devices, including tablets and phones that do not have their own video chat applications. Currently, Zoom is being used for everything from video conferencing to webinars to classroom instruction for teachers and students who are not allowed to attend public and private schools because of the pandemic.
The best part is that Zoom will give you a free trial, and you can choose from four pricing packages. The minimal meeting package is free, which accommodates small business meetings similar to the ones you might have had on your business trip. If you need to conference in many more participants, sign up for one of the upper-tier plans that are still reasonable and affordable. (We recommend the free package unless you need to conference in several parties from several locations simultaneously and intend to have multiple more “virtual business trips” in the next couple of months.)
Perhaps one of the best options out there right now is UberConference. It is also a Cloud-based communications service that provides both conferencing calls and video conferencing calls. The thing that makes it especially appealing during the Corona virus pandemic is the fact that UberConference’s parent company, Switch Communications, has temporarily changed its operating policies for UberConference, allowing you to call up to fifty business meeting participants at once, and giving you much longer call duration to suit your needs. It is their gift to companies and businesses that are suffering because of the pandemic.
If, however, you need to conference in more than fifty people, you do not want to bother with PINs to connect, and/or you expect that the virus will impact your business for much longer than two months, you can sign up for the only other package provided at $15/month. (The 50-participant package is free, and an excellent deal considering that it usually only allows you to conference in ten people at a time.) The current promotion on the freebie package ends when people are allowed to return to work, and it does not allow international communications, so that is also something to consider prior to choosing a package of services with UberConference.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention this little gem of conferencing services. Kennected connects through LinkedIn, an employment and information/social media site for individuals and businesses alike. Using an existing interface that thousands of companies and businesses already use every day alleviates you of the needs to find platform support, and any issues with its use are referred back to a third party to correct, not to you the user. There are various pricing packages available, depending on your business’s needs.
Along with being able to send invites to meetings and conferences, you are able to see who has received and read what you sent. You can see when they have RSVP’d, and read their return messages. When you host the video conference, everyone who has Kennected connects to you but can also see and hear everyone else at the meeting. Being able to use one or more of the above services definitely helps you get through the current economic storm because you can still meet, discuss plans, delegate tasks, and conduct most of your business safely from your home or home office.