Live Collaboration with screen sharing and/or conference calls
As a telecommuter with a development team and business associates at many different locations, we benefit greatly from access to tools that allow us to conveniently teleconference globally for voice calls and screen sharing sessions. Any time a live presentation is needed to demo our products, train people, or to collaborate on business or development efforts, tools like Join.Me provide a very simple solution.
Being able to collaborate regardless of each participant's location has the obvious advantage of saving travel costs, but in many cases it can be better than an in-person presentation because each user has their own personal view and can attend in their pajamas.
I have used WebEx, GoToMeeting and Join.Me. GoToMeeting was my preferred choice until I discovered Join.Me.
Three things sold me on switching to Join.Me:
- There is no need for regular participants to install anything on their own computer. Far too many times I have been embarrassed when a participant has difficulty installing the client-side component required by other services. Not only does this waste the limited time that the participants have made available for a session, but it causes frustration and negative feelings even though it is not the presenter's fault.
- Join.Me has a very easy, intuitive, and attractive user interface which results in a better user experience. The folks at LogMeIn, Join.Me's parent, have amazing user experience designers. Join.Me is simply a no-brainer to use.
- Lower cost. 'nuff said.
Video Conferencing If you require video conferencing, Join.Me does not yet support it. For that I recommend GoToMeeting. We also use Skype voice conferencing, especially for international calls, because it is as convenient as placing a conventional call and voice quality is very good (and it is free). Occasionally we have taken advantage of Skype's screensharing option but have not yet tried its video conferencing (except for one to one family video connections which work well). I've also used Google Hangouts for family video conferencing and we like it, at least for that purpose.
Webinars Join.Me's regular pro version is even good for webinars up to 250 participants. You'd have to spend $400/mo instead of $13/mo to do this with GoToMeeting's webinar service or $379/mo for WebEx's event offering (and that is billed as special pricing, so the cost may go up).
For Join.Me go to https://join.me and visit the pricing and features pages accessible from the home page.
At $149 per year (less than $13/month) or payable monthly at $19/month, Join.Me is priced lower than GoToMeeting or WebEx (both $468/year or $49/month, and that is for only 25 participants...however both of these services include HD video conferencing as an option).
Join.Me Features (partial list)
- up to 250 meeting participants
- screen sharing
- voice access via your computer (microphone plus speakers or headset) or dial up phone number
- share control
- send files
- session recording
- presenter swap
- pro desktop app (needed to be a presenter)
- personalized organizer link address and background
- meeting scheduler
- meeting lock
- user management & reporting
- window sharing
- viewer: apps for iPad/iPhone or Android
- presenter: app for iPad
The organizer can mute all or selected participants. Participants can mute their own connection.
For more details see this help page on the Join.Me site. As you can see from here, Join.Me has an excellent online help system.
- None of the services in this genre track the status of voice-only participants.
- The nature of Internet connections (not the fault of the collaboration service): if a user has a slow connection, then screen updates will come slowly and that user can easily get behind in the visual presentation (though voice will still be real-time).
- No video conferencing. This is not an issue for our requirements. I will update this article when I learn when this will be available in Join.Me.
Let's take a look at Join.Me's key functions
As the organizer, when you start a Join.Me session you can choose to either use a personalized link with a URL that can be remembered for regular use, or you can open a session with a one-time use code. Other participants will either go to your personalized URL to join the session or they will enter the one time code.
Upon starting the session as the organizer, a small control panel displays on your screen. This can be minimized to get it out of the way. The big button in the center allows you to pause sharing your screen, choose what on your screen is shared, or turn sharing back on. In this example note the use of a personalized address.
A meeting can be locked or unlocked. If locked, participants must either be admitted or, if a one time code is used, they must enter that code. In both cases the organizer is informed when someone connects and can see a list of all connected users. This is true for screensharing but not when you use just voice conferencing.
Here is an example a session that was started using a one time code.
The organizer can view a list of screen sharing participants.
When a person arrives to a locked session she or he is prompted to enter their name and click a button to "knock" to request admittance. Notice the personalized background set up by the organizer.
The organizer sees the "knock" and can admit the new user.
The presenter can decide whether to share his entire screen or just a selected window.
The presenter can pause sharing her screen and users then see the personalized background.
Participants (who see green buttons on their control panel vs. the presenter's orange buttons) also enjoy helpful options. Here the participant can adjust the zoom factor of their view of the shared screen.
Each participant (including the presenter) can connect via their computer (Internet connection) using their computer's speaker (or headphones) and microphone. Or they can call the number provided and enter the access code listed.
Users can chat with everyone or with a selected participant.
Participants do not have to install anything on their computer unless they are to be a presenter. Here the light weight presenter software can be installed.
A participant (who has presenter software installed) can request control of the keyboard and mouse, giving the presenter the option to turn the session over to another user. However, the organizer can always take back control.
Here the current presenter turns over control to another participant.
Or control of the session can be shared.
Files can be uploaded to the participants.
The organizer can remove a participant from the meeting
The account owner can schedule meetings.