14:40 PM

How to make web meetings work in 2024

Vol. 79, No. 6 / Nov. - Dec. 2023

Jeffrey Schoenberger

Jeffrey R. Schoenberger is a lawyer and senior consultant at Affinity Consulting Group. Schoenberger specializes in practice management advisory services, including content development, CLE presentations, and member consultations. He is also Affinity’s designated Apple expert. Schoenberger received a B.A. in history from Yale University and J.D. from the University of Virginia.

Virtual meetings remain alive and well even with the official end of the pandemic. I expect they’ll be with us indefinitely. 

Web meetings are the collaboration equivalent of watching a Hollywood blockbuster at home. The chairs are more comfortable, you can rewind, use subtitles for dialog, and pause for bathroom breaks, and, hopefully, the floors aren’t sticky. But the picture is smaller, the sound lacks punch, and the popcorn doesn’t have the same flavor. With web meetings, there’s no commute, no dressing up, and recordings and transcripts are just a button press away. But it’s easy for email or instant messages to distract you, technical glitches and gremlins may raise their heads, and there is none of the spontaneous interaction of an in-person event.  

You have likely attended dozens – if not hundreds – of web meetings over the last three years. Whether one-on-one, team meetings, trainings, or CLEs, they all function with the same core principles and tools.  

Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace include tools to conduct online meetings, trainings, and webinars. For Microsoft subscribers, look into Microsoft Teams. For Google subscribers, check out Google Meet. Besides these two behemoths, there’s also Webex, popular with governments and court systems; GoTo, which offers products for meetings, webinars, and trainings; and of course, Zoom, the pandemic darling that got even grandma and grandpa doing web meetings. Visit The Missouri Bar’s Law Practice Management (LPM) website and review the Web Meeting and Video Conferencing Services Feature Comparison Chart to learn more about each vendor. 

Irrespective of your platform choice, the products share similar fundamental capabilities and mechanics. Think beyond the basics and consider your client base when deciding on a platform. Like many competitive markets, differences exist mainly at the margins, but the differences might be essential for you. They all provide meeting scheduling, screen sharing, and call-in numbers. But, for example, Google Meet and Zoom can run on a computer through a web browser, so no client needs to install the software. If you work primarily with corporate clients, it’s likely Teams is already installed and that your client is familiar with it.  

As for hardware, all vendors above have Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android applications. But caveats exist. For example, Microsoft Teams will run in a Windows web browser, like Edge, but not in Safari on a Mac, requiring users to download and install Teams for Mac. Beyond such oddities, nearly all webcams and audio devices will work with any web meeting platform. In searches for audio devices and, to a lesser extent, webcams, you may see mentioned that a particular product comes in both Microsoft and Unified Communication (UC) certified versions. Unless you work in a company or firm that locks down your computer to prevent software installation by anyone outside IT, the UC version likely meets your needs. 

For webcams, my default vendor is Logitech. I currently use a predecessor model of their 4K Pro Webcam, with which I’ve been satisfied. However, 4K video probably exceeds your typical web meeting needs unless you have high-speed upstream internet or record videos. To save money, look to the Brio 500 or the C920s Pro HD Webcam. The Brio 500 includes high dynamic range color, an adjustable field of view, and is certified for Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. 

If months or years of work from home lead you to contemplate a “virtual-first” or “virtual-only” firm, whether for convenience or just to reduce overhead costs, subscribing, mastering, and seamlessly employing web meetings will be a critical component of that transition. Want to hire an associate who lives downstate but are not sure how you will be able to collaborate? Web meetings are a possible solution. 

Nearly all providers offer free versions or at least free trials. Try one or many. Being comfortable with your video tools leads to less stress, hopefully turning “yet another” web meeting into just a meeting.