Every manager of a virtual team dreams of an ideal, easy-to-use collaborative meeting space that brings together disparate workers. It should have video for multiple people, audio and text chat, file sharing, and be able to display documents for discussion. If it doesn’t require a software installation or download, that’s a plus.
Recently, I was given a free trial of iMeet from a social media friend, although I hadn’t gotten around to trying it. It suddenly dawned on me that it might meet my requirements for a collaborative meeting space, so I asked PGI, the creator of iMeet, for a demo. Here’s what I found out.
To access the tool, I was sent a URL to access a private meeting room, similar to something you’d receive through any number of virtual meeting tools. But instead of a desktop or a document dominating the screen, I was instead presented with four cubes, each showing a different person in the meeting room. Each cube could either display a photograph or streaming video of the individual it represented. There was also a text chat box on the lower-right corner, and a menu button on the upper right.
As a meeting guest, I could click on my own cube and toggle between photo and video, adjust microphone volume, raise my hand, step away or access my profile information. Clicking on another participant’s cube, I could access their profile or engage in a private text chat. The profile feature provided some nice background information about the meeting participants along with icons leading to their social media channels, like their Twitter accounts. I could access those channels within the cube, without having to leave the meeting space.
The audio quality on the call was exceptional, even though I was using VoIP while some of the other callers were on phone. While iMeeet doesn’t offer full desktop sharing, it did allow for the sharing of documents, video and web pages. The documents loaded into the meeting room seamlessly: the video played clearly, the slide presentation was accessible, and I could resize it or move it around to suit my viewing preference. Guests can also advance slides or interact with the files on their own. They can only download the shared files with the room owner’s permission.
As the documents, video or website appeared in the room, the video of the meeting room owner moved swiftly to the side so their image or video was still visible. The smooth flow of all the moving parts in the iMeet room was impressive, especially over my sketchy DSL connection.
Under “Menu,” guests see three choices: “Connect,” “Files,” and “Help.” “Connect” lets you trigger a phone (toll-call) or computer connection. Files is where you can see and access files uploaded by the meeting room owner, but the owner can also give you the ability to upload files to the meeting room.
Room owners see a few additional choices under “Menu,” including the ability to add/invite guests to the room and admin settings where you can change the meeting room name, lock a room so only people to whom you’ve provided a room key can get in, change the room URL, and enable SMS and email alerts so you know when someone has accessed your meeting room. You can even respond to the SMS alert with custom key word responses, so texting “late” could trigger a message such as “I’m running a little late. Will be right there to meet you.”
The room owner can also limit permissions of guests such as removing the ability to upload files to the room. If they so choose, they can change the background of the room. Enterprise users can also order custom branded backgrounds. (As an aside, I learned an interesting thing about the backgrounds: There is small, subtle animation in each one. I was told this was based on the advice of an anthropologist who suggested discrete and unobtrusive movement on the screen can help meeting participants pay attention instead of fading out as some people tend to do on virtual meetings and conference calls.)
Solving Virtual Problems
Overall, iMeet helps overcome some typical virtual team issues, including:
- Presence. With the ability to have up to six videos at once and up to 15 total participants at a time, the room accommodates a good number of people for productive collaboration. The company is working on upping simultaneous video to eight people.
- Collaboration. Being able to share documents, video and websites easily is a plus, although it would be nice to have a whiteboard function. Letting others add files into the room adds to the collaborative feel of the meeting space.
- Social. There’s something to be said for knowing a little more about the other people in the “room,” so the ability to see contact information, a bio and social links is a great feature.
- Ease. In terms of being easy to use, iMeet worked quickly and hassle-free for me (even on a sketchy DSL connection). I was pleasantly surprised at how obstacle-free it was to access the virtual meeting room ,including no software to download or install.
Last week, I was wowed by SlideShare’s Zipcast (see Mathew’s review) and its instant public or private video and audio-enhanced slide presentations. This week, I’m similarly impressed with iMeet, which takes video and audio, adds visuals and a collaborative discussion space, and does it elegantly. Zipcasts are for presenter and audience. iMeet is for participants.
iMeet costs $69/month for unlimited audio (toll calls or free VoIP), video, file and media sharing.