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Selecting Virtual Meeting Tools White Paper

Page history last edited by alyssa.lencioni@... 7 years, 7 months ago



Selecting Tools for Virtual Meetings White Paper


Audience: Project Managers and Tech Specialists


Intro: This white paper was created in an effort to provide a generalized list of criteria and information to consider to those searching for virtual meeting tools. Using examples of tools (based on 4 meeting types) and the objectives and criteria they meet, this white paper is intended to help Project Managers and Tech Specialists navigate through their search process with an understanding of what’s out there (function, criteria, and appropriate uses of specific tools) in order to efficiently find the correct tool for their purposes. By understanding a bit about the tools below, Project Managers and Tech Specialists will have an easier time searching for the right tool - they will have a better idea of what types of tools can do what and combine or search for others that fill an additional criteria they may desire. We will be exploring five different tools and how they meet the objectives of specific meeting interactions:

  • Briefing Meeting: Presentations
  • Problem Solving Meeting: Collaboration
  • Execution Meeting: Documentation
  • Social Meeting: Conversation



(Young, 2010)



The first priority in selecting virtual tools is defining your objectives and interactions. First, you need to have an understanding of the different types of interactions (Young, 2010). This white paper will attempt to help you do just that by examining characteristics of some well known, highly used tools. We'll also look at some specific criteria to consider while searching for the right meeting tool. These are pertinent factors to consider in order to make your virtual meeting functional for your specific environment and interaction. Criteria we've considered in our research are as follows:

  • Cost: software, support, total cost of ownership
  • Control
  • Usability: look and feel, intuitive and user friendly interface/structure
  • Access
  • Asynchronous/Synchronous
  • Privacy & Security
  • Corporate vs Private
  • Browsers
  • Integration
  • OS dependency
  • Geography


In the table below, we've expanded upon the image above by incorporating more interactions and comparing them to common objectives then assigning common tools to those interactions/objectives. We've also included a section to show if the tool can be used asynchronously and/or synchronously and if it's usually utilized by a corporation or private agency (usually dependent on cost and security). We have then gone into more detail about these common tools for you to have actual examples of what you can be researching for when researching virtual tools. The tools we've focused on in our more extensive research are Google, SharePoint, Basecamp, Podio and Microsoft Lync.




Google offers a variety of cloud-based collaboration solutions for no cost. To use any of the Google tools you need to have a Google account of some type (e.g., Gmail, Google+, Google Drive). Google Drive gives all users 5 GB of storage for free and offers paid plans of up to 16 terabytes for $800/month (Malik, 2012).For businesses needing more storage or user licenses, Google Drive for Business is available for $5 to $10 per user/month depending on the level of backup and security desired (see https://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/pricing.html)



Google allows you to create presentations using Google Drive. Drive presentations can be downloaded to the desktop as PowerPoint or PDF documents or as images in PNG, SVG, and JPG formats. Some theme design and layout can be altered when downloading as a PowerPoint to a Mac desktop.



Collaboration in Google’s set of tools is fairly easy. You can collaborate using Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Chat, and Google+ Hangouts.These tools give you the ability to:

  1. Use and store email, calendars, and documents in the cloud
  2. Schedule meetings and integrate them Hangouts
  3. Have real-time video and audio conference
  4. Use instant messaging with other Google users



Google Drive can be used to create and store word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms. These can all be organized in folders. Form entries are saved to either a new spreadsheet or a new tab of an existing spreadsheet.



Google Hangouts and Google Chat support real-time conversations as instant messaging or audio/video conferencing. There is a 10-person limit to a Google Hangout (Google, 2013).



Google’s tools are very user friendly. That has not always been the case in the past, but that changed in the last few years after Larry Page took over at Google as CEO in 2011. He gave Google orders to redesign all their applications’ user interfaces and created a centralized group named Google UXA to give design and development teams a consistent set of design and interaction patterns from which to make software (The Verge, 2013). Google’s tools are very affordable. For small project teams there is probably no cost involved unless there are very large documents to be stored. Google Drive for Business is available in two plans for $5 or $10 per user/month.Google’s tools do require that you have internet access to use them. While Google Drive will create local backups of any documents you create, those documents can only be editing in the Drive web application.Google’s tools are browser and OS independent because they are web-based.



SharePoint enables a better way to manage documents. Its capabilities will eliminate common frustrations that allow not being able to find pertinent documents, merging documents, undoable edit mistakes, and not being able to tell which file is the most recent. SharePoint ‘s documentation features include:

  1. Versioning- allowing storing, tracking, and restoring items in a library as they change. A very       useful feature when multiple people are working on a project.
  2. Check In/Check Out – Checking out a file before attempting any updates helps to avoid confusion when multiple people are working on the same files. One may also add comments about a file they have updated.
  3. Co-Authoring – allows working on a document simultaneously by one or more users.
  4. Metadata – create a collection of centrally managed items that can be defined and then used as attributes for items in the SharePoint Server.
  5. Approval and publishing – allows setting up workflows that can be managed. Additionally, in this feature tracking tasks can be completed providing a record of processes as they complete.



In problem solving, obtaining a consensus agreement and understanding of the problem is viewed as a very good way to increase the effectiveness of any virtual group solving meeting (Eikenberry, 1).SharePoint provides the benefit of a central location for storing ideas and collaborating. With the use of one of the many popular apps that are available, teams members can work simultaneously. Much like a wiki page team members can:

  1. See who made changes
  2. Return to previous versions, when changes have been made by someone that’s not wanted
  3. Brainstorm
  4. Organize Ideas
  5. Make Decisions
  6. Polling/Voting



A Microsoft Office Survey found that in meetings around the world 69% percent of responders say meetings are unproductive. In the US alone responders say 71% are unproductive (Keller Associates, 1). Besides the need to have a skilled facilitator in place to focus on pushing the meeting to quantifiable results, it’s also important to select the correct tools for documentation. SharePoint offers structure and facilitation to get results. With add-ons there is the ability for meeting lifecycle management (Accusoft, 1). The features allow for:

  1. Planning for the meeting (setting the meeting time and place, tracking responses…).
  2. Facilitating the meeting (verifying attendance, following the agenda…).
  3. Post meeting follow-up (creating and publishing meeting minutes, managing approval)          



SharePoint’s social meeting workspace provides a template that allows the organization of team events. In its basic form the template has the ability to:

  1. Add and manage pages
  2. Allow properties of the page to be edited
  3. Add recommended Web pages
  4. Add discussion boards (SharePoint, 1)



SharePoint is a Microsoft product and should not be looked upon as add on to the Microsoft Suite. In reality, the SharePoint product is a much bigger platform. The cost of SharePoint should be considered as if the company is purchasing and rolling out new software. The stakeholders will need to consider among other things the following expenses: licenses, server hardware and software, virus protection, and staff.Microsoft offers a free version based on the licensing agreement a company may already have in place. WSS the base level of SharePoint is free with Windows Server 2003 and later versions. The MOSS Enterprise version offers much more features and requires the purchase of access licenses (Edelman,, 2).SharePoint offers compatibility with multiple browsers and is integrated with Microsoft 2007 and 2010 for Windows. Also, the software is compatible with Microsoft 2008 and 2011 for Macintosh.IT faculty will be able to customize and assign levels of criteria to users limiting their access to SharePoint as is warranted by the organization.  Whatever version of SharePoint is chosen should depend on the needs and types of functions that are performed in the organization (Edelman, 2).




Basecamp does not offer any presentation applications with the software. This software is not intended to be used in a presentation matter and was designed to ensure the completion of a project.



Basecamp gives you several options that allow for team to collaborate throughout the life of the project.

  •  Whiteboards 
    • Document-level wiki with versioning 
  •  Files 
    • File Storage with versioning 
    • Notifications can be sent to designated people when a new file is uploaded 
  •  Chat 
    • Real-time web based chat 
  •  To Do List 
    • Add Specific Items to be completed 
      • Assign people to completion of each task 
  •  Milestones 
    • Keep track of project deadlines 


Basecamp offers File Storage that allows the group to store and share their documents for the project. With this file Storage you are given versioning to ensure that you know which document was edited last and by whom.


  •  Project-Based File Storage
    • Versioning


Basecamp offers you real time web based chat to communicate with your project members. This is useful because in the professional world not all people are in the same location and this features gives them the opportunity to meet and converse face to face with the people they are working with.

  •  Chat
    • Real-time web based chat
  •  Messages
    • Email


Basecamp is an entirely Web Based Project Management Tool. That offers different tools and features for collaboration and communication between a project team. It is not limited to an OS and does not have any requirements for installation. The security and communication of the computer to the collaboration site is based on the pricing package that you choose. Most packages come with SSL Security to ensure security of the information that is being shared and the communications between the team members.


Nice Features

  •  Web Based Project Management Tool
  •  Dashboard
    • Activity summary across all of your projects
    •  Time Tracking
      • Logging hours people spend on task
      •  Pricing
        • Max
          • $149/Month
          • 30 Day Free Trial
          • Unlimited Projects
          • Unlimited Clients/Users
          • 50gb of Space for files
          • Time Tracking
          • SSL Security
          • Free Camp Fire Premium
  • Plus
    • $49/Month
    • 30 Day Free Trial
    • 35 Active Projects
    • Unlimited Clients/Users
    • 10gb of Space for files
    • Time Tracking
    • SSL Security
  • Basic
    • $24/Month
    • 30 Day Free Trial
    • 15 Active Projects
    • 3gb of Space for files
    • Unlimited Clients/Users
  • Free Plans
    • 1 Active Project
    • Unlimited Users




  • Fully functional PowerPoint presentations, those embedded video file and audio files can be accessed through Podio
  • Meeting participants can access shared documents through a single shared workspace or across multiple workspaces. 



  • Easy to invite colleagues into the virtual workspaces; users can connect their Gmail or Outlook address books then invite people from there 
  •  Users can add their Podio calendar to their Outlook Calenda
  •  Pulls contact information from the respective programs and presents it to the workspace organizer in the system; the organizer selects the users to invite
  •  It is simple to add users to a workspace from within your organization, or even from external systems like Google, GoToMeeting and Facebook
  •  Activity stream app lets users keep track of what's happening across multiple workspaces
  • The timeline view app allows project managers to track and record how much time is spent on each deliverable and milestone to gain a greater understanding on how much each deliverable will cost.  Progress can be tracked through a GANTT-like view or a calendar view.  


  •   App integrates with plenty of cloud-based storage services, such as DropBox, Google Apps, GoToMeeting document storage integration
  •   Project managers can migrate information from legacy PM tools, such as MS Project through Podio’s Excel importer 


  • User interface has many Facebook-like elements
  • Real-time alerts allow users to join conversations at their convenience by sending updated messages to a designated email account.




  • Slides – accessible through organizer or presenter desktop sharing, but also handles PowerPoint presentations with option to play embedded video file and audio.
  • Shared Desktop –share capability available through meeting presenter, who can administer specific permissions to meeting participants.
  • Shared applications – integrates with Office 365 (Outlook) Outlook Web Access to schedule meetings and OneNote for note-taking during meeting



  • Brainstorming – incorporates the ability for presenter to introduce a whiteboard to record collaborative content.  Alternative methods could be dialogue exchange between presenter and participants via audio or video.
  • Organizing ideas – presenter has the option to start a poll to gather information or meeting-specific content from participants.
  • Prioritizing – minimal opportunity beyond polling function.
  • Voting/polling – presenters create and manage polls, which multiple polls can be run concurrently, but only one can appear visible to participants on sharing stage.
  • Decision making – minimum opportunity beyond discussion between presenter and participants via audio or video.
  • Action Planning – minimum opportunity beyond whiteboard, OneNote integration, or dialogue exchange between presenter and participants via audio or video.
  • Team Building – minimum opportunity beyond whiteboard or facilitating dialogue between presenter and participants via audio or video.


  • Content management – limited to none however, supports content sharing as an organizer or presenter could upload/attach documents and files to participants during the meeting.
  • Web portal – no supported web portal feature, however, users without the client software or an account can be invited via meeting link in a HTML5-enabled Web browser.
  • Email – as a standalone function, electronic messaging isn’t supported within its element, but with integration into Microsoft Office 365 users would have the function.  Note: Office 365 Small Business Premium includes client software.


  • Teleconference – call function is supported, which can also be run within a mobile app from compatible devices and software applications (e.g., Skype).  With enterprise voice, capabilities include calling features such as forward, transfer, divert, and release among others.
  • Video Conference – delivers HD resolution video (up to 1080p) to participants, which compatible across platforms; data speeds may impact video quality if network is degraded for period of time.
  • Instant Message – enables participants or (virtual) users to chat communicate, whether it’s from a mobile device, tablet, or desktop environment.  Features include tabbed chat, presence, search functionality of old messages.


  • Cost:
    • Software – user client access licenses increased 15% in 2013, while device CALs pricing will not change (i.e., external connectors Standard, Enterprise, and Plus).  Server 2013 is listed at $3,646 USD (either Enterprise or Standard Server).
    • Support – includes several online provisioning options such as technical support or certified support partners, “top issues” logs, and self-help.
    • Total cost of ownership – based on user CALs and devices CALs and subsequent upgrades of within support lifecycle are not an added cost; Server 2013 is also a one-time purchase cost.
  • Control – primarily administered by meeting presenter and/or organizer, who dictate invited participants as well as features such as desktop sharing and voting/polling.
  • Usability:
    • Look & Feel – ‘Microsoft made some substantial improvements in the look and feel of Lync 2013—making it easier to facilitate Lync Meetings, and presenting a cleaner, more intuitive interface for users’ (Bradley, 2012, p. 1).
    • Intuitive nature – has strong communication capabilities across platforms and devices, incorporating easy-to-learn call and video controls that drive meeting experience.
  • Access – provided via Web link or email invite (e.g., One-click) request forwarded to participants by meeting organizer to access online meetings.  PCs, USB peripherals, and IP phone (i.e., VoIP) are also access mediums on devices.
  • Asynchronous/Synchronous – primarily synchronous enabled with features such as instant messaging, audio/video conferencing, desktop sharing, polling, etc.
  • Privacy & Security – incorporates transport layer security (TLS) for client-to-server, web conferencing, signal in desktop sharing, and instant messaging/presence.  User address book or content downloads and distribution group additions during live meetings are supported through Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS).
  • Corporate vs. Private – predominantly found in companies or corporate environments based on pricing and user licensing.zBrowsers – compatible with Safari, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox on the desktop clients and includes mobile support from iOS, Android, and Windows.
  • Integration – integrates with Microsoft Office 365, 2010, and 2007 suites.  In addition, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and 2010 SP2.  For applications Live Messenger and Skype.
  • OS dependency – Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP, Server 2008 R2, Server 2008 SP2, and Mac OSX.
  • Geography – widely available and supported across multiple regions.





Accusoft’s Blog (2012). The Role of Collaboration Tools for SharePoint,http://blog.accusoft.com/posts/2012/november/the-role-of-collaboration-tools-for-sharepoint.html


Arslaner,Brent. “Pro: The Same Event for Less”http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2009/01/virtual_meetings_will_erase_face_to_face.html

Bradley, T. (2012). © PCWorld: Five reasons Microsoft Lync 2013 matters. Retrieved from http://www.pcworld.com/article/2014005/five-reasons-microsoft-lync-2013-matters.html


Bram, Thursday (2010). 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing Enterprise Collaboration Tools,http://gigaom.com/2010/07/27/5-questions-to-ask-when-choosing-enterprise-collaboration-tools/


Byrne, Richard, “Podio - Task Management, Collaboration, and More for Higher Ed,” Free Technology for Teachers, Retrieved February 8, 2013 fromhttp://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/11/podio-task-management-collaboration-and.html#.US07PDC86Sq


Edelman, Russ (2011). Determining the true cost of Microsoft SharePoint,http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9134954/Determining_the_True_Cost_of_Microsoft_SharePoint_Computerworld

Eikenberry, Kevin (2005). Problem Solving the Problem Solving Meeting, Ezine@Articles,http://ezinearticles.com/?Problem-Solving-the-Problem-Solving-Meeting&id=57704


Google. (2013). “Hangouts: Video chat with up to nine friends,” Google, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/


Hanley, Susan (2012). Essential SharePoint – “How Do I ask you? Let me count the ways – Multiple wave conversations in SharePoint 2013


JAMA22, “Product Review Podio.” Pi/Pi (blog), December 6, 2012, Retrieved on February 8, 2013 from http://www.pioverpi.net/2012/12/06/product-review-podio/.


Kells Associates Consulting (2013), Creating A Culture Of Execution In Your Meetings from http://www.kellsassociates.com/pdf/culture

Layer 2 (2013), Meeting Manager For SharePoint http://www.layer2.de/en/products/Pages/SharePoint-Meeting-Manager.aspx


Malik, Om. (2012). “Google Drive is real: here’s what it means,” Gigaom, April 24, 2012. Retrieved from http://gigaom.com/2012/04/24/google-drive-is-real-heres-what-it-means/


© Microsoft. (2011). TechNet Blogs: What can you tell me about Lync Security? Retrieved fromhttp://blogs.technet.com/b/ucedsg/archive/2011/05/09/what-can-you-tell-me-about-lync-security.aspx


Microsoft (2013) SharePoint Overview, http:/office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/what-is-sharepoint-sharepoint-features-FX103789323.aspx


Miller. Eric. “Basecamp: Project Management and Collaboration Software.” http://graphicdesign.about.com/od/recommendedsoftware/fr/basecamp.htm


“Podio Project Management,” ProjectManage, Retrieved on February 8, 2013 fromhttp://www.projectmanage.com/reviews/podio/


"Podio: Work the way you want to.” GetApp. Retrieved on February 9, 2013 from http://www.getapp.com/podio-application


Ryan Nicholas, “101 Questions About Using Podio for Project Management,” Podio: Project Management (blog), Retrieved on February 9, 2013 fromhttp://blog.podio.com/2012/03/29/101-questions-about-using-podio-for-project-management/.


Schindler, Esther. “Running an Effective Teleconference or Virtual Meeting.” 2/15/08.          http://www.cio.com/article/184550/Running_an_Effective_Teleconference_or_Virtual_Meeting


Sierra, Tito. “Collaborative Project Management Using Basecamp” 4/ 6/11. http://www.slideshare.net/tsierra/collaborative-project-management-using-basecamp

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Young, Julia. “Select virtual meeting technology to support the group process, not the other way around.” 11/23/10. www.facilitate.com/blog/index.php/2010/11/selecting-virtual-meeting-technology-for-interactive-meetings/



Comments (2)

terbush@... said

at 5:56 pm on Mar 21, 2013

Pretty good job. Uses only one model, no patterns of collaboration discussion, no alternative frameworks.

terbush@... said

at 5:54 pm on Feb 14, 2013

Much better, although Basecamp is still a little thin.

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