Well, 14 months into a pandemic and we have all arrived at the same place. A steady dose of daily virtual meetings has relegated us to burned out zombies. The education consumer has suffered as well with K-12 and university students struggling to cope. This begs the question: why is virtual meeting software so weak? Well, no one thought it would get this big, this fast. In 2018, the U.S. market for web conferencing was only $1.6 billion. But now it’s moved beyond conferencing and into virtual meeting software which is forecasted by Allied Market Research to be a whopping $57 billion in 2027! What an opportunity for potential startups.
When you really examine the virtual meeting software industry, it’s not surprising today to see that Zoom leads the industry with about 43% market share. What is surprising is that Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts/Meet are not even in the top five virtual conferencing platforms by market share. That is amazing since those two companies dominate computers and phones everywhere. How did Zoom, started in 2013, race past giants in the industry? Timing and a pandemic. Cisco Webex, Google and Microsoft did not really innovate their platforms as there were not a great deal of users or market demand. The founder of Zoom actually left Cisco due to the company’s reluctance to innovate the Webex platform more quickly when Cisco acquired the platform in an acquisition.
For the startups out there currently targeting this space, here are the requirements for creating a world-class virtual meeting software platform.
Better software and technology. Why does anyone who wants to join a virtual meeting have to download an application? They should all be browser based. Here is an interesting idea. Have all browser-based software be required to have a common connection interface “window.” That way a company employee who utilizes Zoom can talk to their client who is on Webex joined by a vendor who is in Microsoft Teams. An iPhone user today can have a verbal conversation, or What’s App video call, with a person who has a Samsung phone. Why can’t we have that simple capability in virtual meeting software? Technical problems still plague these platforms. Industry analysts cite that 40% of virtual meetings have hardware or software issues. The majority of people believe technology should make meetings easier, stress free and more productive. More simple technology and user experience capabilities will help make meetings more straightforward and tolerable.
Smarter user interface/experience design. FaceTime and WhatsApp are some of the most widely used video calling tools in the consumer market today. What makes them so popular? They’re easy to use. Just one tap of a button and you’re connected to people anywhere in the world via video. This focus on the user experience is trickling into the professional world. We need to move towards video conferencing solutions that offer the best user experience. For example, if you had to spend several minutes digging through your emails or team messaging app for a meeting ID (and possibly password), you’d be more than frustrated. Meetings should be quick to prepare for and effortless to join.
When it comes to video, organizations want solutions that make video conferencing as easy as starting a FaceTime call and as feature-rich as a professional meeting. We need browser-based solutions, no software downloads, that allow users to join meetings with just the click of a link or button. Everything needs to live in browsers so users can jump straight into their meetings. And don’t hide screen sharing features in a hidden menu list; create a simple button that users can easily see and click.
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Meeting software should be personal. If Amazon knows our preferences and Netflix remembers what show we watched last, then why can’t meeting software be more personalized? Virtual meeting software platforms should have the capability to remember us, know what tools we like to use most (e.g. breakout rooms, polling, etc.), and allow us to reconfigure our most used features with a customizable interface template. We should have the ability to upload presentations and documents and share them from inside the software platform (browser based) and not from our desktop or laptop. If we meet regularly with people, there should be a list of people we can add and schedule meetings with inside the application. The list goes on. If we are going to be stuck with virtual meetings in our foreseeable future, then give us some personalization that makes meetings easier to setup and attend.