07/03/2011

By Adrian Booth

Not so long ago, keeping in touch with business colleagues, associates and clients meant business owners and sales staff regularly needed to be away from the office in meetings. Not only did this take them out of the office for the meeting itself, but also meant travel costs incurred as well as lost time spent travelling.

Now advances in meeting and conference technology have enabled us to meet with clients and get together with colleagues without leaving the office. And if we are out and about we can join meetings from anywhere in the world with access to an internet connection.

The advantages to this kind of approach for small businesses in this cash-strapped age are obvious. We can save a lot of time, effort and money, yet we can still see people’s faces to assess how what we are saying is being received. We might not be physically in the same room, but we can still share documents and ideas, draw on a white board, hold meaningful discussions, annotate documents and more.

Online meeting and conference services are an easy to access form of communication, which can help generate valuable efficiency savings. Decisions for instance can be made instantly when necessary because all relevant parties can be present wherever they are in reality. During the snow at the end of last year, this would have been a useful tool to many businesses unable to have face to face meetings due to travel difficulties.

Microsoft is an industry leader in this field, with products which cater for corporate giants and packages more suitable for smaller companies’ meetings and gatherings.

Office Live Meeting is ideal for small businesses. It is familiar and easy to use because it brings the Microsoft Office look and feel to your online meetings, and this helps participants feel at home wherever they are. In fact, some of them might already be at home, because this kind of technology makes the idea of working from home a realistic option.

Office Live Meeting is a web-based service hosted by Microsoft for a monthly fee. Like Office 2010, Office Live Meeting is available to download as a trial before making a commitment. So that makes it easy to have a good look at it if you think this kind of service could help your business.

Participants join your meeting using a webcam and speakers and the audio quality is surprisingly good. Users can also join using regular telephones too. Microsoft also offer an optional simple browser plug-in called the Live Meeting Console, to enhance the participants’ experience. Overall, Office Live Meeting is quick and easy to deploy across most businesses.

All you have to do as a recipient of the meeting request is to click a link and you can participate. When entering an Office Live Meeting, attendees have access to tools like a white board and share uploaded documents. For anyone who still can’t make the meeting, you can even record a meeting with a single click of a mouse.

To find out more about Office Live Meetings visit the: Microsoft Office Live Meeting website.

Watch the video below featuring Tanya Shirlow, SMB Marketing Lead at Microsoft UK, as she discusses the advantages of cloud services.

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