I’m on UberConference, so why do we have to download Zoom?
UberConference is my go-to. I’ve been using the software since May 2019, after a client on Upwork suggested the video conference option to me. Up until a month ago, I’d never even heard of Zoom. And after reading why “Zoom is a nightmare,” I’m pretty happy I was oblivious to it for so long. With prior employers, I relied on GoToMeeting, Join.Me and (as an absolute last resort) Skype. I even tried Google Hangouts. But after becoming self-employed, UberConference was it for me and I grudgingly use anything else.
JoinMe unfortunately became a complete nightmare for people to download and figure out how to use the access code. Skype constantly had audio or video problems. And Google Hangouts was better for messaging than video quality. GoToMeeting was the one platform that I could give a thumbs up, too, but I wasn’t willing to pay for it after I left my last employer. UberConference, on the other hand, was free. And I like $0.00.
No matter what other suggestion was made, I circled right back to UberConference even if I had to constantly answer the same question: “When did Uber get conference call software?”
Owned by DialPad, with its home office in San Francisco, this video and audio conference software has been my go-to for countless one-on-one interviews, group conference calls and even a condo board association meeting when some other software had multiple connection problems. As much as I prefer it though, it does have some ups and downs.
The downsides of UberConference
Sharing screens: If you are sharing your screen during a tutorial, be prepared to spend an exhaustive amount of minutes (and one very rare time of 1.5 hours) walking a less tech-savvy user through the screen-sharing process. Although it may look obvious to a consistent video conference user, you must click the screen that you want to share before sharing your screen. Although a little window will come up to show a screen being shared, without actually clicking that little preview, the share option will stay grayed out. Be prepared to send a screenshot example of how to share your screen.
While Zoom makes it pretty simple with a one-step click to share a screen, I’ve watched a group of 30–35 people be forced into looking at one user’s screen, who was on mute and had no idea she was sharing her screen. The Zoom moderator had to turn that function off. With Uber Conference, users must agree to see a shared screen before it can be seen.
Mac computers not always compatible: The software is not particularly friendly when it comes to Mac computers. I’m not quite sure why, but it excessively will refuse to share a screen or do anything besides do audio calls. However, this seemed to be the case as of the summer of 2019 and may have improved since then.
Pay the cost: Up until recently with more business professionals in social isolation, the maximum amount of people who could be in a free conference call was 10.
The upsides of UberConference
Easy to install: You can use the software within minutes. All you need to do is add your name, email address and phone number. And then you’re ready to go.
Video first: If you do not want to use the video conference option, be very careful when starting this software. Up until a few months ago, it was an audio-only platform for free users. Now it will start off with video technology and you must turn it to audio only. For long-time users, this took some getting used to. But for new users who don’t want to wrestle around trying to figure out how to turn video functionality on, this is more of a pro than a con. You see your face immediately, as long as your camera allows it.
Security for dial-in: In addition to a personalized UberConference link, users are required to type in the conference ID and access code. According to the official site, “On the back end, everything we do is encrypted with DTLS (signaling) and SRTP (media). We use HTTPs on the web side for chat and contacts, and our entire site runs over SSL.” (However, keep in mind that phone call options are not encrypted.)
Recording options/timer summary: Because I work by the hour on almost all projects on Upwork, I like to keep track of how long my calls are. Not only can you record the entire call, but UberConference software automatically sends a summary of how many people were on the call; when it started and ended; and how long the call was. Each time, it sends a survey for the moderator to give any additional feedback whether it’s tech-related or other suggestions. As a former mystery shopper, I have always been a fan of sharing tweaks to make a company or program better.
Additionally, if there are any audio or visual problems, UberConference representatives almost immediately send feedback regarding ways to improve. Keep in mind their usual rule of thumb is to use a headset so be prepared for that to be their go-to advice.
Easily remove an unwanted guest: Although I have never had any version of “Zoombombing” on any platform I’ve used, UberConference is one of the easiest options to kick people out. Next to the microphone and the stick person’s head is a minus sign to remove an unwanted guest. The moderator can click it so fast that other users probably won’t even notice anything but one less window on the screen.
Virtual video software: Is it worth the risks?
The truth of the matter is if a hacker wants to get into any of the video software that is available, chances are they’ll try to figure out how to do so. Some will succeed. Others will fail. But moderators can help make it harder for hackers to do so, and make the virtual video conference call a lot easier.
Here are some tips for moderating calls effectively and helping attendees keep the meeting information private.
- Private log-in: Warn and then insist that all users not share the login information with unwanted guests.
- Not public: Avoid sharing any dial-in numbers and access codes on public platforms.
- Waiting room necessary: On Zoom, use the waiting room area to allow people in one-by-one. While it may feel like extra work to do so, it also means you can control who comes in and who comes out.
- When to and when not to mute: Mute all speakers when someone is saying something that the group needs to know. This has been one of the most beneficial ways to keep unwanted noise to a minimum. By making sure that callers know when to talk and when not to, specifically during initial meeting announcements or during a speech, you can save a lot of uncomfortable interruptions. Some users won’t (or can’t) get in the habit of muting themselves. It is up to the moderator to privately chat or warn users to turn their mics off or auto-mute everyone. But know when muting takes away from your story. For example, it’s painfully awkward to crack a joke in your story or speech and be met with dead silence.
- Video or audio: Which is best? Consider whether you really need a video call with everyone on the line. I’ve recently had a Toastmasters virtual call and a Do Not Submit (Chicago storytelling series) virtual call and chose the audio-only option. I realized pretty quickly that it simply isn’t the same and chose the video option for both meetings in the second round. There are some platforms where being able to see and hear your audience is absolutely necessary, even if it’s as simple as clapping or laughing. But there are plenty of other calls where video is not only unnecessary but sometimes unwanted. (Note: If you have a spouse, friend, dog or child who keeps running in the room to put his/her nose on the screen or doesn’t seem to respect that you’re on a work call, audio-only may be the best way to go for you and to decrease distractions for attendees.)
It’s up to you to decide which software makes the most sense for your computer compatibility and your guests. But as long as the moderator is fully comfortable with the software and has tested it out ahead of time, that is a key factor in making sure that you don’t end up on a nightmare virtual video call — regardless of which platform you choose. If in doubt, the moderator should have already tested the software ahead of time to be able to walk other guests through the ins and outs of it as well.
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