by Brandon Wright Adler
In law firm libraries webinar and conferencing services may be a common place software package to supply to the information centers and attorneys. However, working in an academic law library, I have rarely had the occasion to worry about such software until it came up in our latest NOALL chapter meeting. We were discussing the possibility and probability of conferencing in our members in Baton Rouge, or other areas located outside of New Orleans. The following post is a very short review of conferencing software available. I decided to focus on meeting/conferencing software as this is what would be most beneficial for NOALL meetings as well as most logical for use in my library. I chose to look at two that require a monthly fee to access and one free program. Only one free program was reviewed because there are several free “face-to-face” programs that individuals can access in a pinch if they need to have a quick meeting (i.e., Google Meet, Skype, FaceTime, etc.), but ezTalks, the free software featured herein, is face-to-face meetings and so much more.
The most popular conferencing software talked about on the internet is GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting offers users a variety of choices and customization. The user can schedule a meeting for now, in the future, or even set up a recurring meeting. Likewise, users cans launch meetings quickly, in one click, and from a variety of locations such as Microsoft Office, email, and various instant messaging tools. Even further, users can download a free mobile app to launch from their iPhone, iPad, and Android device. A starter subscription to GoToMeeting will run you approximately $19 per month if billed annually, and $24 per month if billed monthly.
Another highly praised program is Cisco WebEx Meetings. Cisco WebEx Meetings is also touted as very easy to use and can be used anywhere as it also has a free mobile app. Cisco WebEx Meetings allows users to immediately join a meeting with the click of a link and the user can share their screen, a single document, or even natively screen share from their mobile device. It automatically records meetings for you to share to others who couldn’t join and send the user an email containing an mp4 file of the meeting as soon as the meeting has concluded. Moreover, Cisco WebEx allows its user to live broadcast meetings by integrating its software with Facebook Live. The Premium 8 plan for Cisco WebEx Meetings will allow up to 8 participants and cost only $14.95 per month when billed annually.
The final conferencing software I would like to highlight is ezTalks Meetings. Let’s lead with the most positive feature here and that is that ezTalks Meetings starter package is free. Even better, the free level of ezTalks has loads of features available. EzTalks Meetings can host up to 100 participants. Users can enjoy instant, scheduled, or recurring meetings; users also have the ability to have live broadcasting via browser, access to an interactive whiteboard, and screen sharing. Okay it’s free, so is there a catch? The only catch I can truly see in my cursory review of the online literature is that meetings carry a 40-minute limit and if there is assistance needed you are given a 48 hour window as far as the time it may take for someone to return your query for aide. If you find that the 40-minute meeting limit may hinder business, you can certainly upgrade to their “Professional” package for a fee of $12.95 per month.
There is certainly many more conferencing software available out there for all of our meeting needs, but these were the most talked about (aside from Google Meet, you might already have access if your institution operates on G Suite) and the three previously mentioned conferencing programs also covered a little bit of everything for everybody. EzTalks, especially, would work incredibly well for reaching out to our AALL Chapter membership base that is unable to attend NOALL meetings because they are too far away from the typical host city. Likewise, I chose to review the software above because each one also has a webinar component that can be explored further for any institutions that may want to develop legal research or professional responsibility continuing legal education programs.