Video conferencing systems are thankfully much easier to use and more accessible to all users than they were when the technology was still new. They are constantly evolving and there are now multiple types of conference all offered by the same software package, which may still be confusing to new users. There are also multiple functions you can get from each piece of software so it is important to pick the right format. This quick guide will tell you the different types of conferencing software and online meeting, some of the uses you can get out of them, and which one is best for your purpose:

1. All Hands Meeting

A cloud all hands meeting such as BlueJeans Primetime is intended for interactive meetings between large numbers of people, thousands all at once with some software packages. This is useful for company events by reaching everyone in a company all at once while still allowing for interaction so the meeting doesn’t turn into a boring lecture. It can also be used to invite outside visitors in for seminars, product launches, press releases, or other marketing events. It is also especially useful for companies to welcome and train new staff all at once.

2. Panel Event

EventBrite describes panels as stand-alone events that allow 3 or 4 experts in a field or influential figures to answer questions from the public, make announcements, or share information or stories. They are a common event at conferences and fandom gatherings (usually called ‘comic con’) as an interesting event and a rare chance for visitors to hear from figures in their field or people they are interested in. The same format can be used online too through the all hands software and tweaked to fit the online format. It is slightly less interactive than a regular meeting but does make for some interesting content that will draw people to an online event. A few interesting panels make for a great item for any online conference or event.

3. Business Meetings

Probably the most common use of conferencing software is the simple business meeting between anywhere from two to a hundred people at once, usually through a cloud based system accessed through a web browser. It is currently the most flexible and accessible type of conferencing software that allows for scheduled appointments or spontaneous chats between colleagues. Versatile software also means that video chats can be made even remotely on mobile devices (sometimes called Facetime), meaning all colleagues can stay in touch at all times, nobody has to miss an important meeting, and colleagues can meet each other from different locations all at once.

4. Private Wide Area Network

Event planning website Planning Helper says that not all video conferences are made online. Some larger companies possess private wide area networks (WAN) to perform the same duties as a video conferencing system and can even be used for file storage and distribution but is made over a cable or phone line instead. Its usage is rare and dying out thanks to the ease and security of online conferencing, but it is still useful in certain sectors where security concerns are higher such as finance, medical, government, military, or any field that involves the handling and transfer of personal information or private data. Online systems are still more widely used, but WAN systems will still be used in the future, especially with recent allegations of hacking making the news.

5. Social Media Streaming

This is a fairly new trend that has only emerged in the past year or so thanks to new features such as Facebook Live. But it has already been such a big hit that its usage will likely continue and grow in the future. Simply put, it takes video conferencing systems to social media websites or allows current software suppliers to stream their events on these websites simultaneously. It has already been used by individuals to make fun videos for their friends, by journalists to live stream breaking news stories in real time, and even let astronauts live stream from space. It has benefits for businesses too by allowing them to reach wider audiences through their social media channels, provide another marketing method, and offer flexibility by allowing people to view seminars on their Facebook page. While it is still new and has its limitations (it isn’t yet as interactive as regular video conferencing), it is still something for any modern businesses to keep an eye on as it could likely improve in the future and be used on other social media sites.

These are the main types of conferencing system and just a few of their uses. The type you use will depend upon what you need from it, how many people you need to reach at one time, and the levels of security you need. Try the appropriate system out for your next meeting or event and you will see how it improves and assists your communications.