Extend Your Coaching “Reach” with Video Conferencing

Extending Coaching’s Reach

Traditionally coaching has taken place face to face. Coaching face to face allows the coach to notice nuances of facial expression and body cues. In order to coach face to face, however, the client and coach must be within driving distance and that distance must be taken into account when scheduling other coaching sessions. Telephone has been another option which addresses some of the geographic challenges, but forfeits the ability to see non-verbal ques.

While coaching in person may be the best option, the introduction of video conferencing addresses geographical restrictions and allows the coach to notice facial and body ques. Coaching via video conference extends the reach of the coach, creating new possibilities for coaching both individuals and groups. This article will explore a few tools for long distance coaching.

Criteria

The criteria I used in choosing a video conferencing platform, in order of importance, were:

1) Video Quality: Let’s face it. Having video stutter and stall does not help coaching. Having audio go wacky and needing to tell your client to repeat something, or, worse yet, missing something they said, can make coaching less effective. Coaching focuses on listening and if you can’t hear, you can’t listen.

2) Cost: If the cost of the service is too high, I simply won’t be able to afford to coach. Another option would be to raise coaching fees, which may limit the people I could help.

3) Ease of Use for Client: I take the client’s ease of use seriously. If they have to download various apps, keep them updated, install new programs, or some other technical hurdle, I’m just asking for headaches. My goal is to use the technology the client already has.

4) Features: Having breakout rooms, static room names, webinars, and other features are nice, but my basic need is to connect with an individual or group. Sometimes feature-rich solutions can get in the way of my main goal.

So, with those criteria in mind, here are my musings.

Zoom.us

Zoom is the service I now pay for and use. I purchased an account even though one-on-one video conferencing is free. Since I am about to do some group coaching, I needed a pro account ($14.99). The free version does allow 40 minutes of group video conferencing, but 40 minutes wouldn’t be enough for our group session.

The pro account gives you some added administrative and scheduling features along with unlimited 1-1 and 1-group video conferencing. They also have some add-on features such as a static room name ($40). Most of the add-ons were cost prohibited for me.

Appear.in

I really liked Appear.in. I loved not having to download anything to use it. As long as you are using a web browser that supports HTML5 standards you simple go to the video conference URL. Other browsers need to download a small extension.

Appear.in doesn’t even require you to have an account! You can try it yourself. Here is a room http://appear.in/some-random-room-to-show-appear-is-cool. All I did to create the room was use “http://appear.in/” and then add a room name that, hopefully, wasn’t already being used.

If you are using Chrome there’s no download or account log in. You only have to give access to your camera and microphone and you are ready. Give the URL to anyone else and they can join the video conference (up to 8 for the free version) as well.

The Chrome web browser (which I recommend) simply works. There’s nothing to download. The client goes to the web address and is good to go! Fantastic!

I also liked Appear because it allows the creation of static rooms even on the free version. While you have to create an account to ‘claim’ a room, your account is free. Similar features cost $40/mo for Zoom. Having a static room is nice because users can simply “show up.” If someone goes into your room, you get notified. I don’t really need this feature. It might be nice for some uses, but most of the time not needed.

I almost went with Appear.In, but the video quality was not as good as my experience with Zoom. While there are many factors contributing to video/audio quality (broadband speed, network congestion, computer load), overall Zoom seemed to have better video and audio quality.

I still have an Appear.in room though. Why not since it’s free? A pro account costs $12 a month, which is competitive. Appear says that a paid account gets better video quality, but in my tests (not scientific by any means), Zoom still won in the quality arena.

Google Meet and Google Hangouts<

I’m hard pressed to tell much difference between Google Meet and Google Hangouts. Apparently, Google Meet is supposed to be the new direction for Google. I thought Google was going to get rid of Hangouts completely, but that does not seem to be the case.

I wasn’t a big Google Hangouts user, so I’m not sure of all of the previous features, or how those features changed. One of the major changes was splitting out the chat feature which, I’ve read, was a response to Slack.

After looking through the comparisons from Google, I think I would like a combination of the two services. Some report Meet having better video quality, but after using Meet a few times, I’m not sure I could tell. In just about every session I would have video pausing, audio stutter, and other issues.

Hangouts is free. Meet is included with Google G Suite which costs $5/mo for the basic plan. The business version costs $10/mo, increasing the 30 GB Google Drive space to one terabyte.

Join.me

I didn’t give Join.Me a fair trial because it required a download and the cost was more than Zoom and Appear.in. I decided those two things would keep me from using Join.me. While the required download wasn’t a deal breaker, the download, plus the $20 per month cost was.

Both Zoom and Join.me required downloads causing me to view Join.Me along the same lines as Zoom. Since Zoom was cheaper per month ($14.99), I decided to get a Zoom account instead.

Join.me also doesn’t seem to work on a Chromebook, which, for me, was a deal breaker. I want clients to use whatever technology they have at their disposal. I do not want to be limited by the technology, if at all possible. Finding a video conferencing service that works with all the major Operating Systems (Windows, Mac, Chromebook, Linux) was one of my criteria. Because of the lack of support for Chromebook and Linux, along with the required download and the more expensive cost, I didn’t spend too much time evaluating the service.

On the plus side, there is a free version that allows three person conferencing. From the screen shots, Join.me look more modern than the other services, utilizing round video windows rather than square or rectangle.

If you are interested, I suggest signing up for a free account. They offer a 14 day free trial of their pro version, then you revert to the free version.

Slack

I’m including Hipchat and Slack because both have video conferencing in their paid products. Hipchat is $3/mo per user and Slack is $12/mo per user. Both services offer similar features, which could be use in a coaching environment. The main advantage of these tools are asynchronous and synchronous communication and the possibility of building a community. Both services allow a free trial of their paid accounts.

I’m still thinking about how to use hipchat and slack for clients. I may write more about the possibilities at a later date.

Final Thoughts

I highly suggest signing up for the free version of the various services. It helps if you have a plan on how you will evaluate each service to make sure it works for your specific situation. There are various services because each one brings something different. Once you know what you want out of a video conference service, evaluation becomes easier. For my situation, right now, Zoom works the best. Appear.in was a close 2nd and I may still use Appear from time to time since their free version allows up to eight people to conference at a time.

I hope this article helped you in some way. If you know of other services, or have questions or comments, please leave them.

Action Plan

  • Create a list of criteria
  • Create a list of video conferencing options
  • Read reviews
  • Create a few accounts
  • Test each service in a variety of situations

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