WebEx Review: A Features-Rich Tool for Online Meetings

The Pros and Cons of WebEx Meeting Center

WebEx, manufactured by Cisco Systems, is one of the most widely used online meeting tools all around the world. It is a feature-rich tool that lets users meet over the Internet while sharing screens and speaking through a phone or via VoIP. It is a robust program that works well on Windows, Mac and even on smartphones and tablets, giving participants the flexibility to attend meetings from their preferred device.

WebEx at a Glance

It is no wonder that WebEx is one of the most used online meeting tools around, as it provides users with enough features to create an online meeting that makes participants feel just like they’re in the company boardroom. It works well on Windows and Mac and is a great choice for those who like to attend meetings on-the-go from their smartphones or tablet devices.

Pros and Cons

Pros: WebEx has a simple user interface, although it’s slightly less intuitive than GoToMeeting’s. Users can easily share their desktops, as well as documents or any application on their computer. It is quick and easy to change presenters, create whiteboards and pass keyboard and mouse control, making for a seamless meeting experience.

Cons: The default browser chosen by WebEx is Internet Explorer, so if you prefer to use Firefox or Chrome, you will have to change the browser settings before clicking on a link shared through the tool.

Microsoft no longer supports Internet Explorer and recommends that you update to the newer Edge browser. Head to their site to download the newest version.

WebEx starts at $49 a month for unlimited meetings with up to 25 participants each (at the time of writing). This is comparable to GoToMeeting, which for the same price allows up to 15 attendees per meeting. Users also have the option to pay per use.

Creating and Joining a Meeting

Creating a meeting with WebEx is simple, once the initial setup process has been done and Meeting Center has been loaded on the host’s computer. WebEx is a web-based online meeting tool, which means that no downloads are necessary and all that it needs to work is a web browser such as Firefox, Internet Explorer or Chrome.

Hosts can invite attendees by email, Instant Message or even in a chat. The invitation includes a link that quickly takes participants directly to the meeting, instructing them to either connect through their phone line or via VoIP. Toll-free numbers are provided, and there are call-in numbers for several countries, so attendees who work abroad do not have to pay for international call charges in order to attend the meeting.

Sharing Presentations and Applications

Although screen sharing is a basic feature of most online meeting tools, WebEx’s goes further in that it gives hosts a control panel that allows them to chat or take control of the meeting privately, as this panel can't be seen by any other participants. Exiting screen sharing is easy and is done in one click.

Users who don’t want to share their screen but would like to go through an online meeting presentation have the option of sharing an application such as PowerPoint or even only the single presentation file from their computer. The file or application will then be displayed on the meeting screen.

Applications can be seen and controlled by participants remotely if this is allowed by the host. If you’re working on an Excel spreadsheet, for example, you can let your attendees input their own data during the meeting. WebEx also has a whiteboard functionality, that lets users draw or write on the whiteboard as they would in a face-to-face meeting.

Sharing Videos

WebEx can detect if a meeting participant has a webcam, so if an attendee decides to be on camera, all they have to do is click the camera button on the control panel, and their image will appear whenever they speak. This, together with the live collaboration feature, really helps participants feel that they are all working together in the same room.

WebEx is one of the few online meeting tools to offer this capability, making it an essential tool to consider if you believe that the face-time element is important in online meetings.

Taking Notes

WebEx has a handy feature that lets the meeting organizer either assign a dedicated note-taker or let all participants take notes directly in the software, with its note-taking application. Once the meeting is over, the notes can be saved on each note taker's computer, making the task of following-up on the online meeting much easier.

Notes can also be shared with the participants during the meeting, so it's easy to revisit a point that has been discussed or a question that has been asked when needed.

A Variety of Useful Tools

As mentioned, WebEx is a feature-rich tool that makes online meetings feel just like face-to-face ones. For example, the meeting host can create polls and decide if participants can choose single answers, multiple answers or even short answers. Poll answers can then be saved onto the host’s computer for future analysis. WebEx also has a chat facility, where participants can chat with each other either publicly or privately, depending on what chat restrictions the host has put in place.

Hosts have complete control of the meeting, and they can decide if participants can save, print or make an annotation on a shared document. They can also mute all participants upon entry, or even mute selected participants mid-meeting. In addition, hosts can restrict the meeting at any time, which can help prevent users who try to join the meeting late from disrupting it, for example.

Overall, WebEx is a great tool for those who want the boardroom feeling in their remote meetings. The tool is full of useful features, which not only give hosts complete control over their meetings but also help participants collaborate in real-time.

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