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online meeting toolsHow do you manage a team of people who are spread out geographically? How do you co-ordinate international time zones? The concept of working via the Internet has begun to creep into the everyday workplace, so it’s probably a good time for us to round up some great online meeting tools for organising and managing a decentralised team of people.

Thanks to decent Internet access in many countries worldwide, there are a great deal more businesses these days who are willing to allow workers to telecommute instead of physically being in the office. Many are also realising that it can be quick and easy to hire freelancers online to do small piecework. Some businesses, like MakeUseOf, have realised that there doesn’t need to be a central location for the business at all – people simply work from wherever in the world suits them.

International Meeting Schedulers

Google Calendar

While it’s entirely possible for some people to use Google Calendar’s nifty tools to find a time 10 Awesome Google Calendar Features That You Should Try Out 10 Awesome Google Calendar Features That You Should Try Out Read More , many users simply have too many calendars to consider or they have too many things that aren’t entered in the calendar at all. Therefore, it’s worth looking at the following alternatives as well.

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Doodle

Doodle is perfect for scheduling the date for something to happen. You can specify just the days or the specific hours if you like, all in your own local time zone.

Doodle also has some really advanced features, like iCal export and a Google calendar sync. The gCal sync is great for decisions which take a long time to make, since you can update your availability for the meeting from within Google Calendar if something else comes up.

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Meet-O-Matic

A similar tool to Doodle, although less advanced, is Meet-O-Matic. The main advantage of this tool over the others is that it’s really easy for non-technical people to understand it and for vaguely technical people to fill in details for another person if need be.

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Schedule Once

Schedule Once is a great tool for finding a mutually convenient meeting time. It makes it very easy for all users to pick the hours of the day in their local time zone. So, it’s great to use if you want to narrow down the time slot, having already chosen a week to schedule the meeting. If you sign up, Schedule Once will also let you sync to Google Calendar.

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Schedule Once also has its own Firefox add-on to help make things easier.

Visualising International Time Zones

Sometimes it’s hard to see why it’s difficult to plan a meeting with your co-workers. However, there are a number of tools to help you see the different timezones 10 Ways to Visualize Time Zones Around the World & Be on Time 10 Ways to Visualize Time Zones Around the World & Be on Time Read More at a glance so that you’re not always trying to set meetings while other people are sleeping.

Specifically, check out these time zone visualisers:

  • [NO LONGER WORKS] Time Zone Check – Lets you see the current time of various cities which are plotted on a map (shown).
  • Every Time Zone – Shows you normal daylight hours for various cities, so you can easily spot a good fit for a meeting.
  • 24 Time Zones – Interactive flash-based map with daylight areas shown and specific times of cities shown on mouseover of the locations.

Read more about the best time zone visualisation tools in more detail here 10 Ways to Visualize Time Zones Around the World & Be on Time 10 Ways to Visualize Time Zones Around the World & Be on Time Read More .

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Co-ordinating Volunteers

Making one-off plans with co-workers is all good and well, but there are also some great tools to manage large groups of volunteers locally. Check out Volunteer Spot to see how easy it can be. Volunteer Spot has already been covered by MakeUseOf in great detail here How To Easily Coordinate Volunteers Using Volunteer Spot How To Easily Coordinate Volunteers Using Volunteer Spot Read More .

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Easy Meet-Up Tools

None of the following tools need much introduction, but they’re worth mentioning in the list. Once you’ve scheduled your meeting, the following tools are the best available to host your online meeting.

Google Hangouts

For group conversations online, the best tool to hit the scene has to be Google Hangouts. Hangouts are the perfect way for groups of people to do video conferences together – and also the best free way of doing so. Users can also share their screen easily, which is great for business meetings. Hangouts have recently added the ability to add land lines and mobile phones Google+ Adds The Ability To Call Any Number From Hangouts [Updates] Google+ Adds The Ability To Call Any Number From Hangouts [Updates] Read More to the conference call.

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Facebook Chat

If you need to do one-on-one voice, text or video chats, Facebook is easy for most people to use. It’s simple because most people already have Facebook accounts and they don’t need to install any extra programs to get started. Facebook chat limits you to one-on-one video and voice calls, but can do group text chats.

Skype

If you’re more concerned with voice calls or one-on-one video calls (or willing to pay for more people to be added) there is also Skype. Skype is popular because of its reliability for voice and video calls, but it also has the ability to share screens. The only downside being that if you want to make conference video calls you will need to pay more. However, conference voice calls are free to Skype accounts and only cost you if you call a regular land line or mobile phone number.

online meeting tools

What are your favourite online tools for co-ordinating groups? Why?

  1. Chet Karsan
    April 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Hi, just wanted to mention our web app dayviewer (www.dayviewer.com), it does a few things and one of them is the Event System... thought I would share a short screencast if that is ok! http://www.screencast.com/t/6KLEkVszpj, We aim to create one of the most efficient ways to organize a group activity. There is an RSVP system built in and you can invite contacts who are not signed up to dayviewer which gives that added flexibility and usefulness. Cheers!

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks, that looks useful. :)

  2. Meetomatic Team
    April 8, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for mentioning Meetomatic - we wouldn't say "less advanced" than Doodle but instead would emphasize that for many typical situations, complex meeting possibilities can be set up with just a handful of mouse-clicks in Meetomatic, as opposed to 3 or 4 times as many mouse-clicks when using the rivals you have mentioned! This is of crucial importance to many users - we do indeed have an 'advanced' mode for premium (paying) users who want to move beyond the free service.

    Many thanks again!

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      Sorry, didn't mean to offend you by saying Meetomatic was "less advanced". And yes, it's certainly quick and easy!

  3. BlackFireNova
    April 8, 2012 at 7:52 am

    One thing of concern awhile back with Skype was a report that the Skype application acts as a node to channel local Skype conversations and uses download and computer power to facilitate this activity even if technically you have not actually started Skype for your own use.

    Can you advise, has this issue been corrected, or are Skype users still being unknowingly utilized as 'nodes' without their knowledge?

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      I honestly don't know if this is the case and will have to look into it more thoroughly. Thanks for bringing it up!

  4. Dhruv
    April 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Facebook chat! really? I thought you were suggesting tools for meetings! come on man!

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      It can be very useful for team chats!

  5. Matt
    April 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    What I found extremely useful was to set up a private Facebook group. It works very well between me and people I work with, because most of them check Facebook regularly anyway... Groups are private so we can use it as a wiki.

    • Angela Alcorn
      April 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      That's a cool idea. :D

  6. Jouni "Rautamiekka" Järvinen
    April 6, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Skype belongs to the known dickhead Micro$oft and every version after 4.2.0 took Skype down twice more than the previous. Plus its Linux version never got updated. You have to be glad it actually works !

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