Holding online meetings and seminars can be a great time saver and money saver. If you wish to conduct a class or seminar, hold a society meeting of a few people, or even control someone else's computer for troubleshooting purposes or most any other purpose of displaying information on a remote computer, you can choose from dozens of screen-sharing products available today. However, some of the available online meeting products can be quite expensive. I have recently been experimenting with a low-cost and even no-cost product with the easy-to-remember name of "join.me."
With join.me, you can hold an online seminar or meeting with up to 250 participants at no charge; extra features are available for a reasonable fee. Join.me provides a meeting space that happens wherever and whenever you need it. Join.me is an instant screen-sharing application that allows others to see the material you wish to present. It can be available on a moment's notice at no charge and with no registration required.
The free version of join.me allows all participants to see what you are seeing on your screen. You can also use an online chat feature to send and receive text messages (normally entered on the keyboard) to a single participant or to all participants at once. You can also send files to any one participant, but not to all participants at once. You can even transfer control of your computer to any one participant in the session.
With join.me, the required software downloads automatically at the time you join the meeting. There is no requirement to download or install software in advance.
Join.me doesn't provide the audio directly, but it does provide an easy method of conversing via telephone calls by dialing join.me telephone numbers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Hungary, or the Netherlands. Once connected to the conference call by telephone, each participant enters the number of the online session and then is connected to everyone else in the session. Participants can talk and listen by telephone while watching the on-screen session on their own Windows or Macintosh computers. Each caller does pay any applicable toll charges to connect to the nearest teleconference phone number. Sounds played on the presenter's computer are not shared with meeting participants.
Of course, there is no requirement to use a telephone conference call. Instead, participants can simultaneously use the join.me service while also talking via a Skype conference call or other free VoIP conference call service. However, Skype cannot provide audio to hundreds of simultaneous users. Anyone conversing on Skype also will not hear those conversing on normal telephones. All participants need to be on Skype or on normal telephones, there is no mixing and matching of them together.
Upgrading to the paid pro version of join.me adds the following features:
A permanent personal link that becomes your own "meeting room." You can tell others, "This is where you will find me."
Meetings can be scheduled in advance and email invitations sent that will add the session to the recipients' iCal or Outlook calendars.
The ability to have multiple presenters, although only one person can be presenting at any given moment.
A lock on the door. Anyone who wishes to join a pro session must request access. The moderator then can grant access or not, as he or she wishes. (With the free version, anyone can join if they know the URL.) Join.me uses 256-bit SSL encryption. That's the same technology used by online banks and shopping sites – in fact, by anyone who cares about online security. As a result, unwanted participants cannot "listen in" to pro version meetings. (Free version meetings are also encrypted, but an unwelcome visitor can join in if he or she can discover the URL or meeting number.)
Join.me's free service is also a great method of troubleshooting a problem on someone else's computer. Do you have a technologically-challenged relative in a distant city who needs computer assistance? Have that person start a free join.me meeting by sending him or her an email message containing the join.me URL. The remote relative clicks on the URL to start an online meeting, then gives you control of their computer. Even though you are many miles away, you can move the mouse, click on icons, and type on the keyboard as you both watch the action on your respective computer screens. You probably will also want to be talking with the other person via a telephone call or via Skype, although that isn't absolutely necessary.
Starting a meeting is simple: go to http://www.join.me and click on the big orange button next to the word Share. That's it! If you are creating the meeting, a meeting number will be assigned to you. If you wish to join a meeting already in progress, enter the appropriate meeting number.
The free join.me service is very easy to use and doesn't require a credit card or even an email address. The pro version, however, will require both a credit card and an email address in order to create an account.
The Pro version costs $29 (U.S.) or £19 or €22 per month. Discounts are available if you pay for 12 months in advance. Both the free and pro versions support up to 250 simultaneous users.
For more information, or to hold an online meeting of up to 250 participants, go to https://join.me/