For real time conversations using a camera to be able to see the other participants.
What it does
Video calls are a way of having online conversations where you can see the person you are talking to. They can:
- take place between two people, or with hundreds of people
- last for 5 minutes or several hours
- allow users to share their screen, for example to view a document
- allow users to add comments in a real time chat
- allow users to react to what has been said with emojis
- be recorded
There are many tools that can be used for video calls. Some are built into a device (like Apple’s FaceTime), others are built into apps (like WhatsApp) and others are standalone (like Zoom). Some of the most popular tools used by charities are:
- MS Teams
- Facebook messenger
- Google hangout
Things to consider
How to set up video call services, safely and securely
This guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre covers the key things you should consider before you start using video calls. Key points include:
- Test before choosing a tool, and make sure you understand all of the features available
- Don’t make the calls public and consider using a password. This can prevent unwanted people from joining (see well publicised ‘zoombombing’ incidents)
- Consider your surroundings, and the surroundings of your users – it might not be possible to have confidential conversations in a busy household. Earphones and virtual backgrounds can help, but sometimes a chat service where people can type their queries could be more appropriate.
Video calls can offer some real benefits over using the phone, but it is important to remember that they are not the same as face to face communication.
Visual clues and nuances that you would get from being in the same room as someone are lost so you need to try harder to make sure people are engaged.
It can also be harder to concentrate fully when you are on a video call, and you can’t know whether or not you have the full attention of other participants.
The ground rules that you would agree as part of any face to face support are even more important when you deliver support by video.
Charities using this tool
- Homestart shifted their usual face to face support to phone and video call during the coronavirus lockdown.
- Starcatchers are delivering fortnightly online gatherings for artists to share ideas and support.
Many digital services will require a combination of more than one tool. As part of the Catalyst initiative service recipes are being developed– these practical guides describe how charities have used tools in combination to deliver digital services.
Discounted software and digital guides and news