Remotely, Better: The Top Five Zoom Apps Redefining Virtual Workplaces

Online video sessions give remote workers, IT staff, and others a way to carry out their work. That’s something that is increasingly important in the age of the hybrid workforce.

6 Min Read
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(Credit: Sergei Babenko / Alamy Stock Photo)

Remotely, Better: The Top Five Zoom Apps Redefining Virtual Workplaces

Remote and asynchronous work, which rose dramatically in popularity during the pandemic, remains a core pillar of today’s business environment with many Fortune 500 companies opting for a hybrid working model. While not at its pandemic peak, remote work is still 3-4 times more popular today than in 2019 with nearly half of the workforce expressing a desire to retain the option to work from home to some degree.

In parallel, the video conferencing market is on a steep upward trajectory, expected to reach $33.04 billion by the end of the year. Zoom remains the standout leader, holding a dominant market share of 42.8% as of 2020. Despite its widespread adoption, during the pandemic, users began to experience video conferencing fatigue, which is the weariness experienced from excessive eye contact, constant self-view, restricted mobility, and a higher cognitive load—all side effects of too much time in front of the computer screen. 

Beyond video conferences for workplace meetings, many companies continue to leverage the reach of remote events like conferences, educational workshops, and sales webinars post-pandemic. There’s a palpable difference between online sessions which staff are expected to attend versus invite-based sessions that attract members and potential clients who choose to be there, bringing a sense of enthusiasm and engagement stemming from their genuine interest in the event.

Further, network issues, user interface complexity, and poor audio and video quality distract attendees and make it challenging to grasp social cues and subtleties essential for effective collaboration and teamwork. Without some effort to keep attendees engaged throughout the session, contagious boredom can cause diverted attention and lack of focus for many participants.

While technology plays a pivotal role in creating a sense of community in both hybrid and remote-only settings, it must also account for diverse communication styles, unique team workflows, IT management styles, and personal work experiences, emphasizing the need for customizable technological solutions.

In an effort to make in-person and remote collaboration more seamless, I analyzed the best of the best Zoom add-ons and marketplace apps. The tools below create frictionless Zoom experiences and enable more collaborative and engaging virtual workspaces.

Five Essential Apps to Transform Your Zoom Experience

StreamAlive—StreamAlive puts the audience at the center of the conversation and allows presenters to integrate interactive features into their Zoom sessions seamlessly. Using the native chat function, real-time polls, Q&A sessions, and data gamification, the app excels at making virtual meetings feel more dynamic. It ensures that every participant can contribute actively, making meetings more inclusive and engaging.

StageTimer—Meant for organized virtual events, StageTimer’s sophisticated, yet user-friendly interface easily manages the flow of presentations and discussions with multiple presenters. I use this tool when hosting panels and conferences where multiple speakers share the stage. The timer is only visible to presenters or moderators, helping them stay on schedule discreetly without distracting the audience.

SlidesClicker—SlidesClicker enables a smoother narrative flow for presenters. With the ability to control their slide deck directly from their smartphone, speakers can avoid awkward pauses caused by screen switching or other clunky transitions. The app supports various presentation formats and integrates with Zoom effortlessly, allowing presenters to focus on their delivery. 

Zoom AI - Ask AI Companion and Meeting Summary—The Ask AI Companion is Zoom’s answer to streamlining workflow within its platform. Taking care of mundane tasks, this AI-powered feature helps users organize meeting-related data across Zoom services into actionable insights. Whether preparing for upcoming meetings, summarizing key points post-meeting, or managing day-to-day tasks, Ask AI Companion helps maintain productivity and ensures no critical information is overlooked. Additionally, the Meeting Summary feature can provide attendees with a good summary of the meeting’s discussion for later reference, helping attendees to focus on the meeting instead of just taking notes (aside from especially quote-worthy comments).

Zoom Events Production Studio—The Zoom Events Production Studio allows users to create broadcast-like presentations without leaving the app. Tailored for event organizers and webinar hosts, Production Studio provides simplified tools akin to professional broadcasting control rooms. Users can design custom scenes, manage transitions, and control which preloaded content is displayed to the audience, all within Zoom’s interface. This tool is invaluable for content creators looking to offer polished, engaging virtual events that resemble TV production.

How to Know Which Tools Are Right for Your Team

Undoubtedly, each and every one of these Zoom functions and integrations are valuable and all improve the end-user experience. But deciding which tool or combination to invest in can be challenging, especially when considering the individual styles within each organization.

Start by assessing the audience, event flow, and aesthetic you want to achieve. Some examples include:

  1. A small team’s project review meeting can benefit from StreamAlive’s engagement activities, and Zoom’s AI Companion can help late arrivers get caught up on what happened before they arrived. If staying on time and on topic is an issue for the team, putting your agenda and time budget into StageTimer for all to see will help maintain the group’s focus.

  2. A sales webinar might benefit more from the professional look and feel by using the Production Studio tool of Zoom Sessions – the increasingly popular Webinar-only sister product of Zoom Events. Engagement energy can be boosted by StreamAlive’s visual interaction features.

  3. A multi-day, multi-session conference event for a nonprofit group can take advantage of all of these tools. Given the effort required to put on such an event in the first place, you should make each session productive and enjoyable for your attendees by considering which tools will make a difference, session by session.

Then continue by assessing your team’s capabilities. Do you have a production team that can manage your slides throughout your presentation or do you need to be able to do it on your own? Are your audiences disengaged and you’re looking for a way to include them in the conversation? Understanding where your most pressing hole exists is a great place to start.

Managers and team leaders should also understand that the hybrid/remote experience requires a culture shift that encourages communication and collaboration among all participants. In their leadership role, IT managers often serve as communicators between tech teams, and their organization’s success depends on having tools that drive the essential communication and collaboration processes. Organizations should continue to evaluate virtual collaboration tools, allowing IT manager to more effectively empower their organizations to succeed in this new era through enhanced cooperation and coordination.

Finally, as you build your presentation repository, solicit feedback from your audience. Give opportunities for feedback regularly and refine your tech stack based on their experiences and suggestions. 

Making the Most of the App Marketplace

Zoom’s Marketplace, the source for in-app extensions, and the recently improved user interface of the Zoom Workplace exemplify the platform's commitment to creating a unified, AI-driven hub that enhances team collaboration, customer interaction, and overall productivity. This open app ecosystem empowers users with choice and encourages continuous innovation among developers, enriching the platform with diverse solutions that keep pace with changing workplace needs.

Adopting these apps can significantly transform the remote work experience, making virtual interactions as engaging and productive as in-person collaborations. As meeting and presentation technology continue to advance, so too will workplace effectiveness.

About the Author(s)

Ray Harwood, President, GoodClix

Ray Harwood is a seasoned professional specializing in orchestrating Zoom events. He currently serves as the President of GoodClix, a producer of Zoom meetings, webinars and events, where he focuses on providing event facilitation and production for Zoom conferences and meetings. Ray is also the founder of Z-SPAN, the Zoom-Skilled Producer Affiliate Network, where he matches affiliated producers with organizations seeking help creating affordable yet professional online Zoom events.

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