Do you even [bench]? My new favourite online meeting platform.

Move over Hangouts, Skype for Business, join.me, Webex… there’s a new player in town and boy does it rock. I’ve been using it for the past few days with 5 different remotely located teams and have found it to be the best online meeting platform I’ve used to date.

Collaborating online or via teleconference is always a painful process. So much time is wasted in:

  • dailling in… who ever saves those numbers into contacts anyways?
  • entering the *correct* pin code,  which I always seem to stuff up (especially under pressure.. coz I’m usually the last one onto the call)
    • iPhones aren’t easy to navigate during a call, specifically for muting/unmuting as you have to switch screens
  • finding out that the software isn’t installed/compatible with your browser/laptop
  • lagging/freezing frames during screen sharing / presentations – even when you have excellent wifi.

Enter [bench]. The UI (user interface) is so simple that even the oldies get it, faster than they got Slack.

Think of a [bench] as a shared work space, like a physical meeting table. You put all the things you want to discuss on the [bench], and during the meeting you all see together, point/click together, type/work together, draw together, and most importantly: effectively collaborate together. The best thing is, the [bench] is saved when you conclude your meeting, meaning that all parties  have access to everything you discussed when you next catch up.

On each [bench] you can collaborate via:

  • Notes – example use case: typing up the meeting agenda prior to the meeting & actions whilst you’re all discussing them (and everyone sees them in REAL TIME!)
  • Whiteboard – example use case: giving feedback on a piece of creative, highlighting and drawing over it
  • Screenshare
    • A single Screenshot
    • Your whole desktop or a single Chrome tab
  • Folder – you can store the files you want to discuss straight onto here.

You sign up (you can try it without signing up), create a [bench], get the secret meeting link and share it with your meeting attendees. That simple!
Using it for the first time:

  • your attendees will feel a little weird seeing multiple cursors flying around the screen, but then… the ‘aha’ moment will come!
  • you need to install the [bench] chrome extension to enable desktop screen sharing, which is very light and takes a few seconds
  • get everyone part of the meeting to connect individually, that way their name and inputs are seen and included
  • can be used on tablet via Chrome
  • you’ll be blown away at the audio quality, the speed andresponsiveness in which the cursors and elements within the [bench] move. It’s like they’ve implemented lossless compression! (couldn’t resist the PiedPiper/Silicon Valley reference).

Limitations:

  • Doesn’t work on mobile as yet, but surely this would be on the road map
  • Big meetings: the biggest meeting I used it for had 4 people – so not sure how effective it would be for a meeting with more than 5 people. That said, too many people on a conference call/online meeting is ineffective anyway (with the exception being if the communication is meant to be going one way)
  • Office integration: you can’t open .docxs or .pptxs within the [bench], the file downloads onto your machine to open it up. I assume this is difficult to build in at launch, specifically if the people aren’t working in the same cloud environment (Microsoft vs. Google)
  • This isn’t technically a limitation but… [bench] works only on Chrome or Firefox; anyone still having to use Internet Explorer for work, tell your IT department to get out of the nineties…

Cost:

  • Free individual account for up to 3 benches
  • $9.95/month per team member for up to 25 benches


Overall:

The team at [bench] has solved a real problem that many professionals and freelancers face on a daily basis and definitely worth immediately switching over to from existing services. There are still elements the team needs to add in and continue to work on, but the audio and visual quality is far superior to anything I’ve witnessed to date.

Thank you for reading my post. I regularly write about productivity hacks, people management, digital & data. If you would like to read my regular posts, please click ‘Follow’ and feel free to also connect via Twitter & Facebook. Here are some other recent articles I have written:

About: Imteaz Ahamed works in the digital space for RB. At the tender age of 6, in the early 90’s his father bought him a 386 PC for $3000, the best investment he could’ve ever made for his son. Imteaz also mentors early stage startups & entrepreneurs from all over the world and is avid fan of hackathons. He is also aStartupBus Conductor and Alumni – the most intense 72 hour startup hackathon in the world.

Do you even [bench]? My new favourite online meeting platform.

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