Flights have been grounded, plans have been canceled or rescheduled, but many of us are as busy as ever in the wake of COVID-19, admittedly in a new kind of way. One search of the phrase “tips for Zoom meetings” makes it apparent: we’re all looking for the best free or low-cost tech tools to help us thrive right now. Even our agency got in on the act, sharing a blog post about top tips to stay tip top in a virtual world.
Outside of the obvious ones – I’m sure we’re all on more than a few Zoom or GoToMeeting calls lately (pro tip: upgrade to the professional version if you’re using it often or check out Doxy if you need a low cost, HIPPA compliant place to virtually meet) – there are a few other free or low-cost tools worth checking out, based on my own experiences and that of my smart, willing-to-share LinkedIn network:
- SendCheckIt.com is aces for those of you who send out newsletters or email updates to fans, followers, clients, donors, volunteers, customers or prospects. It allows you to test out potential email subject lines and gives a detailed assessment – including a grade – on scannability, reading level, length, sentiment, spam triggers, potential pitfalls and creative ideas for improvement. If you want to stand out in your recipient’s inbox, this free tool is worth a try and is a great last step before finalizing that Mailchimp or Constant Contact blast.
- Kapwing is a fast friend to video creators everywhere. The video captioning feature is especially alluring, given the sheer number of people consuming video with their volume off. Kapwing is easy to get a handle on, even for novices, and with a free account created, you can remove the watermark on the video and upload up to 250 MB of content and publish videos of seven minutes or less. The site also has a handy meme generator, which is an alternative to Make a Meme, both of which are helpful for coming up with fun (and, yes, often humorous) social media shares.
- Online meeting scheduling tool Doodle has saved many a group from a long chain of “reply all” emails detailing who is free on this day, but only has a two-hour window that day, and who can only swing Monday calls versus who has a daily 9 a.m. huddle. If you need to coordinate a call or video meeting fast, or even make a decision with a few clear options in place, Doodle is a time-saving treasure and starts at less than $5 per year.
- Contracts and legal documents still need to go forward, so tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro, Dropbox Sign and DocuSign can make that happen quickly and relatively inexpensively. Also awesomely effective for a less legal matter, and free, is the iPhone’s Notes app, which has a little camera button, bottom center, that with one press allows you to scan documents. Just position your phone over the document, hold still and watch it freeze capture each page, then save and send. Viola!
- With the increase in online networking, people are spending more time on LinkedIn lately. Lusha is a Chrome extension that allows you to get phone and email information from your connections. The basic plan is free, too.
- Video-makers in my circle are raving about Loom for recording videos, whether on a computer screen or of yourself. Best of all, it’s a free Chrome plug-in and, as Loom says on its website, “you remember 95% of a message when it’s watched vs. only 10% of what you read.” If that doesn’t make you want to take the plunge, I don’t know what will.
- What can I say about Canva other than that its slogan is spot on: your secret weapon for stunning design. User-friendly and filled with templates to help the novice create everything from social media graphics and flyers to posters and invitations, it’s a tech tool that I’m grateful to have in my toolbox.
- Time is money, so a good calendar scheduling app can be a lifeline and dollar-saver. One that’s getting lots of positive feedback is Calendly. Who wouldn’t want to reduce the amount of back and forth emails it takes to schedule an appointment?
- Reusing content is the name of the game and sometimes you want to capture audio from a Zoom call, webinar or taped video segment and you want to do it fast. Enter Otter’s transcription service, which starts with a free basic plan and goes up from there.
Last, but not least, here’s a bonus tool, because we could all stand to feel a bit more centered right about now. Headspace features guided meditations and tools to improve mindfulness and sleep and is free for one year to anyone who is unemployed.
So many tools, so little time! If you’ve found one you enjoy, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear all about it.
About the Author: Filomena Fanelli is the CEO and founder of Impact PR & Communications, Ltd. (www.prwithimpact.com), an award-winning public relations agency based in NY’s Hudson Valley and serving clients throughout the tri-state area. Fanelli can be reached at 845.462.4979 or at email@example.com.