Physical distancing is still very much a thing and remote work is more important than ever. That includes sales calls, but — as we’ve determined — your options for making a sales presentation remotely are many.
This is the latest post in our exhaustively researched guide to using popular video calling platforms to make remote sales presentations.
The idea is to look at all of the popular video calling platforms available on the business market today and measure them against criteria focused on sales presentations.
Our criteria is as follows:
- How easy is it for you, the presenter, to use?
Can you schedule that call at a moment's notice? How easy is it for you to present your screen once you're in there?
- How easy is it for your prospects on the other end of the call to use?
Is it easy for them to start the call and their camera at their discretion? Can they dial in by phone if their microphone isn't working?
- How well suited is it for screen-casting a presentation?
When you’re casting, can you see your screen and the recipient's video? Can your recipients hear the audio from videos that you're playing? Can you cast from your iPad?
- Are there any extra features that make it more compelling to use?
For example, a chat function to send links to your viewers, or being able to record the call so that you can review it later.
- How’s the security and privacy?
Can you password protect the call? How secure is the software in general?
To get a true sense of how video calling platforms stack up against these criteria, we’re putting each contender through an exhaustive mock sales call. Naturally, the sales presentations we're using on these calls are all hosted on our award-winning, easy-to-use sales presentation platform: Showcase Workshop.
If you’re unfamiliar with the pure and simple joy of using sales presentation software that looks great and works well on any device, you can try Showcase Workshop right now completely free. But if you happen to be using a more humdrum service like Powerpoint, this guide is generic enough to apply to you as well.
The platform we are looking at today is Adobe Connect.
Adobe Inc. was founded by John Warnock and Charles Geschke in 1982. Warnock has a typeface named after him and Geschke has the dubious honor of having been kidnapped in 1992.
Adobe launched Photoshop in ‘89 and invented the PDF in ‘93. After another three decades of development and rather a lot of acquisitions, they now have 50+ products and applications in their stable across the realms of graphic design, web design, animation and AV editing, and e-learning.
Adobe Connect ostensibly fits into this last category; it was originally developed as presentation software by a company called Presidia, which was then acquired by Macromedia which was then acquired by Adobe. Within the software are different configurations for webinars, training (that’s the ‘e-learning’ part), and straight-up meetings — which is what we’re going to be looking at today.
Just the stats, thanks
Based in: San Jose, California.
Company size: 22,635 employees in 2020.
Cost: Free for 90 days; to use just the Meetings part starts at $50/mo (pretty steep compared with Teams, Zoom, and GoToMeeting, and you don’t even get the Webinar or Learning components included).
Compatible with: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android.
Reviews: Adobe Connect has a TrustRadius score of 7.5 out of 10 and a Capterra rating of 4.3 out of 5.
If your company is already embedded in the Adobe ecosystem with a Creative Cloud subscription, or is using some of their online marketing tools, you might be seriously considering Adobe Connect as a complimentary meetings platform for your remote sales calls as well.
But is that a wise idea? We're about to find out!
Fair warning — this review is extremely honest. We figured that would be most genuinely useful to others out there considering their video calling options.
Ease of use for the presenter
Creating an account
It is surprisingly difficult to start a trial of Adobe Connect. For starters, you have to give them quite a lot of information about your company, including a phone number, what industry you're in, and what time zone. And then, the kicker is that the web form doesn't actually allow you to sign up. In my experience at least, every time I clicked the ‘sign up’ button, nothing happened. There were no errors in the form, yet the page refused to load or progress. This persisted through different email addresses and different browsers, so I eventually contacted support, who got in touch with a trial account set up for me one day later.
An inauspicious start.
Scheduling a meeting
Once I actually had my account, I could log into the web interface, which is a fairly spartan affair on first load.
I figured the tiny tab saying “Meetings” at the top was the way to go to actually schedule a meeting, though I later realized I could also do this using the “Create” button top right:
This is nice and straightforward - certainly preferable to the ‘Meetings’ tab, which uses the word “Meeting” or “Meetings” eight times and has a pretty confusing interface:
Either way, setting up the meeting offers you a range of parameters to fiddle with - some of which are downright confounding.
Firstly though - did you think time-pickers had evolved past listing every single possible time at 15-minute increments? You usually just use 2 spinners, right? Something like this:
Not in Adobe Connect’s world! Clicking on the time to start the meeting prompts a massive list of every 15-minute interval in the 24-hour clock!
This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal - mildly inconvenient at worst. But it’s indicative of a more general pattern of downright clunky usability throughout Connect. And Adobe should do better — after all, they also make an entire program dedicated to user experience design and prototyping!
The options that I found most challenging to decipher were the “HTML Client” and the “Audio Conference Settings”.
It wasn’t at all clear to me whether “HTML Client” meant an app that’s installed on a computer - like some “clients” are - or a web-based interface (which is what the “HTML” suggests). The link to ‘learn about’ this option didn’t enlighten me either.
With the audio conference options, it turns out that Adobe Connect does not have a built-in telephone service where you can simply dial a number to join the meeting. This comes totally standard with Zoom and other competitors, so it’s surprising that it’s lacking here. They do have an option, however, to use a third-party telephony provider - linked from that “Manage Audio Profiles” page - but it has to be set up separately with a whole different account. It is, again, not at all clear that you must register an account with this separate provider:
So in this case, knowing that my “prospect” (Chelsea) would be joining through her computer microphone, I actually needed to select the first option under Audio Conference Settings — ‘VOIP only’.
But how confusing is that? It’s not clear at all what I’m being asked to decide upon here - to me, choosing “Do not include any audio conference with this meeting” makes it sound like we won’t be able to hear each other or speak. That’s not the case.
With all that done, it was time to actually get the invite to Chelsea. This was, again, a very confusing and unclear process.
The default option is to “select participants” from a pre-existing list of users (i.e. people in your own organization, which was not applicable in my case). The next step was to “Send invitations”. That’s more like it! Here’s the interface for that step. See if you can spot where to enter your guest’s email and actually send the invite:
Do you give up? It’s a trick question - sending email invites to your meeting is not actually possible from within the interface.
It sounds like I’m kidding or must be mistaken. I am not. This was confirmed by a different screen which I found after some digging — you can either copy and paste an invite, or send it to yourself then forward it, but there’s no way to directly email guests from the interface.
This is, quite frankly, gobsmacking. Remember you’re paying ~$50 a month for this service. But you have to forward your invites. Incredible.
Luckily, forwarded invites show up beautifully formatted for your guests!
I’m kidding. They are in a fixed-width font with no line breaks. I don’t wish to be crude, but in millennial parlance this is what we would term “fugly”.
Starting the meeting
So I got my invite off to Chelsea in the end, and the next step was to actually start the meeting. The home page of the web interface had a list of meetings, and I thought I might be able to simply click a button to start the meeting from there. As you might have guessed, this was not actually possible or, at least, I couldn't see the option.
So I headed to the meetings tab to start the meeting from there. Cue yet more confusing wording, in the form of this error message.
“Nicky's Great Adobe Connect Meeting Did Not Open?” Even the software itself sounds unsure about what's happening here! It looks like I either need to download a desktop application or enable the outdated and obsolete Adobe Flash Player. Funnily enough, Adobe announced in 2016 that it was ending support for Flash, with a date for it to be forcibly removed from browsers of December 31, 2020. Six months away at the time of writing, but this $50-a-month service still uses it. I think I’ll get the app.
Upon starting the app we have the familiar permission request for the microphone:
And helpfully, there’s an informational popover telling us about different components of the app interface:
That’s the first solidly helpful guidance we’ve seen. A big ol’ checkmark for this one.
Once I’d joined and approved microphone access it looked like my microphone was working straight away. However, when Chelsea joined the call, it became apparent that there was no sound coming through on either end. We eventually figured out that there are two controls up the top - a speaker icon and a microphone icon — and both of these need to be switched on in order for the sound to work.
Similarly, starting the webcam was a two-step process. When you first click ‘Start my webcam’, it gives you a preview without automatically showing your webcam to the other guests. However, yet again the wording in the interface makes it spectacularly unclear what is actually happening:
That “Start Sharing” button is what you need to click in order for your camera feed to become visible to others. But if you’ve got screen-sharing on the brain, you’d probably read that and think — wait — that’s not what I want to do yet. The “Preview” text is styled kind of like a button, so it’s not obvious that it is actually telling you “this is a preview”.
Once we finally had the sound and video sorted out, it was onto the screen sharing. As you might guess, this too posed its own particular challenges.
Clicking the big central “Share my screen” button prompts a window where you can choose what specifically you want to share. But, similar to how you have to allow the app to access your microphone, you also have to change some settings to allow Adobe to record the screen as well. Adobe attempts to explain how to change the setting but they are missing some key details.
It turns out you have to approve not only the “Accessibility” setting under the Privacy tab, but also the “Screen recording” setting further down the list.
I only figured this out in desperation, after a long time of completely unsuccessfully attempting to share my screen with Chelsea - there were no instructions anywhere that I could see that mentioned this specific “screen recording” setting requirement in addition to the “accessibility” option.
All the while, Chelsea’s view was strangely showing a kind of “half-share”, where she could see a blank blue screen and my mouse moving round:
Not a great experience on either end for this element of the call either.
Our Verdict: Ease of use for the presenter
At almost every step, the presenter experience is confounding, frustrating, and downright disorienting.
Ease of use for prospects
Joining the call
Is joining the call from the prospect side any less of a dismal experience?
For Chelsea, it started off quite nicely with the clear option to choose between accessing the meeting in the browser or in the Adobe Connect app.
Once Chelsea was in the call, she had a similar issue connecting to audio, where simply clicking the microphone option and connecting her microphone was not enough. I had to allow her microphone at my end. By default, guests will not have microphone access until the host allows it. This can be done on a per-guest basis or set for every guest in the room, but it is not a setting that can be changed in advance of the meeting. So either way, your guests have to have microphone access approved every time. Slightly inconvenient.
Chelsea saw the same confusing “Start Sharing” / Preview interface with the camera as above.
And, as we’ve also already established, there is no way to allow guests to join the call over the phone without setting up a completely different account with a third party. So that's another way in which the prospect experience is less than ideal.
During the call
Adobe Connect has an unusual feature that heavily affects the prospect experience. The entire call space is split into “pods” that the host can move around and resize. For example, the chat window is a “pod”, the camera feeds form another “pod” and the screen sharing component is yet another “pod”.
Whatever the host does with the pods, the prospect will see exactly that on their end. So for instance, when I made the chat window really long, it jutted right out over the screen sharing space for Chelsea:
I could set it up such that the various pods were actually obscuring my face - and Chelsea couldn’t do a thing about it.
If you weren’t keeping this in mind as the host, it would be possible to end up with a layout that really doesn’t work for your prospect - and you might not even realize.
Our Verdict: Ease of use for the prospect
At least joining the call is pretty quick and easy from a web browser — no download needed. But the rest of the prospect experience can easily become disorienting.
Screen-sharing a presentation
We’ve seen that getting screen sharing started is a little tricky — there was that sneaky extra permission that you need to enable. But what about once it’s actually running?
Firstly, Adobe Connect gives you the option of selecting specific windows or applications to share, as well as your whole desktop. Intriguingly, there is also the option to “select multiple” of these things to share, but I couldn’t get this to work in our test.
Nevertheless, allowing specific applications is a great benefit, as it allows you to focus on your superlative sales presentation app (i.e. Showcase Workshop) rather than having to clean up all those stray icons on your desktop to share your whole screen.
One of the features we personally like to have in our video calling software is the ability to see both the screen that you’re sharing and your prospects' video feeds in the same space. It’s nice to see what you’re doing and gauge the facial reactions of your prospects in real-time. Zoom gives you a floating window of the video output and Teams gives you a little “picture-in-picture” view.
With Adobe Connect, all of the “pods” are condensed into one floating window, so you can see your prospects' camera feeds, your chat, or the participants list — but not all at once. It didn’t seem possible to tile the camera feeds vertically, or hide my own feed from my view, so I was a little bit limited in seeing just the two smaller feeds slightly obscuring my window. But overall, this isn’t a terrible implementation and I was pleased to be able to see Chelsea’s face alongside my shared window.
On Chelsea’s end, she found she could zoom in to the screen share independently, which is quite useful for prospects to get a closer look at what you’re selling. I wasn’t able to see that Chelsea had zoomed in.
In terms of the overall screen sharing performance, Chelsea noted that there was a bit of a lag in seeing my clicks and swipes, but that the image was overall crisp.
Sound from embedded videos came through on Chelsea’s end just fine, without having to fiddle around with any additional settings. This gives Adobe Connect the advantage over something like Microsoft Teams, where you had to explicitly allow app sounds to play through an easily-missable toggle. Although again, Chelsea noted there was a slight lag in the video sound coming through.
The other thing we look for in screen sharing capabilities of various video calling software is whether we can cast another device, like an iPad, if that's where your sales presentations live. I’m starting to think we’ve been somewhat spoiled by Zoom in this regard, because not many other platforms offer this kind of option. Adobe Connect certainly doesn’t — at least not that I could see.
Our Verdict: Screen-sharing a presentation
Adobe Connect’s offering here is fairly standard stuff — not the usability nightmare that we’ve seen in other areas of the platform but not mind-blowingly awesome either.
Adobe Connect’s chat isn’t quite as advanced as Microsoft Teams, where you can throw in complex tables right alongside goofy cat GIFs and cartoon stickers, but it does the job, with a group chat option and private messages that appear in a separate tab.
Adobe does allow the ability to set font colors which we found kind of fun.
As with all pods, the host can rename the chat window, move it around, and resize it. The prospect will see all of these changes as well.
One of the things we like to check for video calling capabilities is whether links pasted into chat will format correctly into something clickable. If you’re using Showcase Workshop’s powerful sharing features, you might want to share a link to some downloadable files right on your call. I’m pleased to report that Adobe Connect’s chat does correctly format these kinds of links automatically for you.
Most video calling platforms worth their salt will include an option to record the call, and Adobe Connect is no exception. Some platforms make the “Record” button big and obvious from the main interface; in Adobe’s case, it’s under the main “Meeting” menu. Not blindingly obvious, but not completely obscured either.
You’re prompted to name and summarize the recording, and the guests on the call will get a little notification that the call is being recorded as well.
So far, so fine. But when the recording is done and the call is over, the options aren’t that solid. Your recording link/video file isn’t emailed to you, but instead is stored over in the web platform under Meetings/Recordings.
And guess what — it’s not a standard video file that you can just share with someone. Heck no. You have to open the Adobe Connect app to view your recording; you can’t download it as a video file at all. This makes your options for sharing the recording fairly limited.
Polls, Notes, and Whiteboard
Adobe Connect’s heritage as an education tool becomes more apparent when you see some of the options for pods that you can include in the call.
You can create a poll for your guests and view the results:
You can create quite detailed notes, with different formatting:
You can also open a whiteboard to share brainstorming or doodles:
If you’re really loving the concept of pods and want to push it even further, Adobe has a list of custom pods that you can download and install. Options include Tic-Tac-Toe, extra timers and polls, MP3 players, or closed captioning.
This extensibility is kind of cool; perhaps not directly useful for your sales meetings necessarily, but nice to have available.
Other Features and Post-Meeting Tools
Adobe Connect has a ton of other interesting tidbits buried in the interface. Users can have a “Laughter” reaction, raise their hand, or ask the host to change pace.
You can also set a background image that will appear behind all your pods — in my case, some lovely pink flowers:
It also has a wide array of settings for video quality, audio quality, and echo reduction:
But my absolute favorite of the extra features — one that made me practically screech with delight — is the ability to set an end-of-meeting note and force a URL to open for the guests.
This is pure magic to me and I can’t believe more video calling systems don’t have this feature. Imagine setting up a custom landing page for your prospects to see after your sales call. Very slick. This feature alone makes me almost forgive the horrendous usability elsewhere in the app.
Our Verdict: Extra features
Points lost for the uselessness of the call recording; mad points gained for the post-call capabilities.
Security and Privacy
It has to be said that Adobe is not completely ignorant of where the video calling space is in mid-2020. The product page for Adobe Connect strongly emphasizes its security features first and foremost.
It does look like Adobe is trying to capitalize on Zoom’s well-documented history of security concerns here — a good business tactic, but can they back it up?
That “multilayered security” link takes you to a dedicated page talking solely about security for Adobe Connect — including whitepapers and several compliance certifications.
Adobe also provides a technically detailed security overview document for Connect. This looks impressive, but is so jargon-heavy it doesn’t necessarily reassure a layperson.
However, it looks like Adobe Connect’s security cred is pretty robust by default — and the capacity is there to add whatever security your organization requires (single sign-on, for example, or a custom server solution). The fact that Adobe is open and upfront about these capabilities is in itself a good sign.
Adobe Connect's support documentation suggests you can enable password protection for your calls and meeting rooms. This feature was not obvious in the interface when I was setting up my call with Chelsea. However, customizing the call link means that you have less chance of a malicious third party guessing your URL to hijack the call.
Adobe is not immune to privacy concerns, however. Just last year it was discovered that they had left a database of 7.5 million user emails unsecured and accessible — shoddy stuff.
Our Verdict: Security and Privacy
Adobe has enough security chops that you should feel comfortable with the security of Connect — watch out for those privacy breaches though.
What’s Adobe Connect’s overall score for sales presentations over video call?
Host ease of use: 1.5/5
Participant ease of use: 2/5
Screen-casting capabilities: 3.5/5
Extra features: 3.5/5
Security and Privacy: 4/5
Total: 14.5/25, 58%
Boy oh boy. For many universities and colleges, that’s a failing grade. And indeed, education users aren’t too happy with it either — the number of negative reviews in the Play Store and App Store from users needing to use Adobe Connect for class is disheartening reading.
There’s some elements we haven’t even touched on — like how you can’t start a meeting from the app, or that the software was last updated in 2019 but looks like its aesthetics are stuck in the early '90s.
In essence, we can’t recommend Adobe Connect as a video calling platform. Try one of the other platforms we’ve reviewed instead — or, if you’re reading this in the future — have a good hard look at whether Adobe has updated things since this review. It could well be that the Adobe Connect offices are full of devs scrambling to push out a massive overhaul as we speak! Or they could be full of tumbleweed.
If you’ve got thoughts on any other video calling platforms we should review, drop us a line or ping us on Twitter. And remember that if you’re making sales presentations in general, Showcase Workshop is updated regularly and prioritizes usability!