Have you attended a Web conference lately? Have you hosted a
Web conference? If you have, you know that attending and hosting one are two
different things entirely. Ever purchase a new technology and then immediately
get asked why you havent rolled it out? A colleague and I have had some fun
lately dealing with the misplaced notion that once you purchase the capabilityto do Web conferencing, its easy to make one happen.
Like every other technology that we encounter, what looks so
simple to an observer is actually far more difficult than what meets the eye—typical
for our line of work. The same goes for hosting a Web conference (or
"webinar"). So before I turn this column into a rant, I'll try toturn this into a primer for a successful Web conference.
First, what seems obvious, but what people tend to forget:
It takes planning to conduct a successful, productive
meeting/presentation. And I am talking about your typical face-to-face meeting—letalone a Web conference. Disorganization and lack of planning is amplified
for a Web conference.
There are decisions and choices to be made depending on your
audience. Here are a few:
Are all your participants going to be remote or will you have
some in person as well? If you have some in person, then you have the added
headache of making sure the room can hold all of your participants as well as
support your webinar—internet connectivity, screen, projector, audio, etc.
Will all of your participants actually be in a building and
have internet connectivity or will some need to participate via cell phone from
their car or in an airport?
How technologically savvy are your participants? Are they
capable of and do they have PERMISSION to install your web client on their
machine? If they arent very savvy, can they manage well enough to participate
or will they need help?
Related to C above, will you be using a traditional phone
conference line for audio, VOIP exclusively, or a combination of the two? Note
that all Web conferencing products are not the same, and that some are not
capable of bridging a traditional voice call with VOIP participants.
If you plan on using VOIP, does everyone have a DECENT headset
and a properly adjusted microphone? If not, you can get some bad results and
one person can effectively ruin a perfectly good conference.
Once the questions above are handled, you then get into the
logistics of the Web conference:
First, sending out the meeting notice WELL in advance of the
meeting in order to ensure that people have time to get the client installed;they may need to get their IT department to do it for them.
Depending on your answer above, you may need to send out a voice conference number and instructions on how to join your conference.
Preparing/receiving electronic materials ahead of time: Web conferences tend to work best when
the materials being presented, whether they are documents, spreadsheets,
PowerPoint Presentations or video are provided and loaded prior to the
webinars start. Although most webinar/Web conferencing software will allow you
to load documents on the fly, it can take a while depending on the size of the
material and the speed of the connection, which can really interrupt the flowof your meeting and make you look unprepared.
Here are some other points to keep in mind:
As I said earlier, a webinar will amplify your lack of
preparation. Do you really have material that is worthy of a Web conference? Ifthe answer is no, perhaps a conference call will suffice?
Boring PowerPoint presentations are just as boring when presented via Web conferencing software.
People that are running the conference have to know the Web
conferencing client and its capabilities. They must also be willing to touch
the technology. You cant will a Web conference into existence, and depending
on a secretary or administrative staff person makes it that much moredifficult.
If you are going to record a Web conference, let people know ahead of time that they will be recorded and for what purpose.
Much of the Web conferencing software/services cannot
display more than half a dozen web cam images on the screen at the same time no matter if all your participants have a camera.
Web conferencing can be an ideal way to bring people
together from distant locations. The tools available today have any amazing
variety of features and almost anything is possible. However, the most
sophisticated tool will not allow anyone wishing to host a Web conference to
shine, without the proper planning and knowledge. If your IT department implements
the technology for Web conferencing, you should create a protocol on the proper
use of the tool, provide tips for running a successful web conference, and provide
proper training for better use of the tool. Yes, there will be those that use
it as a way to extend their boring presentations to more people, but there also
will be those in your organization who take your advice to heart and make good
use of the tool/s you have provided. And thats what we are after in the long