- Table of Contents
- Surrealty: An Organic Case Study
- Working with Microsoft Word
- Accelerating Your Knowledge of Excel
- Maintaining a Positive Outlook
- "Where Are My Socks?" Accessing Your Important Information
- Presenting Professionally with PowerPoint
- Posting a Web Site with FrontPage
- Publish or Perish
- Get Visual with Visio
- Tools That Integrate Your Office Applications
- Creating Video E-Mail with MovieMaker
- Managing Pictures with Microsoft Office Picture Manager
- New Year's Predictions: 2005
- Office Predictions for 2006
- Favorite Books List
- Using Excel as a Database Conversion Tool for Outlook
- Oh, Brother, I Love Labels (and other Office Tips)
- Planning for Disaster
- Using OneNote with Outlook
- Web Resources for Microsoft Office
- Simple 3D in Microsoft Office
- Creating Dynamic Database Links
- Using an Access Query for Mail Merge
- Displaying Database Links with Xcelsius Enterprise
- An Office 12 Sneak Preview from PDC
- My Big Fat Office Vacation
- What CES 2006 Means to Office Users
- Using "Send To" Between Office Applications: Word and
- Running (and Surviving) a Web-based Conference
- Running an Online Office with HyperOffice and Writely
- Preparing with Index Cards
- Creating Meeting Agendas
- Collecting Data with New Technologies: ARS, SMS and RFID
- Using Application Sharing in a Web Conference
- Running an Online Notes or Windows Media Session
- Trying Out Live Meeting
- Creating a SharePoint Team Website
- Using and Customizing a SharePoint Team Website
- Creating a Trip Planner in Excel and Outlook
- Crystal Graphics’ Excel and Solutions and Chart
- GoToMeeting Instant Webinar Tool
- Checking Out Office Live
- Using Quindi Meeting Capture
- Using Excel to Link to Other Databases
- Trying Out Mind Manager Pro to Brainstorm with Office Programs
- The 13th Thing I Hate About Office
- Introduction to Office 2007
- What's New in Excel and PowerPoint 2007
- Take a Look at InfoPath 2007
- Office's Groovy New Collaboration Program
- Using Office Accounting Express
- Printing to PDF or XPS in Office 2007
- Getting Adjusted to Office 2007 Changes
- Using SnagIt for IT Training
- Providing Help with Go To My PC
- Vista Meeting Space and People Near Me from Microsoft
- Trying Expression Web
- Migration Issues to Word and Outlook 2007
- Vista – Are You Kidding Me?
- Making Office 2007 (and Vista) Work Properly
- Office and the Enterprise
- Survey Says – Use Web Surveys with Excel and Access
- Uninstalling Office 2007 in Windows XP Pro
- Using Excel for Tables in Office 2007
- VIDITalk – Video in SharePoint and Beyond
- Career Advancement for Office Professionals
- Online Database that Rivals Access?
- Web 2.0 2008 in San Francisco
- Going Virtual for MS Office
- Going Virtual Using Mobile Apps
- Managing Your Contacts Across the Office Suite
- Charts in PowerPoint and Excel 2007 (Video Update)
- Outline View: The Document Planning Bridge between Word and PowerPoint
- Using Document Inspector in Office 2007
- SmartDraw: A Powerful Communications Tool to Supplement MS Office
- Visio 2007's New Pivot Diagram
- Using the Macro Recorder in Visio 2007 (Video Update)
- Compatibility Pack: Challenges of Using Office 2007 Documents in Previous Versions
- Microsoft Office Live Small Business Beta
- No One Asked Me But... What I Want (and Don’t Want) in the Next Office and Windows
- Late New Year's Resolution: Keys to Effective IT Communication
- SmartDraw Extras: Healthcare and Legal Templates
- Interesting Upgrades: Camtasia 6 and SnagIt 9
- Addressing the Office 2007 Read-Only Runaround
- Getting Organized with OneNote
- Video Tutorials
- Additional Resources
Running (and Surviving) a Web-based Conference
Last updated Nov 18, 2005.
Unless you've been sleeping under a rock, you know that an abundance of web conferencing programs are available. Before broadband, larger companies used video conferencing solutions that were completely proprietary on wide area networks. Now there are many IP based solutions, including two from Microsoft:
- LiveMeeting, acquired when they purchased Placeware, which takes over from Netmeeting and SharePoint Services (another collaboration tool).
- Microsoft also recently acquired Groove, a collaboration tool that presumably will be phased into the next version of Microsoft Office.
In this space, Webex is still the biggest player. My guess that it is being quickly chased by GoToMeeting, which was recently acquired by Citrix. I recently watched a GoToMeeting demo, which shared the desktop efficiently; and everything worked.
I can't really say as much for some of the other conferences I have attended. A lot of the problems seem to have to do with relying upon various Java applications along with Internet Explorer.
Before I go into my own recent experience in actually running a conference, let me mention some other players in this space:
- Macromedia Breeze: a complete publishing solution that works with its own proprietary video format, FLV.
- Conferral: A competitor with collaboration features.
- Raindance: A conferencing tool widely used, and recently reviewed by PC Magazine.
There are scores of others. In a way, I could include Microsoft OneNote, which I've written about before; a collaborative OneNote session is available as part of the program.
My First Webinar
As those of you who have read the Introductions to my weekly updates know, I recently did a "webinar" on how to use video in PowerPoint.
The host for this program was the Presentations Council of InfoComm International, of which I am a proud member. The council puts on monthly web conferences as an educational event for its members, actual and prospective.
The program that InfoComm uses for its web conferences is Genesys, so that is the tool I needed to use. Like most of these conferencing tools, Genesys opens a virtual "Meeting Center," constructing a virtual online meeting into which the participants can log in from an email invitation.
There are two main options for audio. You can use your computer speakers as part of the meeting. Or, the more user friendly option, you can use a conference call service into which the participants phone in – which is what we did.
But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. A couple of days prior to the actual event, I did a mock test of the meeting center to see how my presentation would work.
There are a few ways to set up something like this. Probably the easiest of them is to load up a set of PowerPoint slides into the application, and show them. Another way, great for training, is to have several applications open; and then toggle between shared applications.
The third technique, which I opted for, is to share your entire desktop, so that the audience sees whatever is on top.
Theoretically, this is great because it allows you to work "normally." As we'll see, however, there are issues.
I ran a Java test prior to logging in to the test meeting, fine-tuned my browser (IE), and was greeted by the moderator. The next step was getting control from the moderator, which she did in the Genesys system.
The glitch occurred when we tried to have me share my desktop. It took a call to the very helpful Genesys tech support team to discover the problem: blocked popups. For the shared desktop to work, I had to turn off two popup blockers, one in IE and the other in my Yahoo toolbar.
After that, I saw all of my running applications under a Shared tab, and activated share for my desktop. I was off and running... Almost.
Remember my topic is using video effectively. So I had a nice 640x480 video in my first slide. I tried to play it. It played fine on my computer, but the two folks in the meeting center only saw a black square!
This brings up an obvious issue. You are transmitting lots of screen information in real time. The network can't keep up with full frame video of that size. That's why most web cams, even on broadband, are small windows at low frame rates.
I was also counseled to change my screen resolution down to 800x600 for the conference, so that again less information needed to be updated per second.
But the stuff worked. So I was ready to go. I logged in forty minutes early and was introduced by the host. You can view the presentation here.
So when I was introduced I already had the moderator controls, but the attendees where told to put their phones on mute.
I didn't realize it at the time, but this is scary. You're literally cut off from the audience.
In addition, although I passed over the video in the first slide, knowing that it wouldn't play very well for the attendees to see, I quickly realized as I went through my slides that I had another problem: I couldn't see what my audience was seeing.
Working on a local machine, everything ran great. But I was blithely hyperlinking to other presentations and opening other programs for demos on my desktop. I immediately thought about slowing down, which I did, but I was totally cut off.
This was partially my own fault. I should have had attendees unmute their phones to provide feedback.
Another potential feedback channel was the Chat window. Along with a Whiteboard, Chat is part of most conferencing programs. But having opted to share my desktop and go full screen, my chat window was obscured.
In hindsight, what I should have done, was logged in separately as an attendee using my laptop. Then, with my laptop beside me, I would have had a real-time view of what my attendees were seeing. I highly recommend this for any of you who are going to do videoconferencing in the future.
Only now, having watched the archived version on the web, do I see that my hyperlinks actually worked – including one where I showed another PowerPoint slide with five small videos.
Again, I did not play the videos, although the small screen versions probably would have played, albeit with dropped frames and unsynched lips.
At the end of the conference I stopped for questions, and as phones were unmuted, there were very few. True, I had presented a load of technical material which seemed to have overwhelmed my audience. But unlike a live presenter, I had no faces to read or body language to evaluate. I was out there in web space. Finally, some questions were articulated, and the conference concluded.
What I want to stress is that you need to minimize this feeling of isolation. The muted phone thing may be necessary in some situations (with a hostile audience), but combined with the obscured chat window, it makes it hard to pace the presentation and know how it is being received.
Each conferencing tool is different. However, the chat and audio channels (phone conferencing) are common threads. Make sure you have them in place before setting up a conference.
Finally, if you are venturing into the web conferencing space, you owe it to yourself to visit the site of the acknowledged guru -- Robin Good. His site, Master New Media, has probably the most up-to-date information and reviews of all conferencing solutions, along with related information on podcasting and royalty free images.
Of course, in the final analysis, like anything else the only way to learn it is to do it – which is why I wanted to do my first webinar with the Presentations Council.
Next time, I will know how to turn off my popups, set up a laptop monitor to show me what the audience sees, and make sure that my connection with the audience is never severed.
But for the first attempt, it was very enlightening to learn the pluses and minuses of real time web conferencing.