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E-meeting solutions to reduce kilometers

If you are familiar with Webex, Adobe Connect, Centra or even with the solution described in Free collaborative tools for elearning, you may be wishing to get rid of kilometers to prospect or meet your customers.

E-meeting is getting more and more common for companies when presenting their products range or services. They may aim at adressing more people, at getting rid of physical frontiers or quite simply at reducing costs and time. In fact e-meeting may not always take place without  physical meeting at one point or another... although undoubtedly it helps to value such meetings.

Here is a good illustration for the e-meeting concept:

Il suffit d'ouvrir le navigateur Web pour communiquer et collaborer avec n'importe qui, n'importe où et n'importe quand

E-meetings are organized via tools named "virtual classes". Over last years those classes got to be more easy to get installed. Ergonomy got better, commercial offers were more numerous which means today that their use is at everyone's stake.

To get an idea about the advantages of the tools, why don't you start using them to enhance your phone meetings first? When you publish a slideshow, it will help having your message spread and if you use such solutions you will get ahead from your competitors.

VoIP or phone communication?

Most of virtual classes offer VoIP solutions to communicate with microphones and headphones. There are two advantages:

  • no communication cost

  • recording of synchronous exchanges with screen share

Yet the host will have to get used to VoIP inconvenients: a short delay of 1 to 3 seconds.
As to participants, using VoIP implies they have some technical abilities and a high quality Internet connexion. In other cases, most people will choose to communicate on the phone.

Whatever you decide to do, you should begin the meeting on the phone thus you will be able to accompany participants in handling their connexion to the e-meeting and you will be sure they won't miss the appointment ;) According to their number, I strongly advise you to begin that way. What's more, it is much helpful in case of technical problems. Many will pay phone calls rather than cancel a meeting!

Participants being at ease is important. Whether by VoIP or phone, it is better to use a headphone with integrated microphone. The headphone will keep your hands free and also will low down surroundings sounds.

Yet on the phone there is no recording possible... too bad as it is much rewarding to learn from them about their abilities... and very useful for participants to watch meetings again!

How to use chat?

Chat does not permit true exchanges although it turns out to be useful during a meeting:

  • to get the assurance that participants can hear one another

  • to allow participants to speak one after the other (the host is the one to be heard otherwise)

  • to encourage participants to ask questions

  • to have private exchanges (ask for one person to intervene in particular, for instance)

In a webinar with several participants, you may find it interesting to have two hosts at the same time. One will give the tune and the other will concentrate on chat: communication will therefore be nice both orally and on the screen!

Chat is completeley useless in the case of a one-to-one meeting.

What about screen sharing?

Screen sharing makes it posible to view the host's screen for participants. Technical solutions are getting more efficient, thanks to Flash technology for one: screen sharing is among the most common functionalities.

There are two types:

  • slideshow publication

  • application sharing whether Desk or software

Slideshow publication is being democratized thanks to 2.0 collaborative tools, or the import of Powerpoint slideshows. If that functionality turns out to be sufficient for your projects, have a look at vyew.com.

When sharing your screen, choose one or two applications not the whole desktop. That way you will open a booknote unviewed by other participants ;). On the contrary ask for participants to have their desktop shared. You'll get an overall idea that will help:

  • identify unwished software (that is heavy on the Web for instance)

  • check if participants are doing something else (personal emailing, chat or whatever!)

  • identify specific technical troubles (Windows security or virus alerts)

Whatever technical solution is choosen when presenting a software, you are bound to notice a delay of seconds between what you show and what is seen by participants. Quite unnoticeable in the very beginning it grows more and more and counts up to several seconds 20 minutes later. It depends on each person's web connexion (host and participants). As broadband varies, the delay will change accordingly during the session.

To try and reduce or stop such delay, virtual classes propose to postpone sharing or modify screen appearance frequency. You may also wish to reinitialize you connexion.

What about video?

Video exchanging means all particpants have a high quality Internet connexion. That is most unrealistic thus to get video all along the session. On the contrary it may be used as a welcoming video introducing people and also at the end when quitting the session on friendly faces.

If meetings do require video most of the time, I advise you check every Internet connexion that will be used! Note that personal ADSL connexion (at home) is often better than that at work. Indeed if better in quality undoubtedly, professionnal connexion is shared by numerous people.

Get trained!

Do you wish to host suh a meeting? Then connect yourself to a test webinar (provided that you can handle two computers at work: the first one as host and the other as participant). You can get trained by watching the participant's screen: you will get an idea how works the delay mentioned in the post.

Publication Date: 2008-10-20

Tag: virtual-classroom video-conference communication web2.0 elearning

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