It’s all the rage to “do a web conference" these days, especially with the increased costs of travel and fuel…virtual meetings make much more sense. Of course, we think that’s a good thing! But we also have a lot of customers who are a little afraid of this new way of meeting virtually. So for my first blog entry, I wanted to address some of the top concerns I hear about getting started with web conferencing, and give you some good ideas on how to overcome them.
If you are interested in leading a web conferencing meeting and are new to the technology, you should choose a platform that is easy to initiate and intuitive to run. After all, you are collaborating in order to accomplish tasks associated to “your business”. So you should be thinking about that, not which icon to click to bring up the file you’re trying to show.
You should choose a service which brings focus to your meeting and content, versus the web conferencing tool being used. Think of the web conference as a virtual location where people come to connect with each other in order to get more done in an efficient manner. Just like choosing a meeting place at a physical location, choose a service that provides easy accessibility and appropriate amenities for the tasks at hand. I’ll make no secret of it, my favorite is InterCall Web Meeting. But InterCall offers several different services, so you can pick the right one for you. Over the years I’ve worked with all of our services, and each one has its own strengths and is suited to different people in different ways.
When web conferencing started out, it was usually a system you had to install on servers at your office, and required a big hassle to get set up. But nowadays most systems are hosted by the provider, so at a minimum you will need a computer, an internet connection and a phone line. In order to use features like video and audio streaming (internet based audio), you just need a standard webcam and computer speakers, which you can get just about anywhere. Most services recommend a high-speed internet connection when using web conferencing; however some products will work with an adequate dial-up connection. Some services require an initial download before you use it the first time, so the initial install time will be extended on a low-speed connection.
After you’ve picked the right service and done the intitial test/setup, scheduling and launching a meeting should be as simple as booking a time in your calendar and sending out invites via email (i.e. Microsoft Outlook). Depending on the meeting type, steps to get started will vary. With Web Conferencing, you can literally start a meeting and send invitations in just a few easy steps. Formal or “virtual event” type meetings (i.e. “webinars”) will require a bit more coordination to set up registration and other cool tools, but again is fairly simple in relevant terms. Remember, the alternative – booking a public meeting place, flights and other logistical coordination. Even in your office building, it is not always easy to book the conference room.
Integrated offerings will also provide you an automated link to telephone conferencing. This means you no longer have to dial your phone; the service will store your numbers and call out to you upon logging into the web conference. Once you’ve started the meeting, don’t over do it your first time out by attempting to use every feature available. Like everything, tasks become more difficult once you have an audience standing by. You can easily get intimidated or overwhelmed with the vast amount of features available with the service you choose to use. You can get creative and start to utilize advanced functionality when you become more comfortable with this mode of communication.
As you research web conference products, find an offering that ties or enhances what you already do on a regular basis.
- Do you use Microsoft Outlook to book and coordinate your more traditional meetings? Find a platform that provides a plug-in for Outlook.
- Do you use Audio Conferencing? Find a platform that integrates with your audio conferencing account. (Yes, all the services InterCall offers have audio account integration!)
- Are you interested in replacing some of your face to face meetings with a lightweight, “easy to use” video feature? Find a platform that pulls in video from a standard webcam.
Running successful meetings more efficiently and more often has never been simpler. If you’ve never tried running a web conference, I definitely recommend you explore the options (get demos from live trainers for any option at this link…). If you find the right service, you and your meeting attendees will not be disappointed.
Dan Uhlmeyer is a Sr. Product Manager and the "Web Conferencing" blogger. He has over eight years of product experience in Web Conferencing and currently manages InterCall Web Meeting, InterCall’s proprietary unified communications tool. When not punching on the keyboard, you can find Dan enjoying time with his wife and two children or running a marathon.