Archive for July, 2009

5 Pitfalls To Avoid In Web Conferences

Posted on July 31, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Ever had a bad experience on a web conference?  Makes you want to avoid them all together, despite the cost savings they achieve.  But that isn’t a good solution; one should simply stay away from the pitfalls.  Here are 5 pitfalls to avoid on a web conference:

1) Not joining the conference on time.  Some web conferencing services require software downloads that all participants must load prior to the start time.  How often do people forget to do so?  The group wastes the first fifteen minutes of an hour conference just trying to get everyone on.   A much better solution is a service that doesn’t require a software download.  Late meetings can be minimized by allowing participants to join right from a web page.

2) Using a service that is not compatible across various computer platforms and browsers.  What happens when people on your web conference are on Macs but the service only supports PCs?  Or if a meeting participant is using Safari or Firefox browsers and the service only supports Internet Explorer?  A good web conferencing service should work across all major computer platforms and browsers.

3) Watching someone’s computer screen with no method to see or talk to them.  Some web conferences are totally one-sided presentations, with the speaker going on and on.  What if there is a problem and participants can’t hear, or the screen sharing isn’t working, or some other problem?  Would you like to be able to stop the presenter and ask them to fix the problem?  Too often people have limited ability to interact with the host.  The best interactive web conferencing services offer live video and audio of all attendees.

4) Putting the meeting on mute so you can catch up on email, play video games, and chat with your neighbor.  We’ve all been there… yet another long meeting where a one-sided conversation goes on and on and our involvement is minimal.  Everyone puts the presenter on mute, and most people stop paying attention.  What a waste of time and a huge waste of company resources.  A good web conference service allows everyone to see everyone, even if the mic is muted.  If a participant gets up and walks away the presenter can see them and ask them what they are doing.  It keeps everyone on their toes knowing they can be seen.  Rather like a real in-person meeting isn’t it?

5) Typing a chat message to the entire group that the instructor is an “idiot”… it is rather like hitting reply all by accident and unknowingly voicing your opinion to everyone.  Probably not the most appropriate thing to be typing in any event, but doubly so when the chat is seen by everyone.  The best web conferencing services offer private chat and even multiple private chat sessions with different people.  Just be sure to type the right message to the right person or you can be in big trouble!

Video web conferences can be a tremendous business tool, cutting travel cost, recovering lost productivity of worker time spent traveling, and even improving the environment with reduced need for transportation.  It is a great tool for teleworkers, and allows virtual companies to be spread over the globe and yet see and talk with each other in real time while sharing documents.  A small company can appear global by using a good conferencing tool.  But you have to watch out for the pitfalls.  So go forth and pick a good web conferencing tool.  Personally, I recommend the Vonei Meeting Web Conferencing Service.

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Is Web Conferencing Viral?

Posted on July 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

I don’t mean laid up in bed with Vicks Vapor Rub, losing time, missing work, and the Grim Reaper at your door. I’m referring to the idea that as individuals host web conferencing meetings to improve productivity and save time and money, they expose multiple participants to the tool. As participants see how web conferencing tools can aid communication, foster more face-to-face contact, and reduce travel cost, the more interested they are in signing up for their own account.

For example if a business person uses their 10-person Vonei Meeting video conferencing service and hosts a weekly online meeting, they could potentially expose 30-40 participants to the service. Several of these participants may decide to then purchase their own conferencing service, turning the original account into several. As these new account holders start to host their own online meetings with others, the use of the service starts to spread virally.

Much has been said about the viral nature of the social networking tools such as Facebook and MySpace. Patricia Sellers wrote a great blog on the subject you can read here. I believe web conferencing, particularly those like Vonei that include live video of multiple participants, can virally spread in usage much like the social networking tools.

Aiding in the spread of these online tools is the wide availability of broadband Internet, and the continued penetration of webcams into the home and business environment. If you don’t believe me go into your nearest computer store and look at their laptops and netbooks. How many do you find without webcams? My observation is approximately 90% of all portable computers now come standard with webcams. For those that don’t, and for desktop computers, external webcams can be found ranging in price from $20 to over $100.

Wide applicability is a must for the viral nature of the service to spread. Web conferencing services that avoid software downloads are very helpful, and it goes without saying that cross platform support of PCs, Macs, and Linux computers, along with browser support of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari is a must. Companies like WebEx and GoToMeeting were early entrants into this market and have been extremely successful in getting large scale adoption of desktop sharing. New companies like Vonei are taking the concept further by integrating the personal touch of multi-user video.

Since web conferencing can save travel time and travel cost, this is one viral service that businesses of all sizes need to spread.

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Wear shorts in your Video Conference

Posted on July 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

With traditional video conferencing a person goes to a specific room in a building and sits behind an expensive desk or in a row of chairs. Business conferences require appropriate attire as you are sitting with others, or are walking through an office or hotel to access the room. The new generation of desktop video conferencing services allow you to take video calls from your home. All you need to be concerned about is waist-up attire as that is what shows on camera. You can wear shorts and flip-flops, or nothing at all below the waist!

Desktop video conferencing involves using your computer and a webcam from any location with broadband Internet access. Participants can only see you mid-chest and up, and they would have no idea that you are wearing shorts. Just don’t stand up during your video conference!

The quality of the webcam will have a direct impact on the quality of the picture you present. Built-in laptop cameras and after market $50+ webcams provide acceptable performance. If you purchase an external webcam it is recommended that it contain a built-in microphone so you are looking and talking into the same device.

It is important to have good light on your face. Having a desk lamp in front of you greatly improves the picture quality. Definitely do not place a light source behind you as it will make you look washed-out. Similar to taking photographs outside, you want the sun shining in the person’s face and not behind them creating shadows.

Your background is especially important on video conferences from home. Be mindful of what is behind you when sitting in front of your webcam. Your vintage 1976 Farrah Fawcett poster may be your pride and joy but probably isn’t what you want your business colleagues to see. A plain wall, bookcase, or simple artwork will all work and won’t distract the audience from paying attention to you.

New desktop video conferencing services also allow your voice to be transmitted through the microphone on your computer. For best results sit no more than two feet from the microphone and speak directly into it. When not speaking you should place your computer on mute. This helps cut down on any background noise and helps avoid those awkward times when your dog barks!

Headphones are another great tool for use on video conferences on your computer. The earphones block outside noise, and having the microphone in front of your mouth provides great audio performance for the other participants on the call. These headphones can be purchased for less than $30 at a wide variety of retailers or at your favorite online store.

By implementing these techniques a business person can conduct professional business meetings over video conferences while wearing their shorts. Service plans start under $40/month for unlimited usage. Every business person can now use desktop video conferencing to project the first class image of a global company without breaking the bank on the cost of the technology.

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Does your job applicant have purple hair?

Posted on July 13, 2009. Filed under: video interview | Tags: , , , , , , |

Have you ever placed specific requirements for a position?  When the local baseball team had an opening for their team mascot they required certain attributes; high energy, good entertainer, weekend hours, and yes, purple hair (or at least a good wig).  Doesn’t it surprise you that many applications disregard those requirements?  Often initial introductions to job candidates are through emailed resumes and perhaps a phone call. Many companies conduct telephone screening of candidates before inviting them into the office for a face-to-face interview. Wouldn’t you like to see the candidate face-to-face right away before spending the time and $ to bring them in?

With today’s desktop video conferencing services any business can conduct live video interviews of job candidates right through a computer with webcam. There is no need to purchase expensive equipment or rent a room at conference centers. Simply ensure the candidate has a webcam and conduct a face-to-face interview with no travel. 70% of communication is non-verbal, so seeing the candidate and getting a read on their expressions and mannerisms tells you a lot about how they will be on the job.

Web conferencing services like Vonei Meeting also provide tools to share documents. Rather than relying on emails for resumes, ask the job candidate to share it during the call and go through it together. Ask the candidate to provide samples of their work by uploading documents in seconds during the meeting. As a recruiter you can share company information, policies, application forms, or any other type of document right during the meeting.

Multi-user video conference service will allow a third or fourth person to join the discussion. Perhaps the hiring manager? A co-worker? Everyone can see and hear the candidate live without leaving their desk. Best of all these video interviews can take place at night, over the weekend, or any other time that is convenient. Face-to-face interviews don’t have to be confined to standard business hours of the company. Why not Saturday morning video interviews?

Dr. John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, wrote an excellent article on video interviews at this link. He identifies 20 reasons why businesses should be conducting video-conference interviews.

Improve the effectiveness of your hiring process today by use of desktop video conferencing. You just might see purple hair.

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