Archive for August, 2009

Use Video Mail and Video Conferencing to Improve Your Communication

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

Email has long been a communication tool of choice for businesses and consumers. The person does not have to be online when you send it; they can retrieve it later at a convenient time. You have to be careful in your wording so people do not misinterpret your meaning. We are all familiar with the rule of NOT TYPING IN ALL CAPS AS IT LOOKS LIKE SHOUTING. But even using normal letter writing rules it often is difficult to convey emotion and expression. For example if I write “That is really great.”, how do you react? Am I being sarcastic? Am I being sincere?

The inability to detect emotion and expression is even higher with text messaging and networks like Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, these are great communication tools. Really. But in 140 characters or less it is even more difficult to convey how you feel when you type a message. Audio calls are a step forward, as you can hear inflection in a persons’ voice. However most people on audio conference calls place it on mute and multi-task. So what are they really thinking?

To me there is nothing better than being able to communicate face-to-face and have the other party see your facial expressions, see you smile or frown, laugh, or any other reaction. You are more likely to get your meaning across when you can be seen. The best scenario is to be right in front of the other person live. A second option is conducting a live video conference call with the other parties. A third option is to use recorded video such as video mail. TV news shows use recorded video frequently, using videos taken earlier in the day or on a previous day.

In-person meetings are great, but they can be costly if travel is involved, both from the travel cost as well as lost productivity. Live video conferencing service is a great low-cost method of obtaining a face-to-face experience. Desktop conferencing services like Vonei Meeting fill the need for being able to hold multi-person video conference calls from your computer anywhere with broadband Internet. But how about the 3rd option? Well, one can record a video on their webcam, and attach the video file to their email. But have you seen the file size? Some formats could consume 8Mb for a 1 minute recording. This would not please your IT department, and may cause you to exceed the storage space allotment you have for email. You could post the video on YouTube, and then put a link in your email to it. This would keep the email from being large, but doesn’t exactly give you a professional image for a business email. Also, how many people really click on hyperlinks? Did you click on any of the links on this Blog?

A solution for recorded video communication would be an embedded video clip within the email. The embedded clip would have a still frame of the sender with the right triangle Play button on it. I believe you are more likely to get a click on the Play button if the recipient can see your face in the square. Storage of the video files is done outside of email in storage servers. Clicking the Play button within the email downloads the video right to the recipient. This provides all the benefits of an embedded video clip without the file size difficulties of attachments, or a nonprofessional technique of sending your recipients to YouTube.

Video mail sounds exciting right? However I don’t see it being used. I plan to include video mails in future updates on this Blog instead of all text. How do you feel about using video in emails? Would you like to see and hear the other person as opposed to just reading text?

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How to Use your Video Camera as a Webcam

Posted on August 24, 2009. Filed under: webcam | Tags: , , , , , |

Webcams have come a long way over the past few years and now for around $20-50 you can buy a nice 1.3 or 2.0 megapixel unit such as those from Logitech. Meanwhile we have digital cameras and video cameras that get significantly better imagery. Have you ever wanted to plug in a video camera for your web meeting or video conference and use it as a webcam? With a long enough USB cable you could walk around the room and broadcast video live, or mount the video camera on a tri-pod in a conference room and have a quick and easy solution for a large group. In both cases having a high quality external video camera provides an improvement over built-in laptop webcams or even external webcams. It might even replace the expensive hardware based video conferencing solutions.

Fortunately, you can easily add your video camera or digital camera to your computer as a webcam. All you need is a special cable with video capture software. I recently purchased the cable on www.videointerviewkits.com for under $30. It came with a software installation disk, but since I have a 64bit Vista computer I had to download an additional driver off their web site. One end of the cable plugs into a USB slot on your computer, and the other end plugs into your camera using your regular composite cable.

I tried a Sony video camera, a Panasonic video camera, and a Canon Powershot digital camera as webcams on the Vonei Meeting video conferencing service, and all worked great. The improvement in the image quality was amazing. Since I already had these devices it only cost me less than $30 for the cable, and now I have a high quality, large room webcam solution for my online meetings.  I also used the camcorder to create video mail on the free http://mailVU.com service.   This private and secure video mail service has a cool self-destruct feature where you can destroy your video after x days or x views.

Being able to use a video camera in online video conferencing services opens up the possibilities for all kinds of online events. Imagine hosting a cooking demonstration on a video conferencing webinar where the video camera shows the chef from overhead and in front. One could broadcast the event live and let participants ask questions of the chef. Or you could hold fantasy football league drafts where remote participants could see the room and commissioner live. Web conferencing takes on a whole new meaning when you can see live video of all the participants. With a video camera or digital camera serving as the webcam you won’t have to apologize for the video quality.

Video fps. There are several factors which impact the frames per second produced by your camera when using video chat.  For a guide to these factors, a free fps test tool, and tips on how to  improve the fps , see the fps test site.

Other factors in reaping the benefits of an improved video source are having sufficient upstream Internet bandwidth at your broadcasting location, and a web conferencing service which can accept the high quality images and 30 frames per second (fps) motion capture.  Services such as Paltalk and Fuze Meeting allow multiple person live video conferencing up to 30fps.  And both of them offer free 30 day trials.  You can select your camera source as an external video camera, and conduct your video conference using standard Flash players for display on participant’s computers. No software downloads. No expensive equipment to buy. A simple  cable with your existing video camera on Vonei service can open the door to a world of possibilities.

Try using your video camera as a webcam and let us know how you like it!

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Why don’t Computers have Echo Cancellation?

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

Have you ever been on a web conference or a video call and were frustrated that the audio experience was not the best? To be quite honest computers don’t exactly provide the greatest speakerphone performance. It can sometimes sound thin on the computer speakers, and mics might be too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Sometimes when the volume is turned up you can hear yourself some back through your speakers a couple seconds after saying something. How annoying.

What is the solution to this? Until computers and webcam manufacturers do a good job putting acoustic echo cancellation into the hardware you are left with the following options:

  1. Adjust your settings. Adjust your speaker volume and mic sensitivity to obtain the best results that you can. This approach is free, but may still leave you with a “computer-audio” sound.

  2. Wear headsets. I’ve found this to dramatically improve sound on video conference calls. You can wear a wired combination headset/mic, a bluetooth headset/mic, or simply plug in your iPod headphones and use the computer mic. Each of these techniques greatly improves the audio quality and the equipment cost is low.

  3. If you want a true speakerphone experience do what companies do in their conference rooms – buy an external speakerphone There are several USB speakerphones on the market that plug into your computer. They claim to support echo cancellation but I’ve seen mixed reviews when I’ve checked on Amazon. Prices range to over $100/unit.

  4. Use an external audio conferencing bridge for your web conference. It seems this solution is widely used for WebEx and GoToMeeting sessions as they mention it on their web sites. For a large group of 10+ people this may give you the best, telephone type audio experience. Unfortunately this could involve a per-minute usage charge and potential toll free charges.

Someday computer manufacturers may provide acoustic echo cancellation. Until then we have several options for improving audio quality on web conferences. I use a headset whenever I use Vonei Meeting for video conferencing. Which solution works best for you?

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What if Health Care Town Hall Meetings were Held Online?

Posted on August 14, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Every day in the news I see political town hall meetings where the debate on health care issues gets…well a little intense. By the look of the crowds it is a wonder some people are not hurt as they physically enter and exit the rooms. What if these town hall events were held as online meetings? Would it result in a more orderly debate on the topic?

Today’s web conferencing services, particularly those with video conferencing, seem to me to be an ideal format for a group of people to discuss issues. The politician could display their live video, give their talk in the manner of a webinar, and field questions from the constituents via audio or chat. An online meeting would be fast and efficient, allowing multiple sessions to be held each day with no travel time, no travel cost, and no cost to rent a venue for the day.

To make it easy for the constituents the online meetings could be accessed from personal computers. And the service provider should not require a software download. Browser based video conferencing services like Vonei Meeting allow anyone to access the web conference right from the browser on their PC, Mac, or Linux computer. This functionality helps make the meeting widely available to constituents. Attendance in the online town hall meetings would be diminished if people had to travel to a special location where expensive video conferencing equipment was located.

Online meetings enable you to get the word out quickly, and with the impact of video you can make a powerful impression. In addition to live online video, companies like Vonei offering video conferencing allow the host to share presentations and documents which the constituents can download. What if the politician shared the key facts of the proposals in a document and debunked the myths? By enabling chat or VoIP audio the host can interact with the constituents live during the event. The host also receives a list of all constituents in the event so they can follow-up personally.

Online events can take place at night, over the weekend, or any other time that is convenient and no travel is involved. Don’t confine yourself to “standard” business hours, but hold the live video event whenever people are available, from wherever they are.

Desktop based video conferencing services make it easy to present and share information online just like you would in person. Perhaps with the ability to share information quickly and easily we can all better understand the issues and the truth behind what is being proposed. What do you think? Would online town hall meetings be an effective means of communication between the politician and their constituents?

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How do you pronounce Vonéi?

Posted on August 11, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Vonéi is a U.S. company with a French name rhyming with the famous artist Claude Monet.  Services include web conferencing, video conferencing, and live video interviews.  Vonéi is a sponsor of the North Carolina Association of Staffing Professionals fall conference, and when they recorded a video announcing the sponsors the host had a difficult time pronouncing the company name.  For a humorous answer to how to pronounce Vonéi play the following clip:

The Vonéi Meeting service allows live multiple party video conferencing right from a PC, Mac, or Linux computer.  It is browser based and doesn’t require expensive hardware or a software download.  Recruiters are currently using the service for live video interviews of job candidates, and have the ability to see the prospects prior to inviting them into the office in person.  The recruiter can add the hiring manager to the live video interview, and the embedded document sharing function allows for easy and secure sharing of resumes, work samples, and company information.  Unlimited usage service plans start at under $40/month, and can be ordered online at http://www.vonei.com.

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7 Online Video Conferencing Tips

Posted on August 5, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

7 Online Video Conference Tips

Many people have used web conferencing services that allow you to call into an audio conference bridge and watch someone present on their computer screen.  But have you had a chance to experience multiple party online video conferencing?  Services such as Vonei Meeting allow a group of people (5, 10, +) to participate in conferences using real-time video, live audio, and other features such as chat, document sharing, and screen-sharing.  It is a great way to boost interactivity and collaboration of a team of people, and cut down on wasted meetings where everyone has the presenter on mute.  It is also a great tool for video interviews where the recruiter, candidate, hiring manager, and subject matter expert can all join the live video meeting.  Best of all you don’t have to go to a designated video conference room; you can attend right from your computer.  Here are 7 highly recommended tips to make your video meetings most effective:

1) Use a high quality webcam so you can better “see” who you are meeting with!  Our minimum recommendation is 1.3M pixel or higher.  VideoInterviewKits provides quality webcams starting under $20.  Keep in mind that when using video this also means that you shouldn’t be goofing off or working on something else.  And be sure you have combed your hair.  After all, people can see you!  Be sure to have good lighting on your face so you can be clearly seen by the other participants, and try to wear solid colors.  If you are using the service for video interviews be sure to dress as you would for an in-person interview (at least from the waist up).

2) Make sure you have closed down other computer applications that use a webcam, or those applications might not release the camera for your video meeting.  Point to point video chat services like Skype, iChat, and Vid need to be turned off prior to joining your multiple person video conference.

3) Use a video service that is compatible across various computer platforms and browsers.  What happens when people on your web conference are on Macs or Linux computers 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 video enabled web conferencing service should work across all major computer platforms and browsers.  You may not know what system the other people on your meeting are using so your service needs to be able to support a variety of systems.

4) Use a video service that does not require you to download software.  Late meetings can be minimized by allowing participants to join right from a web page.

5) For best audio performance when using VoIP through your computer use a headset with an integrated microphone, or a USB speakerphone.  This is not always needed but with the millions of different ways a computer may be configured these days it is an easy way to ensure that everyone has clear and crisp audio.  A headset or a USB speakerphone ensures an overly sensitive built-in computer microphone does not pickup background noise, or the audio from the speakers, and create an echo.  Headsets and USB speakerphones ensure this is not a problem.

6) Have everyone join online a few minutes early for the scheduled meeting.  This will ensure the first few minutes of the meeting is not spent waiting for a participant to locate a webcam or charge their headset.  Note for Mac participants using the built in camera and mic – be sure your USB devices are selected for your meeting!

7) Be careful when you send Chat messages, and open up Private Chat when only one other person needs to hear from you.  Typing a chat message to the entire group that the instructor is an “idiot” is 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 so you can keep such comments just between friends.  Or open 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!

Online video conferences are a tremendous business tool, allowing face-to-face interaction while cutting travel cost, and recovering lost productivity of worker time spent traveling.  It is better for the environment than pollution associated with methods of travel.  Online video conferencing is a great tool for teleworkers, and allows virtual companies to be spread over the globe and see and talk with each other in real time while sharing documents.  A small company can appear global by using a good conferencing tool, and recruiters can cut down on travel costs by video interviewing job candidates.  We recommend the Vonei Meeting service which provides unlimited usage service plans starting under $40/month.

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