So you want to conference, meet, collaborate and share ideas on the web. That would make it a web conference, right? Not always, but you’re on the right track.
The benefits of holding a virtual meeting or online event sometimes far outweigh the costs and inefficiencies of in-person, face-to-face meetings. The remote collaboration world of 2013 offers a variety of virtual solutions like webinars, web conferences, video conferences and webcasts. And the amount of providers offering these types of services are increasingly on the rise.
But where do you start? Which vendor do you choose? How do you select? What is a web conference anyway? What does it mean? What about webinars? What are those? Answers can definitely become confusing since conferencing providers talk about virtual solutions in different ways.
So let’s start with some definitions :
web conferences are any kind of web-based meeting. People also call these “online meetings”. They consist of an audio element (which is usually over the computer mic and speakers (VoIP) and/or a regular phone connection) and a web element (that includes the sharing of content through powerpoints, documents, applications and desktops). Web conferences may or may not include a video component – it depends on the platform.
An online presentation during which slides, documents or a desktop is being shared. Video streaming is also prevalently used here. Webinars are led by a host(s) and are used as online seminars to present information to a large number of viewers. Sometimes the terms ‘webinar’ and ‘web conference’ interchangeably – and they essentially are the same thing.
These are very similar to a webinars and again, can be thought of as the same thing. But “webcasts” usually involve larger audiences with little or no interaction between the presenter and the participants. It’s usually only the presenter who is sharing content and speaking. Webcasts can also be thought of as hosted events that are associated with registrations, live pollings, Q&A sessions, social media integrations, and post-event surveys.
These types of online meetings primarily revolve around the ability to speak ‘face-to-face’ with others. Most video conferencing solutions include content and desktop sharing capabilities. Consequently, most web conferencing platforms also include some type of video conferencing support. There are also various feature-rich platforms with high-definition functionality built exclusively for video conferencing that seamlessly integrate with any standards-based video conferencing technology.
Now, think of what you’re looking to achieve. Do you want everybody to be able to talk to each other, or will your online meeting have one speaker? How many people are you expecting to be on the call and how long will it last? What content do you want shared – just a PowerPoint presentation or a presentation with a video and talking head? Would registration, reporting or recording help increase the ROI of your meeting? Lastly, take into consideration your participants – how technically savvy are they and what equipment will they be using? If they are sitting in an open office and don’t have a headset, they most likely won’t listen to your event stream through their computer.
Don’t be intimidated by web conferencing; be excited about it! There are plenty of feature-rich, intuitive, well priced solutions that will help you achieve all of your goals and more. With a little research, planning, an open mind, and a conversation or two with a conferencing provider, you’ll be amazed at just how easy an efficient, professional web conference can be to create.