Traveling StinksI’m assuming that most of you have never been a part of a meeting conducted over the Internet. That’s OK. This is still relatively new stuff. For those who have, you can help me sing the praises of this cheap and highly effective technology.
Conducting a meeting on the Web is in many ways just like attending a regular meeting face-to-face. There is a list of attendees, a PowerPoint presentation of some sort, a time to start, a time to end, and a white board to show off all of the great ideas you came up with to save the world from Freon.
The differences between a face-to-face meeting and a Web meeting are that you don’t have to catch a 5 a.m. flight to arrive in Dallas by 10 a.m. That flight gets you there in time to catch a meeting at noon, which lasts till 3 p.m. Then you turn tight around to catch a return flight at 6 p.m., which gets you home at about 10 p.m.
With a Web meeting, you go in to work at your normal time and leave work at your normal time. If you have a meeting that you need to set up quickly, wouldn’t it be great if you could just dial into a conference call, and push a bunch of PowerPoint slides onto the Web? That’s Web conferencing in a nutshell: very easy. Let’s talk about some of the details.
Setting up a Web Meeting or Web ConferenceWeb conferences and Web meetings are not just for Web conferences and Web meetings. This technology works well for many types of internal gatherings. You may even want to consider doing something like a Webcast to send an important message. We did just that at my company to help send a message to Californians about the energy crisis. It was extremely effective. Things to consider when setting up a Web meeting of sorts are the following:
- How many are in the audience? Several? Few? One?
- How long will it last? Two hours? Two days?
- What’s the format of the message? Live discussion? Presentation? Taped video message?
- Who are the users and/or audiences? Employees? Customers?
- What’s the cost?
Web meetings are generally used for small, frequently occurring meetings with no more than 10 people all at individual locations. A Web conference falls more into the few-to-many category where you have one large group on one end, and an even larger group on the other end. An online seminar or training session may occur if you need to send a little distance learning to a customer base or a group of employees at an offsite location. Remember, we do this to save time and money. There is no better way to reach thousands for a very minimal up front cost.
Pricing and SummaryThe Web meeting technology is so new that pricing within the industry has not been standardized: Some vendors price by user, some by seat, some just charge a flat yearly fee. For Web meetings and conferences, consider a company called Placeware. This company is the leader in this market, and they even offer a 15-day trial where you can schedule as many meetings as you want for nothing.
This solution offers teleconferencing, online presentations, questions via chat capability, and an online moderator-operated whiteboard. Just like a regular meeting, right? It takes about 15 min to set this up. The Placeware package will cost you a nominal setup charge plus $500 a seat/yr (you may sign up for 100 seats). A seat is transferable to any person on the planet as long as you don’t exceed the contracted number of seats (100). This seems to be the best and most friendly method of pricing.
A Webcast will cost you anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on who you go with. HelloNetwork is pretty good at this. They offer all of the expected items you’d want for something like this including company branding and onsite development assistance, not to mention that they are extremely easy to work with, which helps make them my recommendation if you take this route. For more information on either vendor, go to their websites at www.placeware.com or www.hellonetwork.com.