Web Conferencing

Web Conferencing Basics

Web conferencing is basically conducting live meetings through the internet. Confused? It's the equivalent of a conference meeting around a table in the boardroom, but not limited to the people sitting in the boardroom!

It is similar to teleconferencing or a phone hookup but it's not just limited to audio or video, you can now share "content" as well. All parties can now examine a document and "mark it up" concurrently, individually and as part of a whole group.

The Evolution Process:

  1. Phone Conference - Many parties able to communicate at once with audio (telephone hook up)
  2. Tele-Conferencing - This was the next evolution bringing video with audio. This is best described as what you see on the news each night, with reporters on opposite sides of the globe able to communicate with each other through a live video/audio satellite feed.
  3. Web Conferencing - This adds live content sharing (electronic documents) to the audio/video and the communication occurs through the internet. It also adds the capability of private/public interaction as well as participation in polls, instant messaging, remote desktop sharing etc

There is a buzz growing in Australia about a new video phone to be released in the third quarter of this year. While this is basically a form of teleconferencing, it can be thought of as a form of web conferencing as it uses the voice over internet protocol (VoIP).

Web Meeting Types

There a number of different ways businesses can have a web meeting. A couple of common types as I understand them:

A webinar is the term used to describe a "web seminar". It is more of a web conference for invited guests or for a specific audience. Just like a regular old seminar, but viewed from anywhere in the world. Often it requires you to register your details in advance so you could be given a link to attend.

A webcast is more like a "broadcast on the web", intended for the general public. It is used for promoting your company or product to no one in particular (well, preferably some sort of a targeted audience!)

Video Phones

AIGURU_SV1 Skype Video Phone
AIGURU_SV1 Skype Video Phone

With the ASUS Eee Videophone AirGuru SV1 you'll be able to enjoy free Skype-to-Skype video and voice calls to friends and family all around the world. You won't need a computer to get connected and it's simplicity itself to set up, enter your Skype Name and password and start calling.

 
Vialta Beamer Phone Video Station (BM80-1, Single Unit)
Vialta Beamer Phone Video Station (BM80-1, Single Unit)

* Works with any home phone (corded or cordless)

* Works with any standard (analog) phone line

* No special wiring or equipment

* No service fees, contracts or subscriptions

* No additional cost to your phone call

 

Advantages of Web Conferencing

  • Significant reduction in costs (travelling, accommodation, meals, time, hardware, call costs etc)
  • In fact, there are many free web conferencing sites (see below)
  • Not restricted by geographical location, therefore improves meeting participation (attendees)
  • Allows people to work from home if they choose
  • If you have overseas clients or customers, it could improve you customer support capabilities
  • It is a good way to keep logs of meetings as audio/video captures can involve only the push of a button
  • It is the way of the future (just watch all the movies set in a future time!)

Disadvantages of Web Conferencing

  • You require the hardware of a computer, camera, some software perhaps, depending on your web meeting service provider.
  • You'll need a relatively quiet location to hold the web conference (ie low background noise) but this is typically catered for in an office or home environment.
  • In the past it might have paid to have a tech savvy person on standby in case some of the set up goes wrong. However these days if you are using a web based service all you really need to do is log on and that's it. If you're new to web conferencing, you might want to watch a tutorial on how it works. Easy.
  • Depending on your business model it is sometimes best to do business face to face, with a handshake. So don't rely heavily on web meeting services or it could have a negative impact.

Free Web Conferencing - Dimdim Overview

Web Conference Solutions

These are some of the better known players providing Web Conferencing Solutions.

  • Adobe Acrobat Connect (free trial, pro from $39/month, unlimited meetings with up to 15 people)
  • Dimdim (free for 20 people forever, pro version cost = 1/10th of WebEx)
  • GoToMeeting (free trial, pro from $39/month for annual plan, unlimited meetings with up to 15 people, webinars up to 1000 attendees)
  • Microsoft Office Live Meeting (free trial, standard plan $4.58/month for up to 5 users, 15 participants, professional users $15.42/month for 5 users, up to 1250 participants)
  • WebEx (this is generally regarded as the "Grand Poobah" of Web Conferencing. But it's expensive. Unlimited online meetings for $59/month, free trial)
  • Zoho (this looks like it has a heap of functionality - just check out the home page, but one on one meeting free, everything else $12 per user per month)

Comments 9 comments

Conrad2010 7 years ago

Well done very informative.


Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

Great insights. This is such a cost-effective approach to conducting meetings. I wish some of our local (and not-so-local) non-profits and government institutions would stop scheduling expensive retreats at fancy hotels with catered buffets and just get with the program. I work for an online education program, and we've used DimDim and (believe it or not) Second Life to facilitate virtual conferences for small groups .. with more or less success ;-).


marcofratelli profile image

marcofratelli 7 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for reading guys. Second Life? I've never used that but I know people who use it regularly, it seems to be mor exciting than their real life!


Sandra 7 years ago

This article is very helpful! Another solution I would suggest is Rhub. http://www.rhubcom.com They offer a hosted and appliance approach to conferencing.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States

Very interesting stuff, Marco. Thanks!


Brian 7 years ago

That is a GREAT post on conferencing, which is really gaining speed in the market. I can recommend a great conferencing guide for newbees to use when figuring out how to get started. The “Quick Start Guide for Web Conferencing”, which I got on Amazon.com, got me up and running in about 25 minutes:

http://www.amazon.com/Web-Conferencing-Quick-Start...

I read that the www.webconferencingcouncil.com had a non-technical relative of equipped with a a Dell E6400 with Windows XP, complete with built-in camera & microphone test this book to see if it was truly a quick start. This relative was able to start a multi-point meeting in 17 minutes, was able to share her desktop and present an online presentation (Microsoft PowerPoint) in under 25 minutes, and even started using the voting and whiteboarding features within 30 minutes - all of it witnessed but uncoached. I was a little bit faster but I am more technical than most.


andromida profile image

andromida 6 years ago

well written and very interesting article.I think we hubbers can meet through web conference.


marcofratelli profile image

marcofratelli 6 years ago from Australia Author

There's an interesting idea! Although maybe something like Skype would be good for personal video calls.


Ozman 5 years ago

You may also have a look at Banckle Online Meeting http://banckle.com/products/online-meeting/default... It supports all advanced features for web conferencing, webinars, audio and video conferencing. You can also share an application, PowerPoint presentations or whiteboards with anyone from anywhere. The pricing is very flexible and subscription starts from just $9/Month http://banckle.com/pricing/online-meeting/

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    THE NEXT BIG SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLOSION?!?

    While this is probably not really related to web conferencing sites or software, it did capture my interest:

    Qik is free mobile live video streaming for anyone, anywhere. Twitter provides real-time searching where as Qik is real time video streaming. (It could be the next big social media explosion!) It can be used to stream a video of an event from your mobile phone (that can be set to private if you choose) and is recorded automatically for others to see on Qik.com.

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