Web Conferencing: Voices from the Underground

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Let’s see, I have a training seminar that needs to be presented to my five sites across the nation on Wednesday. Three of the sites will be able to attend, but one site who has 39 employees will only have 50% of them viewing from their cubicles, and the other site has only overnight staff, so I have to figure out how I can have them view the seminar….

This is learning in 2010. Where web conferencing – training seminars online, better known as webinars – enables you to save costs – travel, food, etc., while still provide all types of training – regardless of the topic – to people anywhere in the world, day or night, 24/7.

Time Savers

For web conferencing, I will be using the abbreviation (WC).  Secondly,  my discussion will be directed specifically on those of you who want a solution whose primary focus is for online training seminars or as they are better known as “webinars”..   While you can use “WC” for meetings – the real strength and ultimate power for you and your end users (employees, customers, both) is webinars.

Thus, when looking at a “WC” vendor, your focus must be from the webinar perspective – the training perspective and not from the meeting perspective.   For once you change your focus to a training component, you will be able to immediately identify specifies that you will need or must have with your WC solution.

So Much to Cover, So Little Time

With any “WC” solution there is so much to cover in terms of what you must have, and really what they all have but love to pitch as though no one else has it.  Anyway, over the next few weeks, I will be concentrating on what you must have, questions to go along with it, and then the staples of what they all have.    Today, I will be focusing on the “record” application of  a web conferencing vendor.  Friday:  Visual-Video + Features they All should have

Hear Me!!!  See Me!!  Wait..is this on?

Is this on? Is this mic on? Testing 1-2-3-…1-2-3… Hello? You are about to present the greatest webinar of all time (or at least until tomorrow’s session), and with the virtual attendees present, there are of course those who can not make it.  Plus, you want to have a copy of this webinar available for future use, since after all, it is phenomenal or will be!


You must have it. Your system must have a record function. It is significantly better if the record function can be activated or started the moment the trainer (or whoever takes the main control if u have multiple trainers) begins to speak, but it will be quite fine if the record function can be visibly seen on the screen by the trainer and they just click it to start. Visibly seen means exactly what you think – you can see it. It is not hidden, not small where someone who is new to computers or “WCing” or webinars will get confused and not hit that record button.

Now when it comes to recording, you will need to find out the following:

  • Does your recording only work with VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)? BTW, there are a lot of definitions and explanations on VOIP, but in basic basic terms – think of it this way: You have  mic headset for your computer (there are great ones under $50), you stick the mic jack into your computer input (some computers the color is “pink”). You must have broadband – DSL, Cable, Satellite, T1 or higher.  Now, you talk into the computer and your voice is heard by others through their computer’s speakers or their headsets. Whalla VOIP!
  • Secret catch about VOIP and WC and recording.  If you want everyone on the call to be recorded as well (incl. your attendees), everyone must have VOIP.  It cannot be, your trainer has VOIP, three attendees have VOIP and the rest do not and are calling in by phone. Again, this is only if you also want your ATTENDEES to be recorded as well – example: their questions, responses, whatever… then everyone on the webinar has to have VOIP.  Now, if you only care about having your Trainer recorded, then they will just need VOIP and everyone else can have whatever – but only the Trainer will be recorded (along with everything on the screen).

Other questions to ask your Vendor:

  • Can your recording work if the trainer is talking on the telephone and not using VOIP?
  • Can an administrator – i.e. someone else who signs in with the trainer click or start the recording button or does it have to only be the trainer? In other words, does a person back at your location who has administration rights have the ability to start the recording if the trainer forgets or fails to do so?
  • What if you have multiple trainers/instructors? How does your system’s recording work – once the main trainer (the main person) gives the other trainer/instructor control?
  • Do you record everything that is on the screen? i.e. What ever is presented and is visible on screen to your end users is being recorded. So, if you show a PowerPoint and in the middle of it, go on a web tour to your site and then come back to your presentation window, does it record that?  What about people’s text chats. Does it record that – if it is visible on the screen?  –

Bottom Line: You want to hear that anything that appears on the screen while the webinar is going on, i.e. is “live” is being recorded – including seeing the trainer’s video screen (if available). So, in other words..all you want to hear is “YES”!

In Synch

Ask them if the person speaking will align to their presentation (if they are also showing PPT slides or materials) and are going over them at the same time.

You want “in synch” or the usage of the word in some manner. Nobody wants to review a recorded webinar and see the person talking, hear them and realize that they are discussing things three slides or three product steps ago.  So long to credibility and perception.

More To Know – More to Ask

  • When recording is it all self-enclosed? (i.e. the audio bridge is built in or bridge is not needed) or do you require the individual end user to purchase an “audio-bridge”?  If they say an end user needs to purchase an “audio-bridge” – REMOVE THIS VENDOR from your list.  Trust me, its not worth it – because every end user who wants to be able to have their voice recorded (trainer) and who does not have VOIP will have to have an audio bridge.  Cost prohibitive and unless you have some tech folks standing around in different areas to help these people out when in comes to setup, testing and going live – people prohibitive as well.
  • What file formats do you save in? Is it .wmv (Windows Media)? Quicktime?, .mp3? .mp4?  Can people view the file on their mp3 player? What about people with Ipods? Can they view the file on their computer – PC and Mac?
  • Access: How do I or my end users access the saved recorded files? Are they stored on your servers in my hosted area (or whatever your name/location is)? Are they saved immediately on my desktop or that of my trainer (and if yes, then you will need a game plan on how to move those files from the desktop of your trainer to their perm. location)?  Are they sent to me from yourselves (i.e. some vendors zip the files and send them to you for an additional cost)?
  • Can I receive the files as well (if they store them) so I can store them in my LMS? (if you are planning on having a library, this is always a great touch for end users!)   If they are stored on their servers – is there a way you can tell me who has accessed it, how many times and how many times it has been downloaded? (If this is of interest to you, some offer it for free if it is part of their storage service, others charge extra. Worse case, you get the files, load into your LMS or e-learning community and have had some customization created for the download tracking information).

I see a hand raising in the back: Yes you Sir! – “What if my trainer is only using the telephone headset and is talking into the phone, will recording still work?”  Excellent Question.  Remember that “audio bridge” component, I mentioned?  There are some vendors, who have it built in, so once the trainer calls their phone line, enters in the code and hits record, it will record the presenter’s voice, anything on the screen and the video.  That said, upon post review, I have yet to see one that hits 100% that route because it is not VOIP, and there tends to be a slight synch off issue w/o VOIP with the trainer component.

Personal Recommendation on VOIP

My personal recommendation is have your trainer/instructor – use VOIP. Even if that means you will have to invest $50 per computer mic headset per trainer/instructor or have to send the headsets to trainer/instructors/experts in the world, it is worth it.  I always go this route and have had trainers/experts present from one side of the country to the other side through VOIP, without any problems.

Additional Notes on Webinars:

  • Maximum time length 75 minutes. No longer. This is the entire package, including questions.  Anything longer will bore your audience and they will tune out. 60 minutes is ideal, but 75 is acceptable.  And yes, you can create very successful webinars in that time length without feeling rushed or speeding through your material
  • Decide if you are going to use toll call or toll free calling and then stick with it. Many vendors offer a standard number your end users can call into with a standard access code. So, that it is always the same number they call into and they use the same access code. The call is charged back to the end user’s phone and not to your phone.  If you decide on the toll free route, understand that the fee is going to be charged to you – your company.  Either is fine. I found with customers – especially with lots of customers is is more cost effective to have toll calling – where they pay the cost of a Long Distance Call, and to use the number the vendor offered me.  However, if you want truly free – there is a site online where the number is a true 800 free as in pure free to you and your customers/employee sites call in.
  • You Want a Live Demo by a SalesPerson of the product and not the demo or the canned webinar they have of their product on their site.  This is a new angle a lot of vendors are going towards – sticking a demo online with white papers on their system and then if you are further interested contact them.  They really try to avoid the actual human to human demo, which is ironic since the goal of the solution is “training” – virtual human to human.   End Result: Forget canned demos – you want a scheduled appt. with them explaining the system to you virtually with you on the other end – and try having yourself  on with VOIP – thus, you can get the full experience.
  • Always have them give you the system to test or trial out for a minimum of 2 weeks. Ideally 30 days. In the next few weeks, I will explain why and how you can use this as an advantage when it comes to decide to buy – if u so choose.

Friday:  WC: Sights from the Underground

Next Week:  TechKnowledge Expo Treats  and Duds- Details Soon.