What is the telepresence format that suits you best? That all depends on what you’re setting out to do. Evaluating your needs is a little confusing with so many vendors out there trying to get your business. Start first by defining your goals, and then work backwards by figuring out what structure will best support them, while at the same time keeping an eye on your expenses and training budget.
Definitions and Differences
Webinars are seminars held online by a presenter or lecturer and attended by an audience. Webinars and seminars share a common structure such as agendas, presentations, and question and answer periods. The presenter or lecturer and the material or information they are presenting is the center and focus of the webinar. For instance, a webinar may be given in order to train employees in new policies and procedures, or a company may give a webinar to introduce new products or services in a more informative and interactive way than by other forms of advertising. At other times a webinar serves as a classroom for ongoing training and education. Interaction with the presenter is limited, and not collaborative.
Videoconferencing in contrast is more like a face-to-face meeting between two or more individuals. It is less a presentation and more interactive and collaborative in nature. Videoconferencing at its best is scalable, flexible, and capable of being anywhere that a person with a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop can go. Formerly referred to as desktop videoconferencing, the growth of cloud technology has enabled videoconferencing to expand beyond the conference room and the podium. It can almost be compared to a group chat room in which there are many participants in the discussion, but with the ability to see each other’s faces, and to read expressions and body language. Multipoint videoconferencing is highly interactive collaborative, engaging the participants on many different levels.
Webcasting is also used to disseminate information on a wider basis. However, it is a monodirectional form of communication wherein the presenter simply broadcasts the information for the audience to pick up there is no interaction, no collaboration, nor do the audience members have any input in the form of questions and answers. Webcasting can be either prerecorded and edited or a live stream recorded and presented later in order to reach the maximum audience.
Videoconferencing Tips and Tricks
The key to successful videoconferences is confidence and organization. Running a videoconference is much like running a face-to-face conference, and that requires preparation beforehand to be a success. One of the best ways to convert your staff to enthusiastic users of videoconferencing is suggested by none other than the Emily Post Institute. When staff sees upper management embracing and frequently using videoconferencing with confidence and expertise, they will often hurry to get on board with the new policy. One key person in a management position such as a Chief Technology Officer or Chief Communications Officer can promote a widespread and enthusiastic adoption of the technology across all departments, by promoting not only potential but actual accomplishments. Other factors in successful videoconferencing are simple meeting etiquette such as policies in use in the State of Maine’s videoconferencing guide.
Other policies and etiquette, according to University of Glasgow, are effective in engaging all participants in the flow of the videoconference.
It may also be worthwhile to have several dry runs, or practice videoconferences, in order to smooth out the bumps and become more comfortably acquainted with the technology and applications.