Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tips On Planning Your First Videoconference

Your first videoconference can be a successful and enjoyable experience if you keep the following basic tips in mind.

First, write your objectives. What do you want to happen in your first videoconference? What is the topic? Is there going to be a guest speaker or performer? If so contact the guest speaker or performer and explain what you would like them to do. Select at least two dates that work for both of you.

The first date will be for a technical test to make sure your guest has the right equipment and if the speaker is going to be at your site, on your location, he or she needs to give you a commitment to a dress rehearsal, a simple testing of voice, lighting, and locale. Locale is mentioned because if a speaker has travel involved, they need to be sure they know where they are going and how long it will take to get there so that on the day of the videoconference they can be on time.

Also validate your connections. See if the participating sites have equipment able to run at the same speed as your transmission connection, 384 kbs is preferred, but slower speeds can be accommodated if your videoconference is IP-based. Incompatible equipment cannot videoconference together.

Discuss and confirm the dates and times with other sites and videoconference participants, as well as the time length of the videoconference. Will it be one hour, two hours? Once a workable date and time is established among all involved, you can proceed to the next step.

If you are the speaker, write a basic script in an outline form. Simply list out the highlights of discussion in the order that feels right for you. You can use a printout of this outline throughout the videoconference. Attach it to a clipboard and use it for reference. If someone else is the speaker an outline will still help.

You would begin by blocking out an introduction period at the very beginning of the videoconference where you would introduce all involved to each other. Next, you would introduce the speaker and have an idea how long they will speak Then you would host a question and answer period if the topic calls for it and finish the videoconference with a proper closing, thanking all those who participated for their time.

Review your equipment and connections. If using a web hosting service like NetMeeting you need not arrange for a bridge provider in advance. The bridge provider is a service provided by telecommunications companies, which enables geographically separate videoconferencing sites to communicate with one another via ISND lines. NetMeeting and other such web services fulfill this service for you.

Write a schedule for the videoconference. This should include arrival time for key personnel, guest speakers or performers, the exact start time and your agenda -- what will happen, where and when -- finish with your end time. Fax or email this schedule to all involved.

In your test run and on the day of the videoconference, arrive at least thirty minutes early, reboot all the equipment by turning the videoconferencing equipment off then on again. Rebooting the equipment often clears up minor technical problems.

Check and reset your echo canceller, this eliminates echoes and background or room noise. Do this so that the only sounds heard during the videoconference come from the microphones. Check and set your audio levels and adjust lighting. You should test connecting to the other sites.

Now run through your schedule with the key personnel of each contact site. By now you should be interacting with all those involved either in person if they are in the room with you or by telephone and email if your videoconference is via the Internet. On this note, having a POTS number (which stands for plain old telephone system) is extremely helpful.

The POTS line is the telephone line closest to the videoconferencing equipment. This line is used to troubleshoot problems during videoconferences, which includes calling everyone involved if there is a technological error. The key to a good first videoconference is in advance planning. Plan in advance, test everything at least once, then relax and enjoy yourself.


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