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September 08, 2008

Online Meetings: Webinar 101

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Senior Editor


It’s very likely that, at some point, your company will need to use an online seminar, or Webinar, solution to conduct a meeting or make a presentation. Webinar solutions allow presentations to be made to large numbers of people who log into a Web-based interface to learn about a particular product, service or concept, or to participate in a meeting in which participants are geographically dispersed.
If your company is at the point where a Webinar solution is needed, you already know the many benefits of conducting online meetings or seminars: travel savings, flexibility, enhanced productivity, lessened environmental impact, etc. But what you might not know is how to go about conducting your first Webinar. This article serves as a basic 101-primer, using the example of the Turbo Meeting Webinar solution from Packetel (News - Alert) to illustrate.
First, of course, you’ll need to choose a Webinar solution vendor or host. There are many to choose from, and you’ll want to consider cost and functionality in making the decision which to go with. As an example, Packetel offers three price tiers: starting at $10.90 per month for online meetings with up to three participants; starting at $19.40 per month for online group meetings with between six and 50 attendees; and, starting at $95 per month, a Webinar plan for Web seminars with up to 100 participants.
Features are also key, of course. For maximum flexibility, you’ll want to pick a solution that enables both presentations and collaborative meetings. As an example, Packetel’s Turbo Meeting allows sharing and sharing of screens and desktops with multiple participants, unlimited number of hosts, annotation for the entire screen or desktop, and whiteboard and chat functionalities.
Once you choose a Webinar solution, the next step is to schedule a meeting time and date (some solutions, like Packetel’s, allow ad-hoc meetings to be set up on the fly rather than scheduling them in advance) and send out invites to everyone you would like to attend.
It’s a good idea to do a practice run ahead of the actual scheduled Webinar to make sure everything runs smoothly and the resources you need are readily at hand. If you chose a Webinar host, rather than a Webinar solution, the specifics of when and how thorough the test run is will vary. For a Webinar solution like Turbo Meeting from Packetel, a test run can be as simple as creating an ad hoc meeting with one or several colleagues to test out the interface, determine how the presentation should proceed, and iron out any other details.
During the actual Webinar, tips for success include starting and ending on time, keeping the presentation focused, and staying in charge of the question and answer period (if you choose to have one) by responding concisely and discouraging off-topic questions. If the scope of a particular question will take too long to answer, you can always follow up offline with the person inquiring, after the Webinar is complete.
Packetel’s Turbo Meeting Webinar solution is designed to be easily used for both scheduled and ad-hoc online meetings. In either case, a meeting can be set up by logging into the Web-based interface. From there, an ad-hoc meeting can be started by clicking on the Host button, launching the meeting interface. This also creates a Webinar ID that anyone you want to join you can use to log in. Clicking on the Schedule button instead allows you to set up a future Webinar time and date, and invite attendees, all from within the Web interface.
To learn more about the benefits of Webinars and how to use this technology effectively, please visit the Webinar channel on TMCnet.com, brought to you by Packetel.

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Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae's articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Mae Kowalke


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