Tuesday I took part in two different teleconferences, one where I was a participant and one where I was the session leader. Both used similar technologies, but difference services. Neither worked very well, but for different reasons.
Conference 1 – I was supposed to drive down to Columbia for a Tech Leader’s Roundtable. With all of the budget problems and travel restrictions, the group decided to offer an online version of the meeting using GoToWebinar. It turned out to be a case of the wrong tool for the job.
The first problem was interactivity. Those that were attending remotely were muted. Chat was also disabled. The only interaction allowed was the ability to type a question for the facilitators. This inability to fully participate kind of defeats the purpose of having a “roundtable.”
The second problem was that not everyone was muted. Some dialed in. Unfortunately a couple of these didn’t mute the speakerphone on which they were listening. We were subjected to their office conversations about users and a variety of other things that I’m sure they would be embarrassed to find out had just been broadcast across the state. This unintentional eavesdropping also blocked out the presenters.
This type of webinar works well for presentations that take place primarily on the computer, such as PowerPoint and software demonstrations. It doesn’t work so well for non-computer demonstrations, of which half the meeting consisted. There was no video overview – not even a webcam.
Finally, one of the main reasons I go to these meetings is for the informal interactions with my colleagues from around the state. That was certainly missing from this experience. Next time, Think I’ll just go ahead and drive.
Conference 2 – Since I wasn’t going to be driving Tuesday afternoon, I offered to do an online workshop for our tech and media specialists on RSS feeds using the DimDim.com conferencing system. Unlike this morning’s meeting, the tool was appropriate, but there were other problems. We were plagued with bandwidth and speed issues. The audio was very choppy, and the screens took forever to load. One-by-one my participants dropped out, but when it got down to just a few, things improved.
Even though neither conference worked out as I wanted, I think only the latter was worth the attempt. I’m going to try again with DimDim, but with a smaller core group. I do think it has potential.