Show your cards

Here’s a simple and effective way of improving communication during online meetings. Collaboration supercards are a collection of cards with clear messages to other participants so that you can quickly show that someone is muted, has poor sound quality, bad connection, frozen video etc. So instead of interrupting or writing in the chat you just hold up the right card in front of your card. Here’s the video.

Swivl points the camera at whoever has the microphone

If you are alone hosting a webinar session where you have several participants in the room with you it can be a problem keeping the camera on the person who is speaking. Swivl is an inexpensive solution that takes care of the camera for you. Swivl is a small robot on which you can mount a tablet, smartphone or camera. It has a wireless connection to a small microphone and Swivl will rotate to automatically focus on whoever has the microphone. This makes discussions much easier to follow remotely since you always see and hear whoever is speaking.

Here is a short introduction film.

Visibility in Webinars – Some Thoughts

To be seen in a webinar contributes significantly to the personal atmosphere of this format. Whereas voice and the quality of the microphone is the most important part of communication one should consider the following points:

Although the quality of the camera itself is not crucial – more important is how to use the camera – I want to share some hardware recommendations. The built-in camera of notebook computers is usually sufficient. Still you will notice in many instances a quality difference if you use a good external camera.

The best webcam I have ever come across is probably the Logitech C920 (ca. € 100). It has superb image quality and a wide angle of view. A nice feature is the tripod mount. As the camera position of notebook computers is usually too low you should consider using a tripod in order to put the camera at the same level as your eyes. As an alternative one can consider the Microsoft LifeCam (less than € 100). A more professional option is the Logitech PTZ CC 3000e. PTZ stands for “pan, tilt, zoom”. This camera comes with a remote control. The option to pan, tilt and zoom is specifically interesting if you have 5-10 people sitting around a table.

If you prefer a good and low-priced solution around € 20 have a look at the Trust SpotLight Webcam.

Please, consider as well the following aspects besides your hardware:

  • Avoid backlight as your face will be too dark,
  • Try to put the camera at the same height as your eyes,
  • You can mix daylight and artificial light. This will give the picture a warm and colorful atmosphere.
  • Do not underestimate the impression you will leave through your webcam. How much of your room do you really want to present?

Lighting the fire of webinar participation

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by RaSeLaSeD – Il Pinguino

Originally published on Alastair Creelman’s blog, Corridor of Uncertainty (16 Nov 2013)

This week I and three colleagues arranged a webinar with the challenging title Running an effective webinar – experience and opportunities. It was part of a long series of webinars we’ve run over the last two years and the idea behind this one was to share our experience of webinars and invite participants to contribute their experience. We did not intend this webinar to be a masterclass(that would be tempting fate) but as an exchange of ideas and possibly the establishment of a community around the topic. About 160 people took part out of 244 registered and many more will watch the recording. Once again the most striking feature of the webinar is the high level of audience participation. Opening sound and video to such a large number of participants can lead to technical problems so interaction is largely limited to the chat window.

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Effective communication in a webinar

Originally posted on Alastair Creelman’s blog, Corridor of Uncertainty (28 May 2013)

I have been involved in a lot of webinars over the last four years or so; as organiser, moderator, speaker and participant. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gather people from all over the world and from different fields to discuss a common interest and learn new things but I wonder if we really use this arena effectively.

Many webinars are pretty well standard one-way lectures from a guest expert. There may be a chat window for participants but most prefer to sit back and listen to the lecture. That’s perfectly valid as long as we don’t pretend that it has any other function. Many of the webinars I’ve been involved in however have audiences of 100 or more and the chat window is used heavily with a constant stream of comments, links and questions. What happens is that the webinar has two threads of communication that are sometimes interlinked and sometimes go off in slightly different directions. This means that some participants choose to follow the speakers, some get deeply involved in a parallel chat discussion and some try to multitask between the two threads. I’ve always seen this combination of discussion channels as an exciting and stimulating feature of webinars.

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