Web conferences and webinars (web seminars) aren't especially new, and improved technology makes them more sophisticated and easier to use every day. Still, the concept of attending a seminar in Seattle from your conference room in Phoenix may take some getting used to. Attend one or two well-managed web conferences, and you'll be sold on them as the perfect way to share information with a large audience.
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Web conferences can save your department or company loads of money. Folks who stay in your building and attend a web conference that originates from a distance don't have to pay for airfare, mileage or overnight accommodations; they don't need to find someone to tend their dogs while they're out of town; and they don't need long hours or days of travel to and from the event.
Technology makes the web conference accessible to broad participation. Because the department doesn't need to pay for travel, you can invite a much bigger group to participate in the event including administrative assistants and technical staff, folks who ordinarily do not have access to this type of event and information.
Conference materials are available at your site. Featured speakers e-mail handouts to your department's web conference manager prior to the event to be reproduced and handed out to everyone who attends at your end. Slides and PowerPoint presentations can be projected onto a big screen in your conference room.
A web conference is usually interactive. That is, participants have an opportunity to ask questions and vote on issues from a distance. Software keeps track of conversations and tallies votes instantly. And your location allows for side conversations specific to your site during the conference.
Your office must have adequate equipment to support a web conference or webinar. If only one person will be attending, this can usually be accomplished with a personal computer so long as it has adequate sound and video and a high-speed connection. To handle a big audience, you'll need an adequate Internet connection, projection equipment and a knowledgable person to run the equipment and work with participants to send questions and polling results.
There is no getting away from it: A web conference reduces your ability to network, catch up with old acquaintances and make new contacts. A good conference coordinator will collect contact information from all participants, however, and make it available to attendees.
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