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Starting in 2005, DPG began to offer Webcasts to clubs that are either too far or too small for an on-site workshop. Webcasts are simply presentations via the Internet. To start, DPG surveyed the Webcast market to review different systems and capabilities. We quickly learned there are many flavors of Webcasts and while some are simply too expensive for small businesses, others can be cost-effective. In broad terms, Webcasting can be broken down into several segments: Canned Presentations, Interactive Meetings and Collaborative Efforts.
Canned Presentations are one-way delivery of pre-recorded information. This has been available for many years and is old-technology. The main problem with this has been file size and poor conversion of photographs or other color/detail intensive images.
Collaborative Efforts, also called Application Sharing, lets several parties view and modify a common application. For example, a member of an international design team might hash out a problem by having everyone around the world make changes to a document in real-time. This is the most complex and expensive.
Interactive Meetings, also called Web Conferencing, is what DPG selected for its technology of choice. In this format, the presenter and audience see the same PPT that has been converted to Macromedia Flash and stored on the solution provider’s servers. These solutions offer two-way interaction such as chat, polling, hand-raising and white board capabilities. Many services also offer VOIP audio and real-time video. A quick glance at the list of Webcast tools, available at www.thinkofit.com/webconf/index.htm is enough to make one’s head spin with the overabundance of choices. To help you sort through all these choices, there are excellent articles at www.kolabora.com.
DPG selected www.instantpresenter.com/index.asp. InstantPresenter is one of the top choices of Robin Good, an acknowledged guru in the brave new world of rich media presentation technologies. Instant-Presenter offers 3 levels of Webcasting, ranging from On-Point (PowerPoint only) to OnVoice (PPT plus VoIP) to OnVideo (PPT, VoIP and video). This is helpful for sites with slow Internet connections. For training, there is a screen sharing option which allows the audience to view the presenter’s monitor. DPG plans to use this feature in future Webcast workshops where digital photography software tools and techniques are demonstrated.
To date, DPG has relied on a separate phone line and speakerphone for audience audio, due to the spotty nature of VoIP. Also, video hasn’t been needed but may be integrated in the future. The most useful aspects have been annotation tools that allow DPG to highlight key concepts. Chat is also useful for feedback. DPG’s first trials were conducted with Synergize-IT (Union Bank of California) where small groups (less than 50) combined with a “No Sales” policy made it an ideal test case. Under normal circumstances, DPG would never have driven hundreds of miles to present a free workshop without the opportunity to sell our products. But, using Webcasting technology, UBOC UG members have received the same presentations as other UGs.
For more information or to schedule a workshop for your PC User Group, contact
Lee Otsubo at www.TheDigitalPhotoGuy.com.