You're a sales manager with a team of two dozen salespeople spread across the country. Your company is rolling out a new product that will have a major impact on its strategy in the coming months. It's critical that your sales team understands the nuances of the new product, as well as how it fits in with the company's strategy. It's up to you get the message out, fast.
Or, you're part of the CEO's team, with a staff of hundreds to reach. You've got to find a way to communicate with the far-flung audience, but you don't want to take them out of the field or pay the expenses of organizing a major face-to-face.
These situations are common to business people today, where fast, efficient communication is imperative to success. Such tasks once were accomplished with clunky technology, but today's business leaders use audio Web conferenceing and seminars to stay in touch with their staff.
Audio Internet events, such as conferencing or seminars, provide a simple and convenient method for bringing people together. Whether you need to pull one together on short notice or you have weeks to plan, figuring out some important parameters will help ensure your event's success. Planning is key to a successful audio Web conference, just as planning it is essential for any meeting or event.
You need to think about issues such as whom it is you're involving, how many people and at how many sites? What technology platforms do they use? You'll also need to consider how long the conference or seminar should last and, of course, your budget.
In this article, we'll discuss planning successful audio Internet business conferencing such as a conference or seminar. We'll look at the issues involved and give some examples of technology companies that host audio Internet events.
Planning an Audio Internet Event
Let's look at some of the points you need to consider when planning audio Web conferencing, using one of the examples discussed previously; the one in which you're the leader of a sales team that is spread out across the country.
In this case, you need to bring your staff up to speed on a new product. This means you'll have to talk to them and make it possible for them to ask questions, either through audio means, such as by speakerphone or a microphone connected to their computer, or via e-mail. You estimate it will take about an hour to do this, but you also know your team. In some cases, discussions tend to extend the meeting. Given the importance of this new product rollout, you want to make sure your staff is fully versed. In seeking a host for this Internet audio event, you'll want to build in flexibility to the length of time you may need to do the audio conferencing.
You also should consider the technology platforms your team uses. Some work out of branch offices, where they use your company's standard desktop set-up. But a few work out of their homes. You'll want to make sure they aren't shut-out because of any technical incompatibility issues. A handful of them use only wireless technology, such as PDAs or BlackBerry devices.
Of course, all of these issues must fit within your budget for such events. Can you get by with a plain-Jane approach or will you need some extra features? Should you pay for one-time service or will you be doing this often enough to buy a year's worth? After doing some research, you decide you can get by with a fairly modest set-up, but you'd like to find out what it might cost for a series of such conferences. If this works out well, you can save yourself and your staff time and save your company the cost of flying you and them to meetings.
You do some research on the Web and it turns out you find at least a dozen companies that do audio business conferencing that look promising.
On the next page, we'll talk about using audio host services.
Using a Host Service
Each company's varies, but for most the process for setting up and holding audio Web conferences is simple. These services allow you to download interface software that guides you through the process of setting up online audio business conferencing. Such interfaces allow for various scheduling methods, such as instant messaging, e-mail or the company's calendar.
Usually, you're required to log on the company's Web site and create an account, entering some biographical information and selecting a password or access code.
Some start by giving you a toll free number and password that's for your meeting. They then let you send this information to those participating in the online conference or seminar, along with the event's date and time. The participants use their computers to dial in at the appropriate time. Wireless users can operate the same way, simply using their Wi-Fi connection to bring up the Web site and punching in the codes to connect.
Often, the hosting company allows the event organizer to log on to a special area as the "moderator." The moderator invites other participants and runs the event using an online interface.
Once all the participants are logged on, you can start your online audio event. Various Web interfaces allow each participant to adjust their volume or record the event.
Companies that host audio conferencing often offer easy, affordable upgrades, such as video, document sharing or desktop presentations. Some allow you to use instant messaging to hold side conversations with event participants as needed.
Because you anticipated the meeting running long, you selected a flexible time package. Your team can talk as long as needed, but the rate remains the same. Most companies offer single, monthly or annual fee options. Fees range from about $50 a month to about $500 a year. Others charge by the minute. Different fees allow for varying number of participants, meetings and other features. It's up to you to pick the one that best suits your needs.
Most host companies allow clients to manage their accounts online, view their current bill and other information or make modifications. Online account management also allows users to schedule audio Internet events or launch them on a moment's notice.
Companies that host online seminars, or Webinars, often require the client moderator to download software from the company's Web site. The software allows the moderator to use different interactive features. Web seminars bring together people at scattered sites and can include audio and other features, such as Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, other documents or visual aids.
Some companies provide software that uses a planning wizard that walks the user through a step-by-step process of setting up an audio Internet event or Webinar.
Setting up audio Web events is bound to remain a mainstay in the business world. Improving wireless technology will make it possible to hold business meetings practically anywhere. As bandwidth availability grows, however, it seems likely business will opt for enhanced audio Web conferencing, such as video conferencing or interfaces that make document and graphic sharing easier and more affordable. Audio business conferencing and audio Internet will remain a major pillar in today's emerging virtual workplace.
For more information about audio Web events and related topics, check out the links on the next page.