Let's take a closer look at the technology required to host a video Web conference. For basics, the Web conferencing provider needs a computer with an Internet link, a Webcam or digital video camera for live video, Voice over IP (VoIP) for real-time audio, software to coordinate the meeting, and enough space on a server and bandwidth to accommodate the conference.
Video Web conferencing technology can become complicated with add-ons that make conferencing more user friendly and interactive. For example, a video Web conferencing host may want prepared slide or streaming video presentations -- and that requires the software to create the presentations, like Microsoft PowerPoint and Adobe Flash. The host may need text chat and instant messaging programs to handle a live question-and-answer session with participants. Or the host may want participants to be able to participate by using their own Web browsers rather than special software.
Web conferencing programs bring Web page and Internet communication tools together to create an interactive meeting environment, where participants can share documents online and take an active role in a real-time decision-making process. The tools brought together in a Web conferencing program include:
- HTML, XML and ASP markup
- Java scripts
- Flash animation
- Instant messaging
- Streaming audio and video
These software programs sometimes mesh with a company's existing office communication applications, such as e-mail, calendar and messaging. This allows the Web conference host to automatically pull information such as participant names and e-mail addresses from existing sources, like an e-mail contact list, for conference invitations.
Depending on the program, Web conference presenters can also:
- Demonstrate or share software applications with participants
- Make up to 10 participants visible at a time, each in their own framed area of the screen
- Record the Web presentation as a podcast for later online viewing
- Interact with participants for chat, question-and-answer sessions or response to polling questions
- Use a whiteboard interactively with participants to diagram and share ideas
- Use audio controls to mute or unmute participants and control their volume levels
- Send e-mail invitations and reminders to Web conference, record registration and actual participation and follow up with post-conference surveys
- Gauge audience participation with mood indicators
A variety of vendors offer Web conferencing software, such as Microsoft Live Meeting, Adobe Acrobat Connect, WebEx Event Center and others. But rather than simply selling Web conferencing software for companies to use themselves, Web conference vendors usually bundle the software with hosting services, provided by a pre-set monthly fee.
On the next page, we'll look at how these bundled services can make Web conference hosting easier.