Web conferencing allows people to communicate through text and video in addition to audio. The simplest web conferencing methods use chat and instant messaging programs to host text-based group discussions. More sophisticated programs exchange visual information with webcams and streaming video. Some allow people to share documents online.
Companies can either purchase conferencing software and host their meetings themselves or use a hosting service. Hosting services provide the software and server space on which to conduct meetings. Either way, the company or the hosting service must have software to coordinate the meeting and ample server space and bandwidth to accommodate it.
Web conferencing programs combine tools already common to web pages and Internet communication. They bundle these tools into one interface to create an interactive meeting environment. These tools include:
Some programs are entirely computer- and Internet-based. Others use the telephone system to distribute audio content. To participate in the online meetings, participants must have:
- A computer
- An Internet connection
- A telephone, if audio content is not provided online
If the conferencing program relies on Internet-based audio chat and webcam feeds, the participants' PCs should have:
- Video capture cards
In general, every online presentation or meeting has a moderator and attendees. The moderator sets the time and date of the meeting, prepares the content and makes sure everything works properly before the meeting begins. Attendees can either view the presentation without giving feedback or can collaborate, based on the settings and capabilities of the programs. Often, moderators can record the presentation for later viewing and can pass their moderator capabilities to attendees during the meeting.
But what can people do in these virtual meeting rooms? Let's find out.