I am happy to admit that for the most part our first online photography instructional webinar was a great success.
Matt, of Matt Suess Fine Art Photography, and I tested and retested different “face to face integrated online meeting” products. These products allow for meetings to take place online with each of the participants attending the meeting in a location of their choice. We, as the presenters, could also be in two different locations, yet still conduct the meeting as if we were in the same room. This concept makes it easier for employees to work from home or managers to hold important meetings while vacationing in Hawaii.
Through our testing and knowing our professional needs we narrowed our choices down to Webex and Gotomeetings. Both allowed us a very similar online platform. They were similar in their allowances in unlimited meetings for one flat fee as well as the ability for our attendees to attend our meeting using Mac, PC, Iphone, Ipad and Android devices. With each company, we have a free trial period so this will give us a chance to really know what product we are most happy with for our online photography workshops. The biggest difference is the price per month fee. Webex recently changed their pricing to 50% of what Gotomeeting charges for a very similar plan. Webex does only allow up to eight people in a meeting for that price, but Gotomeeing allows for up to 15 people for twice the price.
For testing, our first webinar was conducted using Gotomeeting.com. The organizer screen interface and ease of use was very user friendly. The organizer/presenter could utilize the video camera immediately without having to turn on screen sharing. In doing the presentation, all attendees could see the presenters screen and follow along with each step he was taking in the presentation. When it came time for me to be the presenter, Matt was able to switch presenter capabilities quickly to me. I had enough forewarning that the screen would switch to me and thus I could wait and make sure I had on my screen what I needed for the presentation. Since needed, we muted all attendees. This cuts down on people talking over each other and other background noise. We could also use the video and have all the attendees on video but we chose to keep it simple and only have a the video on us as the presenters for a short introduction time. This gave the attendees an idea of who we are and thus developing a more personal meeting.
As for cons of this product, the control panel that had the information about the number of attendees, the mike and video, the chat “room” etc could be minimized to a very small size if one did not need to chat, but since I was the co-organizer/presenter, it was important for me to keep at least the chat with questions panel open. We had asked the attendees to type any questions or comments they had in this chat window, so both Matt and I needed to keep track of this. The width of this panel could not be minimized and thus I found myself moving it around the screen in order to keep it out of the way of what I was working on with my screen sharing presentation or what I was trying to watch when Matt was presenting.
Another con and it could have just been my laptop was my voice echoed whenever I tried to speak. The echo could be heard by everyone in attendance. The echo was not present at the beginning of the meeting when I did a five minute introduction. Later when it came time for me to present, the echo was apparent and annoying for all involved. I tried leaving and returning to the meeting. I tried my special earphones and I tried muting the volume. Nothing worked so I just tried to be quiet as I worked through my presentation and allowing Matt to explain what it was that I was doing on the screen. It wasn’t the best option, but we handled it very well and I was glad that Matt knew my presentation very well. I have purchased a USB noise reducing headset and so far it seems to have fixed this issue.
So in ending, we are very happy with this product. It works great with our online photography workshops since post production digital photography work is primarily done on the computer. All this can be shared and presented with great ease.