Going Virtual: Virtual Meetings and Training

 

Overview

Welcome to the e-learning tutorial on Going Virtual: Online Tools for Virtual Meetings and Training. In this lesson, you will be introduced to four web-based tools that will enhance your ability to have real-time interactions over the Internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing. Using a virtual meeting or training tool can help to reduce travel and other costs, accommodate schedules, and possibly increase audience size.

Virtual meetings and trainings save time and money.

Virtual meetings and trainings are real-time interactions that take place over the Internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing. Imagine that you are an organization that provides training to a number of partners and you have a coalition that stretches across the state. It can be a real challenge to get everybody in the same room at the same time due to scheduling. You also know that there are many costs associated with getting everyone together, including gasoline, hotel costs, food, and space to hold the meeting.

The benefits of virtual meetings allow you to reduce costs, more easily find a schedule that works for everyone, and even possibly increase audience size because anyone can attend as long as they have internet access.

The benefit of reaching a larger audience is ideal for an organization that wants to train volunteers across a large geographic area. The online training media might also be a draw for new volunteers that are interested in receiving ongoing training that fits their schedule. Standardized training for volunteers can be done easily with online training tools because many tools have the ability to record the training to be posted online for access anytime and anywhere.

The benefits of using virtual meetings are extensive.

Virtual meeting programs have many features that can serve a variety of needs. Not all programs offer every feature; however, even the most basic features provide widespread benefits. The first feature of virtual meetings is the ability to share your screen with all meeting attendees. This feature is the backbone of virtual meetings. If the host pulls up a website, PowerPoint, or Word document, everyone else sees the program on their own screen. This is extremely beneficial when walking through multiple documents. Other benefits of this feature include developing a collaborative document. Everyone can see whatever the host is writing to ensure their comments were accurately captured.

Virtual meetings and trainings allow for multiple presenters in multiple locations. This feature allows a second trainer to share their screen with all attendees even if they are in a different office or even state. The process is usually simple and only requires a click of a button to transfer control.

The last key feature included in many programs is an interactive element to virtual meetings. This includes polls, evaluations, or question and answer capabilities. These features are especially important during lengthy training sessions when it is hard to keep the audience engaged. An attendee sitting at their desk may be easily distracted by email, phone calls, or people coming to their door. Polls can also be used to quiz attendees to establish a benchmark of their content knowledge or learning preferences. Evaluations can be done after a session to assess the effectiveness of training. Finally, questions and answers can be used throughout to share ideas or learnings.

To find the right virtual meeting tool, it helps to do a side by side comparison.

Two resources that will help you compare and evaluate online tools for virtual meetings and trainings include the report card and the comparison table.

The report card uses multiple factors to compare the various tools, including, cost, security, administrative and user skills required, and key benefits and drawbacks. Included in the report card are additional virtual meeting tools that you might find fit your needs. The comparison table includes information such as core features and capabilities for each tool.

CHAPTER 1: Zoho, An Online Tool to Host Instant Web Meetings

The Zoho online virtual meeting tool makes it easy to signup, setup, and invite attendees. These features lend themselves to on-the-fly meetings. The tool has many of the basic features desired to run a virtual meeting, including a chat box and multiple ways to invite attendees. However, Zoho is limited to 25 users and does not have recording capabilities. Balancing the benefits and drawbacks will help you determine if this is the right tool for you.

Zoho Meeting is easy to set up and use.

Zoho Meeting is easy to set up and only requires a few steps before you begin your virtual meeting. After going to Zoho.com, the process to begin a meeting only requires entering a title, the start time, and the email address of your attendee(s).

Once the setup is complete, an email is sent to whomever has been invited. Included in the email is a hyperlink that leads to a website showing the host’s computer screen. A key feature to understand is that the attendees can only access this view when the meeting is scheduled to occur. They cannot access the host’s computer screen before or after the meeting.

Zoho Meeting is great for an on-the-fly meeting. For example, a host can quickly set up a meeting and invite one or more attendees after they have prepared their computer and the program. This feature is also nice if you want to add someone to a meeting who might have inadvertently been left off the attendee list.

Zoho has many benefits, including an interactive chat box during training sessions.

As mentioned, Zoho is ideal for one-to-one meetings that are on-the-fly. Zoho is very simple to set up and the one-on-one meetings are free. This benefit is ideal for projects on which only two partners are working together, but in remote locations.

Another benefit of Zoho is that it has multiple ways to initiate a connection with attendees. These include email invitation where attendees receive a link; a web page initiation where attendees are provided a session ID; or through a session link URL that can be sent though Instant Messaging or Chat.

The chat box offered by Zoho can be used for a variety of purposes. It is typically used for questions, but can also be used if the attendee’s phone line has been disconnected and they want to alert the host. The chat box is interactive, so the host can easily respond to questions or comments within the same chat box. This feature is very similar to the well-known instant messaging.

Additionally, Zoho offers a variety of other services that can be integrated into Zoho Meeting. Other features include productivity and collaboration applications such as Zoho Docs, a document management tool, and Zoho Wiki, an online collaboration tool. There are also business applications such as Zoho Invoicing or Zoho Recruit.

Zoho is simple and low-cost.

Zoho is one of the simplest and lowest-cost options currently on the market for virtual meetings. It is ideal for last-minute, one-to-one meetings. The one-on-one meetings offered by Zoho are free; however, adding more people to a meeting adds some additional cost.

The security on this program is low. It should not be used for confidential or sensitive materials. You can set up a password in order to access your training but it is only behind the standard firewall; therefore, you would not want to discuss or share any confidential materials. The administrative and user skills required are both quite low. This means that administrators and users of the program only need to be comfortable surfing on the web to utilize Zoho.

One of the key drawbacks for Zoho is that the total number of participants for any meeting is limited to 25. Additionally, Zoho does not currently offer voice conferencing or session recording. These drawbacks are why Zoho is primarily recommended for on-the-fly meetings that are one-on-one.

Access the Zoho website here to explore further on your own.

CHAPTER 2: Yugma, Online Meeting and Web Conferencing Features Useful for Groups

The Yugma online virtual meeting tool is more challenging to sign up, set up, and invite attendees; however, the tool is available for use for free for up to 20 customers. The tool has the basic features you need to run a virtual meeting; however, it also includes a whiteboard feature that is highly beneficial for online collaboration for larger groups. The session can be recorded for future use as well. The program does require you to download an application onto your computer.

Yugma is slightly more challenging to setup, but good for larger groups.

Yugma web conferencing allows anyone, anywhere to instantly share their desktop and ideas online with others. Yugma is a great service when you would like to do a group training or meeting. It is easier to set up than GoToWebinar, but slightly more complicated than Zoho. Consistent with the complexity, Yugma is in the middle range for cost as well.

With Yugma, you can connect a meeting to your Outlook calendar. Once you setup a meeting, it can be synchronized to your Outlook calendar and inviting attendees can be done directly from Outlook.

Yugma also has a free teleconference service that is accessed by making a standard toll call. Standard toll call charges apply, which will be billed directly by your long distance telephone company. There are no additional fees charged to you by Yugma for using the teleconferencing service.

Yugma has a free web conferencing service, which allows you to invite up to 20 attendees. The free version provides the ability to share your desktop with attendees and to use the built-in instant message feature.

Yugma has great benefits, including an on-screen whiteboard.

Yugma prides itself on a being a little different than traditional web conferencing companies that are primarily focused on pre-determined meetings. Yugma is not only great for web meetings, but also allows spontaneous collaboration.

The feature that lends itself to collaboration is an online whiteboard. This tool allows participants to use their mouse to write freestyle on the screen. This feature is particularly useful if you are a trainer and would like to point out a specific point of a diagram or chart. Not only can you draw a circle, but you can also write something or highlight a particular area. All participants can utilize this feature as long as the host grants permission. This can be used as a fun and engaging tool to get your attendees invested in the learning.

With Yugma, you can record your sessions. This is a great feature if you would like to reuse your session with new people joining the organization. Sessions can easily be posted online and viewed.

Yugma also has a webinar feature that lets people register for a web meeting and allows the host to collect information about registrants. The host can decide what information to ask people for when they register. Once people register, the host can then access reports on who registered and, after the webinar, on who attended. The webinar feature is available as an add-on to a regular, paid Yugma account.

Yugma has benefits but requires downloading an application.

Yugma does have a free option, but it is limited to 20 users. When you begin to get more sophisticated with the features or want to add additional attendees, the cost increases. This ranges from around $15 for 20 attendees all the way to $180 for 500 attendees.

As for the security of Yugma, it is rated as low, meaning no highly confidential information should be shared while using the tool. The administrative and user skill required is rated as three diamonds. It does require a little more comfort utilizing online tools. An administrator or user would need to be comfortable posting content online in order to be comfortable using Yugma.

In terms of key benefits, the whiteboard feature is unique and can provide engaging interactivity during longer presentations or online trainings. The second key benefit is the ability to record and post sessions online for future training needs. This serves as a wonderful capability for organizations that have volunteers coming in and out of the organization on a consistent basis. Another benefit of Yugma is that you can connect audio using a free service called Skype. This service provides the ability to place telephone calls through your computer. This requires a user who is a little more technology-savvy, but is worth the additional time invested because the service is free.

A key drawback of Yugma includes the need to download the application to your computer. This can be time consuming for the host and the users. Additionally, this could be a concern for new users who may have forgotten to download the program prior to a meeting or training.

Access the Yugma website here to further explore this tool on your own.

CHAPTER 3: GoToWebinar, An Online Meeting and Web Conferencing Tool with Many Features

GoToWebinar is one of the more challenging tools to set up, but, once completed, reusing preferences and settings is very easy. Customization of the GoToWebinar tool is one of the greatest benefits, including the multiple other features such as polls, quizzes, and reports. Setting up these features can be time consuming, which should be considered when deciding if this tool is right for your organization.

Setting up GoToWebinar is slightly more involved.

GoToWebinar is a bit more complicated to set up than some of the other online meeting and training tools, but that is largely due to the number of options offered. However, the options and preferences utilized for one webinar can be saved for future use. Preferences include choosing template colors and inserting your organization’s logo. The attendee registration page can also be customized to ask attendees whatever questions you would like.

Once preferences have been set up, enter a title and description of the meeting or training as well as the time the event will start. GoToWebinar allows for multiple presenters to take control and show their own screens. The next step is choosing an audio service. GoToWebinar provides a call-in number, but it may be considered long distance depending on where the attendee is located. Additionally, the quality can be rather poor, so this option is not recommended. If you would like to use a 1-800 number, you can set up service with AT&T or Civicom.

Once you set up your webinar, you are provided a URL to send through email or put in a newsletter. You can also set up automatic email notifications for attendees to receive at the specified time you request.

GoToWebinar features include polls, quizzes, and surveys.

One of the greatest benefits of GoToWebinar is that you can develop your own polls to display throughout the presentation to keep attendees engaged. Typical polling questions are multiple-choice or multiple response and could be used to gauge interest or knowledge on a topic. Responses are real-time, so you can see how many people have answered before closing the poll to show the results to all participants.

Polls are especially useful when you see the attentiveness rating dip. Attentiveness ratings show when attendees are not on the webinar page. They could be possibly surfing the web or reading email. Another way to keep attendees engaged is through the chat box. If you intend to use all of these engaging features, it may be beneficial to have two people running the session: one person to focus on content delivery and one to focus on managing polls, quizzes, and questions.

You can also set up a quiz or survey with a total of eight questions that can be open-ended, multiple-choice, or scaled. This survey will be sent at the end of the webinar and can function as an evaluation of your training.

Within GoToWebinar, you can also record your training; however, a drawback is that the tool does not host the training on their website like Yugma. Recording files are typically quite large and would most likely require conversion to another file type before posting to your own website. This might require the skills of a technical programmer or administrator of your website.

Finally, the last benefit of GoToWebinar is the reports that are provided after your webinar is complete. The reports include registered attendee information, login time, and duration on the webinar. This can be evaluated to determine at what point people dropped off. It also provides questions asked per attendee, which makes it easy to circle back with participants after the webinar, if needed. Additionally, the report shows attendee attentiveness level. You could set a minimum required attentiveness level if you are certifying attendees through a virtual training. It should be noted that just because the webinar screen is up, it does not account for people on the phone or having side conversations. Finally, reports also indicate poll or survey responses.

Examine the benefits and drawbacks of GoToWebinar to make an informed decision

GoToWebinar is a flat fee for the month, so you can use it as many times as necessary. A monthly subscription is $99 for 100 attendees. Remember to keep in mind the savings on gas, hotel, food, and time compared to executing in-person training when evaluating the cost of these tools. The cost speaks to the fact that the system is a bit more complicated to use, but this is because of the many options available. GoToWebinar offers a free one month trial so that you could try it out to determine if the many options are worth the cost.

Security rating for GoToWebinar is low, even if you elect to have the password protected option. Consistent with the other tools, you should not have any confidential materials discussed or reviewed during your webinar. In terms of administrative skill required for setup, it is similar to Yugma. For the user, the required skill is lower and is synonymous with someone who is comfortable surfing the internet.

In terms of key benefits, the customization is very nice and the tracking of registration information, attention level, and polls is also a great benefit. The capability to record a session is also nice; however, keep in mind the limitation discussed about posting the sessions due to file size.

For drawbacks, just like with Yugma and Zoho for large group training, you may have to set up a separate conference call line. Additionally, you may need extra equipment for recoding the questions and conversations that occur over the phone. GoToWebinar has a tool that costs $50 that connects your phone to your computer so that it synchronizes the audio with the imagery.

Access the GoToWebinar website here.

CHAPTER 4: Dimdim, A Newer Solution for Web Conferencing at a Lower Cost

Dimdim is slightly different than the other tools available today due to operating completely within the “cloud.” Therefore, Dimdim requires no downloading and takes seconds to setup and begin a meeting. Dimdim is a simple web conferencing service that combines the most efficient tools available by coupling them with speed and low subscription costs. It's an innovative solution, combining features such as audio/video conferencing and desktop sharing. Dimdim has more packed into its tool than most other tools offered today.

Signing up for Dimdim takes only seconds and meetings or trainings are easy for attendees to join.

Dimdim is slightly different than the other tools available because it does not require installing software. It is housed completely in the virtual "cloud." The registration page only requires a few pieces of information, including account type, username, email address, and password. You will be sent an email, but confirmation is not required.

Once set up is complete, you can begin organizing meetings. This process only requires you to enter and determine a few key elements of your meeting. These include meeting name, attendees, time, date, and recurrence. During this process, you also have the option to set a few more preferences for the meeting, such as audio and video setup, resources provided to attendees, and, finally, creation of a widget for posting.

Attendees receive a link to join the meeting, which includes all necessary information and the ability to add the meeting to Outlook. From there, the attendee is only a click away from joining the meeting. They do not need to download any applications or prepare their computer.

Dimdim has many benefits, including embedded video conferencing.

Dimdim prides itself on being the best of all the web conferencing services by taking the most efficient tools available and combining them with speed and low costs. With no software to install, users can set up a meeting in seconds. Instead of setting up a full meeting, Dimdim also provides a short, permanent URL to each user through the myScreen feature that lets guests view the host’s screen as soon as the hosts opens it up.

When sessions are not occurring, Dimdim provides a profile page that can display future meetings and capture registrations. Similar to some of the more advanced tools, Dimdim has the capability to share and annotate documents as well as collaborate using the whiteboard feature. Each meeting can have several presenters and allow attendees to chat both privately and in a group. Additionally, Dimdim provides free audio conferencing services. Regular long distance rates apply.

For the more advanced Dimdim features, Pro, Webinar, and Enterprise versions include high-quality microphone and webcam sharing. Also included, similar to GoToWebinar, is the ability to customize a meeting with a logo and brand colors, but this does require some programming capabilities. Dimdim also can create a widget to embed in any website to invite people to register, provide countdown timing to a meeting, or show recordings and transcripts. Finally, the tool can also provide analytic reports of when attendees registered and arrived and how many questions they asked. This tool boasts having all the ideal elements combined from various other tools currently available on the market.

Along with the many benefits of Dimdim come a few drawbacks.

Dimdim has many features of the larger tools available for web conferencing at a much lower price. They have a free version for up to 20 participants and $25 for 50 participants. The Dimdim Webinar version is $75 for 100 participants and the tool also offers an Enterprise version, which can be used for up to 1,000 participants.

The other concern that seems to plague many of these tools is the security. The free Dimdim application security level is very low, especially within the text chat windows. The upgraded versions, such as Pro and Enterprise, do provide additional monitoring of the program to ensure a higher level of security, but with any of these tools it is not advised to share any confidential information at anytime.

Some of the Dimdim concerns include poor voice quality, which also impacts the recording quality. Along with the audio, there has been a reported video delay among participants. Additional concerns for some users include the lack of embedded polls or surveys. Dimdim suggests creating external polls in a site such as Micropoll or Surveymonkey and then displaying the direct URL within the Dimdim meeting. Although this does seem to resolve a potential need for some users, another feature that is not available is the raised hand feature that allows the host to control two way communications on a larger conference call.

Finally, the other drawback of Dimdim is the inability to load a meeting in advance with necessary documents for sharing. Although this can be done rather quickly within the tool, the ability to prepare in advance is a nice feature of some of the other tools available. Additionally, once a document is loaded, the viewing screen is sometimes smaller than expected, causing viewing difficulty. As with any of these tools, it is advised to review the various options and match them with your needs.

Access the Dimdim website here to find out more on your own.

CHAPTER 5: Next Steps for Selecting and Implementing New Technologies

The next step will be to select and implement the right technology tool that fits your business needs. There are a few pitfalls you will want to avoid while choosing the right tool for your organization. The first pitfall to avoid includes failing to conduct research around previous user experiences. Ratings of the product and comments from people or organizations that have used the tool can be very insightful. Second, you want to avoid choosing a tool based on a surface-level review. Avoid making a decision based on what looks flashy or sleek—the bells and whistles—versus what your organization actually needs. Finally, steer clear of pushing the use of a tool down from the top, without any kind of buy-in, training, or involvement from the end-users. All of these pitfalls are common when choosing a new technology tool and will result in an expensive system that no one uses. A three-step process of conducting research, methodically comparing technology, and committing to controlling change management can help you implement a technology solution. Utilizing the resources available and creating an action plan will also result in success.

Utilize research to understand and prioritize your needs when creating a budget.

Before implementing a tool, you’ll need to identify and understand the needs of the people who will use it. These people include your volunteers or partners. Also, identify anyone else who is going to be impacted by your decision, such as the consultants, clients, or even the board of directors. These people are your key stakeholders.

To help you understand the needs of the key stakeholders, pull together a focus group or conduct surveys. Estimate the time that should be dedicated to this step based on the number of people impacted, the processes affected, and the overall business impact. Free web-based tools, such as Google Docs, allow you to create and analyze a survey online. Next, prioritize the organization’s needs. Think about what is most important and what the biggest “pain points” are in your organization and how technology can address them.

Finally, you will want to identify your budget. Several tools are either free or low-cost; however, the amount of time it can take you to set up and run the tool can actually make the tool more expensive than some of the tools that have a subscription cost.

Compare and prioritize features, and conduct a pilot test.

Let your needs drive what kind of functionality you require. A common pitfall is to choose the tool with the most features; however, this may not be the best choice for your organization.

Once you’ve identified your needs, take the time to compare the features that meet those needs. You can begin by using the comparison table and report card provided. Build upon these tools and adjust them for your organization.

Determine if you can get a free “test drive” of the product. Ask end users to be involved. Their involvement will result in highly applicable feedback. Additionally, you will be able to rely on them to help train the rest of the team or speak about their positive experience with the tool.

Effectively prepare for and address change management.

Once a tool is chosen and the adoption phase begins, you will need to involve key stakeholders in the beginning to help manage the change. Many players are involved so you must identify and mitigate possible risks, including refusal to adopt the tool or volunteers and partners not showing up. Evaluating risk includes identifying the likelihood of an event occurring and the resulting negative impact.

Next, think about how to communicate the decision to implement a new technology and how to get people involved. What are you going to say to your stakeholders? How will you communicate? Is it going to be a series of emails, is it going to be in a meeting, or is it going to be in a newsletter? Finally, who is going to roll this out and who can answer questions? This is where your end-user pilot advocates will come into play. Also, you can identify people who you believe will be early adopters to have them be part of the rollout plan.

Once a communication plan has been identified, a training program should be developed. The program includes not only hands-on training, but development of collateral materials, such as step-by-step guides, reminder emails, or tip sheets. These are helpful reference tools for people who are slow to adopt technology.

Finally, evaluation of the tool post-rollout will demonstrate the effectiveness of the solution. Usage statistics can show how many people are coming to training, who is using the tool, and how frequently. Collecting information along the way can help identify the most effective strategy for adoption. Other evaluation measures can be done through surveys or focus groups to find out if the technology solution is addressing the needs that it was designed to address.

An action plan can help your staff see the value.

People will only use new technology for one of two reasons: they are excited about it and want to see the value it will add to their jobs, or they have to use it. While people are often required to use a certain system, showing the value it will bring to their position will speed the time from trial to adoption.

An action plan can help you organize your thoughts on paper. Include your goals, list of identified stakeholders, and steps for moving forward. To begin creating your action plan, download the Action Plan Template.

Summary

Thank you for taking the time to review the e-learning lesson on Going Virtual: Virtual Meetings and Training. Zoho, Yugma, GoToWebinar and Dimdim are all virtual meeting options to assist you with real-time interactions using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing. Each tool provides a variety of options and will meet different needs, be it reducing travel and entertainment costs, accommodating schedules or increasing audience size. It is important to review the capabilities before purchasing a tool to ensure it meets your needs.

Virtual meetings are designed for small and large meetings or trainings.

Virtual meetings and trainings are real-time interactions that take place over the internet using integrated audio and video, chat tools, and application sharing. Virtual meeting tools can provide many benefits beyond a standard conference call. A virtual meeting environment lends itself to a unique atmosphere where training classes, meetings or collaboration gatherings can be conducted online with multiple people in various locations.

The benefits of virtual meetings allows you to reduce costs, more easily find a schedule that works for everyone, and even possibly increase audience size because anyone can attend as long as they have internet access. These tools also have a variety of features that can enhance an experience by highly engaging participants. Comparing these features, as well as many others, will help to ensure your goals are met.

There are a variety of tools available today, including Zoho, Yugma, GoToWebinar, and Dimdim.

Here is a summary of the four virtual meeting tools discussed in this training:

When reviewing the tools available, focusing on a step-by-step process will point you in the right direction to choose the tool that fits your organization. Utilize the findings from your research, feedback from your stakeholders, and your own knowledge of your organization to create a formalized action plan that will guide you through the process of identifying and implementing a new project management tool.