Four Reasons To Skip Web Conferences

Remember when PowerPoints were first created how we were flooded with every special effect in the PowerPoint pail? Text would come swooping in from the right.

Remember when PowerPoints were first created how we were flooded with every special effect in the PowerPoint pail? Text would come swooping in from the right. Clip art would fade-in out of thin air. Sometimes, I would get downright dizzy watching the damn show.

The only thing worse that a supped-up PowerPoint is a supped-up PowerPoint run over a Web conference. As a long time journalist, I’ve sat through my share of one-on-one vendor presentations run as Web conferences and even when they've removed jazz in their PowerPoints I’ve found the technology to be more annoyance than anything else.

Logging into the darn conference can hiccup for all sorts of reasons. Did I get the right URL? Is the password accurate? Is Java enabled or not. Will it run in this particular browser? The list goes on.

Even once we get into the one-on-one, the organizer uses the technology to flip through a PowerPoint or PDF. It’s a pretty miserable use of the technology if you ask me. Pages can take forever to render. The lag between the presenter and myself interferes with the presentation as we wait for my screen to render.

You also can’t take notes on a presentation in a Web conference, so that means scribbling on a separate document or in a separate file. Some vendors have told me that they like it that way as they want a Web conference to protect their sensitive presentations from falling into the wrong hands.

Now that’s just plain dumb. If you can’t trust the person with the presenting, do you really think that a web conference will make a difference? I for one just end up printing my screens and taking notes on them for future reference

I suppose the reason for insisting on the Web conference is to give the presenter some control over the presentation. Heaven forbid that I the viewer should look ahead and see where we’re going.

At least, control better be the reason because presenters will rarely use the technology for one thing that would make sense, to cut costs. Web conference servers and service typically can provide audio conferencing over the Internet, which is normally cheaper than the PSTN equivalent. Of course, its over the Internet and folk are rightly worried about voice quality so rarely do those components get used in the one-on-ones web conferences.

In the end of the day, I usually tell vendors to just send me the presentation and then cue me through it. How 20th century, I know, but sometimes it looks like we just look for technology solutions where there’s no problem.

Don’t get me wrong. Web conferencing is a great tool for all sorts of uses. One-to-many presentations, such as quarterly earning calls or in education, are a great use of the technology. I’ve even sat in on some smaller Web conferences that made a LOT of sense (see my recent post about participating in a multi-way video/Web conference using Dialcom’s service)

And I know most of you also think that Web conferencing is worthwhile. Two reports I just completed – one for Osterman Research on messaging and collaboration and the other for InformationWeek on Unified Communications adoption -- both ranked Web conferencing as the collaboration technology of greatest interest for IT buyers.

But like every tool, Web conferencing can be over used and abused. in the wrong way. Let’s make sure that we use it in the right way.


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