What is Web Conferencing and Webinars?

Web conferencing is a growing and maturing technology used to conduct live meetings or presentations over the Internet.  It adds a more affordable way to interact with customers and employees in this fast paced and distributed world.

In the early years of the Internet, the terms “web conferencing” and “computer conferencing” were often used to refer to group discussions conducted within a messaging board (via posted text messages) therefore not live, but the term has evolved to refer specifically to “live” or  synchronous meetings, while the posted message variety of discussion is called a forum  “message board”, or bulletin board.  The advantage to this type of technology was that it did not require all participants to be available at the same moment. It also did not require much in the way of fancy technology. It was simple, and rarely broke.

A Web conference today is much more “live” and personal, each participant sits at their own computer, and is connected to other participants via the internet. This can be either a downloaded application on each of the attendees computers or a web-based application where the attendees will simply enter a “URL” or website meeting address to enter the live meeting or conference. These web-based applications are used either with Flash or Java technology.  This requires a lot more “pieces” to work properly and therefore a greater chance of something “not working”.  Fortunately as the Internet matures both in technology, reliability and performance (bandwidth), this new form of web conferencing will become more common.  Many Web conferencing tools have VOIP (Voice Over IP) features that allow the participants to talk through a microphone to each other. This gives the session a real personal feel and some even provide video feeds.  As you might guess, each participant must also have all the right pieces installed on their computer. This is becoming more common, but not everyone is “up to date” with their computers.

A webinar is a special type of web conference.

The direction of the presentation is primarily one way from the presenter to the audience as in a Webcast, which is transmission of information in one direction only, like watching a concert on the internet. A webinar however can be designed to be interactive between the presenter and audience. A webinar is ‘live’ in the sense that information is conveyed according to an agenda, with a starting and ending time. In some cases, the presenter may speak over a standard telephone line, pointing out information being presented on screen, and the audience can respond over their own telephones, preferably a speakerphone. Newer Web conference software provides VOIP connections that allow all users to hear the speaker right over their computer.  This requires a fast Internet connection (high bandwidth) to be usable. Even with current DSL connections it can be a bit “choppy” at times.  The advantage is that all computers come with speakers and it does not require another “phone conferencing” service.

Typical features of a web conference include:

  • Slide presentations (often created through PowerPoint)
  • Live video (via webcam or digital video camera)
  • VOIP(Real time audio communication through the computer via use of headphones and speakers)
  • Recording (for viewing at a later time by anyone using a unique web address)
  • Whiteboard with annotation (allowing the presenter and/or attendees to highlight or mark items on the slide presentation. Or, simply make notes on a blank whiteboard.)
  • Text chat (for live question and answer sessions)
  • Polls and surveys (allows the presenter to conduct questions with multiple choice answers directed to the audience)
  • Screen sharing/desktop sharing/application sharing (where participants can view anything the presenter currently has shown on their screen. Some screen sharing applications allow for remote desktop control, allowing participants to manipulate the presenters screen, although this is not widely used.)

What are some of the uses of Web Conferencing?

This is a brief overview of the possibilities:

  • Employing Training – Remote employees, traveling sales personnel, etc
  • Customer Training and Technical Support.
  • Marketing and Sales Seminars
  • Pay-per-view  training (recorded webinars)
  • Meetings – One-to-One and Many-to-Many

This brief list should spark some other ideas.   Currently web conferencing is handled by a third party service. There are literally “dozens” of these services, and a simple query of “web conference” in Google will get you a very long list.  Each service is slightly different and many of them can be very expensive, but competition is driving the prices down.  Using these services requires that your customers be given the URL of this service along with login information.

Links to business related articles on Web conferencing

Business Methods Change By Tapping the Internet

The Potential of Web Conferencing is Virtually Here

Seven Reasons You Need Web Conferencing

At SonicSpider LLC, we use DimDim for all of our webinars and web conferences. We have found it to be easy to use and with features that provide added benefits to us and our clients.

Through our San Diego North County Meetup Group we offer free webinars on web technologies.  For a schedule and sign up click here…..

About John Moore

John Moore is the co-founder of SonicSpider, LLC in San Diego County, California. John is our head Internet developer, overseeing the direction of our technical services. He has been programming in a variety of languages for more than 25 years, first as the owner of the consulting and system architect/design company, Micro-Phyla Systems, which provided services to enterprise level companies, and then as a principle with SonicSpider LLC. SonicSpider has two primary divisions, SonicWebTech for programming, ecommerce solutions, and general web oriented technical assistance - and RightStart Websites, specializing in WordPress, which provide low cost web packages and website enhancements that can span your needs from "do it yourself" to "do it all for me". John is also a PayPal Certified Developer and has extensive experience with many payment gateway solutions.
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  • Thalia says:

    Hi there, I noticed your weblog in a new listing of personal blogs. I dont know how your weblog came up, must have been a typo, Your blog site looks very good. Also i wanted to take your rss feed but i couldn’t. Don’t know why!!? My best wishes, Thalia.

    • superspider says:

      That’s interesting.. I tested the RSS feed and it is working fine. Could you provide more information as to what you tried?