The following page is a collection of best practices for planning, organizing and using web conferencing. It is broken into several sections, including ones for instructors, participants, support staff and organizers.
The information in this section applies to anyone participating in a web conference, whether they are an instructor or a participant.
Computer functioning properly?
Make sure your conferencing software is functioning, that your computer has a working internet connection, that you have shut down applications you do not require, and that you have rebooted recently.
Audio or Video hardware plugged in/selected?
Many conferencing applications require you to plug in your microphone, speakers, headset or web camera BEFORE starting the application, in order that the application can locate them.
Required software installed?
This includes both the conferencing software and any other software such as media players or applications your conference organizer may require (Current Windows Media Player, Microsoft Word, Acrobat PDF Reader, etc).
Get there early!
Make sure you get connected in time that you can test all your hardware and software and if you are having problems you can try to resolve them or contact IT support to resolve them BEFORE the start of the session.
If you are going to be using audio in a presentation it is very important to make sure that both the audio level AND the audio quality of your microphone are appropriate. Set the audio level so that when you speak in a normal voice the levels remain in the green zone or occasionally peak into the yellow zone. To test the audio quality you can run the audio test, record a snippet of audio and play it back. If your audio is "breathy" or has lots of popping sounds, you may need to move your microphone out of the direct line of your mouth. Try to keep the microphone between an inch to two inches from your mouth, yet not in the direct flow of your breath.
Connection Speed Set
Make sure, particularly if you are presenting from a computer you don't use on a regular basis, that it is set to use the appropriate connection speed (ie, if you are connected to the internet via a high-speed connection or a LAN, make sure it is set to that). Otherwise, your presentations may suffer from slowness or lack of quality due to enforced bandwidth restrictions.
You and other participants will find it very distracting if your telephone rings during your web conference. If you are pre-recording, you may think that you can pause the recorder and come back, but this tends to interrupt the flow of the presentation for your viewers: the time jumps, the audio cuts out and in, if you are sharing applications, those windows will blank out and reappear as you exit and return to them.
Resolution settings on your computer
If you usually display your screen at a very high resolution, it will be very helpful for your viewers (live or recorded) if you turn the resolution down somewhat. Otherwise, if they are viewing at a much lower resolution or with a smaller screen, they wind up having to scroll around a lot to see everything you see.
See things through the eyes of your participants
It is often very useful, if you have the resources, to set up a second computer beside the one you are using for your presentation and add it to the session as a participant so that you can monitor what things look like and sound like for your audience
Multimedia files uploaded for playback
Uploading large multimedia files takes time and bandwidth. If you try to do it during your presentation, you can a) get confused and delayed and b) reduce the quality of your presentation as the uploading takes bandwidth away from everything else you are trying to do.
Whiteboard files converted, uploaded
It takes time and bandwidth to upload files to the whiteboard or the presentation pod. If you can do it ahead of time, then you can also make sure that they are organized in the proper order for your presentation
Demonstration files organized
If you are going to be demonstrating an application or a process where you need to open or transfer files on your local machine, you should consider making sure you have all those files placed in an easily accessible folder so that you only have to navigate to it once.
Demonstration applications organized
If you are going to be doing application sharing to demonstrate a particular application, make sure that you have that application quickly available, and that you have its screen display size set to something that will be manageable for your viewers
Applications you are going to demonstrate MUST be viewed on your primary monitor if you are running multiple monitors on your computer.
REMEMBER TO START THE RECORDING if you intend to direct participants to a prerecorded session afterwards
IT Support available?
If you are not IT-savvy, make sure to arrange to have IT support available via telephone and email to your participants during at least the half an hour before a conference
Participants' contact information?
If you have a significant number of novice participants, ensure you have their contact information readily available to you or your IT support person. E-mail addresses are useful in the DAYS before a conference; immediately prior to a conference, however, telephone numbers are most beneficial.
Planning, Planning Planning!
Ensure that you have provided sufficient information to and received sufficient information FROM your presenter and/or IT support person sufficiently ahead of time to ensure a smooth conference. For example, make sure if your presenter is going to want to share a document with participants that they let you know ahead of time so you/your IT support person can make sure your participants have the appropriate software to deal with that document. If you will be presenting video, ensure that everyone knows what is required to present/share it...
Best Practices for IT Support people
Have the join links/information available!
The number one problem in advance of a session is that the participant misplaces their session joining information. Have it handy in your email or on a bookmark or a web page!
During the half an hour before a session, you'll usually be frantically setting up for it. However, so will the remote participants! Try to make sure, if you ARE setting up, that those participants know how they can get ahold of you! Forward your phone to the conference room or your cell phone! Have your email running on a portable device...
Resources available in ADVANCE
Video and document sharing are often problematic to do on-the fly during a session. Work with your presenter or organizer to make those resources available ahead of time, so that you and the presenter or organizer can test them and so that the participants can have access to them to test them as well
If you know you will be using video or specific applications, arrange to have examples available on the web in advance for your participants to test their software with!
Try to Be Psychic!
Or at least, sharpen up your remote desktop access skills! If you can, have available to you remote access software you can use to work remotely with participants in testing before sesssions!