Sometimes, people need to meet to plan, discuss an issue or just to share information. In the past, “meeting” meant physically getting together at an office or in a boardroom. In the past couple of decades, however, this definition of meeting began to change. As technology evolved, ways of meeting without actually having to go somewhere were developed. This was of great benefit for many people, given the distances that we often have to travel in Canada to meet with our colleagues. It helped save time and money, as well as reduce the amount greenhouse gases produced from travel to face-to-face meetings.
One of the earliest ways that people were able to meet over distance was through teleconferencing. Participants would call into a central number and all be linked together on one call. Over the years, changing technology has given us a number of ways that we can meet without physically getting together. While we can still use teleconferencing, we can also use videoconferencing and the Internet, or a combination of technologies to hold meetings. Today, online meetings are often called web conferencing.
If you would like to set up an online meeting, or if you have been invited to participate in one, there are many brands of software that might be used, including WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Live Meeting, Acrobat Connect, Saba Centra, Elluminate, Web Conference and more. Each brand of software offers a variety of features, but most include:
- the ability to invite participants via e-mail
- whiteboard capability
- audio feed
- text chat
- the ability to upload PowerPoint
Some also include the ability to go into an application and demonstrate its features; this is particularly useful for training in how to use the various types of software.
The cost of web conferencing varies greatly, depending on the software you choose. If you want to meet with only two other people, however, there are free options offered by both Adobe Connect Now and Elluminate. Most other software brands will offer a free trial period so that you can try out their products.
Technology in Action
Online meetings are used by corporations, government departments and not-for-profit agencies. For example, the GO research team held monthly meetings online throughout the life of the project to plan and discuss progress, using both Elluminate and Centra.
A number of provincial literacy networks told us that they also hold online meetings because it is both time-consuming and expensive to physically bring people together. For example, in order to save both time and travel costs, Community Literacy of Ontario holds its Board of Directors meetings online.
Additional Resources about Online Meetings
The Learning Technologies Centre at the University of Manitoba has developed a general overview of web conferencing: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/wiki/index.php?title=WebConferencing.
For a comparison of a number of web conferencing tools, visit the Webconferencing Test site: www.webconferencing-test.com/en/webconference_home.html.
Tech Soup has an article called Web-Conferencing Tools: Right for You that explains what web conferencing is and how to use some of the tools: www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/internet/page5975.cfm.