Have you ever wanted to hold an online meeting? This is an eventthat lets you share your computer's screen with one or more other people. All participants can stay at home or in their offices and yet all view the same computer screen at the same time. In most cases, all participants are also talking with each other in a telephone conference call or via Skype or some other VoIP solution. Online meetings are great for classroom instruction, meetings, and one-on-one troubleshooting of technical issues.
Several national genealogy societies that I know of hold their board of director meetings via online meetings. The use of such high-tech tools can save a lot of time and money in travel expenses.
Online meeting products have been available for several years. The better-known products include WebEx, GoToMeeting.com, Microsoft Office LiveMeeting, and several others. However, most of the popular meeting services tend to be rather expensive to use, often $50 a month or more. A new service from SlideShare, called Zipcast, promises to reduce those expenses significantly.
Zipcast advertises "one-click meetings." There is no need to download software or to wait five minutes for a meeting to start. Even the moderator (person conducting the meeting) does not need to download or install any software. Open your browser, and with one click you’re in a Zipcast meeting.
The new Zipcast service offers both free and for-a-fee services. It offers secure private meetings for a fee as well as free, limitless public meetings from your web browser. Private meetings require a password that you, as the moderator, create in order to log in and participate. You control who can join a private session. You can upload PowerPoint, Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, PDF, iWorks, and Keynote files. You also get streaming video, audio and group chat for free. You can display PowerPoint slides in a Zipcast service or simply demonstrate the use of a computer program. Whatever is displayed on your screen is echoed to everyone else in the online session. During the meeting, you can use keyboard-to-keyboard chats or have voice communications.
Public meetings are free and do not include voice capabilities. They may display advertisements. That's how SlideShare pays the bills. Private online sessions cost money but never display advertising.
Everyone gets a personalized meeting room. If you have a SlideShare login, you already have a meeting room at http://www.slideshare.net/USERNAME/meeting. If you do not yet have a SlideShare login, you can obtain one at no charge.
The Zipcast web site suggests the following ten ways to use Zipcast:
- Share ideas with remote colleagues
- Launch your next product
- Talk at a conference remotely
- Teach anyone, anywhere
- Pitch a client
- Walk people over your sales deck
- Support your customers
- Run a non-profit fundraiser
- Share your photo albums
- Have fun sharing presentations
Zipcast requires an updated web browser (don't try to use Internet Explorer 6) and Flash 10 or higher. Zipcast works on both Windows and Macintosh computers.
Zipcast can be free forever, although the free version is limited to public meetings. For $19 a month, a Zipcast Pro user can add private meetings and other features. Even more services are available for still higher fees. Pricing details may be found at http://www.slideshare.net/business/premium/plans
Want to hold a genealogy class? How about a meeting of the society's board of directors. Zipcast may be the answer.
You can learn more about Zipcast at http://www.slideshare.net/zipcast
Zipcast is not the only free online meeting product. I wrote some time ago about Yugma, an online meeting service that offers both free and for-a-fee services. Yugma is much more basic than the products mentioned above and may not meet everyone's needs. However, it may suffice for simpler applications. I have used Yugma successfully for one-on-one meetings but never to address a group of remote computer users.
Yugma offers several different services. I especially like Yugma for Skype, which combines Yugma's screen sharing with Skype's voice calls, even conference calls amongst groups. Unlike Zipcast, Yugma DOES require downloading and installing new sofgtware.
The free version of Yugma is limited to the moderator (or host) and a maximum of two other participants. Adding more people to a Yugma online session requires an upgrade to a paid Pro account. Yugma works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems. Yugma also offers free telephone conference calls, although a toll call is required for most users. Yugma can also be used with most any of the computer voice VoIP services, such as Skype. The special Yugma for Skype version integrates the two services into one menu.
You can learn more about the free Yugma service and it's several extra-cost additional services at https://www.yugma.com/