GoToWebinar Review

GoToWebinar is software that is designed to enable you to deliver webinars online seminars without having to think too hard about the technical side of things.

For those engaged in public speaking, webinars offer some clear advantages over arranging half and full-day workshops:

  1. Online setup in one place
  2. Automated communication, file-sharing, reminders and follow-up emails
  3. Zero travel (Organisers, Presenters and Attendees can “attend” from multiple physical locations)
  4. The Record facility enables absentees to catch up later

I’ve been using GoToWebinar now for about six months, to help a client deliver learning sessions online for their client. Here are my findings. (Title Case in the text of this blog post indicates the name of a GoToWebinar element, e.g. Presenter, Broad.)

GoToWebinar Setup Could Not Be Easier

To Schedule a Webinar, you login and complete the following information for each one:

  • Title
  • Date and Time
  • Timezone and Language
  • Description
  • Webinar Information
  • Organiser and Presenters (each is emailed their own unique link and Webinar Information, that enables them to join the webinar at the appointed time in the correct mode)

GoToWebinar Control Panel is Intuitive

Organisers have full control over every aspect of the webinar. Presenters have slightly less of these controls. Attendees simply have Sound, and a Question/Chat window.

  • Start
  • Start Broadcast
  • Record
  • Share screen
  • Control sound and webcams for Presenters
  • Chat Privately with anyone or compose messages and Send to All
  • Answer Attendee questions
  • Close webinar

GoToWebinar Enables Interaction

So many webinar tools allow only one-way communication: from the Presenter to the Attendees. GoToWebinar enables Presenters to encourage Attendees’ interaction by:

  • Asking questions and requesting responses via Chat
  • Displaying Polls and Results
  • Encouraging Attendees to type Questions, which Presenters can then answer as they go along

My anecdotal experience is that in webinars of around 100 Attendees or a little less, approximately 10% of Attendees interact by asking questions. Over 80% respond to Polls. Less than 5% use the Chat function perhaps Polls and Questions are more easily defined.

GoToWebinar Facilitates Follow-up & Reporting

  • You can email all Attendees, Presenters and Organiser a follow-up email
  • You can send a link to the Recording to anyone, not just Attendees
  • You can email detailed management reports (Attendee Reports) to relevant staff, including percentage engagement per attendee for example
  • You can also use the management reports to review Questions and Answers, Chat content

Organiser Checklist

If you’ve been given the task of setting up, running, marketing or presenting a webinar using GoToWebinar or a similar tool then this is your checklist:

Control Panel

  • You may need to use CMD+Tab on your keyboard to switch the focus of the mouse pointer between PowerPoint and your GoToWebinar Control Panel, so that you can click on it, and the same when you need to go back to PowerPoint to advance slides
  • This is useful for Organisers when you need to: Display Polls, use Chat, answer Questions, switch Presenters or switch on or off Sound or Webcams

Start the Webinar (but not the Broadcast)

  • This opens the webinar title page (an automated voice announces that broadcasting will start soon)
  • Caution: if you share your screen at this point, and have really early Attendees registering and joining the webinar, they will see it (though they will not be able to hear you talking with other Organisers or Presenters) this is a known issue

Get Your Presentation Ready

  • Have your PowerPoint presentation (for example) sitting open and in Display mode

Start Broadcast

  • This starts the webinar properly for Attendees to see and hear the Presenters and the presentation (an automated voice announces this to Attendees, Presenters and Organisers)
  • Click Record if you need a recording of the webinar (this will be available via a shareable link, shortly after the webinar is finished)

Have Presenters Welcome Attendees

  • It’s good practice to wait a minute or so, to enable latecomers to join (the majority will have joined by 2 minutes into the webinar)

Post Introductory Info into Chat Window

  • Add Welcome, Instructions or Presenter Bios, where relevant

Advance Slides

  • Begin to advance slides as Presenters move through the presentation
  • It’s best to have this worked out in advance with your Presenters the verbal cues for moving to the next slide, making for a smoother Attendee experience (listening to “next slide” gets boring real quick)
  • Presenters may move back and forward, depending on different sections of the presentation (again, arranging in advance how this is done keeps things seamless for Attendees)

Ask for Engagement

  • Display Polls
  • Send messages in Chat
  • Ask for Questions and answer them

Thank Attendees

  • Thank everyone for attending or presenting, as appropriate
  • Signpost to where Attendees can find additional (website) or follow-up information (emailed), and how they can access the recording (if there is one)

End Webinar

  • The webinar windows and Control Panel closes for all Attendees, Presenters and Organisers

Conduct Follow-up & Reporting

  • Send out all relevant emails as listed above

Need Help to Run a Series of Team or Client Webinars?

We can help you design your presentations, coach your Presenters or manage the tech side of things, leaving you relaxed and free to focus on the learning.

If you have any questions about webinars or GoToWebinar, or you’d like to talk to us about running some webinars for you, get in touch.

CultureTECH

We’re delighted to be involved in this year’s CultureTECH programme. Specifically, we’re helping train 1000 Digital Champions.

The campaign has been developed in support of the Go ON NI initiative which seeks to address the lack of digital skills across Northern Ireland.

The programme is huge. Find out more at CultureTECH.

Image credit: oggierite

Film Review of Ender’s Game

I haven’t read the book but I watched the film this week. Thanks to a mixture of Wikipedia, Amazon, and my own nosiness, I knew the basic plot already, including the twist ending. Here are my random thoughts.

The best word to describe the acting and effects in the film is competent. Character development does rely on a stock of stereotypes and tropes. The destined-hero, the drill-sergeant, the love-interest, the macho-rival, the father-figure, the bully-brother, the warrior-guru, they’re all there. Only three points make the whole event interesting. Age. Games. Enemies.

These warriors are not young men, as in the Vietnam films of WW2 movies that take us from boot camp to battlefield. These are kids, children, no more. Why make kids fight in a war? The film mentioned some waffle about how the brain of a child can handle complexity and stressful decision-making better than an adult. I don’t really understand how this can be true. Unless…

Kids play games. Kids are good at games, better than adults at certain types of games. If only there was a link between these kids’ games and real life warfare. Thanks to computer games, there is! Other movies like Wargames and The Last Starfighter have travelled this path before. I used to think it was nonsense. Then I saw a group of teenage boyz play Call of Duty. I tried to play. Ah. Time to rethink.

The movie tries to make us rethink too the relationship between us and our enemies. There’s a mild bit of preachiness to Ender’s Game: if you truly get to know your enemy, you will in that same act of understanding learn to love them. Maybe. Usually I hate overtly neo-puritanical sci-fi movies i.e. Elysium. Here this hippie message receives a spin: the enemies of the plot were not in the end the aliens but the adults.

Of these points, the game motif interests me the most. That’s what’s on the title, after all. Thanks to technology, indeed technopoly, our dichotomies break down in the film’s future world. Testing and reality. Training and reality. Simulation and reality. Games and reality. War and reality. It makes me wonder: what is this reality thing anyway?

What Tech Companies Need to Know About Documentation

Northern Ireland is a tech hub, it would seem. Who knew? If you don’t believe it, check out Digital Circle for the latest news.

Are NI Tech Companies Documenting Their Products?

Some are, certainly, because we work with them on getting documentation right. You can see which organisations were worked with that are interested in software documentation in Northern Ireland here.

Others are outsourcing documentation of technical information elsewhere: India, America, England.

Many are not documenting their products at all, or are doing so poorly. This may seem more prevalent in smaller organisations where there may be only a couple of (part-time) developers, who may also operate in the roles of management or sales. It’s a combination of lack of time, or resources to document their product properly.

Does Lack of Documentation Impact on Sales?

How do you feel when you unpack your sleek, new office phone and the only documentation is a multi-fold pamphlet, written over and over in every language known to man (and a few besides) printed in font size 6? You were hoping for more than 3 lines of instructions, weren’t you?

Now, compare this to how you feel when you open a software product, and the help system is well signposted, comprehensive but well structured, so you drill down to what you need in three clicks? Calm. Secure.

Clear, comprehensive instructions add to your product. But, what do they add?

  • Clarity – full instructions let the user know YOU know your product well, and there are no dark corners in which you’ve never been
  • Quality – among other things, users want an abundance of information, though it must be well structured and as easy to navigate as the product itself

How Much Does it Cost?

Some larger technical companies will establish a Technical Publications Department. The cost may be assumed to be that of the combined salary of the employees. Typically, a senior technical writer, technical author, or technical communicator will head the team.

What are the Roles?

Any Technical Publications department will need to fill the following roles.

Senior Technical Writer

The role involves: designing a system for the production of documentation; choosing software and setting up databases to store the documentation input and output (including text files, screenshots, videos, screencasts, help files and wikis for example); monitoring the software development software for changes that impact documentation; managing the workload engendered by a the usual number of releases a year, including any mini releases during that period; coordinating with the SMEs (developers, support, management, to ensure they work with writers to get the content and detail right); editing and proofreading the work of the team; and most likely, writing some content themselves.

It’s a responsible, and challenging position, often involving some politics between writing team and management priorities.

Technical Writer

sdfs

Ping.fm

Despite being fairly active on many social networking sites – for networking and research purposes – I’d never come across Ping.fm until it was recommended to me on Twitter by @mrcush. Thanks Mr Cush from Wolfmarks!

What does it do?

It saves you time posting status updates to various social networking, IM and bookmarking sites and profiles. You post to your central place, and it takes your update and replicates it around the web. There! You can be in eight places at once. And, update lots of profiles, without actually logging in there. The down side is that you have to hand over your username and password to those sites you wish to update. This is a fairly common phenomenon online, so if you’re happy doing that, then…

I’ll be testing it out for a while, to see how it helps. It’s certainly going to save me time, and add a nice little bit of activity to profiles I don’t use so often.

Image credit: Twitter.

Prevent Spam in a WordPress Blog

Spam will arrive in your WordPress installation daily. It takes the form of comments, and is recognisable from the following characteristics:

  • Badly-written or unintelligible English
  • Irrelevant to the post
  • Accompanied by a link to a dodgy website

Spam clogs up your website and falsely inflates the number of comments. Readers are unlikely to engage with a site if many of the comments are obviously not genuine.

To prevent this, there is one useful little plugin that should remove most of it, meaning you don’t have to read and delete comments individually.
  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard
  2. From the menu, click Plugins
  3. Click Add New
  4. In the Search box, type askimet, and click Search Plugins
  5. Locate Askimet in the list of results, and click Install Now
  6. When the plugin is installed, click Activate Plugin
  7. From the Plugins list, click Settings
  8. Click Askimet.com, to get a code (from £5/month)
  9. Add this code to the Settings page
  10. Click Update Options
Askimet will now protect your blog from spam comments.

How to Embed YouTube Videos in PowerPoint

This week I was severely miffed to find out that I can no longer use my favourite website to download YouTube vids. Yes, I know that 90% of YouTube content consists of idiotic pranks, homemade tedium and Nazi comments. But there’s some good educational stuff on it too that I use in training.

The website I’m talking about is called zamzar, offering “free conversion between document, image, music, video, audio, eBook, compressed and CAD formats. No download or account required.” It always worked well for me, until this week, that is.

When I tried to convert a file, I got a sorry, we can’t get that video. Why? “At the request of Google we have had to remove support for the downloading of YouTube videos on Zamzar.” Zamzar explain why in a post dated June 12, 2012. To cut a long story short, Goggle, owners of YouTube since 2006, threatened to sue their asses.

So what now? I’ve search the Internet looking for easy answers and came away blank. The suggested solutions were generally too techie for me to understand, involved spending money on software packages, or involved downloaded software that either didn’t work or looked dodgy.

Thanks to two mates with IT knowledge, unlike mine, beyond the medieval period, I managed to get it sorted. I’d like to share with you what I did in case it may help any other neo-Luddites out there.

First, I downloaded RealPlayer, which allows you to download videos and watch them on any device you want. In its ‘Basic Player‘ form, it is completely free and safe. Once this is downloaded and connected, you perform a usual search 0 powered by Google – to take you to your Youtube vid in a new window. Start playing the vid, then hover the curser over it. A little pop-up will appear over the vid in the screen saying ‘Download This Video’. Press it. The process of downloading will start automatically and will show you long to wait. When finished, the video will be placed in your Realplayer library.

Second, you have to convert this video to Windown Media Player or wmv. I used a free tool called WinFX or .NET. Whichever, it is a free video converter you can download from here.

Resources for Technical Writers #2

Since I last compiled a list of favoured resources for technical writers, I have:

  • Been inundated with requests for information on jobs for technical writers
  • Become something of a source for pointing writers to jobs (we get lots of recruiters asking for writers on LinkedIn and through ScribeTribe, and have made several connections)
  • Had queries about how technical writers may gain qualifications in the field
  • Endured the omnipresent vacant stares at networking meetings at which we’re trying to promote our Technical Writing services in Northern Ireland
  • Met Damian McGarvey from GGS Technical Publication Services
  • Rediscovered some long-lost, quality resources

Since preparing to work with a few new clients, embedded in the organisation as a Technical Writer, I’ve been scouring my resources for answers to common queries, as a formulate my plan of attack. In addition to finding the direction I needed, I have been pleasantly side-tracked, discovering new online training materials, discussions and ideas that sound reassuringly familiar and other meandering notions…

It is time for a summary of the varying pathways toward continuing professional development, keeping up-to-date with trends in the industry, new ways to meet and discuss technical communication tools and techniques, and otherwise staying sane.

Techwhirl

Techwhirl, the website formerly known as Techwr-L listserv, displays a concise strapline, “Online Magazine and Discussions for Today’s Tech Writer”. It combines useful how-to articles with articles discussing the role of a technical communicator. The long-established technical writing email list is still operational, and there is a calendar of technical writing training and events.

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is a


Pay Per Click (PPC) and Google Adwords

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Guest Blog Post by Jordan McClements from Pay Per Click NI.

In a perfect world, you will have an amazing web site that everyone talks about, and which gets tons of ‘free’ traffic from Search Engines, Social Media, and from people who have bookmarked your site. In the real world, you’ll probably have a web site which is fairly new and is not getting a huge amount of traffic yet. This is where PPC comes in. Continue reading “Pay Per Click (PPC) and Google Adwords”