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  RESOURCES:             Guidelines and tutorials: "How to organize and promote Megaconference among your colleagues"







How to organize and promote Megaconference among your colleagues

The purpose of this document is to provide you with insights on best practices in organizing and promoting Megaconference event among your colleagues.

While you are preparing for Megaconference
Work with and for your audience beforehand
Things to be done straight after videoconference session
Things to be done after Megaconference

While you are preparing for Megaconference

  • The golden rule before you do any sessions is: test, test and test your connection. No amount of advance testing is too much! Megaconference MCUs and staff members will be available well ahead of final event and you will have plenty of opportunity to test your connection with them. This is time to try different configurations in your system and select the one that serves best to your needs. These tests should also give you good understanding of how quickly your system can recover and re-connect should you get disconnected. Megaconference team is consisted of great professionals and they will be your best friends while troubleshooting your system and figuring out what went wrong.
  • Megaconference team may advise remote participants to install diagnostic tools on their systems to help them figure out what is going on at their end – doing this is beneficial for both sides and it will make troubleshooting much easier for you.
  • Do not change the your system configuration between last successful test and the actual event! It is always surprising how many people like to experiment and add new equipment and solutions even 5 minutes before the actual event. Those solutions may or may not work, and if latter happens you will have very unhappy audience as a result (especially if your group is larger).
  • Use life-size images: Whenever this is possible use a projector instead of a monitor screen. This is true even if at your site you do not have a group of people but only one person participating in the session. The life-size imagery is proven to contribute towards higher level of immersion (sense that you are participating in a real event rather than virtual), and your chances to have more natural responses will be much higher (this includes a level of engagement as well).
  • Select best camera position: If possible always position your camera to be as close to the display area as possible. If additional rearrangement of the room is needed because of this - do it ahead of time.
  • Plan videotaping and recording: Consider videotaping entire session or only one part of the session - you may need to review later on it or show it to other people. Prepare all equipment you may need for this purpose, and make sure you have enough storage media. If your system cannot save digital data coming to your end, you can easily use camcorder and record both people at your site and the display with the images from remote site. Even a few strategic images made with still camera will be great to have in your documentation - later on those will serve as a best showcase of your joint efforts.
  • Make a back-up plan: When planning a videoconference session it is important to remember you do not have full control over communication parameters. In such situation it is highly advisable to make a back-up plan. If anything goes wrong with your system (and hopefully it will not :-)) you can always resort to streaming facility that will be available. Have appropriate application installed on your system and be ready to use it, just in case. Your guests will not be able to interact with other participants but they will still be able to watch what is going on.
  • Advertise watching streamed video from Megaconference: this is something that the any of your colleagues (students or faculty) can do independently from your central efforts. If they do that this year they may feel more confident to actively engage in 2-way session next year. Advertise it among and/or organize it for people that will not be part of your main group.
  • Session materials: Send people at your site pointers to Megaconference and include agenda items to your message. Print agenda and make it available to participants in the room where you set your system (let them know you will have this available on the day - no need for duplicating efforts).

Work with and for your audience beforehand

  • Make a schedule of your test attempts and let your faculty know those dates and times. Invite people who will be participating in the session to come by and check how the things work - for some of them it may be the first time they participate in such session and they will be able to check for themselves the quality of transmission. Once people witness how much effort has been put into it they are more likely to appreciate the final work. They will also be less sensitive to any imperfection and hick-up that may occur during the session! It is therefore very important to share the sense of ownership for the event between your team and your faculty/participants.
  • In case some people from your site will be presenting at Megaconference, schedule appropriate test sessions with your team presenters as well. Megaconference people will be able to let them know if they are heard clear and loud. Remember also to remind them to look at the camera and not display while talking!
  • Consider making your gathering less formal event and aim for rather informal gathering especially if your audience is experiencing this kind of event for the first time. The seating arrangement may also be organized in a way that reinforces this idea. If feasible for your environment you may even bring some cookies for your group. Attempts of this sort (Megaconference) are great occasions for celebration of communal spirit, and food can be great ice-breaker and bonding material.
  • Important part of preparation for events of this kind is also educating your audience - educated users are your best allies. Your goal is that they come with right expectations and do not have any misconceptions. Introduce them the basic elements of videoconferencing as a medium (selected sections from ViDe videoconferencing cookbook are great resource (web)). Here are just a few elements:

    • Most people believe videoconferencing is 'just like face-to-face contact', and, needless to say, it is not. Some important communication cues that we use in face-to-face communication unfortunately cannot be successfully used in this medium. Nevertheless, this medium brings qualities that you cannot have in face-to-face meetings, like meeting 200 people from all over the world from the comfort of your office. It is fairly new medium to majority of participants and we have to learn its 'language' to be able to use it most effectively.
    • The dynamics of video sessions is different then in face-to-face meetings For example, the experience says that shorter presentations (15-20 min) are something that work well in this medium while 1 hour of uninterrupted presentation most likely will not work. Therefore, anyone planning several hours of videoconferencing has to break it into shorter parts and mix 'serious' parts with - less serious parts i.e. breaks. They both have their important role in such long events. Breaks also serve as a safe time-buffers in case agenda cannot be followed up strictly due to the problems in connecting remote presenters. Downtime periods and Megaconference cafe sessions are regularly used to strike new partnerships and get contacts for your projects, so there is clear advantage of being part of those as well.
    • Let them know that some visual and auditory imperfections in form of video or audio deformations i.e. noise may occur due to the possible loss of visual and/or audio data sent from the remote sites. These imperfections are also called artifacts (you may see blocky effects or "missing" parts in video, and audio may sound "chopped up").

  • Remind everyone that efforts of this sort are experiments and studies that help people working in this field advance their work. Therefore, participation in Megaconference should also be seen as everyone's contribution in this direction. It is also a great lesson for anyone who would like to use videoconferencing in their future teaching and learning practice, and, besides, it is a lesson that is free.
  • Some people may opt to organize an open-house day before Megaconference. This will give you a chance to provide more complete information to your audience in short period of time; possible ideas for agenda are short presentations (both local and on-line with remote colleagues using your local videoconferencing system), material and/or discussion about and around videoconferencing and Megaconference.

Things to be done straight after videoconference session

  • Interview your local participants: Organize a quick interview/discussion with your group straight after conducted videoconference session; this is perfect time as everyone will still remember all details. This will help you gather important information on what you should change, improve or add next time.

Things to be done after Megaconference

  • Make appropriate documentation: Produce web page about your participation in Megaconference. Add pointers to Megaconference web site, your still images or even make available short video clips that you recorded during the session. This will be your prime material in promoting such efforts in the future.