RAQ: Recommendations for Webinar and Video Services?

Here’s a recent question from the inbox:

Hi Lee…I attended one of your sessions a few months back – Was terrific and learned much. Wanted to ask you – We are looking into doing webinars where consumers can register to attend, see either video or PPT slides while a moderator is chatting at the same time. Do you have any recommendations of a company or product that would allow us to do webinars? Some kind of webinar host company?

A. First, I’ll give you the MacGyver method, as demonstrated in Twitter 152. Use a video streaming service like Ustream.tv and embed slides using Slideshare.net. That lets you show slides while streaming video from your webcam. It’s all free. A little clunky maybe, but free.

I recently had an experience with my friend Lucien Engelen (@zorg20) in which he showed me a product call VuRoom, which is a plug-in for Skype that allows up to 8 people to be in a video chat together. The same company also has a product called VuCast which I haven’t tried, but looks like it can handle 10,000+ participants.

Other choices are WebEx, GoToMeeting, Windows LiveMeeting and Adobe Connect. I have used all of these as a guest presenter, but haven’t signed up for a contract with any of them. Here’s a chart (consider the source) from the VuCast gang that compares features.

What is your experience with these services? What do you see as the pros and cons of each?

Breakfast with Evie

I had a delightful experience this morning before I left for work: having breakfast with my granddaughter, Evelyn.

There was a time when this wouldn’t be such a remarkable event. For most of human history, families typically lived in close proximity across several generations. In many cases, extended families might live under the same roof.

The mobility made possible by the internal combustion engine brought many benefits, but one of downsides from a parental perspective is that children grow up and move away instead of raising their kids close to home. We’re happy for the opportunities, but we miss our babies (and their babies).

I’m now starting to appreciate the bittersweet moments we created for my parents when my wife Lisa and I moved to the Twin Cities (100 miles away) in the late 1980s, taking our two children with us in pursuit of gainful employment. And when we moved back home to Austin in 1994, with two more little girls (one of whom turned 20 today!) and a baby boy on the way, it was really special to be able to be close to their grandparents.

Still, during that eight-year period, I think my parents probably got to see our kids about every six weeks or so.

Now my two oldest kids are married, and my daughter Rachel and her husband have moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Kyle is going to seminary. They have two children, Evelyn and Judah. Anyone who has been in one of my presentations has been introduced indirectly to Evie.

But I see Evie and Judah much more frequently than my parents saw our kids, even though we’re about 500 miles away.

This morning I had a really special experience that illustrates the power of technology to strengthen those family bonds weakened by distance. Through the magic of Skype (and I do mean magic), I had breakfast with Evie (click photos to enlarge):

Evie was having a bowl of oatmeal at her table in Grand Rapids at 8 a.m. her time, while I had my gluten-free Corn Chex at 7 a.m. my time in Austin, a nine-hour drive away.

For us, though, her breakfast with “Bapa Eeee” was just like being directly across the table from each other. And I think I speeded up her eating, because when Grandpa took a bite, so did she:

What applications can you see to enrich your life and work by using free videoconferencing?

Privacy begins at home

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Last week when I was in the Netherlands (See “Putting the ‘Global’ in SMUG”) I had the opportunity on Wednesday to help lead a couple of master classes on Web 2.0 for health care communicators from UMC Radboud, one of six academic medical centers in the Netherlands, in Nijmegen.

I often like to demonstrate Skype and its videoconferencing capabilities (and the fact that it’s FREE) in my presentations. It’s one thing to say, “Skype is like the video phone in The Jetsons.” That gets heads nodding. But it’s entirely different to show just how easy and cool it is. So I have sometimes Skyped with my daughter Rachel and granddaughter Evelyn, and also have done videoconferences with Darrin Nelson (a Mayo patient from Rochester, NY who shared his story about robotic heart surgery here, here, here and here on Sharing Mayo Clinic.) In those cases I had sent messages on Facebook (for Rachel) or Twitter (for Darrin) to arrange the times for our conversations and to ensure that they would be available.

Our Wednesday morning master class in Nijmegen went off flawlessly, as @JohnSharp and @CiscogIII and I tag-teamed as teachers, but in the afternoon they had to head back to Amsterdam, so I was on my own (along with my host, Lucien Engelen.)

I was doing fine until I got to the reference in my slides to Skype, and then I got what I thought was a great idea: I went to Skype and saw that my lovely wife, Lisa, was on-line.

So (on the spur of the moment, not to mention a classic case of y-chromosome poisoning), I decided to just “surprise” Lisa with a Skype call without advance warning. I’ll let the Facebook conversation she started tell the rest (click to enlarge):






Lesson Learned: Privacy isn’t just something to be concerned about from a HIPAA perspective. It begins at home.

And a special note of thanks to Lucien for providing his own peace offering (although he personally had done nothing to offend), in the form of this beautiful bouquet of roses, pictured below next to my now fully showered bride of nearly 25 years.

Picture 11

Meet George Jetson!

The Jetsons was one of my favorite non-Looney Tunes cartoons from my youth. Flying cars and the 15-hour workweek were highlights for me of the Hanna-Barbera vision of the world of 2062.

Obviously those predictions haven’t come to fruition yet (at least for me), but one that has become reality in a big way is the video phone. Remember how George used to talk to Jane face-to-face from his office through a video screen? And how Mr. Spacely would always seem to appear on the video screen at inopportune times?

My wife Lisa and I played Jetsons a couple of nights ago with our daughter, Rachel, and granddaughter, Evelyn. They live about 500 miles away from us, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here was their first experience with Skype:


In the 1960s — when many long-distance phone calls were operator assisted and the per-minute charges for a simple voice call were exorbitant and only the big three television networks and their affiliates had video cameras — the idea of being able to talk by video across the miles was as outlandish as levitating cars seem to us today.

Which brings me back to the subject of my post about whether Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are free. If you had told anyone in 1962 (when The Jetsons ran in prime time), that they would be able to do what Lisa, Rachel, Evie and I did Tuesday night (along with our cat, Zeke), they would have shaken their heads in disbelief. 

Most probably would have doubted it even in 1992, or would have thought the cost of such a service would be exorbitant. Remember AOL, Prodigy and similar services that set time limits on Web access?

But like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Skype is FREE! Yes, you need a computer with a webcam to take advantage of it (and a MacBook with built-in iSight is a great choice), but for computer-to-computer voice calls or videoconferencing, there are no charges with Skype. 

If you’re reading this, you already have access to a computer. You may even have a webcam, but if not you can get one for about the cost of a cheap DVD player (another technology that’s becoming ridiculously inexpensive.)

Here is the key question to ask yourself (and doubters in your organization): If our competitors are paying nothing to communicate more effectively with their customers (and ours) by using this technology with the staff they already have, wouldn’t our failure to take advantage of these tools be a significant competitive disadvantage for us?

For some great reading on why all these tools are being made available for FREE, check out this article in Wired by Chris Anderson. It’s also the subject of his new book, to be released next month. I’ll be reviewing it here soon after it comes out.

Meanwhile, if you want to give Skype a try, download it and I would be happy to be your first videoconference conversation partner. Just tweet me (@LeeAase) and be sure you’re following me on Twitter, and we can connect via direct message to set a time for a face-to-face talk on Skype.

10 Steps to Your Own FREE Podcast


A podcast is the perfect vehicle for providing in-depth audio and video information to an interested audience. And not just an “audience,” but a community: if you use a blog to distribute your podcast, listeners can provide feedback through their comments. This post is a recap of Social Media University, Global’s 100-level Podcasting courses, and will take you step-by-step through everything you need to create your own podcast

Best of all, the education is completely FREE. SMUG has no tuition, and all of the tools to create and distribute your podcast used and recommended in these courses are free.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Subscribe to podcasts for FREE using iTunes
  • Record your audio files for FREE using Audacity
  • Use WordPress.com as your FREE server for delivering podcasts (a $20 savings over typical costs, exclusively for SMUG students)
  • Enhance your podcast feed through Feedburner so you can get traffic and usage data, and so your users can more easily subscribe, and
  • Get your podcast listed in the major podcast directories like the iTunes Store and Podcast Alley.

You’ll do all of this without spending a penny, but just investing your time, assuming you have access to a computer with a built-in microphone. Then, after you’ve experimented with your own personal podcast, you will have the confidence born of first-hand knowledge and hands-on experience that will enable you to make decisions on how and whether to use podcasting in your work or volunteer organizations. Here are the 10 steps to your free podcast:

  1. Podcasting 101/Social Media 106: Introduction to Podcasting
  2. Podcasting 102: Becoming a Podcaster
  3. Podcasting 103: Creating Audio Files Takes Audacity
  4. Podcasting 104: Adding ID3 Tags to Your Audio Files
  5. Podcasting 105: WordPress.com is My Podcast Server (and Yours)
  6. Podcasting 106: Creating an RSS Podcast Feed
  7. Podcasting 107: Posting a Podcast Episode
  8. Podcasting 108: Subscribing to Your Podcast
  9. Podcasting 109: Hotter Podcast Feeds through Feedburner
  10. Podcasting 110: Listing Your Podcast in iTunes and Other Directories

Upon completion of these 10 steps, you will receive your non-accredited Associate of Arts in Podcastology and will be added to the SMUG Dean’s List. Then you’ll be ready to explore advanced courses at the 200-level and above, learning about production enhancements like better recording devices, adding music to your podcast without going to jail, conducting interviews remotely through Skype, mixing tracks and adjusting recording levels, and otherwise making your podcast more professional.

Please give your feedback on this 10-step free podcast program, either in the comments below or on the individual courses. We’re always open to suggestions on how we can improve the educational experience.

And if you find the program helpful, please use your blog, Twitter, Facebook — or the buttons below — to share it with your friends and colleagues.

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