VIDEOCONFERENCING - The Next Best Thing to Being There

With the widespread increase in bandwidth and lower cost of technology, one of the lesser-used Internet functions now beginning to catch on is desktop videoconferencing. Using the Internet for desktop videoconferencing provides media planners and buyers the opportunity to conduct meetings, pitches, client presentations, seminars and media sales calls from their own computer to anywhere in the world. The benefits are numerous: more people can participate in meetings, travel expenses are eliminated and information is exchanged more quickly.

For a videoconference to take place, both parties must have audio-visual equipment (monitor, camera, microphone, and at least one speaker) as well as a means of transmitting information between sites. As you can imagine, a broadband satellite connection with studio-quality equipment produces an excellent full-motion video connection, but the equipment and transmission expense is great. Recent advances in computer and telecommunications technologies have sparked an interest in compressed video systems, which transmit information via today’s Internet or telephone network, greatly reducing the cost of videoconferencing.

Videoconferencing connections may be limited to a closed network (such as a LAN) or may use public networks (such as regular phone lines). Many videoconferencers connect via ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) because it is an economical solution for high-quality videoconferencing. ISDN works over regular telephone lines, transmits at 128 kbps per line, and provides dedicated bandwidth for smooth audio and video (15-30 frames per second).

There are several websites that provide media professionals with desktop videoconferencing services, including, Windows NetMeeting (www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting), PictureTel (www.picturetel.com), and VTEL (www.vtel.com). However, Eloquent (www.eloquent.com) seems to provide the best blend of technology and service.

Eloquent is a world leader in videoconferencing technology. Their products combine the reach of the web with the power of rich media to deliver an expert’s knowledge to anyone, at any time, with the full effectiveness of a live speaker. The Eloquent Communication Server delivers to the desktop synchronized streaming digital video, audio, graphics, presentation slides, demonstrations, and a text transcript of the speaker’s presentation. All of the content is fully searchable and navigable for more effective user interaction and retention.

Eloquent offers a unique range of custom consulting services to assist online communications. They can provide expertise to maximize production values for minimal cost, high-end graphic and design solutions and instructional system guidance for adding intuitive, interactive elements such as pop-up dialogs and links to relevant reference materials or plan support data. Eloquent’s full service solution offerings include web-based player and server software, content production facilities, content and application hosting, and complete professional services. Some of the hundreds of top companies in the world that utilize Eloquent’s products and services include Cisco, AT&T, IBM, MCI, 3Com, Hewlett-Packard and Xerox.

Although nothing may ever replace a handshake and “face-to-face” meeting, desktop videoconferencing is an interesting alternative for those I-just-can’t-get-there-today situations.