Friday, September 11, 2009

Webinar 101: Part 1 - Getting Started

by Bridget Gilormini

Part 1—Getting Started

A Webinar—short for “Web seminar”—is a great way to attend a workshop without ever having to leave your home or office. Convenient and cost saving, Webinars are presented via the Internet and can reach a large audience. The process for participating is simple—once you know the basics. If you’re new to Webinars, knowing the following three things will help you have a positive experience.

First, you will need a computer with high-speed Internet access. The most current versions of system software and browsers tend to have the features needed to view and interact with a Webinar, so be sure your system is up to date. For example, if you are using Firefox for Mac to access the Internet, be sure you are using Firefox 3.5.2. If you are able to register for a Webinar, you probably will be able to view the Webinar as well.

Second, you will need to have an e-mail address. Information about a Webinar typically is delivered electronically. Once you register online, you’ll receive confirmation information, reminders, notification of any changes, a link to the workshop, evaluations, certificates of attendance, and the like. (If you don’t receive the information you’re expecting, check your junk mail folder. Some e-mail systems interpret Webinar e-mails as spam.)

Some organizations allow you to specify whether they may use your e-mail and registration information for other purposes, such as marketing research, mailing lists, or survey requests. If you want to be sure your personal e-mail address is not shared, you may want to set up an e-mail address just for attending Webinars.

Third, you may want to know that Webinars can be delivered through different software programs. While they have similar features, each has a different way of organizing and delivering the information. Some, for example, allow the presenter to make accommodations such as captioning or audio descriptions. You can request accommodations when you register. PACER uses a tool called GoToWebinar by Citrix. Other popular tools used include: Adobe, iLinc, Saba, Webex, Conference Plus, MicroSoft Live Meeting, and IBM Lotus SameTime.

These three tips should help you feel more comfortable navigating the world of Webinars. If you would like to view an archived Webinar on “How to Attend and Navigate a Webinar,” visit and click on the link for “Webinar 101.”

In Part II of this article, coming next month, we’ll talk about what happens after you register for a Webinar and how to find Webinars in which you are interested.

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