Tag Archives: virtualmeetings

Graphic recording of web meetings with the iPad – Yes, you can!

“So can I graphically record a web meeting on my iPad?”

That’s a question I get asked a lot, and historically, it has had a complicated answer. For a while, the answer was “Not if you want anyone in the web meeting to see your graphic recording while you’re doing it, no.” Then it was, “Yes, but only if they’re on the same wireless network you’re on, and even then it’s a lot of setup.” After that it was, “Technically, yes, but realistically, no,” because although it was technically possible to share your iPad’s screen to a desktop and then share the desktop’s screen in a web meeting, it wasn’t easy, smooth, fast, or reliable. As of last week, the answer has changed again.

That’s because last week, Squirrels released Slingshot, the first really workable solution that I’ve seen for real-time graphic recording in a web meeting using an iPad. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it good enough? Yes, for some situations. Is it for everybody? Nope.

Screenshot of iPad

My quick iPad drawing (screen shot from iPad).
I’m zoomed in a little, which is why it looks a bit fuzzy.

How Does It Work?

Slingshot lets you host a web conference in a snap from your desktop computer or mobile device. If you’re hosting from your desktop, you can use Airplay (built into your iOS mobile device) to mirror your device’s screen to your computer, where it is automagically screen-shared with everyone in the web meeting. Once I had downloaded and installed Slingshot on my computer, it took about five minutes to launch a meeting, connect my iPad, and share my iPad’s screen with someone in the web conference. I launched a drawing app on the iPad (Brushes in this case) and started drawing, just as I would if I were taking notes. My remote-viewing partner in crime (in this case my partner in many other things, Craig Smith) reported that the drawing was very smooth, no delay, no jumping around.

Squirrels also makes an app called Reflector, which mirrors your iPad screen to the desktop just like Slingshot. With Reflector, you have to join a web conference with something like Skype, WebEx, Connect, or Join.Me, and then share your screen. Slingshot skips all that by blending Reflector’s mirroring capability with an easy-to-use web conferencing tool, so you only have one thing to set up.

Photo of computer and iPad showing Slingshot

The iPad, where I was drawing, mirroring into Slingshot.
You’re seeing the Slingshot app floating over the Slingshot web page.
Don’t worry that the iPad is plugged in; it doesn’t need to be. I was just running out of juice.

Sounds Great! So Why Isn’t It Perfect?

First, because of how the mirroring works. Not only does your drawing get mirrored, but everything on your screen gets mirrored too — the palettes, title bar, whatever you can see. But we could live with that. The thing that really gets in the way is that the zooming gets mirrored as well.

To get good results and fit a lot of stuff on one screen, you need to zoom in when graphic recording on the iPad. Which is fine, except that when someone else is watching the screen and sees the zooming without any context, it’s very disorienting. I would be very careful about using this to record a web conference just because of the mirrored zoom. I wish there were a way to turn that off and just show the graphic recording unfolding without the zooming. That would be pretty darn close to perfect.

Second, you can’t do it just from the iPad, without the desktop computer. You still need to join the meeting on a desktop computer running Slingshot, and then you connect the iPad in order to mirror it. I really wanted to be able to join the meeting on the iPad and share the screen from there, but that’s not how it works.

The third reason isn’t particular to Slingshot. It’s just that live graphic recording on the iPad is not for everyone, regardless of how it’s shared in the web meeting. It’s slower than recording on paper and it requires more concentration, which means you can miss things. It’s much easier to get sucked into what you’re doing and forget to listen, especially if you’re not completely familiar with the drawing app.

Last but not least, both times I set up iPad sharing, Slingshot on my desktop crashed as I connected the iPad the first time. Once I relaunched and reconnected the iPad, all was well.

However, at long last, when someone asks if it’s possible to use their iPad to record a web meeting, I can say, “Yes! Yes it is.” Thanks, Squirrels!

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Virtual Meeting Tool: The Check-in Grid

Getting people comfortable in a virtual meeting can be a challenge, especially if you plan to use some of the more advanced features of your web conferencing tools. Even if that’s not in your agenda, it’s helpful to have folks take a minute to check in once the group has assembled. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the awkward-silence-and-simultaneous-speaking method of going around the virtual room. How about trying a visual alternative in your next meeting? This one was shared with me by a student in one of my digital facilitation workshops.

The check-in grid is a quick, easy and fun way to avoid the awkward stumbling while still giving everyone a chance to have his or her voice heard. It also lets folks experience the group whiteboard feature of a web conferencing tool during a safe and low-stakes activity, so that later, when you ask them to dot vote or contribute to a group visual, they aren’t totally lost.

You’ll need to enable the collaborative whiteboard feature in your web conferencing tool. Some of them require you to do this when you set the meeting up, and others let you activate it once the meeting has begun. (See below for alternative ideas if your system just doesn’t have this feature.)

Start by drawing a grid on the collaborative whiteboard that has at least enough squares for each person to have one (including yourself). You can do this in advance of the meeting, or while people are gathering in the call, or right after you call the meeting to order when everyone is present.

the check in grid - it looks like a tic tac toe board.

Draw a simple grid.

 

Next, set the stage for participation by saying that you’d like to have the group do a visual check-in. When you give the signal, everyone will pick an empty square and use the drawing tools to draw a simple face that reflects how they are feeling right now. Alternatively, you could frame the instructions in one of these other ways:

Draw a simple face that shows…
• …how you are feeling about our progress so far.
• …how you are feeling right now about the issue we have come together to discuss (name the issue so it’s clear).
• …how your weekend went.

And so on. Explain that there will be a little pandemonium for a moment as people sort out which square to use. Point out that there are enough for everyone, so if two people start to use one square, one of them should just choose a different one instead.

Show people where the drawing tools are and how they work, if they don’t already know. You can invite everyone to make a test mark outside the grid if they want to practice.

When everyone is ready, tell them to go ahead. Let them sort out the squares themselves – it’s a mess at first, but it will work out. It’s okay if they talk. Wait until it looks like most people have chosen before drawing your own image in an unused square.

filled-in version of the check in grid

Makes you want to know what’s up with the cat person, doesn’t it?

 

When everyone has finished, start at the top left and go along the rows. Ask each artist to identify him or herself and say something about why they chose to draw what they did. Acknowledge each person’s contribution.

There you go! You’ve given everyone a chance to speak and share something about themselves, and you’ve established a speaking order that you can use throughout the meeting to help avoid talking over one another.

Bonus Points:
Once everyone is done drawing but before you go around for the verbal check-in, take a screen shot or download the image, open it in your drawing program, share your screen, and graphically record everyone’s remarks around the outside of the grid. Only do this if you can manage it very smoothly and quickly, or you will lose the good energy built up by the drawing.

No collaborative whiteboard? No problem!
Alternative #1: Ask everyone to draw a quick face on a scrap of paper, take a photo with their phone, and either upload it to the web conferencing tool (if that’s easy) or email it to you right away. Flip through the uploaded drawings in the web conference, or share your screen and open them one by one on your computer. Have each person explain as above.

Alternative #2: There are a lot of free shared whiteboarding tools that you can use for your meeting. Flockdraw is one. You just create a whiteboard and share the link, and everyone can draw together using its incredibly simple interface. There are many other options too — just keep searching until you find one that you like.

flockdraw screenshot

A co-conspirator and I created this in about fifteen seconds on our first Flockdraw visit.

 

Alternative #3: Instead of drawing a face, everyone can use the whiteboard type tool to write one word that describes how they are doing (or answers whatever question you have asked them).

Give it a try — let me know how it goes!

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Virtual meeting nightmares: funny, sad, and way too true

This lovely little piece, created by Tripp & Tyler to promote Leadercast Live, came to my attention this week:

I laughed. Then I cried. Many of my colleagues had similar reactions. The video points out some of the common events that make so many online meetings so incredibly dysfunctional: ineffective introductions, bad audio, people talking over one another because of a lack of visual cues, and of course the Technology Factor.

We have a lot of skills for coping with these issues in face-to-face meetings, but we’re still working out the promising practices for handling the same issues in online meetings. Throw in some technology tools — which sometimes work and sometimes don’t — and a group of people who have different kinds of equipment and different levels of comfort and skill with the tools, and you’ve got a situation that is uncomfortable at best and disastrous at worst, especially for the meeting facilitator. We’ve all been that guy out in the hallway, talking to the wall, slowly realizing that no one else can hear us.

The good news is that the tools are growing simpler and more cross-platform. Enterprise-level tools that have been around for a long time in terms of Internet timeframes (think WebEx and similar systems) are evolving, and new tools are emerging (think Join.Me and Skype and so on). Instead of requiring special plug-ins or client versions of the software or different setups for different operating systems, the tools are being adapted to work on any platform, be it PC, Mac OS, or the different mobile flavors. The users of the tools don’t need to do as much to make them work, because the tools are becoming more flexible.

More good news is that we’re developing methods to cope with the social aspects of online meetings regardless of the technology we’re using. Not everyone can manage multi-party video calls — although that’s getting cheaper and easier too — so we’re working out ways to handle basic interactions like introductions, orientation to the meeting purpose, and conversations that lead to real work, even when you can’t see your colleagues. Visual methods that support these interactions can be employed without much special equipment at all, and the payoff in terms of lower frustration, greater efficiency, and higher engagement is huge.

So go ahead and laugh at the poor folks in the video. Then think about which of those painful moments you encounter the most — and how you can address that one issue in your next online meeting. I’d love to hear your ideas… and I’ll share some of mine too. Let’s make awkward online meetings a thing of the past.

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A Counterintuitive Approach to Structuring Virtual Meetings – from Guided Insights

This article by Nancy Settle-Murphy and Rick Lent includes excellent tips for structuring virtual meetings to be successful.

Excerpt:

Structuring Successful Virtual Meetings: 

A Counterintuitive Approach

Wouldn’t it be great if all we had to do to run a great virtual meeting is to use the exact same structures and techniques that we use for face-to-face (FTF) meetings? Great for the meeting leader, maybe, but not so great for the meeting participants who have to muster every ounce of energy to just pretend they’re engaged.

Sadly, many people run their virtual meetings pretty much the same way they run their face-to-face meetings, which truth be told, aren’t all that engaging to begin with. After all, it takes a lot less time to simply ignore the unique challenges and opportunities of virtual meetings–such the inability to read nonverbal cues, the tendency to multitask, and the imperative to keep virtual meetings exceptionally focused and brief–than it does to accommodate them.

 

Read the full article at guidedinsights.com
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Tools for Virtual Meetings

I get asked a lot about the tools I use to graphically record virtual meetings. ‘Virtual meetings’ in this case means web conferencing sessions, where people are connected from all over the place using computers and some kind of software like WebEx, Connect, GoToMeeting, LiveMeeting, Elluminate, and so forth. The web conferencing software has to either support screen sharing or have a really, really good whiteboard feature. A previous post talks a little bit about my setup, but here’s a little more about why I choose the tools that I do. As always, YMMV.

The Short Answer

Mostly, I use the Wacom Cintiq tablet with WebEx meetings. The Cintiq is an LCD tablet that works like a second monitor you can write on with a special pen or stylus. I use Sketchbook Pro as the software, because it’s very responsive and it has all the basic features I need for digital graphic recording. I attach the Cintiq to my laptop, set up the monitors so they are not mirrored, log in to WebEx, and share the Cintiq screen.

The Longer Answer: Hardware

Wacom Cintiq Tablet (or similar)

Pros: Very easy to write on; best option for web conferencing.

Cons: Expensive; not very portable; can be tricky to hook up and calibrate.

Cintiq

The 21UX. Oooh. Aaaah. Photo by David Roessli. Creative Commons.

The Cintiq comes in two sizes (12WX and 21UX). Currently, I use the 12WX, but I’m trying to get hold of a 21UX. With the 12WX, once all my palettes, brushes, colors, and so on are open, a lot of the canvas is covered. What I do to get around this is set up the Cintiq as a second monitor (instead of mirroring my displays) and I put all the palettes on my regular computer monitor, and just put the canvas on the Cintiq. Then I share the Cintiq (you can choose which monitor you’ll share). I have more canvas space to write on, and the palettes aren’t in the way and distracting the watchers.

The downside is that I have to put down the stylus, pick up the mouse, and mouse over to the other monitor when I want to change brushes or colors. This takes a little practice, but it’s not too bad once you get used to it. The 21UX has enough screen real estate that I could put the palettes right on that screen and not have a problem. Unfortunately, the 21UX is very hard to obtain because it’s always out of stock.

Wacom Bamboo Tablet (or similar)

Pros: Not very expensive; portable; very easy to connect to the computer.

Cons: Difficult to do detail work; you write in one place and watch it happen somewhere else.

Wacom Bamboo One

The Wacom Bamboo. Sleek, isn’t it? Photo by JeanbaptisteM. Creative Commons.

The Cintiq is my first preference. It’s expensive, though. There’s a cheaper alternative, which is a tablet that doesn’t have an LCD display, like the Wacom Bamboo (you can get the smallest one for $99). This tablet is much more portable and much more affordable, and also easier to hook up (just one cable as opposed to several).

The downside is that it’s much more difficult to do graphic recording using this kind of tablet. The surface is very slippery, making the pen hard to control — though you can work around this by placing a sheet of paper over the tablet — but the really difficult part is that you’re drawing in one place (the tablet) while you look in another (the computer screen). Even after a lot of practice, I still find it frustrating to try to record with it in real time. I think it’s because I like to do a lot of detail work, and it’s really not good for that.

Apple iPad (or similar)

Pros: Really really portable; easy to record on; lots of low-cost options for drawing tools.

Cons: Can’t really be used in web conference settings. Yet.

Me, graphic recording on the iPad. Photo by Alan Levine. Creative Commons.

The other question I get quite often is whether the iPad can be used for graphic recording in web conferences. The answer is mostly no, with a tiny little bit of yes. Obviously, you can do graphic recording on the iPad, and I do a lot of it and I love it. However, you can’t really use it for web-based virtual meetings, because there is no way (no reliable way, that is) to broadcast what you’re doing on the iPad to the people in the meeting. The web conferencing iPad apps that exist don’t let you draw on the whiteboard or share your screen (none that I know of allow this, anyway), and you can’t use the iPad to control your computer like you can with the Cintiq.

Well, this is not strictly 100% true, and that’s where the tiny bit of yes comes in. There are a couple of apps for the iPad that sort of let you either broadcast what you’re drawing (Air Sketch) or use the iPad like a tablet/monitor (Air Display), but they are not fast enough or reliable enough to support real-time meetings yet.

I’m still using my first-generation iPad, by the way. Works great.

Software

I use Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for digital graphic recording on the computer. It’s got the basic set of tools I need (layers, customizable brushes, color palettes), it’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s responsive enough to make real-time graphic recording possible.

On the iPad, I still use either Sketchbook Pro or Brushes, although there are a number of other apps that work equally well. The trick is to pick one that feels right and practice with it until the tools are second nature.

 

 

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Virtual Working Summit

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Tired of zoning out during online meetings? Check out the 2011 Virtual Working Summit, a virtual conference about virtual meetings. David Sibbet and I are among the featured speakers. The conference requires no travel and is free to attend!

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Second IFVP Online Graphic Jam!

Today’s IFVP Online Graphic Jam met via WebEx, hosted by me. It was a bit of a mixed bag; at least four people were unable to connect because WebEx either didn’t work with their (admittedly older) OS, or because even though they had updated Java, WebEx insisted that they hadn’t and wouldn’t open. Bummer #1.

The whiteboard isn’t nearly as smooth as Elluminate’s, either, as you can see from the images here. Even those who were using tablets and pens had shaky lines. Bummer #2.

I logged in from my iPad as well, thinking it would be perfect for drawing on the whiteboard. Alas, the iPad can watch, but can’t join in. No tools at all except chat. Bummer #3.

And when I saved out the whiteboards, they were all stretched and weird, like this:

Weird-travel

What’s up with that, WebEx?

On the plus side, once we figured out how to give everyone control of the pen so they could share the whiteboard (not very intuitive), we had some fun graphically jammin’!

The Graphic Jam, for those who don’t know, is where a bunch of people quickly draw a symbol or illustration of a particular concept. We tried to limit ourselves to 30 seconds per topic, but our timekeeper was lousy and kept getting distracted watching all the other drawings unfold! (Yes, that would be me.) It was fun to have that immediate opportunity to review everyone’s work — it’s a little more delayed in a paper-based jam.

Naturally, our lousy timekeeper also forgot to hit “record” on the session, but at least I did manage to save out the drawings that we made:

01_free_for_all02_how_we_feel03_quality04_speed05_travel06_info_overload07_collaboration

 The first is the initial warm-up free for all, when everyone played with the tools to see what they were like, all at once, with no particular aim in mind. Next we each drew how we felt just then in a grid — you can see a couple of folks who were sleepy (it was very early or late in the day for them) and me with my hair all standing on end as I coped with the technology. I was still recovering from having to wade through obscure menus to enable drawing for everyone on the shared whiteboard. We also noted what we were drawing with (tablet, mouse, etc.).

The next few drawings are the graphic jam. The concepts we selected were, in the order they’re shown in the gallery: quality, speed, travel, and information overload. We tried to keep it to 30 seconds, but like I said, our timekeeper shouldn’t quit her day job.

The last drawing is one that we did all together, without speaking or writing any words. The task was to illustrate collaboration, collaboratively. It was interesting to try to jump in and be helpful and build on what others were doing.

Finally, we had a very brief discussion/Q&A about different tools for digital storytelling. 

The next jam isn’t scheduled. We’re looking for people who have access to other meeting tools, like Adobe Connect, or who are willing to host a group using one of the free collaborative tools available. If you’re interested, let me know!

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Elluminate as a platform for digital recording

Yesterday, Nancy White (@nancywhite) organized a little jam session for IFVP folks who wanted to try out Elluminate to test out its visual recording chops. Five or six of us got together for an hour and tried collaborative whiteboarding, screen sharing, video conferencing, and media sharing. 

I used three different input methods to draw on the whiteboard: a mouse, a Wacom Bamboo tablet, and a Wacom Cintiq tablet. I definitely got the best results with the Cintiq; the Bamboo was okay, and would work for a meeting that didn’t move very fast. The mouse isn’t suitable for digital visual recording, but I think we all knew that already.

Nancy did a little series of exercises with us. The first one was for everyone to draw simultaneously on the whiteboard with no direction: just pick up the pen and draw. It was very chaotic, and even when we started out with a specific aim in mind, it quickly degenerated to doodling because the space was too crowded with other people’s work. The second thing we did was to work in a divided space, in which we each took a square and drew what we liked inside it. This was more organized, but it wasn’t really interactive. The last thing we did was to all illustrate a specific concept — “frustration,” for instance. We did this on a blank undivided canvas, but it worked better than the first one, although there was a little bit of overlap in some drawings. 

Tomorrow I’m hosting something similar in WebEx so that we can see how it compares. If you’re interested, drop me a note and I’ll get you an invite to the meeting. You don’t need a tablet to participate!
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