Early adopters dabble with online video conferencing

Newsroom 14/09/2007 | 16:18

The new trend among press conference organizers is to replace the traditional gatherings between journalists and company representatives with online video conferences. The first company to do this was Action Global Communications with an online press conference organized on February 14 for one of its clients, British Airways. The second such experience came via ARBOmedia which announced the evolution of the company, while the latest video conference was hosted by the CaTV operator UPC-Astral last week.
The only complaints came from journalists, some of whom didn't manage to see the conference because of technical problems. Others complained that their questions did not reach the company representatives who were speaking. But while only 21 journalists participated in the British Airways event, their number considerably increased at the last event organized by UPC-Astral – more than 120 people watched the event online.
“The conference was a successful experience. The journalists appreciated the online approach and actively participated in it,” Corina Enciu, country commercial manager for British Airways Romania and the Republic of Moldova, said at the end of the event.
During its event ARBOmedia representatives announced their plans for 2007 and the launch of another division, called ARBOevents. Doing so through an online conference wasn't just a coincidence, the organizers were introducing the “virtual guests” to the public. They will broadcast the press conferences they organize online for anyone unable to get to the specified location, with the approval of their clients. This is also expected to increase the attendance rate of journalists.
Each participant of the video conferences was able to put written questions, which appeared on the screens of the participants. Action Global Communications gave a username and password to each of the attendees so they could access the website, which was especially created for the British Airways event.
The CaTV operator UPC-Astral chose to announce the increase of its internet access speed through a similar video conference. Company representatives will continue organizing both traditional and video conferences as journalists complained that their questions were not answered during the event and that the face-to-face discussions are more fluent. The company received more than 80 questions during the online event.
After all the online conferences the three companies provided the questions and answers that were posed during the event. UPC-Astral uploaded on its website the recording of the conference for anyone who was not able to attend.
In order to make up for the lack of face-to-face contact between the participants, Action Global Communications provided an interactive interface that allowed the guests to have 10 minutes of private discussions. “We created a friendly interface which allows people to address questions and receive answers in real time. In this way we dealt with 53 questions in 45 minutes,” said Dan Santimbreanu, account manager with the company.
In organizing video conferences there are both advantages and disadvantages for the participants. Advantages include: avoiding traffic jams travelling to the location and therefore saving time; the recording of the conference can be uploaded on the website of the organizing company and can be accessed by interested parties no matter when or where; the geographical boundaries that could have kept people from attending disappear too. Journalists can participate in the event from any kind of device which allows internet access.
Disadvantages cited by journalists who took part in the first local online conferences include the insufficient interactivity during the Q&A session as well as the long response time between the questions. Unexpected technical problems can appear during the conference that could ruin the entire event.
Video conferences are common practice on the international market, especially for announcing companies' financial results.

Roxana Mihul

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