Open Source Webconferencing : Digging the DimDim Experience
Author Ellen Finkelstein
and I were collaborating on a PowerPoint presentation design and script the other day. Ellen was in Iowa. I was in Michigan. We needed to show each other our work as we talked through our concepts. What to do?
We decided to give Dimdim a whirl. Dimdim
is an open source webconferencing service that promises to host web meetings for up to 20 people -- for free. A number of other compelling features touted at the site convinced us to try Dimdim: we can share a desktop, show slides, collaborate, chat, talk, and even record our session. The site also promises that the service is easy to use -- and no downloads.
All that and free, too? Where do we sign up? :)
So Ellen and I both started accounts at Dimdim -- although I really didn't need to do so. Ellen started the meeting as the leader. As an audience member, I didn't need a Dimdim account -- just an invitation from the meeting leader. I love that Dimdim doesn't force audience members to become Dimdim members -- that's certainly a very courteous and confident feature.
Once in Dimdim, Ellen was presented with three options: Share Desktop Screen, Share Whiteboard, and Share Presentation.
Because we're both a little feature-geeky, Ellen and I got off to a slow start with Dimdim. We horsed around with features for a bit before we got down to business. I suppose that's only natural when you're testing out a new service a few days before a holiday. The first thing Ellen noticed was that she was frequently prompted to record the session -- a terrific feature, but we didn't need to record our meeting. (I'm itching to try that feature for another time, though.)
Attempts to "share the desktop" proved unsatisfying. At first, we experienced about a 19 second lag time -- which seemed to get longer after every passing moment. Frustrated, Ellen selected "Share Presentation" and uploaded her PowerPoint Presentation. This is where the service gets high marks -- we had no trouble viewing the presentation while chatting on a phone bridge. Dimdim will allow you to upload .ppt , .pptx, or .pdf files -- limited but lovely for a moderator-led web presentation.
Ellen also gave me tools to mark up the presentation as she talked -- completely unnecessary for our purposes, but I enjoyed stamping stars and circles and writing rude remarks on certain slides. This kind of activity is more appropriate for "Sharing a Whiteboard", but Ellen and I didn't have the opportunity to check this feature out.
The next day, I led my own meeting. I uploaded a PowerPoint presentation and called a less than tech-savvy friend. Sure, I thought Dimdim was divinely easy -- but what about someone who is relatively new to internet conferencing? My friend Kimberly Lewellyn
was game. I sent her an invitation, she dialed the number, entered a unique code, and voila! Within minutes, we were talking on the phone bridge while viewing my PowerPoint presentation.
The process would have been even easier if I had known to let Kimberly into the meeting instantly instead of keeping her in a "waiting room". I changed this setting instantly within Dimdim. In a "gotta have it now" web world, why keep people waiting? (Thanks for being such a good sport, Kimberly!)
If you need to hold web meetings online, you'll like Dimdim. Very eary to use and you cannot beat the price. Skip the Desktop sharing for now, though -- it needs a little work. But if you're hanging out away from home this holiday season -- does Dimdim really need to be a business or training application? Why not get 20 of your globe-scattered friends on the phone at once -- to view slides of your family or other holiday shenanigans?
How will you use services like Dimdim?
(Ellen is the author of 101 Tips Every PowerPoint User Should Know
and the new video PowerPoint 2007: Make the Upgrade Easy
!) Ellen and I will be co-presenting at next week's web conference: Stop Boring Your Audience! Create Presentations for the Post-Template Visual Era
. Use the coupon code 20OFFDEC and get $20 off your admission. See you on December 3!)
Labels: PowerPoint Presentation, Presentation, Webcast
Presentation, Conversation, and Improv
"You don't rehearse a conversation, do you?"
Yes, indeed, that was an objection I heard when I posted earlier about the importance of rehearsing a presentation
Here's another bit of (edited) push back:
"What about improv comics? Everything they do on stage is spontaneous. Fresh. Unrehearsed."
Both objections are laughable. Laughable!
To answer:Do I rehearse conversations?
No. No, I don't.
You? Go out with a list of questions and topics on an index card when socializing, do you? ;)
If you have honed social skills, you probably don't rehearse conversations. You probably are filled with great ideas you'd like to share. And you're open to listening to the ideas of others. photo credit: JoshMcConnell
My preferred presentation style is largely conversational.
This means I come prepared to lead a conversation. And it means that I'm open to hearing ideas from the audience.
Out of respect for my audience, I rehearse my presentations. I rehearse because the content of my presentation is often meant to be thought or action provoking. A conversation starter,
if you will.
Further, I think through questions the audience might ask, so that I am better prepared to answer them. I have rehearsed answers that I was never asked. And I have bumbled through answers that clever audience members were able to ask that I didn't have the imagination to rehearse! photo credit: JoshMcConnellAs for those improv comics?
Everyone can stand to become a much better presenter and conversationalist if they practice like an improv comic. (Yes, improv masters practice relentlessly. They make their performances look effortless after countless hours of practice.)
To experience the fun and work of improv, why not check out the comprehensive Encyclopedia of Improv Games
? This is an extraordinary list of warm-ups, icebreakers, and improv exercises. It is a must-bookmark for anyone who presents -- or for parents who want to find new & amusing ways to discipline their children. (Instead of boring time-outs, why not make squabbling siblings play a rousing game of Three Noses
? What other improv game can you inflict on whining, misbehaving children? ;)
Good conversations -- and good improv -- are filled with verve and fire. Ideas erupt from skilled people with great thoughts. Ideas themselves are nothing much -- until they are publicly unleashed, bettered and battered by conversational discourse.
Rehearse your conversations? Maybe not.
But consistently practice the art of conversation and improv -- so that you're prepared to test and grow ideas on any stage - social or formal?