Online meetings and nonverbal communication

Next to giving us feedback on our evaluation and ranking of online meeting solutions our readers approach us with questions that make us go “Waaait a minute. Why is that???” Point in case: Why is nonverbal communication hardly ever considered in web conferencing scenarios?

Let us leave the digital arena and look at good old face-to-face communication – remember that? Now here, obviously, nonverbal communication is essential to guiding understanding. Gestures e.g. can be used to signal approval or to show that you have a question. Even nodding the head carries a message, and don’t get me started on overall body language. So yes, the nonverbal aspect of communication is integral in a face-to-face scenario.

And it partially applies to online meetings, too. If all participants are on webcams that will make it a lot easier to interact than just talking on the phone would. One drawback, however, is that with multiple participants being displayed on your screen you could end up being more confused than informed (see our post on video conferencing).

For webinars nonverbal communication is of marginal help if any. Question marks or a thumbs up – thumbs down signal for the listeners are a gimmick rather than an essential part of communication. During a webinar the silent listeners in most cases have the chance to submit questions to the presenter via chat. These questions are then later discussed in a Q&A session following the presentation. Clicking a question mark button is only an indication of the fact THAT you don’t understand something. You would still have to explain WHAT exactly you don’t understand. And hitting a like or dislike button during e.g. a product presentation doesn’t seem to likely – if you are not a competitor trying to crash the presentation, that is.

So bottom line: Nonverbal communication only plays a minor role in online meetings. The only way of making up for the consequential lack of information that is usually provided by nonverbal signals is to be even more precise in how you phrase things.

CrunchConnect – Good first impression, but can it deliver?

There’s a new online meeting tool out there and we were asked to take a look at it. CrunchConnect is a brand new solution and has recently been launched by SalesCrunch. Yes, you guessed it, the focus is on improving the online pitch and sales process.

A first glance at the website – and the video you are greeted with – reveals nothing revolutionary. There are some nice features though, like tracking the attendees’ clicks in your follow-up messages along with the time they spend reading the documentation the presenter sends around. This should give a salesperson a good indication of how interested the participants really are in the product that was presented.

One feature that stands out is the Ice Breaker. CrunchConnect shows every attendant’s local weather, time, and sports news. So while you are waiting for everyone to arrive you can chat and talk away. Now this is naturally not an essential feature and some participants would probably enjoy a bit of silence to work on some emails until the meeting begins…

So, while the CrunchConnect website does make a good first impression this doesn’t mean their web conferencing solution will do the same. The site features easily accessible pricing information and you can test a free version with limited range of functionalities. Seeing that these prerequisites are given we will check out the tool’s performance and post the results in our comparison of online meeting solutions.

Microsoft buys Skype – but what about Skype’s partnership with Citrix?

By now the commotion around Microsoft’s purchase of Skype has settled a bit and we can ask our standard question: What does this mean for the web conferencing market?

The overall perception of the acquisition is mixed. Some say that it was a brilliant move by Microsoft and it will give Microsoft a huge share of the online collaboration market. Others simply wonder why you would spend so much money for a service that overlaps to large extents with what you are already offering, e.g. with Windows Live Messenger.

We are wondering about a completely different aspect of this deal, which is very intriguing: A little while back it was announced that Skype would be teaming up with Citrix to integrate Citrix’ web conferencing technology into Skype. Now Citrix GoToMeeting is a direct rival of Microsoft’s own online Meeting solution, Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Currently it is hard to say whether this is a recipe for disaster or for an outstanding web conferencing solution. Either way, we will keep you posted.