by By Brad Scholz | May 01, 2009

Before organizing an event online, it's important to determine your meeting objectives and consider the strengths and weaknesses of various virtual platforms. The current landscape includes options such as webcasts, which offer mostly one-way communication; web conferences, designed for more collaborative communication; videoconferences or the more high-end telepresence; and virtual worlds, such as Second Life, Tixeo or Qwaq. To help select the appropriate format, consult this checklist, compiled by Brad Scholz, creative director at MossWarner, a Connecticut-based sales communications firm specializing in meetings and events (mosswarner.com).

Before Going Virtual

  • How much personal interaction does your meeting require? Is the transfer of information more important than any networking?
  • Are there breakout sessions? If so, can they be managed virtually
  • Can you prepare in advance to streamline and enhance any online portions of the meeting?
  • Establish a plan for post-event feedback. How can you determine whether key takeaways are understood and/or acted upon?

Webcast

  • Is your primary objective to transfer knowledge or share information?
  • Could you potentially have a large number of attendees?
  • Can you accept limited interactivity, via text chat windows during the live event (or audio if attendees also phone in)?
  • Can information be presented in the form of streaming audio, streaming video or slides?
  • Will you be able to have breakouts offline?

Web Conference
  •  Do your primary objectives focus on collaboration or problem-solving?
  • Will you need to solicit feedback or gain a consensus?
  • Will you have 25 attendees or fewer?
  • Can you obtain the desired level of interactivity by means of voice/text chat, polling, Q&A and application sharing?
  • Can information be presented to "attendees" in the form of live or streaming audio, live or streaming video, slide presentations or whiteboard?
  • Can you arrange breakouts via separate web conferences or offline meetings?
Videoconference/Telepresence
  • Do your objectives focus on soliciting feedback or gaining consensus, in addition to information sharing?
  • Do you expect fewer than 15 attendees?
  • Do you require interactivity that mimics face-to-face communication?
  • Do you require live audio and live video?
  • Can you arrange breakouts via separate videoconferences or offline meetings?
Virtual World
  • Do your objectives require networking, collaboration and problem-solving, in addition to sharing information and soliciting feedback?
  • Do you expect fewer than about 250 attendees?
  • Can you attain the desired level of interactivity using interpersonal "avatars," along with voice/text chat, polling, Q&A and application sharing?
  • Can information be presented in the form of live or streaming audio, live or streaming video, slides or whiteboard?
  • Do you require real-time breakouts within the online environment?