Day 1: 20 Days to a Better VC Coordinator
Happy New Year! And welcome to a new challenge! After participating in Steve Dembo’s 30 Days to a Better Blogger Challenge in November, I thought it would be fun to create a challenge for VC coordinators. I invited Roxanne Glaser to join me, so we will be collaborating and cross-posting each day’s challenge on our respective blogs. Since I believe in balance to our lives, we’ll only be posting on weekdays – hence the 20 days. Join us for the new year to improve your skills in coordinating videoconferencing in your area!
We’re targeting school level coordinators as our primary audience, but we know district and regional level VC coordinators will benefit from this exercise too. To get the updates, you can subscribe to either of our blogs in your favorite reader (Roxanne or Janine ), or via email.
This week, we’ll focus on setting up for videoconferencing – settings, email, using the system, etc. Each week we’ll have a different focus.
Today’s challenge is to check two little settings on your videoconferencing system. Beginning coordinators, you may have someone do this for you instead! or just use it as background information. I promise the other challenges won’t be this in depth on your system!!
Mute on Auto Answer
I support 70 videoconference units, and one thing that really bugs me is unmuted mics in multi-point conferences.
Why is it a problem?
A multi-point call has more than two sites in the call (also referred to as a bridged call). If mics are unmuted, the video usually switches to whoever is talking. Side conversations, shuffling papers, sneezes and coughs can all cause the video to switch to your site when you didn’t mean to talk. The solution is, mute your mic!
If your system isn’t muted when a call comes in, all kinds of interesting audio gets broadcasted to everyone else in the call. This is sometimes amusing at the beginning of meetings, but very annoying in events like COSI’s expert interviews and Megaconference and Megaconference Junior. Watch the Videoconference Zone video for some hilarious examples.
Many of my school VC coordinators can’t be in the room all the time for the videoconference. If you aren’t in the room when the VC starts, it’s best to have the mic muted. This way, I can connect the room on the bridge and everything is ready to go.
So, a great way to avoid many of these problems is to check your settings! Here’s how to set two of the more common systems to mute when it auto answers a call:
- Polycom VSX: Go to System, Admin, Audio Settings, check Mute Auto Answer Calls.
- Tandberg MXP: Go to Control Panel, then the General category. Choose Autoanswer On + Mic Off. (Thx, Arnie!)
On other systems, look in your settings for Audio. Please comment and add instructions for any units that we didn’t include here.
While you’re in settings, check your system name (usually under general settings). It may also be under H323 settings as H323 name. I’ve written before about the value of an accurate name for your videoconference system. Make sure it’s a name, not just a number. This makes it much easier for bridges to manage the call and know who you are! Also, some bridges show this name at the bottom of the screen when the video switches. I know some authors and specialists in the ASK programs watch that to help them remember which site they are talking to.
Please join in the discussion during this challenge. Here are some ideas for your comment:
- If you agree or disagree with these suggestions and why.
- Step by step settings instructions for another system that we didn’t list.
- If you were able to do the challenge and how it went.
Comment image by Mark James under Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License.
Polycom microphone image by sschaufe on Flickr.
These are wonderful blogs that you and your colleagues have put together on how videoconferencing is great in education. I am enjoying reading about your expertise and articles on classroom and distance learning. So I am happy to report that LifeSize will be moving into the eduational realm in 2009 offering affordable products with a quality and usability far better than our competition. Please keep us in mind. We’d love to be a part of your experience. Thanks again!
Thanks so much for reading and for commenting! We’re glad to hear about your plans – affordable and portable and easy to use are the keys for the enrichment videoconferencing market. Also able to connect to all the old legacy systems out there – as K12 tends to keep units for a good 10 years before upgrading (and usually without maintenance contracts). It’s nice when vendors plan for that and understand how we function in education.
Thanks again for listening to us!
Hi, Michelle, I would like to second Janine’s comments about the educational market. We can do so many things with videoconferencing, but we like to connect to people all over the world (many of us have old equipment and not enough bandwidth) so we would love interoperability and efficient codecs.
Looking forward to learning more about LifeSize.