Rules for an audio conference

I’ve been to audio conferences delivered by two separate companies last week and content aside, one was delivered well, and the other…. not so well. Sometimes it’s good to remind myself what works, and what does not when delivering an audio conference.

Rule #1: Only use one type of technology.
I think that using online audio visual conferencing technology is a great way of combining voice and visuals. The session I went to this week however, citing “audio difficulties”, elected to use the whiteboard, but not the audio portion of an audio conferencing system! We had to phone in separately to a 1-800 number for the audio part of the presentation. I spent much of the two hours alternately putting the phone down and typing or holding the phone and passively watching the screen.

Rule #2: Schedule break times
We are missing many visual cues when using audio conferencing technologies. The teleconference I attended today gave us a heads up on when questions would be accepted, so we knew when we would get our chance to stretch and ask questions. Knowing the structure

Rule #3: Determine who your audience is
Teleconference number two polled the attendees at the beginning, to determine the types of people attending and what their level of skill was. Unfortunately for me, that meant that the presentation was targeted at a lower level than I would have liked, but the presenter did (I suspect), change the level of detail according to the audience.

Rule #4: Engage your audience
People will complain that this is more difficult, but the lack of visual cues makes it imperative to incorporate plans to engage the audience. It’s far to easy to get distracted by email or other things in your immediate surroundings. You can plan for engagement by posting discussion questions, asking participants to add to a diagram, chart or image on a whiteboard, or polling participants if there a polling tool. The importance is to plan for it, and take the time to wait for and encourage your participants to engage.

Rule #5: Animate your voice
The last, but one of the most important rules. Any presentation requires an animated voice, where the tone and expression gives life to the words spoke. This is even more important in an audio conference where you cannot see the presenters or the audiences body language. I often have a photo of a loved one near my computer, so that I can at least talk to them. It makes putting energy into my voice far easier.

There are many other considerations when putting on an audio conference, but those are the four that struck me this week.


Make it so

I was talking with someone today about my first very own computer (that I took to university with me). It was an Apple Powerbook 100 with an external 3.5 disk drive, a trackball (that the cool kids replaced with a large marble). And it was great! I had a portable computer that I used for several years. Today I’m sitting in my living room, with wireless, full colour, downloading television shows in the backgroud. It’s rather obvious to say that we’ve come a long way.

And so when people make pronoucements on what can and can’t work, I remember when I couldn’t quite grasp the idea of the internet. I couldn’t understand what people could possibly want to access online – newspapers and books were my point of reference, and reading books online still hasn’t really caught on.

So no, I’m not really sure how you might use synchronous communications, learning management systems podcasting, blogs or wikis.

I know that we have to start with what the teaching or learning objectives are. Once there, ask questions, make adjustments, and personalize any medium that is chosen. Will students learn by creating and asking questions, testing things out, expressing new ideas or challenging other ideas? Once you start there….