Streaming Media is the Latest Buzz, But What Exactly Is It?
Streaming media is technology that allows you to hear audio and see video transmissions over the Web without having to wait for the media to download the information to your machine. In other words, streaming media is fed to you in real time. There is no waiting period. Audio and video data are being "streamed," bit by bit, from the server to your machine, to limit the amount of bandwidth required. 

Streaming media can be an excellent and cost-efficient way to host effective meetings. For example, a conference Webcast a form of streamed media can reach the masses for applications such as town hall meetings, executive announcements, product launches and more. Streaming media, however, brings several new technologies into the mix and you must be prepared to use the technology effectively. In this article, the first of a two-part series, we'll give you the grand tour of what you need to know to participate or host a conference Webcast.

Participant and Host Requirements
To participate in a streamed media meeting, the following equipment is recommended:
Hardware
Pentium PC 266 MHz processor (or higher) with 32 MB RAM (or higher) with at least 2 GB of free hard drive space
Monitor/screen resolution: 16-bit color display with 800 x 600 screen resolution
Sound card and speakers
Mouse or compatible pointing device
Software
Operating system: Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP or NT 4.0
Browser: Internet Explorer 4.01 (or higher) or Netscape Navigator 4.0 (or higher) 
Internet connection: 28.8 Kbps LAN connection
Streaming media player: Windows Media Player 6.4 or RealPlayer 6.1 (free downloads)
   
To host your own streamed media meeting, you'll require:
Hardware 
Pentium PC 266 MHz processor (or higher) with 32 MB RAM (or higher) with at least 2 GB of free hard drive space
Monitor/screen resolution: 16-bit color display with 800 x 600 screen resolution
A mouse or compatible pointing device
Software
Operating system: Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP or NT 4.0
Browser: Internet Explorer 4.01 (cannot use Netscape Navigator)
Internet connection: 56 Kbps LAN connection
Microsoft Java Virtual Machine 5.0.0.3188 (or higher, excluding 3299)

System Test
Each time you log on to a live or replay event, it's recommended that you run through a system test. The system test will automatically check the Internet connection speed, streaming media player, audio level and connection to the videostreaming server. The system test will also list the equipment that you may need to upgrade.

Understanding Roles
For full-service, streamed media meetings, you should build a support team to ensure things go smoothly. Your team should include a:
Coordinator, to provide a single point of contact for all issues relating to the meeting's content, material and publicity.
Presenter, with particular expertise or knowledge to share with the audience. The presenter is the person who appears on the live video stream. If slides are being used, the presenter(s) will either use the host center to advance slides on their own, or communicate the timing of the slides to the moderator.
Moderator, to assist the presenter by advancing slides, creating polls, scrolling messages and moderating the Q & A session. For very large or high-profile events, it's recommended that you designate a secondary moderator or subject matter expert for in-depth, Q & A sessions.
 
Planning Your Streamed Media Meeting
Three Weeks Prior
Define the objectives and scope of your event (e.g., what you want to accomplish, type of event, whether it's internal or external).
Define the details (e.g., time, date and duration).
Check that all video equipment is certified and can connect at 384K.
Determine the number of people you will invite and how you plan to promote your event.
Identify your main presenters and their video locations.
Identify your event moderator(s).
Host an initial planning call with your presenters and moderators.
Send an introductory e-mail to potential attendees.
Two Weeks Prior
Schedule your streamed media event.
Work with your coordinator, especially if you have multiple presenters, to ensure everyone receives training. It's recommended that you participate in your initial training session via a LAN connection and with the same computer you'll use on the day of the event.
After your initial training session, rehearse at your leisure.
Begin drafting your event content, including an outline or script for the video, presentation slides and polling questions.
One Week Prior
Send out a reminder, via e-mail, highlighting event details and instructions.
Meet with all presenters and moderators to ensure they're comfortable with the flow of the event and are trained on how to operate the user interface.
Confirm video equipment is working properly at all presenter sites.
Complete a rehearsal with your presenters and moderators to ensure that everyone's comfortable using the video equipment.
One Day Prior
Send a reminder to event participants. Include participation instructions, including reminders about when to log on.
Confirm details with your presenters and moderators.
Upload the final version of your slides.
   
Publicizing Your Webcast
Provide your audience with a compelling reason to attend. You should invite the audience about two to three weeks prior to the event. Electronic invitations (e-mail) are very efficient and allow you to include a Web link to connect participants directly to the event. 
Your invitation should tell audience members:
Date and time of your event
How long you expect the conference to last
Topics covered
Main presenters
Web address to participate
Your Webcast ID (you should receive this at the time of reservation)
A contact for more information
The requirements each participant will need (e.g., browser, streaming media player, Internet connection)
A reminder to log on 15 minutes or so before the start so they can download any graphics

Important: You should encourage event attendees to log on to attendee pages at least a day in advance so they can complete the system test to make sure they have the best setup for participating. 

Congragulations! You're well on your way to holding a successful streamed media Webcast. Check out Part II of this article in the next issue to learn how to manage on 'game day' and get the most from your streamed media experience.


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