Ask The Experts: Julie Hillyard, Co-founder, Telenect
WebinarHero recently spoke with Julie Hillyard, co-founder of Telenect, a Utah-based web conferencing platform provider that provides high resolution video as part of their platform offerings. Telenect has branded itself as the platform for Thought Leaders and we’ve asked Julie to talk about her experience working with speakers bureaus and acclaimed authors, high resolution video and the pros and cons of its use in business. Full Disclosure: Telenect is a sponsor of the WebinarHero website.
WH: Greetings from Southern California Julie, thanks for taking the time. Can you share with us the story behind
JH: Several years ago, I was working and traveling with Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the things he talked about frequently was his desire to do more via interactive distance learning so that he could reach more people with less travel—have an improved quality of life while still achieving his life’s mission. When I quit working for him, I partnered with an online-learning and technology guru, and customer service master to create the ultimate platform for thought leaders. Stephen was our first client and we have since partnered with a number of speakers bureaus, authors, and other presenters to deliver live, interactive video events to audiences around the world.
WH: Telenect has produced web events for some heavy hitting authors. Tell us about that experience. What were the purposes of those webinars and what role did high resolution video play if any?
JH: Admittedly, we all do a small dance of joy each time we see a famous face in the video window of our platform—adds to the excitement of our jobs! The goals of the events we do vary tremendously, but I think in every case, quality video is imperative in helping the audience make a connection to the speaker, heavy hitter or otherwise. I can’t tell you the number of times a participant has emailed or called me following an event with an “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe he answered me by name!” type of a remark. There is something pretty amazing about sitting in front of your hero while they are looking you in the eye and answering your question. That’s an experience you miss out on when the only visual component to a webinar is a series of slides, or an author Glamour Shot. It’s almost cliché at this point, but research has shown again and again that 55-60% of communication is non-verbal…and you can’t capture that through PPT.
WH: We’ve had guests on the blog take the position that high resolution video isn’t necessary when conducting webinars. Can you share with us your vision for where the use of video in webinars and webcast is going?
JH: Absolutely. I guess we have been talking about the essential nature of that visual engagement, but I think it is worth distinguishing between the experience you get with real, high resolution video, and the fuzzy, postage stamp sized image I have seen on some events. For my money, I think that poor quality video does not add to the experience, and can even serve as a distraction. I read an article this morning that said companies are increasingly asking for smooth, large screen video as a part of their web communications strategies. We have absolutely found that to be true. It sounds a bit silly, but as technology progresses, people are expecting interactive distance learning to feel less and less…distant.
WH: Are there specific types of clients that would be better suited to using high-resolution video? Which types of clients, if any, should not use video in their events in your opinion?
JH: I’d say when the goal is small group collaboration akin to the traditional meeting around the board room table, I have not seen video really add to that experience very well. There are programs that help three or four participants effectively communicate with video, but beyond that you’re kind of getting into Brady Bunch grid territory. That kind of thing is certainly not our focus. If all members of the audiences are equal participants, it is a complicated affair if you want each person’s video image made available at the level of quality we’re talking about. However, if the purpose is to help create an emotional connection to the content or presenter, to get a message out to a medium to large group of remote participants, and to really engage that audience—that is where we feel our platform, and high quality video in general, really shine.
WH: What are the typical challenges your clients are facing when using video and how does Telenect help them overcome those challenges?
JH: That is a great question. There are many apparent obstacles standing between our clients and great video webinars, but there is no greater thrill than helping them through the process, showing them just how easy it can be. Technology phobias, past negative experiences, firewall issues or insufficient bandwidth—taken together, these can seem insurmountable, but that’s exactly why we carved out a niche as a full-service provider.
We like to head off any potential issues before the event. Before you can access an event on our system, you’re taken through a series of tests to ensure sufficient bandwidth, no problematic firewalls, etc. We assign an event producer to each event to manage (on the presenter’s end) all of the pre-event testing, training, logistical coordination and event setup. Then during the event we have an event moderator facilitating constructive chat (which allows the speaker to focus on content, free from distraction, while encouraging audience participation), as well as technical support to respond to those who might have any difficulties. This might sound excessive, and of course our solutions are scalable to fit the different needs of different clients (we are launching a “self-service” model soon, which will allow events at a fraction of the cost for the more self-reliant). But we find that the most important element of all this is participant comfort level, and we will do whatever it takes to get that part right.
WH: In your opinion, are there other features besides high resolution video that are key to great webinars?
JH: Yes. A way for the audience members to interact with each other and ask questions of the presenter. You want their hands on the keyboard periodically to engage them, and you want to encourage them to think of their toughest questions–to think about what is being shared. The speaker needs to know that the audience is paying attention and “getting it” and their questions reflect their level of understanding. Also, visual aides can really enhance the experience–everyone learns differently and you want to provide them with various ways to participate.
WH: Is cost a factor when considering a non video webinar vs. a high resolution, streaming video event? What are the typical cost/benefit decisions that need to be made?
JH: Absolutely…but not for long As I mentioned, we will soon have a self-service option available which will allow customers to put on cost-effective events with high quality video. The cost/benefit analysis, again, is a consideration of what kind of connection to the speaker/content you are looking for.
WH: My favorite part of the interview…shameless self promotion time. What should people absolutely know about the Telenect?
JH: We are unique in that our platform caters to thought leaders needing to deliver a message in a powerful way in a one-to-many situation–we are not trying to be all things to all people and compete with the platforms better suited to a many-to-many situation. We developed our own platform, measuring every feature against the criteria “will this be best for a thought leader?” Because of our experience working with so many professional speakers and authors, we recognize that their experience with the technology needs to be as seamless as possible so they are able to focus on what they do best–teach! Oh, and I should mention that we stand behind all of our full-service events with a full guarantee.
Thanks for your time Julie. More information about Telenect can be found at www.Telenect.com.