You’re sold. You’ve read something or heard something that tipped you off to the fact that netcasts and virtual meetings don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You’ve created your Dimdim account and are preparing for your first presentation. What do you need? What should you do?
Login early and install the screencaster plugin
Dimdim has a special browser plugin that’s needed to show your screen. If your presentation involves more than just a slide show, you’d better account for the quick and easy installation of the plugin so you’re not surprised by it during the presentation.
Test your webcam and Flash version
It’s really easy to login to Dimdim and make sure that your webcam is working properly. Create a test presentation with just yourself and be sure that you’re prompted for camera access. If you approve it and can see yourself on your screen, everything is working great. Don’t wait until the day of your presentation to test your hardware, and while you’re at it be sure you’re using the most up-to-date version of Flash. Secunia is a great tool to be sure all your plugins are updated.
Use wired broadband
Dimdim does a good job accounting for limited bandwidth, but if your presentation is important in any way, you need to get serious about it. Find a hard-line broadband connection that is connected by cable or DSL. If you’re in a bind and you’re wanting to show something to your coworkers, then you can probably get away with using your computer’s wireless adapter or even Sprint or Verizon mobile broadband. If, however, it’s important that your presentation doesn’t experience dropouts or, worse, disconnections, then find a real Internet connection.
Get a headset. Really.
While Dimdim can rely on a bridge line, Dimdim is much better when you use the computer audio with one caveat: that you have a headset. If a single person with a microphone in a presentation doesn’t have a headset and is instead relying on the computer speakers and the mic that is built-in to the computer, problems are eminent. The sound coming out of the speakers is picked up by the microphone and creates an echo for all in attendance. If you don’t have a headset mic, and can’t run to Walmart or Best Buy and get one, you should postpone your presentation until you have one for the sake of everyone.
Get a second computer
Your presentation is most likely going to be a PowerPoint presentation, a screencast, or a combination of the two. In any case, you’re most likely not going to be able to view the chat or your video while you’re presenting. It’s always good to be able to monitor what’s going on, so it’s in your best interests to set up another computer right next to the one from which you’re using to present. It doesn’t take much – borrow a friend’s netbook if you don’t have one – but it’s quite worth the piece of mind to have a monitor so you can see your presentation through the eyes of the audience.
Get Firefox on Windows
You have a Mac. You’re cool. Now use it as your second computer from which you can monitor your presentation that you’re giving from Firefox on Windows. Dimdim is awesome in that it’s cross-platform and works on many different environments, but a public presentation is no time to risk things going wrong simply to demonstrate that you paid more for your computer than everyone watching. Linux users, this rule goes for you, too. Grab a Windows computer and launch Firefox to give your presentation.
Any presentation should be a two-way communication. Dimdim’s chat tool is a very obvious way to watch the reaction from the audience. Having a speakerphone connected to Dimdim’s bridge line is another way to be sure the audience can ask a question or make a comment about what you’re doing. Be sure, of course, that the phone isn’t loud enough to be picked up by the microphone on your headset.
Dimdim is a fantastically simple and reliable product, but it’s pretty easy to overlook any of the points listed above and end up with problems ranging from minutes lost doing troubleshooting to entire presentations that aren’t viable or aren’t recorded. Good luck.