"When I make a mistake," the late New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia
reportedly exclaimed during an administrative calamity, "it's a beaut!"
My "beaut" is staring me in the face: I'm supposed to be somewhere distant
this week for a presentation, and I don't know if I can swing the trip. At the
other end, there are a few dozen people waiting to hear what I have to say.
What to do?
Technology might yet "save the day" for me: it turns out that there are numerous
ways to record and/or transmit the presentation that I'm supposed to give over
there, while remaining here.
The first was suggested by my friend David Coursey, a veteran tech journalist, who
believes my answer might be found in GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar .
These are online services hosted by Citrix, a Florida firm specializing in
remote-access technologies, primarily for Windows-based computers. Mac users can
participate in the online sessions, but not host them, the firm's Website states.
The idea is to assemble a small or large group that can log in via an Internet
connection, generally something faster than a 56 Kbps dial-up modem. Using a Web
browser and a downloadable plug-in, you're connected, securely to a group that you
or the presenter has organized; slides can be shown and ideas shared visually. You
can either "chat" via the keyboard or call in to a conference call number and
speak at the same time that the onscreen presentation is shown.
Pricing starts at $49 a month for GoToMeeting, which can handle up to 15
participants at a clip. Larger groups require the GoToWebinar service, at $99 per
month, for up to 1,000 participants. More details can be found at
The biggest downside that I see from this is an inability to incorporate a video
stream in the service; something the firm's documentation concedes is "still"
not available. One can hope this will change in the future.
The Citrix services will let you record your meeting for replay at another time,
using Windows Media technology, something that allows you to incorporate audio
narration. Such recordings can usually be viewed on all platforms.
Another approach would be to record my presentation as a "podcast," using any of
the many programs available for Windows or Mac users. On the Mac side, I'm a huge
fan of Apple's Garage Band, part of the $79 iLife application suite. Use
the built-in video camera on most current Macs, either the internal microphone or
the Blue Microphones $99 "Snowball" mic, and you're good to go. Not long ago,
I used just this setup to record a video narration for a business film and the
producers were quite pleased.
The Mac offers at least two other options that might work well: one is iChat ,
the text and voice/video conferencing software built into the OS X operating
software. The latest version lets you show a slide presentation alongside your video
image, and since it's interactive, you could conceivably get questions from your
audience in real time.
Another intriguing option is ScreenFlow, a $99 program from Vara Software in London
(www.varasoftware.com). This program, which my colleague Adam Engst of TidBITS
newsletter suggested, will record both everything you do on screen and a
video/audio narration. You can show the two side-by-side, edited so that the slides
are visible along with your video.
The program lets you export the recordings as a QuickTime movie, again
playable on almost every computer platform, as well as the YouTube service. The firm
also makes software for "webcasting" that can handle larger creations using
stand-alone video cameras, including HD quality.