The developers at omNovia have been on one of their development sprees lately. The webinar/webcast/web conference platform does not go through formal release cycles and version numbers. On any given day, you may log in to find some new functionality slyly slipped in. Fortunately, they have a web page to announce product enhancements. And that page recently got populated with some interesting new additions. Some of these are worth highlighting, as they are either uncommon or completely unique in the web conferencing industry.
- Multilingual audio channels is one of those uncommon offerings that can be very powerful for certain niche applications. A webinar host can broadcast audio in a native language and use simultaneous interpreters to translate the audio to other languages for attendees. That’s been available since 2010. But now it is easier for attendees to select their desired language channel (just like being a delegate at the United Nations). And there is an option to play the host audio at a lower volume under the translation channel. This lets listeners hear pitch, tone, enthusiasm, and emotional content in the speaker’s actual delivery – which can be important communication tools sometimes.
- Audio Player is another feature that has been around for a while. It lets hosts play audio out to attendees. omNovia supplies several streaming web radio channels, a couple of stock music tracks (I often use these underneath lobby slides for early attendees), and some cheesy sound effects that I can’t imagine any businessperson ever playing. But the real power comes from being able to upload your own mp3 files for playback. A new enhancement now lets presenters record an mp3 clip through their computer-connected headset while using the conference room. This eliminates the need for third-party recording software and an upload step. The other big enhancement is that late joiners now join the audio playback in progress, so they are in sync with the rest of the audience. Previously each person heard the audio start from the beginning, so you couldn’t pretend it was live speech from a presenter.
- Audio Chat is certainly the biggest addition this month. I am not aware of any other product with this functionality. If attendees use headsets or computer microphones to allow two-way audio, they have a new option in the chat area. They can still type chat messages (as with any self-respecting web conferencing product). But now they can choose to record their question or comment over the microphone. In a typical large-audience moderated webinar where attendees don’t see what other people are typing, they don’t see others’ audio recordings either. But the presentation team sees the recordings and can screen them in the background. Then they can choose to play any user’s clip for the entire audience and respond to it. This is a great option for interacting with people who are more comfortable speaking than typing. It also provides the engagement factor of multiple voices and helps convince attendees that you aren’t just making up your own fake audience questions to answer.
Other enhancements will probably make sense only to existing omNovia customers and should be reviewed on the company’s website. There are changes to the way that different content areas can be sized, new search functionality in the shared notes area and the chat, a new safeguard in the selectable slide thumbnails area, and better management of presenter audio when bridging phone and webcast sound.
We need to recognize and appreciate new and innovative functionality in the web conferencing arena in order to keep the technology growing and evolving. I am always happy to highlight these kinds of value-adds for webinar hosts, presenters, and attendees. Well done!