omNovia keeps quietly slipping features into their web conferencing software without making much noise about it. They don’t announce version numbers and new releases. Every so often I’ll log into my conferencing room and notice a new option. Then I go out to their Product Enhancements page to see what the heck is going on.
Today I noticed that after uploading a slide deck to the conference room I now have the option to show or hide a thumbnail display of the slides in my presentation. The display is local to my computer as a presenter. Other presenters can choose to show or hide it for themselves. The audience never sees it. I can click on a slide to immediately move to that point in the presentation (I still have the option to move forward or backward sequentially as well).
This is not a big new innovative feature for the industry. It’s more like something I simply expect a major webinar tool to have available. But I do like the fact that the option to show the thumbnail images is local for each presenter. I’m delighted that omNovia has moved beyond the rather primitive method of direct-accessing a slide by typing in its number. As a presenter, there are times when being able to see what slide comes next is a huge benefit. It keeps you from being surprised by your own presentation!
I also finally took the time to play with a feature that they added at the end of July. Presentation Manager is a tool that lets a presenter or moderator pre-load a sequence of content items to show during the webinar. Consider a complex webinar that includes the following steps:
- Show slide deck #1 with introductory slides
- Show slide deck #2 for first presenter
- Conduct audience poll #1
- Show movie clip #1
- Show slide deck #2 for second presenter
- Show movie clip #2
- Conduct audience poll #2
- Show slide deck #3 for summary and wrap-up
This requires someone on the presentation team to be very familiar with all the loaded content. Each time you want to bring up the proper slide deck, movie clip or poll, you have to open a presentation dialog popup window and select the appropriate content piece from a list of all loaded items. Not rocket science, but it can add a few seconds of distraction from the content and delivery. And if you accidentally select the wrong content item, you look disorganized.
With Presentation Manager, you do all the selection ahead of time and save the sequence under a name of your choice. During the live event, you bring up the sequence list and click each item’s play button at the desired time. The selected content immediately displays for the audience, without requiring you to go through the search and select process.
Although the Presentation Manager actions are presented in a sequential list format, you still have the ability to arbitrarily select them out of sequence if desired.
The one thing that seems to be missing is automatic tab switching. omNovia uses a tabbed display to show different kinds of content. The presenter chooses whether the audience should see the Application Sharing tab or the Slide Show tab or the Movie Player tab or the Live Video tab, and so on. If you are sitting on the Slide Show tab and click the Presentation Manager action item to show a movie clip, it faithfully loads the movie in the conference room and starts playing it. But nobody would see that video unless the presenter manually changed the view to the Movie Player tab. I can’t imagine a situation where you would want to start showing a new piece of content but not actually show it! Adding an automatic tab switch when appropriate seems like a good enhancement here.
Admittedly, in many simple webinars Presentation Manager would be overkill. If you just narrate over one PowerPoint deck, there is no need for the functionality, in which case you simply ignore it. But I can definitely see this coming in handy for more complex productions.