How Zoom® Got It Wrong and What They are Doing About It

How Zoom® Got It Wrong and What They are Doing About It

By Andy McNeill, CEO, American Meetings, Inc.

Well, Virtual Meetings are here. At AMI, we provide meeting support services around numerous platforms based on our clients’ needs including WebEx®, IMEET®, GoToMeeting & Adobe Connect®  just to name a few. In addition, almost overnight, Zoom® has become not only a useful tool but a cultural phenomenon. The meetings community already knew that Zoom was a powerful and useful collaboration tool. Now it seems that the rest of the world has been introduced to Zoom as a free user software. It went from 10 million daily users to 200 million seemingly overnight.  The scrutiny of such an offer was swift and glaring, and justifiably so. Zoom was offering its platform, not only to businesses but to individuals and the entire educational system. Over pancakes, my 9-year-old twins were asking me to download Zoom to their Chromebooks for their morning virtual class meetings.

With popularity, come study and inspection, and boy did it.

We all know now Zoom got it wrong…way wrong. However, let’s take a step back and look at the software objectively and with a little hindsight.  The software, when used with all of its tools, is quite secure. Implementing the waiting room and password functions alone will stop any “Zoombombing” and unauthorized access. As their CEO, Eric S. Yuan, communicated in a recent post:

Organizations ranging from the world’s largest financial services companies to leading telecommunications providers, government agencies, universities, healthcare organizations, and telemedicine practices…have done exhaustive security reviews of our user, network, and data center layers and confidently selected Zoom for complete deployment.”

AMI being one of them. With the correct management, the software is very secure. In fact, they state:

“Where all participants are using the Zoom app, no user content is available to Zoom’s servers or employees at any point during the transmission process. However, that is a big asterisk, and in today’s world of IT and data security, is not acceptable for a world class software.

So how did they come so off track so quickly?

First, Zoom had allowed for 3rd party plug-ins like Facebook and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to glean user data. With that said, as a public company, they have also stated, “that we do not sell our users’ data, we have never sold user data in the past, and have no intention of selling users’ data going forward.” Zoom has removed these integrations, but the damage to their brand is significant.  Second, they did not have specific K-12 policies in place and were offering this product to the world’s educational institutions. This is now in place, but the lapse in judgment was significant. Finally, there were numerous fixes and patches that needed to be addressed, that were unknown to them, but identified by the broader tech community. They have addressed our promise to address over the next 90 days.

Photo Credit: Zoom®

So, where do we go from here?  Well, that is up to each individual, company, and organization.  Zoom remains a powerful collaborative tool. Its ease of use and simplicity are the biggest benefits. It does have strong security settings, and when used correctly, it meets the needs and security standards of many global corporations. The key phrase there is “when used correctly”. This is also the user’s responsibility.

Zoom sits at a key turning point. If they address the issues, it will make them, a better, more secure, and more desirable communication tool. If they fail to address, they will lose the confidence of the tech community, and the world with it.

For more information on what Zoom is doing, see these recent blogs from the corporation:

A Message To Our Users

The Facts Around Zoom and Encryption for Meetings/Webinars


Updates from Zoom® as of 04/10/2020

Zoom Product Updates: New Security Toolbar Icon for Hosts, Meeting ID No Longer Displayed.

By: Deepthi Javarajan

Visible only to hosts and co-hosts of Zoom Meetings, the Security icon provides easy access to several existing Zoom security features so you can more easily protect your meetings. Last night we implemented an important update to help make your meetings more private and secure. The most visible change that meeting hosts will see is an option in the Zoom meeting controls called Security. This new icon simplifies how hosts can quickly find and enable many of Zoom’s in-meeting security features.

By clicking the Security icon, hosts and co-hosts have an all-in-one place to quickly:

The Security icon is available in our latest release (version 4.6.10) to all Zoom hosts and co-hosts in all free and paid account types on desktop (Mac & Windows), mobile (iOS & Android), iPad, and in the web client.

Read more about the Security icon update on our support page.

Meeting ID no longer displayed

Additionally, the Zoom Meeting ID will no longer be displayed on the title toolbar. The title will simply be “Zoom” for all meetings, preventing others from seeing active meeting IDs when, for instance, Zoom screenshots are posted publicly.

Additional security updates

The Zoom team also updated several features for specific account types:

  • Waiting Rooms: The Waiting Room feature is now on by default for free Basic and single licensed Pro accounts, as well as education accounts enrolled in our K-12 program.
  • Passwords: Meeting passwords are on by default for free Basic and single licensed Pro accounts, and for education, accounts enrolled in our K-12 program. The default setting cannot be changed for those education accounts.
  • Domain contacts: For free Basic and single licensed Pro accounts with unmanaged domains, contacts in the same domain will no longer be visible. We’ve also removed the option to auto-populate your Contacts list with users from the same domain. If you would like to keep those contacts, you can add them as External Contacts.
  • Renaming participants: In addition to the above in-meeting renaming control, account admins and hosts can now disable the ability for participants to rename themselves (for every meeting) at the account, group, and user level in the web portal.

To update to the latest version of Zoom, visit our download page. To get more tips and tricks for securely using Zoom, check out Zoom’s YouTube page or the Zoom Blog.

How to Prevent the Most Common AV Disasters from Happening at Your Next Event

How to Prevent the Most Common AV Disasters from Happening at Your Next Event

 

Any time you prep for a meeting, conference, or event, you’ll have to rely on a number of specialists to bring your vision to fruition.  While you can see the venue and sample the food, you might have to put a lot of trust into the AV specialists you hire, hoping that they can deliver what you want when your event rolls around.

Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge can lead to some truly awful disasters related to your events.  For example, you might end up with a venue that doesn’t offer sufficient access to power, WiFi, or streaming capabilities.  You might end up paying outrageous fees to both the AV vendor and venue because you don’t know what you need.  Or you could suffer epic presentation fails like videos that are incorrectly formatted, that freeze while streaming, or that completely crash.

None of these are desirable outcomes, but you can avoid these snafus with a little knowledge and some help from an experienced and reliable event management services provider like American Meetings, Inc. (AMI).  Here’s what you should know if you want to prevent the most common AV disasters from happening at your next event.

Get Event Management Services and Vendors in Place Early

Like most tasks related to planning a corporate meeting or event, getting the major players in place early on can help you to avoid all kinds of issues down the road.  Your first step should be to compare corporate event planning companies to find a meeting services organization like AMI that offers the strategic planning services you need to brainstorm your next big event.

From there, experienced professionals at your event management services company can help you to find the perfect venue and get all your ducks in a row.  One of the first tasks, however, is hiring reliable AV specialists.  When you have this key player in place early on, your AV representative or team can help you to pick a venue that has the right foundations for your needs, including adequate power, internet services, and so on.

Go Over Every Detail

One of the biggest problems many companies face is not understanding what they’re getting.  When you don’t really know the lingo, it’s all too easy to end up paying for a bunch of equipment or services you don’t need, both from the AV company and the venue.  If you want to make sure you get just what you need and avoid paying excessive fees, it’s best to work closely with corporate event planning companies to fully understand what you’re paying for and whether or not it’s necessary.

This could mean having your AV specialist walk you through your contract line by line to explain each piece of equipment you’re renting, why it is necessary, and what it’s going to cost.  It could mean setting up a meeting with the venue and the AV specialist to make sure there are adequate power outlets and other resources available on-site.  You should plan on negotiating fees for everything from internet access to add-ons like additional mics, just for example.

Says Tarique Stanley, AMI’s Senior Event Technology Specialist, “If you don’t know what you’re doing you could end up getting nickel-and-dimed with fees, especially after the fact, when they know they can charge you like crazy for oversights.  It’s easier to make vendors accountable by negotiating for possible extras ahead of time.  This will help you avoid hefty fees later on.”

Find Reliable Corporate Event Planning Companies and Vendors

The worst-case scenario is a presentation failure at your event.  This could be something relatively small but nonetheless vexing like a video in the wrong aspect ratio.  Or it could be a much more devastating outcome like inadequate bandwidth for streaming that causes video presentations to stall.  It could be a disc that won’t play.

There are a few ways to ensure these epic fails don’t happen at your event.  One is to choose an event management services company like AMI that has the experience to prevent such problems and works with technical experts that have a proven track record of success.  You’ll also want to test early on to make sure venue resources are adequate to handle power and streaming needs, as well as test materials like presentation videos to make sure they’re working properly.

Don’t forget to create backups.  If something goes wrong, there may be a way to salvage your presentation with a proper plan B or C in place.  Not all corporate event planning companies have the experience and reputation to help you avoid AV disasters, but with the experts at AMI on your side, your next event should go off without a hitch.

Snapchat vs. Instagram: Which is Right for Your Event?

Snapchat vs. Instagram: Which is Right for Your Event?

 

There are so many social apps that could create opportunities for event attendees to connect with each other and share their experiences via dedicated event accounts.  It can be difficult to decide which ones are going to best suit your brand, your event, your goals, and of course, your audience.  After all, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin and divide your efforts by providing too many options for attendees to choose from.

Says Annie Fernandez, Director of Marketing at AMI, “Utilizing Facebook is pretty much a given, and many companies still incorporate Twitter, as well.  If you want to add another trending platform, you might find yourself torn between Snapchat and Instagram.  Adding an image-sharing forum, especially one that encourages creativity and personalization, is a great way to facilitate engagement and allow attendees to contribute in social and experiential ways.”

Really, though, you might have some trouble telling the difference between the two photo-sharing platforms these days.  Snapchat had a novel idea when they started thanks to photos that self-delete, generating near-instantaneous FOMO.  To compete, Instagram, already a powerhouse in its own right has seized upon some of Snapchat’s desirable features and developed its own version.

Is Snapchat nearing expiration, or does it still have something to offer?  Does Instagram do it best, or have their efforts to clone Snapchat’s successes fallen short?  Which one is better for your event and your audience?  Here are a few things you’ll want to discuss with corporate event planning companies before you decide.

What’s the Skinny on Snapchat?

Snapchat’s 16 million daily active users are nothing to sniff at, especially since they tend to fall into the tech-savvy and socially influential millennial group (the majority of users are in the 12-24 age range).  This can be a difficult group to engage at events, but connecting is made easier with an app they already use and enjoy, especially since the average user is engaged 25-30 minutes per day.  This means you have ample opportunity to increase visibility and connection with users.

Of course, Snapchat isn’t just for youngsters.  It turns out more than half of new users are 25 and older, which could mean this social app is simply catching on later with a more mature audience.

What features recommend Snapchat?  The photo deletion feature may not be particularly appealing for brands that want their content in front of users as long as possible, but the fleeting nature of the content means users are likely to look at it sooner rather than later for fear of missing out, and this can work to your advantage if you string out narratives through pictures and videos via Snapchat Stories.  You and your event management services team can also create geofilters unique to your location and your event, creating further exclusivity and FOMO.

Corporate Event Planning Companies Like Insta Gratification

There’s no denying Instagram has the upper hand in this race with exponentially more users, numbering 500 million.  The average age of users is slightly higher at 19-29, which means for the most part, they’re old enough to attend your events.  However, only about 20% of those users are in the U.S. – not necessarily a problem if you cater to an international audience.

If you and your event management services team are interested in opting for Instagram, there’s a lot to love, starting with the fact that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, allows for cross-posting, so that you can post pics to Instagram and Facebook simultaneously.  This time-saving bonus is great for harried hosts and corporate event planning companies.

Instagram also blatantly snaked the stories feature from Snapchat and made it their own with Instagram Stories, where photos and videos can be posted for 24 hours (with no option for likes or comments, unlike other Instagram posts).  Geofilters aren’t available, but geotagging is, and this can make your posts easier for a target audience to find.

Of course, the thing that really pushes Instagram over the top is hashtags, which make content more shareable and searchable.  The use of trending and event-specific hashtags can expand your reach and increase engagement.

Ask Event Management Services Pros Which Platform Suits Your Event

Experienced corporate event planning companies can help you to determine whether Snapchat or Instagram is better suited to your upcoming event by considering your audience and what you hope to accomplish.  Even better, these event management services professionals have the know-how and connections to help you implement effective marketing and engagement strategies on your social platform of choice.

When event budgets are restricted, turn to AMI Virtual Platform.

When event budgets are restricted, turn to AMI Virtual Platform.

Click here to download info-sheet.

We all love to travel, but travelling can be expensive, between attendee flights and accommodations often event owners may have to reduce the number of invitees due to costs constraints.

Incorporating a virtual component as part of your project can add great savings. In this article we will share all the advantages of including a webinar element and how you could easily turn your live event into a hybrid event using AMI Virtual Platform.

Learn how by adding a webinar component to your live event you can save on travel costs while increasing your audience reach:

 

Increase Audience Reach

Traveling can be inconvenient for both attendees and colleagues. A lot of time is spent at the airport, between flights, checking in and out of hotels, waiting for taxis…..not to mention the time that is required for travel preparation, packing and so on.

By webcasting your live event, you could recapture the audience that might have travel restrictions, or do not have time to travel to an event outside their city.  This audience could join from the convenience of their office or home, allowing your event to have a regional, national or event global impact.

With the AMI Virtual Platform, you have 1,000 remote attendees included in the standard package and larger audiences are easily supported, indeed the platform supports up to 100,000 remote viewers.

 

Audiovisual       

Now let’s discuss Audiovisual setup. The good news is most of a standard live event setup can be re-purposed for the live webinar stream. More and more companies are now broadcasting their live speaker events as such audiovisual vendors are becoming proficient in providing this service and the additional equipment required.

This equipment includes a professional video camera, an encoder, slide control and monitoring of the webcast transmission. By requesting these from the event AV company directly, they will often bundle them with the other required equipment at lower cost.

Most event AV company’s equipment will be compatible to stream live to the AMI Virtual Platform. Our platform is encoder agnostic which means it supports both hardware and software encoders. To verify compatibility simply contact BD@americanmeetings.com and have your existing AV vendor on-boarded into the AMI Virtual Platform.

 

Save on Travel Costs

It is not uncommon for companies to restrict travel costs, in a bid to cut budgets. An average national ticket can cost around, 500 USD per attendee, that is before you factor in the additional costs of ground transport, accommodations and food & beverage, etc.

The cost of the equipment and labor needed to broadcast your live event equates to approx. the same cost of just 10 attendees. Not only could these 10 attendees still join the event remotely, but you could invite as many as 100,000 attendees to watch remotely by increasing your audiovisual overall cost by a small percentage.

 

Detailed Analytics and User Feedback

Client feedback is invaluable, but getting and audience to fill out and return feedback forms is not always easy. Capturing questions submitted from live audiences can be challenging.

 

Translations

On the topic of translations…Live simultaneous translations can add huge expense to your live events, requiring additional equipment, tables and head counts to distribute the translations head sets to attendees. When streaming your event these translations can be broadcast for a translated live stream, reaching not just a few international attendees at the venue but an entire market.

Alternatively, if at the live event all attendees listen to the presentations in one language only, incorporating a remote translation solution will not only save you money it means you can still reach multiple markets.

 

Support Team

AMI has a team of dedicated project managers that can guide you to turn your live event into a hybrid event leveraging all the benefits of the AMI Virtual Platform. Just email BD@AmericanMeetings.com to request a Webcast component for your events schedule a qualifying call with a dedicated project manager.

For these and many more reasons AMI Virtual Platform is a great complement to your events. With a fraction of the investment you could add 1000 attendees or more to your next live event.

5 Essential Live Streaming Best Practices for Your Next Event

5 Essential Live Streaming Best Practices for Your Next Event

In the online world, video rules supreme when it comes to grabbing attention and engaging viewers.  As a company hosting meetings, conferences, and other events, you want to make sure to find ways to include video elements, and this could mean adding live streaming services to your upcoming events.

Should you add live streaming, and if so, how do you go about it in order to optimize results?  The right corporate event planning partner can help you to strategize appropriate uses of live streaming, as well as manage implementation.  However, you should be aware of a few best practices going into the process.

  1. Select a High Quality Service

What’s the best avenue for live streaming your event?  There are many to choose from and a misstep could leave you floundering in technical difficulties.  In other words, you’ll need to ensure you have the right tools for the job.  If you plan to do this more than once, spend the money and have your event management services partner help you choose the most appropriate, high-quality streaming service for the event type.

 

  1. Ask Event Management Services to Test Capabilities

Corporate event planning companies can not only advise you when it comes to choosing the right streaming service, but they can test to make sure everything is running smoothly in advance of your live streaming timetable.  This is imperative if you want to avoid hiccups during your live event.

 

  1. Stick to Your Timetable

Video tends to be more engaging than print and static images, but that doesn’t give you free license to bore the heck out of your audience.  You and your event management services pros need to tailor presentations to your audience, both in-person and online, and this means considering how planned content will play, sticking to a planned timetable as much as possible, and remaining somewhat flexible, since editing is not an option.

 

  1. Engage with Your Audience in Real Time

According to Nathan Von Garin, VP Account Management, “Engaging with two separate audiences simultaneously is no easy feat for event hosts and corporate event planning companies.  You’ll need to strategize ways to interface with both your in-person and your online audience members, and this could mean asking questions, noting comments, and taking questions from both audiences throughout a presentation, panel, or workshop.”

 

  1. Make it Count

Let’s just be honest – not every event should be live streamed.  Some presentations simply don’t lend themselves to the format.  You need to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of live streaming before you simply broadcast your event.  Is there even an interest in watching aspects of your event live?

If you have a notable speaker or workshop in such high demand that there’s a waiting list for attendance, you probably have a built-in audience for live streaming content.  The same could be true if prospective registrants complain that the remote location or expense of your event precludes them from attending.  If, on the other hand, you’re struggling to round up attendees, live streaming may not be the solution.

Is Gamification Right for Your Event?

Is Gamification Right for Your Event?

Gamification is basically the practice of imbuing a non-game situation with the hallmarks of game play, including competition, scoring, rules, and of course, a healthy dose of fun.  It’s a way to add an element of interactivity and to enhance engagement and emotional connection that might not otherwise exist.

Consider that a traditional meeting or event is largely a one-way street.  You and your event organizer work to create an attractive platform to deliver information.  That information may come from celebrity speakers or panels, or at least industry-leading experts.  It may be provided through exhibits designed to catch the eye and appeal to consumers on an emotional level.

However, if you want to increase engagement throughout your event, creating situations that encourage interaction are ideal.  This is where gamification comes into the picture.  You’ll want to consult with your convention planner to determine if gamification is actually right for your event.  How can you tell?  Here are a few things you’ll want to consider before making the leap to gamification.

 

Corporate and Convention Planner Goals

Before you start dreaming up gamification ideas for your event, you need to stop and consider if this strategy will actually improve your odds of reaching set goals.  If your main goal is to deliver information, say for a professional audience seeking ongoing educational credits, gamification can add an element of fun to the proceedings, but it might actually detract from your ability to meet stated goals, especially if attendees get caught up in competitive challenges and forego needed seminars, for example.

That said, there are a variety of ways in which gamification can help you to enhance your event, spice up activities, and create a greater sense of interactivity and inclusion for attendees.  The primary goal of gamification is engagement, so if that’s something you’re interested in adding to your event and you think adding elements of gamification will augment other efforts, you should definitely collaborate with your event organizer to instill gamification.

Audience Characteristics

While you never want to pigeonhole consumers, the truth is that certain demographics are likely to be more receptive to the concept of gamification because of generational exposure and a level of comfort with the elements of gamification.  Whereas Gen Xers are comfortable with gaming and millennials are on board with social technologies, older generations may not be entirely comfortable with either.

This could not only hold them back from fully participating, but also color their perception of the event.  Age and relative tech savviness are two audience characteristics you and your convention planner need to consider before committing to a gamification strategy.

 

Collaborating with Your Event Organizer on Targeted Gamification

While you can certainly add elements of gamification simply for the sake of gamification, you’re bound to get more traction with event attendees if your strategy makes sense for the type of event you’re hosting, the ways in which you want attendees to engage, and your ultimate goals for behavior and guest perception of the overall experience.

For example, one of your goals may be to create an event community of sorts, one in which attendees are able not only to network, but to share an experience that allows them to build personal relationships with one another (and in the process, create positive associations with your brand).  In this case, you might want to lean toward group, rather than individual challenges.

Maybe you want to increase interest in and interactions with exhibitors.  A scavenger hunt type of scenario could lay the groundwork to accomplish your goals.  Perhaps your goal is to heighten feelings of FOMO for those not attending the event in order to increase attendance at subsequent events.  This could lead you and your convention planner to create areas and activities that encourage attendees to publicly document their experience, sharing pics and personal anecdotes in order to earn points and prizes.

Says Tarique Stanley, AMI’s Technology Specialist, “Gamification is not just about adding ‘games’ to your event.  It’s about creating a cohesive experience where guests can participate and contribute in a way that feels natural.  You don’t want gamification to feel antithetical to the purpose and aesthetic of your event.

 

Tracking for Future Inclusion

If you’re just starting to experiment with gamification, you really need to track participation and outcomes to determine whether or not this strategy is worthwhile moving forward, as well as how you can improve if you intend to continue.  When you work with a skilled event organizer like American Meetings, Inc. (AMI), you can choose the strategies best suited to your event, your audience, and your goals and track results to see how gamification contributes to your event.