A multipoint videoconference is a videoconference involving more than two sites. This page contains more information about multipoint videoconferences and may be of special interest to presenters of multipoint workshops or moderators of multipoint meetings. Note: much of this information may be specific to the videoconferencing systems acquired for the Texas Library Videoconferencing Network through a Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund grant. If you are videoconferencing from a non-Texas Library Network site, local videoconferencing support staff should be able to provide you with more information about multipoint videoconferencing from their site.
Multipoint Videoconferencing Modes
There are two modes, or formats, for multipoint videoconferences.
- Continuous Presence (CP)
- Voice Activated (VA)
The facilitator/presenter should indicate to participants which mode has been chosen for the event and participants should follow the tips for that mode accordingly.
- All sites in the videoconference can be seen at the same time on the far end monitor(s)
- A site will see themselves (or any data that they present) on their right hand monitor AND they will see themselves IN ADDITION to everyone else represented in small sections on the far end monitor(s)
- This mode IS NOT OPTIMAL for displaying data (document camera, smartboard, etcetera) as the data will not occupy an entire screen -- the data presented by a particular site will be limited to the screen size to which that site is relegated. Depending on the number of sites in the call, the data may be too small to be legible by other sites in this mode. If data must be relayed to the far end sites and the continuous presence mode must be used, it is best to send data via another method (email, fax, snail mail) to remote sites prior to the videoconference
- If you begin a multipoint conference in CP mode and switch the mode of the conference to VA (voice activated mode) during the videoconference, the picture quality will be poor. It is better to terminate a continuous presence conference and re-connect it in voice activated mode to ensure best picture quality.
- Microphones at all sites can be active, if needed, during a continuous presence conference but be aware that it can get quite “noisy” if too much sound is produced by all sites. If an echo becomes a problem, this means that one site has their volume turned up too high or their microphones are too close to the front units. The facilitator/presenter should have each site mute their microphones and bring sites back into the call one at a time until the site with the volume/microphone placement issue is identified and the problem can be corrected.
- Only the remote site which produced the most recent audio will appear on the far end monitor(s)
- All other remote sites in the call will be invisible but can appear on screen when they produce audio
- You will see yourself (or any data you present) on the right monitor at all times
- If you are the speaking site, you (or any data that you present) will appear on the remote sites' left monitor
- When a site would like to speak in this mode, they should begin speaking but will need to realize that it will take a few seconds of audio production before the camera will switch to them. All other sites should remain muted to allow the screen to switch to the speaking site.
- Microphone settings are CRITICAL in this mode -- sites should have microphones muted/inactive when they are not speaking in order to prevent themselves from appearing on screen due to insignificant “noise” such as paper rustling, sneezing, coughing, etcetera
- Facilitation/moderation is highly recommended for large meetings or workshops in this mode as the moderator can call on particular sites to encourage participation. A moderator may introduce agenda items or topics and then call on each site individually to record comments from those sites. After the moderator has called on all sites, he/she can ask if there are additional comments before moving on to the next agenda item or topic.
Before Your Multipoint Videoconference
- If your videoconferencing purpose is instructional and involves a large amount of audience and presenter interaction, it is recommended that you limit the number of remote sites to three and that you conduct the videoconference in Continuous Presence mode
- Have a central contact person who is responsible for scheduling/organizing the multipoint videoconference -- this may or may not be the main facilitator/presenter
- Have a facilitator at each participating remote site
- Make sure that the videoconference room is reserved at each participating site (factor in time for equipment setup, testing, and takedown if needed)
- Make sure that the remote site facilitators are aware of what is expected of them before, during and after the videoconference
- Make sure the videoconferencing technical contacts at all sites are aware of the equipment and room configuration needed for the event. Have the remote site facilitators assist the technical contacts if necessary.
- The central contact person must ensure that the multipoint videoconference is scheduled at the MCU level -- for Texas Library Videoconferencing Network sites, multipoint videoconferences are scheduled in the VC Scheduler . Videoconferencing technical staff at each Texas Library Videoconferencing Network site have the ability to schedule their own multipoint conferences.
- Have each remote site make a test call about a week prior to the event if possible
- Have all sites connect at least one hour prior to program time in case of technical issues
- The facilitator/presenter should send an agenda with program date/time to all participants
- The faciliator/presenter should send a backup plan/activity/discussion to remote site facilitators for participants at each site in the event that technical issues arise
- If possible, all sites should have a large banner identifying their location onscreen
Tips for the Main Multipoint Presenter/Facilitator
- Begin by requesting that all sites mute their microphones if not already muted -- especially if in a voice activated conference
- Introduce yourself, identify your location and remote site locations, state the purpose of the videoconference
- Describe what the participants should see on their videoconference monitors
- Provide an overview of the videoconferencing mode selected for the meeting
- Provide an overview of the microphone mode selected for the meeting and instruct participants on interaction using the microphones
- Read ground rules and etiquette tips aloud
- Introduce the sites involved and, if time allows, have each site introduce themselves
- Review the meeting or workshop agenda
- Begin the meeting or workshop
- Keep the meeting or workshop focused and encourage participation by calling on all sites individually
- Track and manage participation with a site list if necessary (mark as sites participate)
- Summarize key points and decisions
- Direct unrelated items to future discussion (write these down)
- End the meeting or workshop on time -- save last ten minutes of meeting for wrap-up, specify how videoconference will end (should remote sites hang up?) and thank participants
Tips for Remote Site Facilitators
- If you are not familiar with basic operational functions of the equipment, ask the videoconferencing technical staff at your site to provide you with a demonstration or overview of basic functions
- Ensure that a wide screen shot of all participants in the room is viewable by the other sites when no one is speaking at your site
- Adjust cameras to focus on a person at your site who is speaking if microphone presets are not being used
- Know how to contact local videoconferencing technical support staff should technical issues arise
- Announce changes at your site if feasible -- notify other sites of significant changes such as when someone has entered the room but is not visible on screen. The remote facilitator should introduce new participants and announce the departure of other participants as necessary.