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AnyMeeting and video-conferencing in SMEE

AnyMeeting

Introduction

SMEE uses the AnyMeeting software to provide video-conferencing facilities. This allows SMEE members living at a distance from Marshall House to join in meetings. For example, the Digital Group regularly holds all its meetings online (all participants, even the speaker, are typically at home) and Council members are able to join in Council meetings remotely. The Engine Builders’ Group meetings usually have a mix of attendees at Marshall House as well as members joining in remotely.

Getting started – the quick way!

(Note: these notes are written for PC/Windows users. The author does not have access to other systems (Mac, Linux) for testing but it is believed that the process is very similar. If you have additional comments or corrections, please contact webmaster@sm-ee.co.uk who will be pleased to hear from you.)

  1. If you are going to use an external webcam, headset, or microphone, plug it into your PC now. These devices are optional – you do not need them just to watch and listen to a video-conference.
  2. If the system prompts you to download specific software to support these devices, click “OK” to download and install it. Generally, though, this will not be necessary, or it will happen automatically in the background.
  3. Click on the link to the AnyMeeting session that was in the email sent to you by the meeting organiser.
  4. If you are prompted to download the AnyMeeting app, click “OK” to download and install it. This is not always necessary, and you will only need to do it once. There is no cost for this.

And that’s it! At this point you should have joined the AnyMeeting session. If you are early and the meeting organiser has not yet started the session, you might have to wait a short time until the session starts.

The first time you use AnyMeeting, because you might need to download the AnyMeeting app (step 4 above), you are recommended to try joining the meeting a little earlier than the scheduled time, just to allow for the app to download and install itself.

At the bottom of the AnyMeeting window you will see buttons that allow you to turn on or off your microphone and your webcam (if used). You may need to move your mouse over the window to make these buttons visible. Just click on the microphone or camera symbols to turn the appropriate device on or off.

Technical information

Note: these requirements are based on information from AnyMeeting at the time of writing. The definitive list changes from time to time and is available from AnyMeeting directly at this address.

AnyMeeting requires a system which runs Windows 7 or later (64-bit only), Mac OSX 10.8 or later, or Linux/Ubuntu. It will run with Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, or Safari web browsers. It also requires a small software application available directly from AnyMeeting. The easiest way to download and install this is to try to join a meeting. If your system does not already have the application installed, you will be prompted to allow it to be downloaded and installed. Therefore, it is best to try to join your very first meeting a little ahead of the scheduled start time to allow for this. The application is only downloaded once; once it has been installed on your system it will be available for future meetings without any further action required.

For best results, you are recommended to use a headset with microphone attached. However, you can join in successfully using a laptop with built-in loudspeakers and microphone although it is important to make sure that you are somewhere where there is not too much background noise. The sound of other family members’ voices in the background can be distracting for other participants, not to say embarrassing! Some participants use Bluetooth headsets although most use USB wired connections as these generally perform more reliably. It is possible although less desirable to join in by phone. If you do not have a microphone connected to your system, you will be given a telephone number and meeting code when you join the session.

Of course, we are talking about video-conferencing so if you would like to be seen you can also use a suitable webcam. This can either be a separate item or built-in – a lot of laptops have built-in webcams. Use of a webcam is optional and many participants do not use them. However, they can be useful if only to show “work on the table” or similar.  AnyMeeting supports HD video (up to 720p) for up to 12 participants simultaneously (out of a total of up to 30 participants – the rest are audio-only).

You can also share your screen – that is, make what is on your screen visible to all the other participants. You might want to show photographs stored on your PC, for example, or maybe a PowerPoint presentation. Open the application that you want to show (a photo-viewing application, for example) and then click the “share your screen” button towards the bottom of the AnyMeeting window. If you happen to have two screens on your PC, you will be prompted for which screen to share. Alternatively you can select just a single application window to share with others. Remember that whatever is being shown on your screen will be visible to everyone else. You can use the application in the usual way – to step through photographs or PowerPoint slides, for example – but remember that it might take a second or two for any changes to reach all the other participants.

More information about how to participate in or host AnyMeeting sessions can be found on the AnyMeeting support web site.

Meeting etiquette

There are a few things to remember when you are in a video-conferencing session that make it a bit different to a round-the-table meeting.

First of all, it’s best to mute your microphone if you are not using it or actively taking part in a conversation. Any noise picked up by your microphone will be heard by others, and might block the sound coming from another participant. A cough, sneeze, someone sticking their head in the door and asking if you want coffee – all these can interrupt what someone else is saying and can be very disruptive. Especially when someone else is giving a presentation, please mute your microphone.

Similarly, the more video windows that are displayed on screen, the less space that is available for each one. Again, if someone is giving a presentation or sharing their screen with the meeting, please turn off your webcam.

Something that takes a bit of getting used to is that the video often lags the audio by some small amount. What this means in practice is that you cannot easily see when someone else is going to speak in the way that we do in face-to-face meetings and you often find that two people start speaking at the same time. Don’t worry about it as it is fairly inevitable, but just stop speaking for a moment to see what the other person does. It is something that you get used to fairly quickly. The meeting organiser/moderator might well step in and invite one or other participant to continue.

Finally, and this applies if you are in a face-to-face meeting with a few remote AnyMeeting participants, please be aware that if more than one person in the room speaks at a time, it becomes almost impossible for the remote attendees to hear what is being said. Please respect all participants and keep the background noise down when someone else is speaking!

If you have any further questions that cannot be answered from these notes or from the AnyMeeting web site, please contact webmaster@sm-ee.co.uk