I recently wrote a post where I went into a lot of detail on “How Cisco Ruined Webex Meetings.” It was probably too much for most people to chew through, but the upshot was that I considered their latest product... Related Stories - How Cisco Ruined ...


Even More Webex Frustrations and more...

Even More Webex Frustrations

I recently wrote a post where I went into a lot of detail on “How Cisco Ruined Webex Meetings.” It was probably too much for most people to chew through, but the upshot was that I considered their latest product update to be a disaster that made Webex Meetings difficult and annoying to use in practice.

After yet another Webex-based client webinar marred by technical frustrations, I am angry enough to pound a few more nails in this particular coffin.

1) Assuming you upload PowerPoint slides to your meeting and use Webex slide navigation, keyboard shortcuts are inconsistent and ambiguous. Some of my guest presenters tell me they have to press the Page Down key on their keyboard to move to the next slide. Others say that only the arrow keys work for them. The space bar seems to work pretty well, but if the presenter clicks their mute/unmute icon at the bottom of the window, the space bar then continues to activate the mute/unmute button instead of advancing the slides. I had oodles of fun trying to diagnose why my presenter’s microphone kept going on mute during our webinar!

2) Attendees using the desktop client see a message overlaying the top of the slide content stating the file name of the PowerPoint that has been loaded. File names are not for public consumption, and are not part of my meeting content. Attendees shouldn’t see that information.

3) I like to use screen capture software such as Camtasia on a second computer to record the attendee view of a meeting. That backup recording is now corrupted by overlays in the Webex console. If a chat message comes in, the overlay icons show up at the bottom of the slide window and stay there forever if you don’t open the Chat panel to see the content. If the host mutes an attendee, the attendee sees a red mute symbol overlaying the slide content. It just stays there, blocking a clear view of the visual materials. And if you move the cursor anywhere within the entire Webex console, it redisplays the overlay control icons and title.


One of my clients has used Webex for many years. All I have heard since the switch to the new interface is complaints and user confusion. This update is an unmitigated disaster for anything other than video conference calls. Cisco could have and should have done better. Much better.


Presenters: Who Are You Talking About?

I'm spending another lovely evening editing a webinar recording. The presenter speaks well, with good pacing, enthusiasm, changes in pitch, and clarity. But there's one thing driving me crazy… She keeps changing who is the subject of her sentences! Here's an example:

"Let's say I have an earache. You can go to an in-network doctor, who is covered at a flat co-pay for all the company's employees. So we don't have to worry about guessing at the cost."

If you mix things up like this, you introduce confusion for the listener. If you set up an example scenario with yourself as the subject, make the rest of the story about yourself. If you decide to make the individual listener (in the singular) the subject of your anecdote, keep the focus on that same person. You can be inclusive and choose to use "we" and "us" as well… Any of these approaches are valid. But once you make that choice, stick with it!

Picking a point of view is a conscious part of your speech preparation. Think about what will serve you best and will be the most engaging and compelling for your listeners.

Please note, this does not mean you can't switch points of view at various times. I started this article with a personal anecdote about myself… editing a recording. In the middle, I switched the point of view to advice for you, the individual reader. And now I'm back to talking about myself again to finish the framing of the article the way I started it, as a personal tale. But within each of those sections, I remain consistent with my choice… Either I'm talking about "me" or I'm talking about "you." Never both in the same paragraph.


How Cisco Ruined Webex Meetings

Cisco announced a new interface for Webex Meetings in July. Most customers started seeing the changes around early August. Several of my clients use Webex Meetings, including a very large international organization with a global roster of presenters and attendees.

I have given myself time to get used to the new user interface from the perspective of host, presenter, and attendee. I didn't want to fall prey to an instinctive knee-jerk aversion to changes in something that was familiar. But having figured out how everything works now and having run quite a few public web conferences under the new interface, I feel prepared to declare that the current operation of the software is a hot mess that may have the worst usability of any major web conferencing product on the market.

The biggest problems stem from the fact that hosts and participants are faced with a choice of interfaces that have different cosmetics and functionality. It is now literally impossible for me as an event moderator to know what my participants are seeing or to give them clear instructions on how to use the web conferencing software.

Let's take it step by step, with pictorial examples.

As a meeting administrator or host, I start by scheduling a meeting in my Webex host account. The new "Modern View" administrative interface is clean and obvious. I just click the big blue button to "Schedule a Meeting."

Schedule Webex Meeting - Modern View 

This brings up a simple scheduling page that lets me specify the meeting topic, password, and date/time. And that's it. There are no options available.

Modern Webex Meeting Scheduler

If I want to have any additional control over my meeting options, I need to find the small command in the left-hand navigation panel that takes me to "Classic View." That brings up the older administrative interface we have used for years. From there, I can go through the old multi-step process to bring up the meeting scheduler and then find yet another hyperlink buried in-line with instructions text to switch to the Advanced Scheduler. That interface finally lets me step through pages of meeting options. So now the process to get serious control over scheduling a meeting requires three levels of intermediate screens and an understanding of what Classic View and Advanced Scheduler mean.

Now we switch to the perspective of a meeting participant. They get their email with a join link. This takes them to a login page where they can enter their name and email. On the page is a big green button to "Join Meeting."

Modern View - Join Webex Meeting

What the average, untrained meeting participant doesn't know and doesn't know to look for, is that there are two different meeting interfaces hidden under that button. If they happen to click on the unlabeled arrow at the right side of the button, they see options for joining by desktop app or by web app. By default, Webex chooses "the best option" (leaving us wondering what criteria it uses).

Join Webex Meeting Options

The method for joining turns out to be incredibly significant. It affects what the participant sees as well as determining what functionality they have in the meeting.

The next two pictures compare what is seen by a user joining through the desktop app (first picture) and by a user joining through the web app (second picture):

Webex Meeting Desktop App Interface

Webex Meeting Web App Interface

As a moderator or meeting host, I now have the task of explaining how I want my participants to interact with the interface:

  • "Adjust your computer audio settings (such as selecting your devices for listening and speaking) using the Audio command at the top of your screen…" Except that web attendees have no command bar and no submenu for adjusting audio devices.
  • "Use the little hand symbol by your name in the participant list to signal me." Except that web attendees have no hand symbol.
  • "Expand or collapse your panels using the dropdown arrows to the left of the panel title." Except that web attendees don't have those options.
  • "You can change the relative size of panels in the list by dragging the border between them up and down." On the web, attendees only see one panel at a time.
  • "Use the dropdown TO: selector at the bottom of the chat panel to change whether you send messages to me privately or to everyone in the meeting." Web attendees have a different interface, clicking on a name in the panel or on a "Chat with All" option.

It gets worse if I want to pass control and make one of my participants a presenter. The host interface lets me do so, and I see the "presenter ball" next to their name. But if they happened to join using the web app, they can't do anything with uploaded content. They can't navigate uploaded slides or use annotation tools. (And while we're on the subject, even the desktop app presentation controls have been made worse in this release… The arrows to move forward and backward through a slide set are now so small that they require a magnifying glass and surgeon's touch to operate.)

Web attendees also have other annoying interface quirks to contend with. They see a floating content source bubble ("Viewing Ken Molay's shared content") that is persistent at the top center of the content… right where it covers up typical slide title placement. They also get an audio chime when chat messages are received, leading to constant audio interruptions if their mikes are open and they aren't using a headset.

Did you notice the small video placeholder windows in the interface? In the desktop app they appear in a strip across the top of the screen, above the shared content. In the web app, one video window appears in the right-hand panel. There is no way to turn these off if you elect not to use streaming video for your presenters. So it wastes vertical screen space and creates confusion as participants tell the host that they aren't seeing the presenters in those windows.

It is easy to see what Cisco was going for in this redesign. They put all their effort into making a Skype competitor. It's an interface that is simple to set up and use when a number of people just want to jump on a video chat and see each other while they talk. But in accomplishing that goal, they gave short shrift to customers who want to run real web conferences. Until they have a consistent interface for all participants, where a meeting host can control and explain functionality for everyone, Webex Meetings will be low on my preference list for running most types of web conferences.



LogMeIn Updates GoToWebinar

LogMeIn announced upgrades to GoToWebinar today. I had a chance to speak with Daniel Waas, the GoToWebinar Director of Product Marketing at LogMeIn. He took me through the latest updates and shared a few thoughts about future developments (many of which are not ready for public disclosure yet).

Today's announcement focuses most prominently on "behind the scenes" improvements for webinar hosts and administrators. Attendees and presenters will most likely see no changes to the user interface and controls they are already familiar with.

Daniel says that they are now handling on the order of 2.3 million GoToWebinar sessions a year from their customer base. They wanted to make the platform more useful and intuitive for the people charged with scheduling, managing, and analyzing all those webinars.

One of the first and most obvious priorities was to make sure that administration worked well on mobile devices, so all organizational screens are now mobile-responsive.

A new interface for administrators allows a streamlined approach to scheduling and editing webinars. This had been a pet peeve of mine in the past… Working on different aspects of a webinar (eg: branding, email customization, user roles) required opening secondary pages, making the desired changes, and returning to the master page. Now everything is on one screen, with sections that expand and collapse to allow access to all aspects without navigating between web pages.

Similar streamlining makes it easier to get analytics during registration and after a webinar completes. A new analytics dashboard puts many different statistics in one place for quick reporting and visualization. You can also see upcoming webinars in a calendar mode and now you can quickly scan through all your upcoming webinars to see the number of people registered for each without having to run a report.

In addition to just seeing raw numbers for a single webinar, the new analytics interface lets you compare performance of webinars against each other and against a master trend line for all webinars (in chart and table format). You can add filters to include only desired subsets of your webinars and you can download the information in Excel, CSV, or PDF formats.

Another cute new feature is integrated help suggestions implemented through tool tip popups. For instance, you can ask for advice during the scheduling process and get suggestions based on GoToWebinar's compiled webinar statistics and best practices to help you craft webinar titles or pick webinar days and times that are likely to attract more attendees.

LogMeIn also added new integrated interfaces with third-party providers such as AWeber, Hubspot, Unbounce, and Zapier.

If you record your webinar (and why wouldn't you?), you can now click a single button to publish it to your GoToStage account. This gives viewers easy access to all your recorded content in one place. There are new capabilities for customizing theme colors and banner image branding on your page, as well as giving you the ability to add custom text (typically used for satisfying GDPR disclaimer notifications). Daniel told me to look for additional enhancements to be announced later, with ways to make GoToStage recording portals even more useful and powerful.

The only other future plans announcement LogMeIn is admitting to in public is the ability to use automated speech-to-text transcription for recorded webinars. This is currently in beta mode. Plans call for timecodes to be automatically built into the text transcriptions, letting users search for a term, click on a sentence, and go immediately to that point in the recording playback. Very nice!

Based on my conversation with Daniel, I feel safe in saying that this is by no means a "one and done" enhancement release. Keep your eyes open for other improvements in GoToWebinar that will further extend its usefulness for both organizers and webinar participants.



Two Quick Presentation Improvements

Here are two things you can do to improve your presentation slides today. It doesn't matter whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or something else. It also doesn't matter whether you present in a room or in a web conference.

1) Eliminate periods

If you see periods at the end of your text, it is almost certainly a sign that you have too much verbiage on your slide. Slides are no place for complete, well-formed, grammatically correct sentences. Pretend you're writing an old-time telegram, where you have to pay by the word. What's the least you can write and still convey the key concept that you will flesh out with more detail in your talk? In general, the only excuse for a period is in a direct quote.

2) Use short URLs

I see slides all the time that include full links to reference information, copied from the address bar of the author's web browser. Things like:

For more information, visit https://www.national-historical-archives/information/supplements/the-1880-treaty/page3.html

What, exactly, do you expect your audience to do with that… retype it into their web browser? In most cases, nobody will ever get a clickable, interactive version of your presentation. If that reference link is supposed to have value for your listeners, make it useful. Get familiar with a URL shortening site and use it. Always. There are plenty out there. They are free and easy to use. I use https://bit.ly quite a lot. And don't just rely on the automatic gibberish address they generate by default. Customize your shortened link to make it memorable, relevant, and shareable:

For more information, visit bit.ly/1880treaty

Now your slide content has usable value.


You don't have to be a presentation design wizard to make your display visuals more impactful. Little things mean a lot.