People have been gathering in groups for as long as they’ve been on Earth. The first groups were the hunter-gatherer groups who banded together to ensure survival. As society evolved, citizens got together for town meetings, religious services and for fun and entertainment. Eventually, the business meeting became a part of the workplace. Conference room tables surrounded by employees with notepads were a daily event. For those who couldn’t attend, the conference call was created, using telephone communications.

Today, technology has advanced to the point that attendees don’t have to be in the same room to have a conference. They don’t even need to be on the same continent. Thanks to telecommunications software and the internet, a virtual meeting can be held involving people anywhere there is a computer and a connection.

The Virtual Conference

Virtual conferences take place every single day. Many businesses have a daily meeting that involves remote employees working from home. Classes are also taught online, both college level and K-12. Adult learning courses on many different topics are also held each day. People also play games, watch concerts and live theater performances. A virtual audience made up of people located hundreds or thousands of miles apart. Though it may seem to be miraculous, using a virtual conference platform to host an online meeting or event is not that difficult.

History of the Virtual Event

AT&T first demonstrated the “picturephone” at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Though a fascinating device, it would be several decades before video was added to voice communications. With the creation and spread of the internet, the stage was set for people to communicate using digital cameras and microphones. These started out as one-on-one sessions, much like a standard telephone call. But technology continued to evolve, as it always does.

In April 1993, an event that was unique and groundbreaking for its time was held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman of the Visual Data Corporation held a tradeshow for investors. It was unique because the investors were not present at the Waldorf. Videotaped demonstrations were available to be viewed on the internet. Though primitive by today’s standards, the virtual event was born and can now be streamed live.

Hardware and Software Needs

To attend or host a virtual conference, naturally you need a computer and a fast internet connection. Cable or DSL will do and both are readily available. You will also need a webcam so people can see you and a microphone to be heard. You can buy webcams equipped with a mic. They range from inexpensive to pricey. The resolution on the less expensive cams is not as sharp, but they suffice for the purpose of a video conference. You will also need headphones or speakers so you can hear. These also do not have to be expensive top-of-the-line models.

On the software side of things, you need an app that can start and join meetings. Everyone in the meeting must have the same app installed. These apps are virtual conference platforms and they are easy to use. They tend to be intuitive and come with directions. To host a conference, you set up a date and time. You can invite people to the conference through email or text. At the designated time, you start the meeting and your attendees click the link you sent. You then add them to the meeting as they appear on the launch screen. Using your camera and mic, you run the meeting essentially just as you would live.

Technology has truly made the world a smaller place. People can now meet in groups for any purpose without all being in the same place. Virtual conference software has made business, entertainment and socializing more accessible for millions.

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