Dimdim: A Recommended Church Communication Tool
Assume you are the pastor of a church and you need to meet with your vestry, the church’s attorney and CPA. Option 1 is to schedule a meeting date, time and place, have everyone drive to the location, meet and drive back to their offices. Option 2 is for everyone to stay put and host the meeting in an online conference room.
On a larger scale, let’s say you want to host a conference for 1,000 people. Option 1 is to book a conference room, have everyone fly in, check into a hotel, pay for their meals while at the conference, transportation to and from the airport and around town, then fly home. Option 2 is to hold the conference in an online conference room.
I have been using online conference rooms almost since the technology was first invented. In 2006, I hosted over 200 webinars. This has allowed me to communicate with hundreds of people simultaneously without anyone ever leaving home. The presentations I made were the same I would have made if I presented them in person.
I have used so many web conferencing companies I can’t remember all of them. Today, the three biggest players are WebEx, GoToMeeting and Microsoft’s Live Meeting.
Now there’s a new kid on the block: Dimdim.
Dimdim has a bunch of neat features, but the most compelling reason for churches everywhere to check it out is that it is simple to use and very inexpensive when compared to the competition. Best of all, there’s a free version.
Dimdim launched in February 2006 and has more than 2 million users from almost every country on the earth. It recently rolled out version 5, which has added even more cool features.
Let’s take a look at how Dimdim works and some of the applications for a church.
Dimdim comes with a free version, which can accommodate up to 20 participants, a pro version that holds up to 50 and an enterprise edition for groups of up to 1,000. Each version has its own features. As I describe what it can do and how it works, I won’t differentiate among editions to keep things simple. Check the Dimdim web site for costs and to see what’s included in each version.
One of the most disconcerting features of hosting a meeting with most of the other applications is the fact that each attendee has to download some software or a plugin before they can enter a meeting. Let’s face it, not everyone is Internet savvy. I have hosted some meetings where I have had to walk people through the download process while everyone else sat on their hands. Some invitees just throw up their hands in frustration and bag it.
One of the best features of Dimdim is that there is no software to download. The only requirement is Flash on the person’s computer. Today, 98% of computers have Flash installed.
The only exception is if you are going to share something that is on your computer, like a software program you want to demonstrate. This does require a small and quick download to enable participants to see what’s on your computer screen.
So to enter a meeting is as simple as clicking the mouse.
When you schedule a meeting, a widget is created which shows the date, time and agenda for your session. You can place this widget on any number of social media sites, like your Twitter or Facebook page, your blog or your web site. To register, a person only has to enter their email address.
A confirmation email is automatically sent and their name is entered as a participant in your Dimdim portal. Moreover, the source of their registration is noted, an important tracking element.
You can also email the widget to any number of people just by pasting email addresses into a system email window.
These features make publicizing your event a breeze.
You can set the widget to change. For example, you can add a countdown counter, which is shown on the widget. When your session is over, access links to the transcript and/or recording of the session appear.
While a session is in progress, you can easily send an invitation to invite others to join in just by entering their email address or clicking on the URL link to the meeting and pasting it into an IM message.
Of course, the big benefit of web conferencing is presenting visual information. Dimdim allows you to upload Power Point presentations, .pdf files, Word documents, etc. with ease.
If you want to take your attendees to a web page, just type in the URL and that web page appears on your screen as well as the screen of all attendees. You can scroll through the page to highlight important points. You can even go to a site such as YouTube and show online videos.
If you need to use the while board, not only can you add shapes, text and draw but any attendee can add or alter what you have drawn. This is perfect for communicating with your architect about alternatives for your new building.
If you have a web cam, you can elect to have the video displayed in the lower corner of the screen. Upgrades allow increasing the size of the video by 400% and adding a second video so attendees can see two presenters.
You can make any attendee a presenter, thus allowing them to bring up the documents, images or web sites they need to make their points.
To get feedback, you can conduct polls during any session.
When the meeting ends, you can set the system display any URL you want your attendees of a session to visit.
Dimdim comes with its own telephone bridge so you save money by not having to get a dedicated number for your meetings from a teleconferencing company.
If you need to communicate with people outside the U.S. (perhaps missionaries), there is a VoIP option.
You can record any meeting by pushing one button. Both your visuals and narration are captured. When the meeting ends, Dimdim sends the meeting host an email with a link to the recording. The system generates a URL for the recording, plus the embed code, and makes it available in your portal. You can paste it into a web page or your blog.
I think the recording feature is one of the most beneficial. Since Dimdim is free for participants up to 20, many presentations can be recorded and published on your web site or blog for a broader reach.
Even though many people now have high speed Internet access, Dimdim has been optimized to work on slower Internet connections. For churches, the ease of use, time savings and affordability make Dimdim a communication tool worthy of consideration.