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Webinar Training Expands Small Company Programs

The down and dirty on how to set up your Internet training. You, too, can do it.

Our material handling company is a big fan of MHEDA training programs because they provide non-product training that is specific to our industry. Training comes with a cost, though. Not only do you have to book the hotel and travel to the training location, you lose a day or two on the job. While I know we are supposed to look at training as an investment, for a small material handling company, it is hard to justify any investments in today’s economic times.

The introduction of webinar training could not have come at a better time. “Webinar” sounded pretty cool and CHEAP, and we wanted to try one. We decided to participate in MHEDA’s sales training webinar offered on June 2.

The salespeople brought chairs into the sales manager’s office, dialed up the phone number and logged onto the site for the training. I stepped in to watch and get a feel for the webinar concept. I was a little more discriminating than the sales force participating in the training. The voice over the phone, which was set to speaker, was fine with everyone sitting around the desk, but what if we had a larger group? The PC screen was turned so everyone could see it, but what if we wanted to expand the audience? The salespeople taking notes either vied for desk space or wrote into their notebooks on their laps.

The sales group loved it. The amount of time was perfect, the subject was timely, and everyone benefited without a large cost in time, travel and, most importantly, money. Could we improve on this? My goal was to set up our conference room at minimal cost to take advantage of future training.

Cost to Set Up
Scott Lift Truck’s Webinar-Enabled
Conference Room
PC with wireless mouse and keyboard (TV replaces monitor) $220
Polycom 100 Voice Station $270
Video Card $ 20
Modulator $ 27
Total Cost $537

Set Up: Specs and Costs
Our conference room, like most, had a table with 10 chairs, a television on a stand with VCR, a white board (which gets used about as much as seat belts on lift trucks) and a wall phone. We wanted to access the web, display it on the TV, and set up the phone with a better speaker system. The conference room had been wired to a jack with four outlets, two RJ11s (phone) and two RJ45s (computer). Only one phone jack was in use for the wall phone.

Our first step was to look at various options to access the Internet. Our chief accountant, who also does payroll, banking, payables, receivables, and etcetera, is also our go-to guy for technology. (I told you we are a small company.) He went to www.half.com to find a PC with the capabilities we would need to just access the Internet.

The PC specifications were: Pentium II (400 mhz), 6 GB hard drive, 128 MB RAM. We also bought a wireless mouse and keyboard to reduce the number of wires to trip on. We didn’t need to buy a monitor since we plan to use the TV. Total price, $220.00. Not bad, so far.

Our next step was to tackle the sound issue for a webinar. In past meetings at various hotels, I had seen these little spaceship looking things that would sit in the center of the table for group conference calls. I went to Radio Shack. They knew what I was talking about, but the store I was at did not carry them. I then went to an office supply catalog and found them under telephone equipment. I now had a manufacturer’s name and went online to see which one best suited our needs. I felt the Polycom 100 Voice Station would work, but queried the website anyway. They called me back the same day and discussed the various options. We concluded the low-end model would work fine for our needs.

The list price was $299.00 and they sell through dealers only. I now went shopping. The office outlet stores were not in the mood to discount. It is either a supply-demand issue, or I look like a “list price” guy. Our sales co-coordinator, who takes care of office supplies (small company, one title, lots of duties), called her regular office supply catalog and obtained a ten percent discount. We now had all the materials, but we needed to put it together without instructions. I never read instructions anyway.

We were close now, but not quite done. The PC needed a video card and modulator. We bought a video card and modulator at Best Buy for $20.00 and $27.00 respectively. We needed to connect the PC to the TV, going from an RCA jack on the PC video card to a coaxial input on the TV. Here we got stuck for a day or so, since our TV is an older model. This sounds complicated, but it is the same cable that your kids have on their VCR at home. The video card has the color-coded plug (yellow) and the other end plugged into the coaxial jack on the TV, just like a VCR. With the video card, we only needed the yellow cable.

We fired up the system and got nothing! We realized the TV had to be set to video and channel 4. Once we figured that out by trial and error, we were ready to tackle the Web. What we found is that the wireless mouse and keyboard cannot have obstructions in front of the PC. We had set the PC below the TV on the shelf made for the VCR. The keyboard was on the conference table. In essence, the tabletop was interfering with the capabilities of the keyboard to interact with the PC. It is sort of like your TV remote, you point it at the TV and click. Once we got the PC level with the keyboard and mouse, we had success. We also realized we couldn’t sit someone between the wireless input and the PC. Whoever sits at that end near the TV runs the computer. I always make sure I sit at the other end of the table now.

Now we were ready to hook up our new Polycom 100. We unplugged the wall phone and plugged in the speaker system and got nothing! You would think we would be used to it by now. This time we were forced to read the instructions. The system cannot work on a multi-line phone system like most businesses have. We needed to have a single analog line.

At first we thought we were stumped and would have to call in the phone company to run a line to the conference room. Our accountant realized that having switched from modems to DSL not long ago we probably had a line coming in already. We actually had two still in place. One vendor still had a dial-up system to place orders. We determined which line was available and patched it in to the available phone jack in the conference room.

Ready to Go
Our conference room is now webinar enabled! Total cost for everything? Less than $550! I believe this is one investment that will pay for itself many times.

Hopefully, our experience will help your company easily take advantage of distance learning being offered by MHEDA. I hope to hear you introduce your material handling company at the next MHEDA webinar!

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Loren Swakow Meet the Author
Loren Swakow is vice president of Scott Lift Truck Corporation in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. He is president-elect of MHEDA.

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