SlideShare is dropping a nifty little creation into the world of webconferencing software today. The company’s new product, Zipcast, is a new tool for holding online meetings, and its ease of use and price (free, for many uses) may soon steal users from GoToMeeting and WebEx, the reigning kings of the space.
But that’s not all. Zipcast was born organically into the social online world in which we all live now. Which means it will likely have as profound an effect on how, why, and with whom we communicate as Twitter has.
Zipcast works like your basic webconferencing tool, with one major difference: It’s browser-based. That means no more tricky client software to install. You just create a meeting space online, send out the link, and, presumably, you’re ready to go.
But unlike your basic webconferencing tool, Zipcast starts with the presumption that public is the default setting. An activity feed on the Zipcast home page will list all public meetings currently in session—which means anyone who sees something interesting to them can join in. (You also have the option to keep meetings private.)
Similarly, social tools within the webconferences themselves means participants can not only post comments to the meeting itself, they can also choose to have those comments tweeted out immediately, or posted to Facebook–providing one more way to raise awareness.
“We expect a lot of people who don’t use online meetings right now to start using this,” SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha tells Fast Company.“We imagine new types of activities are going to emerge,” she says. “We’ve imagined some of them, but our users are going to imagine many more.”
In the meantime, we at Fast Company predict Zipcast will impact careers in five new ways.
1) Teams will move faster.
Online meetings feel heavy-duty because the tools are so cumbersome. Teams tend not to schedule them for casual communication. But a lightweight tool like Zipcast means it’ll be easier to hop on and off meetings. So just as Skype made it super-easy to connect with people all over the world, Zipcast will make the idea of gathering your team for a quick run-through a handful of slides much more commonplace.
2) It will become easier to become a thought leader in your field.
Unlike some other webconferencing tools that price by the seat, Zipcast doesn’t place limits on the number of people that can attend a meeting. Ten, a hundred, a thousand, it’s all the same to them. That’s a bonus to people who want to host webinars to drum up business or spread ideas. Combined with the viral tools, which raise awareness about the webconferences, it’ll be much easier to gather an audience. So just as the social aspect of Twitter has enabled people to emerge as thought leaders in specific areas, so will Zipcast.
3) Everyone will get better at doing presentations.
Since we’ll all be doing more presentations, we’ll all get much better at them. Especially for those giving public presentations. Just as people who tweet a lot have figured out what kinds of tweets capture the Twitterverse’s attention, so people on Zipcast will quickly figure out what kinds of presentation styles attract the best response.
4) Businesses will have one more channel to build business intelligence.
Zipcast buttons appear on every slide deck on SlideShare, so any user can do a Zipcast on any presentation, whether it belongs to them or not. When Kleiner Perkins digital expert Mary Meeker posted her latest deck, on mobile trends, to SlideShare last week, it immediately went viral. If Meeker had waited until this week, it’s possible that people wouldn’t simply have passed the link around. They might have clicked the Zipcast button and started talking about it—with their own teams, or complete strangers.
Analytics will give SlideShare users insights into which of their presentations are being Zipcast. And that will help them figure out what kind of content is most resonating with the wider public.
5) There will be more demand for businesses that filter the real-time stream.
If you’re in the business of developing tools to help people manage the real-time stream, you just got one more argument for why your product is so badly needed. The real-time stream is full of useful information about things people should be paying attention to, and the information that Zipcast dumps into it—via the comments it enables people to post to Twitter or Facebook—will constitute one more fire hose. As more and more companies like Zipcast embed social elements into their tools, the need for other tools that help people filter out signal from noise will only grow.
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