INSIDE TALK - MIKE BERMAN MULTIMEDIA CONFERENCE YIELDS FEW FACTS ON TECHNIQUES

INSIDE TALK - MIKE BERMAN MULTIMEDIA CONFERENCE YIELDS FEW FACTS ON TECHNIQUES

Picture this:

You own a small transportation company and have just spent a big chunk of change (up to $545 a person) to send several of your key employees to a conference to learn more about multimedia techniques and using the World Wide Web.They return - after three days in blisteringly hot New York - and, with your voice filled with anticipation, you ask what they learned.

Silence!

Your money could have been better spent on that trip to Hawaii you've been dreaming about!

We recently attended Multimedia Expo East & Internet New York at the Macklowe Hotel and came away from the experience a bit deflated, disheveled and disappointed.

We attended several seminars hoping to learn how our readers could take advantage of the web for advertising or to disseminate information and were greeted with sales pitches from the manufacturers of various pieces of software and hardware.

On another front, one of seminars was supposed to feature different ways companies can take advantage of several types of media - CD-ROM, the Internet and television - to get their messages across. Unfortunately the first half hour of the seminar was dominated by the inability of technicians connected with the conference to link their equipment to the PCs and laptops being used by the panelists - which resulted in a multimedia-less presentation.

We were confronted with the same situation during a seminar on digital video.

It's a pity that a conference with the word "multimedia" in its title would be so inept at setting up these presentations.

We aren't sure if a lot of the problems could have been overcome through better communication between moderators and panelists several weeks before the show or by allowing more time between presentations to set up and test multimedia hardware. Maybe both!

All we know is the end result was disappointing.

THE CASE FOR IN-HOUSE TRAINING

Adequate training of employees is a must for today's computer dominated world, but it can be a big burden for a company with a limited budget.

We took a look at a few videotapes and software programs designed to provide in-house training, and were pleasantly surprised.

ViaGrafix was the most prolific of the lot, featuring a library of more than 320 video tapes and several tutorials on CD-ROM. Their tapes cover everything from PageMaker to the Internet and range between 60 and 90 minutes. All of the videos include floppy disks that provide exercises you can do on your own.

We have found that the developers of a lot of video-based tutorials take it for granted that your video equipment and computer are in the same room, prompting you to pause the tapes and perform tasks on your PC. Fortunately ViaGrafix has kept this to a minimum.

A way around this is to use disk-based training tools, either the new series of interactive CDs from ViaGrafix, which can contain up to four hours of training and exercises, or the Computer-Based Training Series from Individual Software Inc.

The Individual series, although not as comprehensive as the ViaGrafix product, is available on CD or floppy disk and allows your employees to work with scaled-down versions of various pieces of software and then test themselves using Skills Assessment Software, which is a valuable add-on to the programs.

The series covers all of the more popular software titles, including all of the components of Microsoft Office and Lotus Smart Suite and a Typing Instructor.

Individual Software and ViaGrafix also have come out with tutorials for

Windows '95. Two of the ViaGraphix titles - "Learning Windows '95 Introduction" and "Learning Windows '95 Advanced" - are available now, with four others due out Aug. 24. The Individual tutorial also is expected to ship later this month.

For those of you looking for some insight into the Internet, the American Business Institute offers a two-hour course on videotape that is one of the most comprehensive we've seen to date. The ABI course doesn't waste your time by focusing on a lot of the glitz and glamour of the World Wide Web and doesn't push one Internet service over another.

Instead, it shows how you can benefit from using the Internet and goes into great detail on how to use its various components - E-mail, newsgroups and the web.

There's also "The Internet for Everybody" from Point Productions Inc. and distributed by CD Solutions, which is a CD including more than two hours of video clips showing the intricacies of the Internet from the viewpoint of four different people - a chemist, a consultant living in Hong Kong, a seventh grade science teacher and a teen-age entrepreneur.

Although its approach is a bit off-beat, the result is the same. Just as in the ABI video, you are able to see exactly how the various components of the Information Superhighway work together and can work to your advantage.