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The CN Interview with Carol Zelkin

17 April, 2007

Conferencing News: Carol, please tell us about the IMCCA and its purpose.

Carol Zelkin: The Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance (IMCCA), a non-profit industry association, was founded in 1999 by a small group of manufacturers in order to provide a professional forum for information on existing and emerging multimedia and collaborative communication technologies. The goal was also to grow the industry beyond the traditional conferencing space, such as video or audio conferencing, and to include other fields relevant to multimedia and collaborative communications.

Our membership today has grown to over 2000 members worldwide and includes professionals from manufacturing to system integrators to end users to consultants. The end user membership represents a diverse population, including government, enterprise, healthcare and education, while our vendor members offer products and services which include audio, web, and video conferencing, streaming and webcasting and network and hosting services, among others. End user membership to IMCCA is free.

IMCCA’s ever expanding list of projects and events are designed to serve as resources for our members and to help generate new business opportunities for them. Our partnership with premier trade shows such as InfoComm, Integrated Systems Europe, InfoComm Asia and Telepresence World offer speaking opportunities for our members as well as profile for new product introductions. Additionally, our webinars, white papers and case studies offer informative and educational insights to technology trends and applications.

Conferencing News: Do you focus on video, web, or audio conferencing?

Carol Zelkin: Today’s collaborative conferencing technologies are a meld of AV and IT and IMCCA’s umbrella encompasses both while also reaching out to other levels within an organization.

Video conferencing is certainly much easier and more cost effective to use than it was even a few years ago and that is in part due to the migration to IP-based conferencing. These factors, as well as the move to the desk top and the improved quality derived from the MPEG format, have helped to increase the usage of video conferencing.

Audio is and, I believe, will always remain a fundamental conferencing technology. Even with IP-based videoconferencing systems, video uses a great deal of network bandwidth which can be prohibitive to some organizations. Audio, on the other hand, can be employed virtually anytime and from anywhere – cars, hotels, home offices, etc. – and new services such as reservationless bridges and wide band networks make it easy to use.

Continual improvements in audio technology have also helped to ensure its place as an integral component of a conferencing solution. Whether it’s the latest in VoIP (Voice Over IP) offering simplicity and efficiency, or echo cancellation for improved sound clarity in a meeting room to meeting room telephone conference, the audio conference call is a fundamental staple in the industry.

Audio conferencing is often also integrated with web conferencing for a more optimized communication solution and the collaboration of these two technologies is a natural progression in the on-going integration of AV and IT technologies.

Conferencing News: You've got many end-users who join the IMCCA. What services and resources does the IMCCA offer them?

Carol Zelkin: Our Collaborative Conferencing Users Group (CCUG) provides a forum for end users to address timely topics, network with potential partners, customers and vendors and learn how to make sound collaborative technology decisions. Specifically, the CCUG offers buying and research tools, case study scenarios on how conferencing is currently being used in the industry and the education necessary to continue growing the market. CCUG meets in person once a year and also takes advantage of utilizing the industry’s leading conferencing technologies by organizing quarterly calls webinars.

The CCUG Steering Committee, which holds over 100 years of collective experience in the conferencing industry, represents experts from corporate, education and government institutions.

The term “telepresence” has caused some confusion as to its definition. Could you tell us what the IMCCA defines as telepresence?
The words in our name – IMCCA – pretty much describe what telepresence is all about: communication which is interactive, using multimedia devices and collaborative tools.

Telepresence is an enhanced version of videoconferencing which gives participants in different locations the illusion that they are across the table from each other. In order to do this, participants must be viewed at real sized, with good eye contact (or gaze angles), and spatial audio. This is usually delivered with new advanced technology such as High definition video and large screens.

Particularly effective is immersive telepresence, in which case the solution comprises of complete, symmetrical rooms. The rooms have same characteristics, including lighting, acoustics, seating, and screens, so that the illusion of being in the same room is most effective.

Conferencing News: Tell us about your involvement with InfoComm and why our readers should attend this event.

Carol Zelkin: Since 1995, InfoComm, which is hosted by the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA), has featured videoconferencing and other forms of conferencing through its educational program and on the Exhibition floor. This began as a result of the InfoComm AV members being surveyed and stating that all forms of conferencing were the wave of the future in meeting spaces. In 2002, ICIA/InfoComm and the IMCCA formed a partnership to promote the use of collaborative conferencing worldwide. IMCCA sponsors the Collaborative Conferencing Pavilion as well as an education track at the show.

Our Collaborative Conferencing Pavilion showcases companies which offer video, audio, data and web conferencing technologies and offers free educational mini-sessions. We also offer a one-day Forum, hosted by our CCUG, and it’s designed specifically for end users to offer them a snapshot of wide ranging collaborative conferencing technologies and applications.

InfoComm is the largest information communications, audio visual and conferencing tradeshow in the world. It offers attendees the opportunity to explore, first hand, the many audio, video, display, projection, conferencing, streaming media, lighting, staging, digital signage, presentations, control, networked and wireless AV systems and applications for professional environments in one convenient location. Attendees include service providers such as system integrators, dealers, design consultants, rental and staging professionals, presentation and production professionals as well as other buyers and users of AV technology.

Conferencing News: Our publisher is on the board of the IMCCA and calls you the Queen of Conferencing. What's your royal background in the conferencing industry?

Carol the Queen Zelkin: I was a member of the International Teleconferencing Association (ITCA) from 1983-1999 and held various positions during this time. I served on the Board of Directors and as an Executive Board Member and also held the position of ITCA President for two years.

Prior to this, I worked at Optel, a teleconferencing company which I co-founded. All of these roles have provided me with a varied and extensive experience in technology, finance and marketing and which have proven extremely useful in my position as Executive Director of the IMCCA.

Conferencing News: Thanks, Carol. Continued success with the IMCCA.


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