What Is Electronic Conferencing?

By Sheena Binkley

Electronic conferencing is a widespread method used in today's businesses, as well as in education and social networking websites. The purpose of electronic conferencing is for individuals to engage in various dialogues without being in the same room. Participants can also send and receive files, as well as share documents onto a conferencing discussion board.

Web Conferencing

One form of e-conferencing, video or web conferencing, is used so everyone who may not be able to sit in a room can physically be together in the virtual realm. Video conferencing combines audio and visual elements to bring people together for a discussion or meeting. To achieve video conferencing, a computer, webcam, microphone and Internet must be used to share information, provide interaction among each participant, and provide people with the ability to see each other throughout the conferencing.

Conferencing Forums

With electronic conferencing, several conferences are held online in a chat forum. From instant messaging to a chat discussion on a website or online classroom, conferencing forums can bring a variety of information and opinions to people who may be in the same city--or even in different countries.

Discussion Forum Abilities

Contributors have several abilities to make a discussion effective in a conferencing or discussion forum. Participants can provide their thoughts onto an electronic bulletin board for others to view; look through messages sent by other members in a forum; attach and download files for viewing; search for items that may have been posted in earlier sessions; and view a list of members who are currently or previously contributed a message on the forum. Members can also send private chat messages to other users by clicking on private instead of public messages, and can send email to members using the email option on the person's name. This method is widely popular with college online courses in which students can't physically be in a classroom.

Software

People use various types of e-conferencing software during a conferencing session. For social chat forums, MSN, Yahoo Messenger and Skype are the most common software used for casual conversations among friends and associates. Even social networking sites MySpace and Facebook have chat forums for members to communicate with each other. For business purposes, software including iLinc, Picture Talk and even Microsoft Office provides private chat rooms for business partners and associates to discuss meetings and plans for a company.

Moderator

In all discussion forums, a moderator is present to provide assistance in discussion as well as be a referee whenever an individual or discussion is out of context. The moderator doesn't express her own views or give advice to members inside a forum; she's there to solve issues or provide general instructions on how to make the discussion run smoothly. Other duties of a moderator include welcoming people to a discussion room, introducing topics to participants, displaying effective use of the discussion forum, and solving conflicts and issues among participants in the forum.