Creating Effective Layouts for Connect Meetings
Ryan Monger, Adobe Systems
Expertise Level: Intermediate
One of the most powerful and flexible features in Acrobat Connect Professional is the ability to create, edit, and customize layouts. When you create or edit a layout, you can add, position, and size pods (a display panel for assorted types of content) to best suit the content you are presenting or sharing. What makes this a powerful feature is the ability to have multiple layouts in your meeting or seminar room. For example, if the meeting room is a stage, layouts would be different scenes within your meeting.
Layouts make it easy for you to re-use your Acrobat Connect meeting room for different types of meetings. You can design layouts which focus on presentations, collaboration, discussion, or training. It is like having a conference room where you can quickly rearrange the furniture depending on your meeting. In this article, you will learn how to create, edit, and use layouts to host effective and efficient online meetings.
TIP: Be prepared for any ad-hoc meeting by setting up several pre-configured layouts with the three or four main areas of focus that you will present.
Creating, editing, and changing layouts is easy and can be done by any host in your meeting. In fact, the default meeting template has three layouts which can be used as-is or customized to meet the needs of your audience. The default names for these layouts are: Sharing, Discussion, and Collaboration. You will notice that the different layouts in your room are all accessible from the toolbar at the bottom of the meeting room.
The layout that is currently active is indicated by a green jewel to the left of the layout name and is depressed (refer to screenshot). To switch to another layout, simply click on the desired layout in the toolbar. This toolbar also allows you to edit the order of layouts by dragging and dropping them where you want. You can also switch to a particular layout by going to the Layouts Menu option and selecting the desired layout. The active layout is indicated by a bullet point next to the name when you are in this menu.
If you want to change the name of any layout, go to: Layouts>Organize Layouts and select the layout you wish to rename. Then click the rename button and enter your chosen title. (B) You can use any character and more than one word to name your layout. This Organize Layouts menu also allows you delete any layouts (A), and organize the order of the layouts. (C)
|Figure 1: Hosts view of meeting using the Layouts Menu|
If you want to add to these layouts, you can create new layouts by clicking on the plus (+) sign on the right side of your toolbar. This will bring up a dialogue box asking if you would like to create a new blank layout or duplicate a selected layout. When you create a blank layout, you will start with an empty stage and can add different content containers (pods) by selecting one from the Pods menu.
When you create a new layout by choosing the duplicate option, it copies everything in the original layout, (pods, positions, sizes), but most importantly, it copies the content in each pod, as well. This way, if you have a presentation, note, picture, whiteboard, or video you are sharing in the previous layout, your new layout will contain the same content in the pod. Additionally, all content will retain the same state as the original layout. For example, presentations will display the same slide and videos will begin at the same time marker. After duplicating a layout, you can change content in some pods but keep the same content in other pods. For example, if I duplicate a layout with a presentation that is currently on slide #5, the duplicated layout will also be on slide #5. From this point, I can change the content in another pod or add a new pod to the layout.
Duplicating layouts lets you make changes to the new layout but still keep the original one. This allows you to make an in-room layout template from any of your layouts. Now, you can build your meeting room based off the template and make adjustments in each layout depending on the content you are sharing. You can also stop sharing a current piece of content and load a new piece of content in the share pod. This is one feature that makes layouts so powerful. I can have five separate layouts that look the same, except I can load five different presentations into each layout, accommodating different needs or audiences.
TIP: If you find yourself frequently editing and moving layouts for each meeting you create, you can save an entire meeting as a template. By creating a new meeting with this template, the layouts, content, and status of the original meeting will automatically be loaded. These templates can be very useful when you are creating many meetings that use the same layout and content. For more information on creating meeting room templates, read the Working with meeting room templates section in your Acrobat Connect Enterprise Manager online help.
The ability to create, rename, and re-order layouts lets you make an agenda for your meeting/event with the layout toolbar. For large events, meetings, or eSeminars, its a good practice to have your layouts follow the same flow as the meeting agenda. Having all of your content staged in the corresponding layout makes it easy to transition from one presentation or speaker to another.
When you record your meeting, a table of contents will be created based on the layout changes throughout your session. If you create your layouts based on your agenda, your meeting will be easy to follow in future playbacks. Future viewers can then click on each of the table of contents headers and skip directly to the time in the recording where the layout changed.
|Figure 2: Viewing a recording with the Archive Transcript expanded|
Other Ways to Use Layouts
Layouts can be used effectively for all types of meetings. One example is: Using different layouts for different audiences. Instead of setting up a different URL for each of your customers, create one URL and have a separate layout for each customer. You can customize each of these layouts with the customers logo and rename the pods to reflect a customer presentation. Remember, participants wont see the names of the layouts. This allows you to stage different content in each layout, but also reuse content throughout the room. You can also have a range of content pre-loaded for demos or presentations for those times when you need to give an ad-hoc, yet customized, presentation or demonstration.
If you use your Connect room to manage a specific project with other team members, you can use different layouts for sub-projects, project meetings, file transfer sessions, reviewing documents, and collaborative webcam sessions.
If you use Acrobat Connect for training, you can set up unique layouts for instruction, participation, question and answer, review, and feedback, or have a separate layout for each lesson.
Preparing ModePreparing Mode allows you to go behind the scenes while a meeting is in progress and make changes to your existing layouts or create new layouts without disturbing the current meeting. There are two ways to enter Preparing Mode. Click the ruler and pencil icon on the left side of the Layouts toolbar, or from the Present menu, choose the Preparing Mode option. While in Preparing Mode, the ruler and pencil icon will be visible in the top right of your screen.
Reminder: The active layout will be depressed and indicated with a green jewel to the left of the layout name. The active Preparing Mode layout will also be depressed and indicated with an amber jewel to the left of the layout name.
|Figure 3: Host view while in Preparing Mode|
When you are in Preparing Mode, you can go to other layouts while the current one is active to the participants. This will allow you to prepare and edit your layouts while a meeting is in session. You can also use Preparing Mode to make a duplicate of the current layout and make some slight changes. For example, if I want to add a file share pod, but not disturb my presenter, I can go into Preparing Mode, create a new layout by duplicating the current one and make changes to the new layout while in preparing mode.
When Im done with my changes, I exit Preparing Mode, (from the ruler/pencil icon at the top right of your screen or by deselecting it from the Present menu option), and make the new layout active. Because the current content is still active in the new layout, the meeting will not be disturbed and the new pod automagically appears. Again, this is all transparent to the participants.
Another great trick involving Preparing Mode and layouts is queuing up a shared screen. If you have one or more presenters that will be sharing his screen, you can have his shared screen queued up using this method. This trick is most effective when you have multiple demonstrations in your agenda and have to fit them into a tight schedule. For example, we have a quarterly employee meeting in front of a live audience, but we also webcast the event. There are multiple demonstrations and presentations, and the agenda is packed into one hour. Instead of each presenter going through the steps to share his screen before the demo, we queue up the shared screen. The transition from the presentation on one layout to a shared screen on another layout is seamless. Below are four simple steps to use this trick:
Step 1. Create a separate layout for each shared screen
Step 2. Give the presenter(s) host rights
Step 3. Have the presenter enter Preparing Mode and click on his specified layout
Step 4. Have presenter share his screen/desktop and remain in preparing mode
The presenters shared screen is now queued up, but not visible to participants because he is still in Prepare Mode. When you are ready for the presenter to share his screen to the participants, click on the presenters layout, and the shared screen will now be active for all participants to see. Watch this movie for a visual demonstration.
NOTE: Each presenter must be on an individual computer for this to work.
Here is a best practice/real world example of how we use layouts at Adobe for the most effective and efficient Acrobat Connect Meetings:
Creating customized layouts based on your agenda, meeting purpose, shared content, or audience can greatly enhance your Acrobat Connect Professional meetings. The ability to add, arrange, and resize pods and save them in a layout gives you unlimited possibilities to present your ideas and messages in the most effective way possible. Weve looked at just a few examples of how layouts can customize your meeting rooms, but there are many other ways you can use layouts to run an efficient, well prepared online meeting.