Monday, November 7, 2011

Webinar Success!?

Well, I survived the first RIGS webinar, and if that isn't Luddite success, I don't know what is. The reviews are starting to come in, and while everyone seems pleased with the concept, the execution is where we fell a bit short.

 But let me start with the dry run last week. I got to the American-French Genealogical Society Library and was able to set up all the equipment that I had brought with me: laptop, projector, cell phone, webcam and clicker thingy (to advance the slides). I remembered all of my extension cords, chargers and various cables of all sorts, and I turned on my wireless hotspot for my phone. I had just had it upgraded for more data that morning, and the guy at the Verizon store (yes, I love their cell coverage) had connected my laptop to my computer, and had the network connection key entered and of course, it worked before I left the store. Now the question became, could I pull it off by myself?

And the answer was... No.
Test number 1
I got all the equipment set up, and couldn't get my phone to connect to the laptop. Turns out, you have to shut off the WiFi to get the Mobile HotSpot to work. My girlfriend, who was my "attendeee" from her office, was on her way to save me in Woonsocket (thanks Sarah, you're the best!).
Test number 2
We ended up using one of the library's computers to check the slides, camera and sound. Then I realized that there was no way to use only one computer to do the webinar as well as project for the live audience in the room. The laptop running the webinar would project the live chat to the room and that wasn't cool. So, two computers were going to be a necessity, one to run the webinar, and one to run the projector.

Can you see where this is going?

Test number 3
It wasn't too bad! I set up at home with the 2 laptops and connected to the internet via my phone. My "attendee" was waiting and then came the next surprise. The sound isn't very good unless you use a headset microphone. I'm a wanderer. When I'm lecturing, I tend to walk around, wave my arms and generally not stand in one place. Unfortunately, the webcam, which had the microphone on it, wasn't moving with me, so the sound kept fading in and out.

Test number 4
Off to pick up a Voice over Internet headset. Who knew there were so many choices? Anyway, I chose one that seemed to suit my needs and prayed this thing was really going to fly! The next test went much more smoothly. There was a substantial time delay between when I changed the powerpoint slides and when the viewers saw the slides change, but I attribute that to the wireless internet connection. There may be other reasons, but I haven't quite figured it out yet.

So Saturday rolls around, we have more than 50 people registered for the webinar and about 50 people in the room. I wasn't sure how a room microphone might interfere with the web mic, so I really needed to project my voice, as I decided not to use a room mic. Fortunately, it wasn't a deep room, and I've done lecture halls for 200 without a mic.

A friend agreed to run the laptop with the live chat, and the webinar slides so that I was able to focus on the room slide show presentation. The web folks were hearing me well with the headset microphone, so I think it was OK. Twenty nine people ended up tuning in, and the presentation went well. Most of the comments have been positive, but I know that the people tuning in didn't have the slides keeping up with the voice. I recorded it, so I can check it out later, and maybe folks can see it if they've missed it.

Overall, not bad for a first try! And now that this Luddite has learned something new, you can bet webinars are going to become a standard in my technology repertoire.