With the prevalence of webinars, podcasts and live streaming as a key staple of marketing communications, every company needs the capability to professionally run these types of events. For large companies, it is not uncommon to find a dedicated team and studio set up for this using professional equipment. But for small to midsize companies, without the budget and personnel, how do you run live events professionally using existing off the shelf inexpensive equipment you can find on amazon.com and create a podcasting studio?
I set out to solve this problem when the frequency of webinars my team was doing started to increase dramatically. Before we decided to invest the time to figure this out, I would find my team huddled in a conference room, stressed out half an hour before a webinar struggling to get everything working between the audio connection, internet connection, and the various people required to present, monitor and host the event. Ultimately, once the webinar was running I would see them hunched around a speaker phone talking. It seemed less than ideal and very inefficient.I knew we were sub optimal on audio quality and production value.
There had to be a better way. But what?
Why You Need a Podcast Studio for GotoMeeting
The answer was to build out a dedicated studio for all our webcasting needs. The “studio” would just be a conference room we set up for dedicated webcasting. But how to do it? What equipment? How do you handle the audio? The video? What people would be required to run the webinar?
For our use case, we selected GotoWebinar and GotoMeeting from Citrix. Others using other services would have similar challenges and opportunities. We did some research and studied our habits and found the following characteristics of our online sessions:
- Presenters generally liked to use their own machine to present. They were familiar with their machine, and like the control. The system implemented needed to support people bringing their own laptop to present.
- For companies like ours that demonstrate software, the demo person was typically a sales engineer who also liked to use their own machine. The system needed to support people bringing their own laptops for demonstrations.
- Not only do people want to present on their own, they also wanted some of the dual monitor set ups they have at their desks to present since that is what they know. In fact, some speakers required a dual screen display. So dual monitors was a requirement for anyone presenting or demonstrating. Of course different laptops have different ports, so the ability for a monitor to support these configurations was important.
- Presenting powerpoint was tricky — you want to be in SLIDE SHOW mode, but if you are not careful and aren’t familiar with how it worked, you end up not showing what you think you are showing. GOTO WEBINAR and GOTO MEETING doesn’t allow uploading of documents. Presenters are always sharing their desktop. This is good and bad. The system needed to be able to handle the manner in which Powerpoint presented.
- Many times, we would have third parties on the webinar who were remote and would also present. The system needed to take this into account from both an audio and visual standpoint.
- Despite most people wanting to bring their own laptop, some people would show up with a memory stick and want to use the studio system. The system needed to support this configuration for presenters who wanted to use their own laptop.
- Sitting around talking into a speaker phone is less than ideal from an audio quality standpoint. The system needed to have high quality audio where each person had their own microphone. With presenters sometimes outside the main studio, all the webinar presenters needed the ability to hear each other, yet not generate audio feedback.
- Presenters generally didn’t like to be interrupted with watching or responding to chat. They liked to be able to scan the chat window to see what people were asking, but couldn’t invest the focus to respond. Someone would be required to manage the chat during a webinar. This person needed to be able to participate in the webinar and not get in the middle of the organizer or the presenter.
- Just like chat, twitter during a webinar needed to be managed and it couldn’t be done by the presenters.
- Many times audience members would say “We can’t see the slides” in chat or “we can’t hear you”.Most often, this was a problem on an audience members machine, not the webinar as a whole. Setting up an independent audience monitor machine seemed important to actually see what the audience was seeing. GOTO MEETING added an Audience View to the console which is nice, but we made it a requirement to have an independent path to verify audience views and audio quality using an independent log in and computer.
- Conference rooms are less than ideal for sound isolation so we needed a quiet room, generally isolated from other activity, and without fan noise blowing from HVAC.
- Webinars are events. We wanted the entire company to know they were going on. Providing a way for other people to see the webinar studio seemed important.
- Adding a video stream of the people presenting seemed to be important to increase people’s connection with the presenters.
So those are the requirements. It was a long list, but we met them. Next post – setting it up.