I have participated in many online meetings with audio and screen sharing of agendas etc. Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation using Adobe Connect, a professional web conferencing solution with our elementary school computer contact team. This product is licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded schools.
I was the remote presenter – but not too remote in this case, just tucked away in my office, although I could have been anywhere with a decent internet connection. I was viewed at the meeting on a projection screen via the client laptop and data projector setup in the meeting room. This seemed like a good test run environment as I could attend the meeting if we had any technical issues. I was really interested to reflect on 3 aspects of the live presentation.
Technical Reliability: Our technical set up worked very well overall – no major issues. On two occasions there was a brief pause in audio and video delivery. In my role as presenter, I was aware this was happening as the green bar which bounces to indicate the mic is active stopped moving, so I was able to pause and wait for the condition to pass. There are many factors which may cause a minor hiccup in the audio and/or video stream including server performance, network traffic, firewall connectivity or local machine performance at either end. We will do some monitoring in future session to gain additional insights into this.
Presentation Considerations: It felt very strange as the presenter as in this particular case I could not see or hear the audience. I felt like I was talking in a vacuum. It is very difficult to get a sense of whether or not you are delivery the presentation well when there is no audience cues or reaction. It is amazing what you pick up standing in front of a live audience. You automatically make eye contact, adjust your voice levels and pace, move around (at least somewhat) and visually you have a sense of whether or not the audience is understanding the content.
In terms of my office setup, we did check web cam clarity, volume levels and adjust lighting (watch for shadows). Having a suitable backdrop is important. My bookcase was acceptable, but many backgrounds are not. I made note of two things in this area.
1. The relative height of the web cam relative to your eyes. You need to think of the ‘shot angle’ in the same way a newscast is done. I think having the web cam a eye level so you can look straight ahead is better.
2. I had a few notes on my desk to refer to in addition to the powerpoint slides being broadcast along with the web cam images. I want to raise up the notes to minimize the number of times you glance away from the web cam.
Audience Reactions: I was interested in the audience reaction. While many saw this as a useful tool that offered many benefits, some expressed a preference for face to face meetings. No reaction is right or wrong, just interesting to note.
Next Steps: We are running our second meeting presentation tomorrow night so I will try to make some adjustments to my setup. I want to set up a 3rd connection which would show the audience on one of the web cams to give me a better sense of audience reaction. We are also going to monitor the bandwidth usage while the session is occurring, so that will be interesting. We will offer remote attend to our next set of meetings in February.
It is great to keep moving ahead.