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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

Notes on the January 2010 oPASS Meeting (Live Meeting)

Before you dig in this post, take a look at my earlier notes about oPASS and Live Meeting and the great after meeting write up from Jack Corbett.

Just in case you didn’t read those, the short story is that we had a remote presenter and to try to make it more interactive, we set up a camera and audio in our meeting room to let the speaker see and hear the attendees and vice versa.

I sat in the back row to try to be an edge case for an attendee, and just tried to observe once we got past the flurry of resolving some last minute set up issues.  Here are my notes from that:

  • Presenters
    • Be a little more deliberate in your movements. What would seem smooth when done in person is more stop action when you’re remove. Mostly it doesn’t matter and you get what they are doing, but there are times (opening a script for example) that you’re thinking ‘what just happened’? No way to tell as a presenter when you hit these points, so just go a little slower and narrate a little more.
    • Be careful about selecting and then discussing. Really this is true even in person, but with LV sometimes it just made it a little bit harder to follow along.
    • Try to insert a pause after each slide and at a few points in each demo. Between the mild audio delay and what I suspect is not a full duplex connection there were times when someone was trying to ask a question but wasn’t heard – picture the attendee in the back asking the question three times hoping to be heard!
    • Absolutely worth while to invest a couple minutes in the beginning with your bio (true of any presentation) and to set the tone
    • If you have the option we provide of seeing the attendees, get that up on a second monitor and try to look at that when talking – try for eye contact even if not quite technically possible, I think it changes the way you present
  • Attendees
    • This was better than watching a recorded effort because of the interaction. You really had the sense of interacting with Andy Leonard (our main speaker) because we could talk back, and because it was less formal than something recorded just for playback (rather than capturing a live session)
    • Getting a question in, or trying to interject in mid answer, wasn’t as easy as in person, but I think it works good enough to have value
    • What I still missed was the end of meeting interaction with the speaker, both the social and the follow up questions
    • I haven’t gotten any feedback from those watching remotely, wondering if seeing the room helped or merely felt like a distraction.
  • Organizers
    • As Jack mentioned we need a dedicated machine to make sure it all works. We ended up using the LifeCam connected to my laptop and the build in microphone, worked fine. Note: Found it once, somewhere in the audio set up on my machine there is a place that manages/dampens feedback via self detection, so you want speakers and microphone on the same machine
    • We need a better way to signal the presenter that a question is being posed. Even with the live camera feed it’s easy to be engrossed in delivering a presentation and forget to pause enough, or just not hear questions. I’m thinking the equivalent of the Bzzzz type thing in some IM products (maybe we can just use IM, but another thing to hook up?!)
    • We need a fall back plan if all goes wrong. This has always been true, and we’ve been lax, but an internet/router/anything else failure puts us in a room with a lot of people and nothing to do. We’re going to load some of the Summit videos on our dedicated machine and pick one that falls in the same general area. Not as good, but something.
    • Remember to disable the screen saver and power down options on the machines being used. We had the screen saver go on twice on the display machine during the presentation.
    • Ask speakers to either provide all the files to us for posting, or provide the URL for the download in advance so that we can post on opass.org, AND we need to send it out afterward. We haven’t done well on follow ups to our members, especially the ones that didn’t attend
    • I don’t know how (yet?) to engage the remote attendees, and that’s worth some effort

We’ve got some work to do and some lessons to learn still, and it will be interesting to see over time if we can still make it compelling to come to the meeting site rather than watch remotely. We’re going to host all of our meetings in Livemeeting going forward, even if the presenter is on site with us – making it predictable and repeatable.

As I mentioned earlier Andy Leonard was our featured speaker and I thought he did a great job (and expected no less!). He handled a couple minor glitches gracefully, was careful to indicate  in what areas he was speaking from experience versus book only wisdom, and most important – he gave you a sense of who he is – skills, humor, life experience, outlook.

Jack and I are going to continue to experiment, and hopefully by end of the year we’ll wrap it all up in a nice set of lessons learned and task lists we can share.

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