Thursday, January 14, 2010

Broadcasting OPASS over Live Meeting

Well, on January 12th OPASS moved into the present by broadcasting our meeting over the internet using Live Meeting.  Our main speaker, the incomparable Andy Leonard (@AndyLeonard), was presenting to us from somewhere outside Richmond, Virginia and we had attendees from the Europe to California.

Why did we do Live Meeting?

Since OPASS was started by Andy Warren (@sqlandy) we have been meeting six times a year, basically every other month, which makes finding speakers easier and means we don’t need to raise as much money, but, it also means that we have had trouble becoming a “habit” for attendees.  We did a survey and the majority said that they would like to meet monthly and that it would make them more likely to attend regularly, so we decided we’d move to monthly meetings for 2010.  Another part of the survey asked about bringing in speakers via Live Meeting so we could expand the reach of our speakers, to which we had a very positive response.  Live Meeting was the technology chosen because the chapter can get a free account through PASS.  As I type this I’m also watching/listening to Oregon SQL Developers Group over UStream, so there are other methods as well.

What were our concerns?

Our, really Andy’s, main concern was that having a remote presenter would make it feel like a webinar instead of a social user group meeting.  Our other concern was that people would join on-line instead of coming to the meeting in-person.

How did we do it?

OPASS is fortunate that we meet at the SQLShare offices so we have good internet access and plenty of PC’s to work with.  Our setup took three PC’s, although I think we can get it down to two.

  1. One PC connected to the projector so the people in the room could see the slides and demos.
  2. One PC connected to speakers, camera to broadcast the room to the speaker, and microphone.  When we tested we used a bluetooth headset for the mic which was great because it could be moved around the room, but then we couldn’t get that to work at the actual meeting so we used the mic built-in to the webcam.  We will be working on that again.  The mic is important because it can make the meeting more interactive.
  3. One PC connected to be the moderator for questions from remote users and, if the mic doesn’t work, local users.

We wanted to combine PC’s 1 and 2, but we had trouble getting the mic to work on PC 1 and also the webcam would not share over Live Meeting from PC 1.   We wanted to broadcast video of the group to the speaker so that the speaker could get visual feedback while presenting.  The lack of live feedback was one of the most difficult things for me when I did a SQLLunch, so we hope that this will help the speaker.

What did we miss?

Well, I mentioned out technical problems with the local mic and the webcam.  I forgot to click record as I was involved in trying to solve the minor video and audio issues right up until we started, along with trying to greet people.  We forgot to turn off the screen saver on the PC connected to the projector so we lost the presentation a couple of times.

What can be done to make it work better/easier?

  1. Put together a checklist so we don’t forget any steps, like recording.
  2. Have a dedicated PC for display, audio (in and out), and video streaming out.  Then we can configure once and just plug it in for each meeting.
  3. Set at time to get on with the presenter so you can test audio and video.  Andy Leonard was great as he connected about an hour before he was due to start, without being asked, so we could make sure everything worked, but this wasn’t planned.
  4. Have someone who controls the display PC and acts as a “director” to switch between the presenter’s slides/demo and the video of the presenter (if they are sharing video).  Basically, when answering questions, show the presenter and when doing demos/presenting show the slides/demo.  This is Andy Warren’s idea and is a good one.  The only thing that might be better is to have a second projector so you could show the slides on one and the presenter on another.
  5. Make sure we are totally setup before the meeting so that more time can be spent networking and encouraging networking.

As with anything else, the more we do it the better we will get.

How’d it go over with the attendees?

All the local attendees thought it went well and that it worked great.  Our concern about reduced physical attendance was unfounded as we had our usual attendance of about 20 plus about 10 on-line attendees.  The physical attendees all said that being there in person was a much better experience than attending on-line so that was encouraging.  I felt like having 2-way audio really made the meeting better as the only Live Meeting’s I have attended have only had 1-way audio and that isn’t ideal.    The 2-way audio was another of Andy’s ideas.  We haven’t gotten any negative feedback from our on-line attendees so that seems to have gone well also.

Will we do it again?

Definitely!  We are planning on broadcasting all our meetings using Live Meeting and we are looking for our a remote speaker for our April 13th meeting.  So if you are a interested and available let me know and we’ll see if we can work something out.

So, all you folks who have been doing Live Meeting, how have you been doing it?  Have you done 2-way audio and video and how has it worked?  Any comments or suggestions?  We are always looking for ways to do things better. 


  1. Glad to hear that this worked well for you. We've been doing this a lot in Columbus and it's worked incredibly well for us.

    We leave out the video and 2 way audio, but I might look into enabling 2 way audio for future sessions so people can feel more involved.

  2. Thanks Jack,

    We're exploring equipment and configuration isses, so please keep me posted. (Oregon SQL -developers).

  3. I should clarify the 2 way video and audio. We only had audio for the physical attendees, not the virtual attendees. For virtual attendees we had a moderator for questions. We also would only have 2-way audio when we have a remote presenter.


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