Videoconference bleg

by John Quiggin on May 5, 2008

You can see how desperate I am for help by the use of the second word in the title of this post, which I’ve resisted until now.

I have offered to present a talk to a large conference audience in Adelaide, and intended to do it by videoconference, following several successful (and cheap!) presentations to seminar-size groups. But the conference of organizers have been quoted a cost of thousands of dollars to present the videoconference session. There are some obvious cheap alternatives like a pre-record, but I’d like to avoid these if possible. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I could deliver a videoconference presentation, at reasonable cost to a large audience in a venue that isn’t specifically set up for this?

{ 13 comments }

1

Mike Otsuka 05.05.08 at 8:35 am

What about using a webcam at your end and finding a conference room at the other end with access to the internet (wireless or otherwise) plus the standard digital projector and laptop for a powerpoint presentation?

2

Ryan Miller 05.05.08 at 8:42 am

I think in order to get the most help possible, you’ll have to let us know what that substantial cost was for. Does the venue just have a high markup on services for putting up screens, speakers, etc, or was there some more specific service they were charging for that we can recommend an alternative to?

3

Paul C 05.05.08 at 9:21 am

What Mike said. I did a videoconference to a laptop that was hooked up to a projector and speakers, with my slides on the drive. I delivered the presentation by giving verbal cues to a person operating the laptop to turn the slides, and then took Q&A remotely. It worked surprisingly well, and now that Skype has video capabilities you can add that as well. Total cost: nothing.

4

Chris Dornan 05.05.08 at 9:55 am

I agree–if you want to avoid then this is the way to go. Of course you get what you pay for–you will be much more vulnerable to disruptions in service that a dedicated service and the quality may not be so great.

5

Kieran Healy 05.05.08 at 10:31 am

With a setup like 1 and a modern Mac at both ends of the line, you can deliver your presentation slides via the chat, too. As Chris says, the main liability is that the quality of the line is out of your hands.

6

Slocum 05.05.08 at 11:03 am

If you have a proven system that is working for seminar sized groups, why not just use it? After all, it doesn’t really make any difference how many people are watching at the other end.

Or are the conference organizers trying to charge an arm and a leg for the internet connection or projection system that would be needed? (I know that hotels providing meeting spaces often try to charge absurd amounts for internet connectivity in conference rooms).

7

Ben M 05.05.08 at 2:22 pm

Whatever your main solution is, it’s probably a good idea to have low-tech backup solution ready in case of technical difficulties. The failure mode shouldn’t be “entire conference room waits uncomfortably while organizers fiddle with laptop”, it should be “brief pause while John switches to cell phone and local organizer queues up slides.”

8

c.l. ball 05.05.08 at 3:08 pm

I would expect that resolution of web-cam image sent to a “standard” video projector, like the one used in seminar rooms, would be very poor when expanded to an auditorium screen. You would probably want to have a digital video cam at your end and they would need a 3,000 to 4,000 lumen video-projector at their end.

I have no idea whether regular internet would carry that bandwidth effectively, however.

9

Quo Vadis 05.05.08 at 4:04 pm

What is your timeframe? I’d be interested in hearing more about your problem. I’ve been looking into the technology and process changes required to help businesses and organizations adapt to the new environmental issues. Using networking technology as an alternative to face-to-face meetings holds a lot of promise, especially for those on a budget, but not at the prices your being quoted.

What kind of networking and hardware/software do you have available at each end?

10

Slocum 05.05.08 at 7:32 pm

“I would expect that resolution of web-cam image sent to a “standard” video projector, like the one used in seminar rooms, would be very poor when expanded to an auditorium screen.”

If it looks OK on a small screen close-up, it should look equally OK on a big screen far away (as long as the ‘visual angle’ is the same). But I’m sure that he has a projector around somewhere that he can use to test that out beforehand. An even a VGA web camera (640×480) is higher res than a standard analog TV signal.

11

DCA 05.06.08 at 12:44 am

I attended a meeting (about 50 people) at which one speaker couldn’t come; the solution was that someone held up a cellphone set to “speaker” and someone else advanced the PowerPoint on a local computer in response to verbal cues. Then we did Q&A with just the cellphone. Worked fine–the only loss was that the speaker couldn’t point at the screen.

Providing that you have good projector visuals, a disembodied voice is fine.

12

Great Zamfir 05.06.08 at 7:43 am

A suggestion if your video link is not going to be of great quality ( ie Skype): Show yourself on-screen during the introduction, then remove the video and stick to sound+powerpoint, then return for questions.

I suspect a very unsmooth video will only distract form the overall set-up. But you can easily test the video quality of your channel of choice.

13

joejoejoe 05.06.08 at 11:08 am

I linked to a just updated mini-guide of the various streaming video broadcast tools in my signature. I’ve viewed some conferences and seminars in UStream but it’s not interactive, viewers just watch what’s being presented.

I think you can stitch together a nice conference if you broadcast only yourself in video and then kind of moderate the discussion using one of the many chat/conference programs (check out the free version of Campfire from 37signals.com).

I’d suggest broadcasting yourself on UStream streaming video and presentating your materials and having discussion on something like Campfire, which allows for up to 60 users to share in a conference for free. If each user of Campfire was in a classroom you could potentially reach many hundreds of people across the globe at once. You could probably aproximate the same thing with Scribd (online document hosting) and an IM program but it might be trouble

You can only have a few people talking to each other at once in any format so I wouldn’t sweat the interactivity limits of some of these tools. Only a few people can talk and make sense at once in any setting, live or virtual. Links to Scribd and Campfire below.

http://www.campfirenow.com/?source=37s+home
http://www.scribd.com/

I think using free software + paying for a few hours of independent tech geeks to figure out a setup is your best option.

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