Hotspots and Hangouts – My reflections from jumping off the ice.

Hangout On Air
Here I am waiving to the online live hangout audience.

Have you ever thought to “live broadcast” a presentation while out on the road?

During last night’s #KidneyChat, a few of us were talking about Hangouts On Air and some of the challenges on the road. At Carol Stephen’s suggestion, I am writing this post.

By the way you can watch the actual presentation on my Facebook Page.

I thought a live broadcast would be fun to try when I was invited to be one of Darrel Cole’s panelists (blog post is here) for the ACEC Annual Conference in Monterey, CA.  I wanted my boss and my mom to see it. First part of the live HOA is here:

Darrel’s panel was called “Digital Influence” (all videos are here) and it occurred to me how cool it would be to have a Google Hangout On Air (HOA) — cutting edge, right? — like Pam Ann Marketing does with her Social Media Mashup events, just without the guest. I could have used UStream, but I liked the idea that when the video is over, it’s automatically available on our YouTube channel.  For branding purposes, I thought that was a win.

And it was fun. People were live tweeting during the event and that made the whole panel interactive and enjoyable.

Just in case, I setup my digital camera and a tripod. The backup plan was my saving grace because, low and behold, the Sprint hotspot fell asleep during my talk.

I was really encouraged by all of the tweets and text messages when the hotspot fell asleep.  People can be very forgiving that way.

Truth be told, I was really bummed that it failed; however,  Carol had a point. I tend to just try stuff.  With backup plans, you eliminate the risk of failure. What’s the downside of trying?

Some things I learned:

  1. Have a backup plan, especially if you are on the road and will be in an unfamiliar environment.  I did bring my camera and tripod. In retrospect,  I should have asked Darrel for his Hotel-based WiFi password/room number.  
  2. If you do decide to live on the edge with a hotspot, check the coverage map to see what kind of signal you will get while away.  Monterey, CA does not have a good Sprint signal. I was lucky to have 3 bars.  So, looking back, it was kind of crazy.
  3. I used a Sprint Sierra Wireless Tri-Fi 4GLTE Hotspot.  The Boss-Man and IT guy later suggested that I should have plugged it into my computer (as I would if charging) and it would not have gone to sleep.  As it was, the original broadcast did last 33:26 minutes.  However, once it went to sleep, it took about 20 minutes to get it to connect to 3G again. And then I started another hangout. Fortunately, the second HOA got the rest of the Question and Answer session because then my camera shut off.
  4. For the Q & A part of our panel, we should have all stood at the front of the room to be on camera. My husband made that suggestion and he’s probably right. It’s weird to just hear my voice answering a question, for example, when I could have just walked to the front of the room.
  5. If you have a poor internet connection, the video doesn’t just buffer and stutter for the people streaming, it is recorded how it streamed up to your live hangout. So ya, that can be a bummer.
  6. Although I got better quality video from my camera, I left the HOA versions on our account because they serve as the DVD extras of the set.
  7. In order to do a Hangout On Air, you must first verify your YouTube account.
  8. YouTube gives instructions on how to start the Hangout On Air here.
  9. Even Google recommends a high-bandwidth. “For the highest-quality video and clear audio, use a high-bandwidth, wired connection.” (system requirements). So using a WiFi Hotspot was living on the edge.
  10. I used my MacBook and its built-in iSight camera which was totally fine for video and audio. I attend regular hangout sessions with a few colleagues and never have trouble with video. Again, I was at home with cable-speed internet.
  11. The unique URL (website link) for the hangout cannot be determined until you start the hangout. So if you are unable to quickly embed it into your website on the fly (like Pam does – with TweetChat next to it to boot), then direct your prospective viewers to your YouTube channel address.  The live video will appear under “Recent Activity” and have the red block LIVE graphic.
  12. You can’t start a HOA on your mobile device but you can attend on mobile. I had thought of using my iPhone to video just me and the computer to video the slides, but it was too complicated.
  13. I should have put up a sign or passed out papers that say, “This is being streamed to our YouTube channel now; be aware of what you say.” Instead, I told each person and that probably seemed weird. (My mom suggested that one, for credit where credit’s due.)
  14. After the hangout is over, the video will automatically be available for others to watch on your YouTube channel.

Other Thoughts:

  1. I didn’t expect to be on a TED conference stage with a remote control clicker, but I also didn’t expect the AV projector from middle school with a wonky connection. I had the right adaptor but if you moved the iPad even in the slightest way, the projector would lose the signal and have to be rebooted.
  2. If possible, get to know the room you’ll be presenting in ahead of time.
  3. Know your content. If you rely on reading your slides, or the audience reading your slides, you may be in trouble when the audio visual equipment fails on you.
  4. Social Media Geeks are not necessarily Audio Visual Geeks.

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