Over the last couple of months, my wife and I have been experimenting with running the live events for our online program, The Art of Money, in a live video webcast format, rather than the old-school tele-conference phone calls we’ve been doing for years.
Those old-school group phone calls are good for some things, like talking live to people in conversation, but they’re not so great for helping people feel fully present and engaged with what’s being taught over a 90 minute session.
When people on the call can see the instructor via a live video feed and engage with other participants in a live chat box while the instructor is speaking, there’s a whole new dimension of live training events that opens up, and it’s pretty amazing.
There are two big benefits we’re seeing of using live video webcasts instead of conference calls:
1) People feel more connected to the instructor when they can see their body language and face while they’re talking.
2) The ability for people on the call to interact live with others in the community of the program is huge.
It builds that elusive sense of community much faster than is otherwise possible.
People listen to the instructor speaking live and make comments about what the presenter is saying in a live chat box right next to the video. They share emotions or thoughts about what’s being said by the instructor, and other people on the call jump in and share their own emotions and thoughts, or support people who are sharing things.
It’s a beautiful thing to witness, and it’s something that just can’t happen on a conference call.
On a conference call, everyone is essentially sitting in their own dark room, walled off from all other participants and the visual dimension of the presenter. They can’t see the instructor and can’t interact with other people on the call.
There’s one big downside to the live webcast/chat room format though: with most software options available for this kind of event, there isn’t an option for participants to easily be able to raise their hand virtually and speak live with the instructor.
Communication between the instructor and participants happens only via the live chat box, meaning, participants have to type to communicate.
If there needs to be an element of live, one-on-one coaching type of interactions between the instructor and the participants, the live video webcast and chat box format isn’t going to cut it.
That’s the situation we’re in with the live webcast events for The Art of Money program. My wife needs to be able to talk live with people to do her coaching and support with individuals in a live event.
Currently, I’m on the hunt for a platform that will allow us to have the best of both worlds: live video webcast of the instructor, live chat box, plus the ability for people to call in via a phone or use a VOIP connection, then raise their hand, be un-muted, and speak directly with the instructor.
Here’s what I’ve found so far with these options:
Go To Webinar:
The upside with GTW is that it’s solid. They are an industry leader, they’ve been around for a long time, and they provide a solid platform that just works well, most of the time.
It can do live webcam streaming of the presenter/instructor or their desktop, people can call in via phone or VOIP, raise their hands, and speak to the presenter live. All the pieces are there, but…
The downside is that GTW is expensive, people have to download and install the GTW viewing app on their computer to join a webinar, and I don’t like the layout and user experience of the windows that appear on people’s screens during a webinar.
There’s one window that shows the instructor’s desktop or slides, and a separate control panel window that shows the participant names, video and audio controls, as well as an expandable chat room.
I don’t like how people have to manually expand their own instance of the chat room…I want that to be on and displayed by default, right next to the video feed of the instructor.
This is a new app which is essentially a plugin for Google Hangouts on Air. It makes using Hangouts on Air (HOA) for webinars much, much easier than just using HOA on it’s own.
It’s designed for running marketing webinars that are made to present free information that leads to the pitch of some kind of product or program.
I tried using Webinar Jam for running our live webcast training sessions and while I actually love using Webinar Jam, there was one huge deal breaker: Google Hangouts on Air delays the sending of live video and audio data for 30 to 45 seconds.
HOA captures the video and audio data from all the presenters in the hangout, then syncs everything up and sends it out…sometimes 45 seconds after a given moment that something is happening live.
It does this so that it can deliver high quality video and audio feeds that are fully synced to participants around the world who have varying internet connection speeds, with some folks being on the slow end of the connection speed spectrum.
The result of this 45 second delay? If you, as a presenter, like to interact live with the participants by asking them questions verbally and then get their responses in the live chat box next to the video feed, there will be a 45 second delay between when you ask a question and when your participants hear the question and start typing their responses in the chat box.
As a presenter, that long of a delay just won’t work in most cases. You ask a question to the community of participants in the live event, and then you have to wait for 45 seconds to get a response. What are you supposed to do or say for those 45 seconds?
It’s uncomfortable, and to me, not a workable solution.
So, while I think that Webinar Jam is a great piece of software for running marketing type of webinars with Google Hangouts on Air (HOA), the combination of Webinar Jam and HOA is a no go for what we want to use it for. The 45 second delay is a deal breaker.
Spreecast is a live webcast platform that gives you a live video feed with a live chat box right next to the feed, and a visual representation of who’s in the event below the video and chat box, via little avatar photo boxes with the names of the participants below them.
The good: it has the video feed and live chat box right next to each other, just the way we want. Having a visual representation of each participant, with a good sized avatar image for each person, is great. It really helps give all participants a sense of being a part of a live group experience.
The delay between the live action and when participants see a given moment of live action is minimal…about 2 seconds.
That’s fast enough for it to feel like real time for both the presenter and the participants, and that’s super important for us.
It’s also free, and participants don’t need to download anything on their computer to join a webcast. It’s all browser based.
The downside: The video feed quality is poor. The presenter and the room they’re in will be a bit fuzzy and pixelated.
We’ve used it twice for live events with actual participants, rather than just test runs, and both times we had major issues with Spreecast.
Both times we lost the video and audio feed right in the middle of the live event, which caused us to have to move quickly and switch the main presenter computer from my wife’s laptop to mine, which caused a 5 to 10 minute pause in the live events as we switch everything over.
Then, for the rest of the live event, once I regained access tot he webcast event with my wife’s computer, I was interacting with people in the live chat with my wife’s name and avatar, which was confusing for many. Not cool.
We also noticed a lot of people having trouble getting their video and audio feeds to work, and being able to participate in the live chat box portion of the event.
As my wife was presenting, I was madly typing in the live chat box area, as well as in our support ticket system, providing troubleshooting support and helping people actually get into the webcast space. That was a major pain in the ass.
Also, there is no easy way for folks to raise their hand and be un-muted on just their audio channel, so they could ask questions or speak with the presenter live.
The end result? We will not be using Spreecast again.
Currently, (as of July, 2014), Any Meeting and Live Stream seem to be the top options for what we’ve been looking for in terms of teaching with live streaming video and a live chat window next to the video stream for attendees to chat with each other and respond to the instructor in real-time.
If you’re using an app that does live video feeds, a live chat box right next to the video feed, and has the ability for participants to raise their hands and speak live with the presenters, let me know what you’re using and what you think of it in the comments below.