A webinar question from Arvid… "I travel a lot. Any tips for doing webinars when you're away from the office?
Thanks Arvid…I love the business case of presenting virtually. Multiple times this year I've been asked to travel to speak for a private group or at a conference and had the opportunity to serve more people (read: squeeze in more gigs) by doing a webinar or virtual classroom session from the road.
Here's my plan:
Plan ahead for a hard-wired connection
Hotel connectivity is still notoriously lousy. The best antidote is to avoid wireless connections (a drag in most situations anyway). I ask my assistant to book hotels that have hardwired connections, and even if that means spending a little more per night, I count it as the cost of business (this IS what I do professionally).
An alternative...more than once I've booked a local "rent-an-office" for the webinar because a hotel with a hardwired connection was nowhere close.
Take an extra computer
Who wants extra crap to pack? Yeah, I thought so.
I prefer presenting with two machines anyway, but I've experienced times when the Mac would recognize the network but the PC wouldn't (and vice versa). Yes, it means packing a separate computer on a trip when you're otherwise only going to use it for an hour (but then I get paid to make sure it works to reach an audience that the client spent good money to get there). Note…I don't do this every time. If I know I'll be with a client that has their IT crap together and I can use a conference room or cube there, I may not pack the extra weight. Hotel room? Almost always.
Test your connectivity…well in advance
It's always a best practice to rehearse with exactly the computer/connection you intend to use for the live presentation. When you get to your hotel, run a test on speedtest.net for the room you have. If performance isn't where you need it to be, ask for a room change.
What's "adequate?" That depends on your web conferencing or web casting provider and what you're trying to do (e.g., use video, not use video).
Travel with a VoIP headset
Using the landline in your hotel room is expensive. Mobile phones are not recommended, so what's a virtual presenter to do?
I favor the Logtiech ClearChat because I like that 1) the double-barrel (two ear) design filters out noise and focuses me on all the audio and 2) it has an in-line mute button. Sure, conferencing and casting providers enable muting yourself, but if you need to sneeze, hardware options beat software options for muting yourself quickly. The downside is that it's bulky to pack.
Another headset in my arsenal is the Logitech H555. The good news is that it folds up and tucks away in it's own carrying case…nice for packing. The downside is that it has analog input/output. You can plug those 1/8th inch phono jacks into a USB adapter (included), but it's still converting analog to digital and therefore not as strong.
FYI…a VoIP headset that is purely USB (like the aforementioned ClearChat) sounds better than any telephone, assuming your web conferencing provider isn't messing with the signal. I used to prefer telephone, but VoIP+ USB is where you're going to sound like a rockstar.
Dial in your mobile phone as a second line
Even though I prefer VoIP headsets, for me this takes the form of dialing into the conference's audio on a secondary source for "just in case." If internet connectivity goes down, VoIP is toast as well. Read this for more detail on the process.
Stabilize the microphone on your mobile phone earbuds
If you need to use a mobile phone, one challenge is that you either have to hold it or use ear buds. The challenge with the latter is that if you move around while presenting (I always present standing up), you run the risk of having an inconsistent audio level as the earbud chord moves. This translates into an unsteady audio experience for your attendees. Obviously a bluetooth earpiece avoids this problem.
Some earbuds come with an optional clip that allows you to clip the microphone part to your shirt. If yours doesn't have one you can pick up something like this Plantronics clip for cheap.
Send a copy of your slides to someone else
Who will be on the call with you that's on the presentation team? The moderator's a good start if you're delivering a webinar. If overall connectivity takes a nose dive, you can always haven them pull up the slides and share. You'll have to verbally guide them, but that's better than everything coming to screeching halt.
What I have not mentioned, obviously, is presenting from a tablet or a phone...largely, to be honest, because I don't do it. If you want to push some slides, these can be awesome...but they're not quite as robust as what I prefer to do. It's always wise, however, to be savvy about your audience being mobile.