Thursday, February 03, 2011

Are Virtual Presentations now mainstream?

THANKS to Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers for posting Open Thread Thursday - Virtual Presentations Revisted. Though mountains of snow separate me from Thomas on this cold, wintery day in North America, it's obvious he and I are on the same wavelength.

Earlier this morning Ol' Myrt here posted APG's Second Life Chapter where I mentioned composing the blog while waiting for Tom Kemp's "Newspapers" webinar at Yesterday I cross-posted the announcement that George Morgan offers remote electronic seminars.

In response to a flurry of queries about virtual presentations, last week Ol' Myrt created a page on her blog describing the process of hosting a DearMYRTLE's Virtual Appearance. I've even included a minute-by-minute count-down of the process on the day of the presentation. 

Virtual presentations are a cost-effective method for local genealogy societies to provide members with high-quality educational experiences. Virtual presentations can feature presenters normally out-of-reach financially. The local society saves the cost of plane fare, hotel and meals. Presenters love virtual presentations since the commute to the speaking gig is just a few steps to the office desk in the comfort of one's own home.

There are two types of virtual presentations within the scope of this discussion:

  1. Where the "attendee" computer is set in a meeting room, with a computer projector and many attendees viewing the projection screen. (Typical for a society-sponsored event.)
  2. Where multiple "attendee" computers log in from around the world. (Typical for a commercial entity-sponsored event, such as those webinars offered by Family Tree Magazine,, RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree.)

Some sites such as and Family Tree Magazine host fee-based webinars where multiple attendee computers log in from throughout the world.Other sites such as Legacy and RootsMagic offer their webinars to the public for free. Legacy and their presenters make money to offset the cost of producing the webinar by selling DVDs of prior webinars.  It is assumed that big commercial entities can handle the cost of paying for the GoToWebinar/Webex conferencing service. Less wealthy entities may elect to use a free service such as Skype or Second Life to host their virtual meetings at no cost to presenters or attendees.

Then there are individual presenters like Ol' Myrt here who must either partner with one of the big commercial entities, or hold smaller webinars using my personal GoToWebinar account. The cost to the local society would only be my typical speaker's fee. In planning future DearMYRTLE webinars where multiple attendees can log in, I have toyed with the thought of charging a minimal amount quite simply to offset the cost of my webinar service.

Why Ol' Myrt likes virtual presentations
The thought of another 12 day cruise of Baltic Sea ports without luggage certainly comes to mind here. While a typical genealogy speaker is paid $150-200 per session, plus travel expenses, nothing compensates for that travel time away from one's office. 

Would I do it all virtually?
No sir! Ol' Myrt loves to visit the local library and family history center the day prior to an all-day seminar. This way I can weave local resources into my presentations. It is one thing for some big-wig genealogy speaker to come in and say "you've got to use thus and such", but it is quite another for that speaker to point to worthwhile local resources. It's all about motivating researchers to take action, and not just talk about their family history.

But a good mix of in-person and virtual presentations will preserve the longevity of this Ol' Myrt here. 

Here are Myrt's responses to Thomas' questions:
  • Have you ever attended a virtual presentation before – genealogy or some other topic?
    YES. All are on genealogy topics, sponsored by well-known genealogy entities, including Thomas' presentation Google for Genealogists. See also my comments below as a presenter.
  • What method was used? Webex? Skype? Go To Meeting? Second Life?
    Sometimes we use Skype for the Q & A after a GoToMeeting conference, so there is a "face" to the name. Alternately, I can just post my pic on the last presentation slide. Normally I use GoToMeeting, and I've just added GoToWebinar for 100 attendees to my account. We've been presenting various topics in Second Life (1-2 sessions per week) for a number of years now.We also host BetterGEDCOM meetings using GoToMeeting/Webinar.
  • Were you satisfied with the quality of the presentation?
    I will be glad when GoToMeeting/Webinar adds the video component. Sound quality excellent.
  • What features do you think are required for a virtual presentation? Video? Teleconferencing?
    Confident, lively presenter who can engage audience participation without eye contact. Simple presentation slides without animation. Works best when participants use headsets rather than built-in speakers and mics as found on most modern laptops.
  • Were there any technical problems?
    Occasionally a presenter will forget to shut down auto-updates.  Sometimes sound fades in and out, particularly if presenter is on a wireless internet connection or if there are too many wireless devices at either the point of origin or near the attendees computer(s).
  • As a genealogy speaker, have you ever presented virtually or considered the possibility?
    I've given many virtual including Blogging for Beginners at Legacy Family Tree; 3-part Excel for Genealogists; a 3-way comparison of RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker 2011 and Legacy Family Tree; several presentations at the Port Angeles Family History Center's annual seminar, for a fledgling society meeting at the Ellen Payne Odom Library in Georgia, to the National Capitol Area Association of Professional Genealogists. See my article in the Dec 2009 APG Quarterly on virtual presentations.
  • Would you charge a lower speakers fee to present a session at a conference to a room full of attendees or to a genealogical society meeting?
    I give a 50% discount, since I have no down time traveling. If the topic was a new one, devised specifically to meet that society's needs, then I wouldn't discount.
  • If you were to use a program like Webex, would you charge attendees to connect from their home to the presentation?
    I would consider charging $1 to attend, to cover the $100 per month cost of GoToWebinar. For over 1,000 attendees the cost would simply be prohibitive for an individual like me to present.
  • As an attendee, what would you be willing to pay for a one-hour workshop on a genealogy topic if you could connect on your computer from the comfort of your home?
    YES, I would pay a minimal amount.
  • If a workshop were offered on how to present virtually, would you be interested?
    YES, I always love to learn new things.
I look forward to participating in the Virtual Presentations Roundtable moderated by Thomas MacEntee and sponsored by our friends at Legacy Family Tree. This will be a live broadcast from the RootsTech 2011 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.on Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 1:45pm Mountain time US. My DearREADERS may attend "virtually" by clicking here to register. From the Legacy Family Tree website we read:

Saturday, February 12, 2011.
3:45 PM Eastern (U.S.)
2:45 PM Central
1:45 PM Mountain
12:45 PM Pacific
8:45 PM GMT

Virtual Presentations Roundtable. A panel overview and discussion of virtual presentation platforms, methodologies and how genealogy speakers and genealogical societies can leverage this method of delivering content to expand their offerings to the genealogical community. Presented live at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. With the wider availability of high-speed Internet as well as better and more affordable web conferencing software, many genealogy speakers as well as genealogical societies are looking to virtual presentations for delivery of lectures and workshops. This session will provide a brief review of available platforms, technical challenges one may encounter in delivering content virtually, and how virtual presentations can benefit the genealogy community.

Panelists: Thomas MacEntee (moderator), creator of GeneaBloggers and founder of High-Definition Genealogy; Lisa Louise Cooke, creator of the Genealogy Gems Podcast; Marian Pierre-Louis, founder of Fieldstone Historic Research and co-chair of the Virtual Presentations Committee, Genealogical Speakers Guild; Geoff Rasmussen, Legacy Family Tree, host of Legacy Family Tree webinars; Pat Richley-Erickson, creator of the DearMYRTLE website; Allison Stacey, editor at Family Tree Magazine; Maureen Taylor, better known in genealogy circles as “The Photo Detective.”

Who Should Attend? Genealogy speakers and educators looking to include virtual presentations methods in their speaking portfolio and Genealogical society decision-makers responsible for providing events and education as well as hiring genealogy speaker.

This webinar will be a great way for local society program chairs to learn more about virtual presentations. 

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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