Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Expanding a webinar's reach


I've got a plan to increase the reach of  genealogy webinars and give society program chairs and local FamilySearch Center Directors a shot at providing more educational opportunities for their members and patrons.


Consider using the calendar at to find topics to showcase at your upcoming genealogy meetings and special interest groups. Perhaps the meeting times coincide or consider adding a SIG to meet at the time of a regularly-scheduled webinar. Courtesy would have you limit this to the free webinars, as we wouldn't want to rob the fee-charging webinar hosts of the income they anticipate.

Remember the first 100 (or 1,000) computers logging in at the time of the event actually get in the room. I recommend logging in about 15 minutes early to ensure your society's meeting room computer "gets a seat."

Attending a genealogy webinar (or any type of webinar for that matter) can take on various forms. Although I'll use the example of Citriux's GoToMeeting® and GoToWebinar® , the following concepts could be applied to any webinar service.

THE OLDEN DAYS (circa 2008)
Initially, I used ($49 monthly for up to 15 computers) to connect my computer to a distant society's computer in order to present at that organization's annual conference at a low cost with literally zero travel expense. Using this method, 80-250 attendees have attended DearMYRTLE classes by joining together in a meeting room equipped with a single computer, projector, large projection screen, and a sound system. They could hear my voice and watch my PowerPoint screen on my computer. I could hear them through their telephone connection or their public address system.

Myrt's 1 computer connects to 1 computer with multiple viewers.


Last summer a few of us from Second Life experimented with successful meetings using my small GoToMeeting account, where the new variable was taking turns as presenters during a single webinar. We looked at how Russ uses Family Tree Maker, how Marie uses Legacy Family Tree, and how Ol' Myrt here accomplishes some of the same tasks using RootsMagic. DearMYRTLE's GoToMeeting interface allowed no more than 15 attending computers. The comparisons from power software users proved productive and informative -- something you don't typically see at genealogy conferences. 
Myrt's 1 computer connects to multiple computers with 1 viewer each.

Last fall I began a series of Blogging for Beginners webinars hosted by our friends at Legacy Family Tree. They use GoToWebinar with a room limit of 1,000 computer connections. Larger rooms don't permit a typed "chat" option as that would prove chaotic. However, one may pose typed questions to the presenter or "raise a hand" to request being unmuted so the question can be asked via voice (headset or telephone.) The cost of a large 1,000 attendee GoToWebinar account is $499 a month -- affordable for busy technology companies. However non-profits, like many of our genealogy societies, can enjoy a benefit cost of $97 annually. That's right -- for a 1,000 connection limit GoToWebinar is less than $100 annually.


Late this winter, I've upgraded my GoToWebinar® account to permit 100  connections per webinar at a cost of $99 per month. Typically 97 or 98 people will show up, though often more register an interest. Instead of a lot of PowerPoint slides, my workshop webinars feature live demos. I have fun weaving in my attendees typed questions into each webinar. From time to time I "open a mic" for a more intense back and forth discussion with a particular attendee.

OK. Let's think creatively for a moment. GoToWebinar only cares that 100 computer connections are the maximum allowed by my DearMYRTLE account.

What if one of those computers was situated in a meeting room equipped with a computer, sound system, computer projector and a large projection screen? GoToWebinar doesn't care that there may be 250 people (represented by red lines in the diagram below) gathered in that meeting room. It only cares that I not max out my 100 computer connections limit.

Doesn't the webinar reach more people this way? 

So to my usual 98 connecting computers we add 1 that represents the 250 people in that room, we expand the reach of the webinar to include 348 individuals participating in the learning experience.
Myrt's 1 computer connects to multiple computers, some with individual viewers another with multiple viewers.

The process isn't cheating GoToWebinar, as their computers aren't working harder. We're just using the technology wisely.

During last week's DearMYRTLE’s Workshop Webinar© I spotted an attendee who teaches at the Riverton FamilySearch Library. It occurred to me then that I hoped the center had projected my webinar on a big screen at the center so more than 1 individual could view the webinar at that location.

With the exception of Geoff at Legacy Family Tree who experimented with simultaneous individual and large group attendees, the majority of genealogy webinar hosts see attendees are logging in one at a time to attend.

Remember the first 100 (or 1,000 if the host has the more expensive account) computers logging in at the time of the event actually get in the room.

PS - As I was writing this post, Thomas MacEntee wrote "Thanks for your support Myrt! Another way that genealogy societies can use the FGS Radio program is to actually listen to it during their regular Saturday meeting - it might be a cost-effective way of having a guest speaker!"

So you could also do this with internet radio shows.  Hmmm, the possibilities are endless for providing education experiences at society meetings and FamilySearch Center gatherings using all sorts of newer technology. I can hardly wait to see what's coming down the pike.

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


  1. Many good ideas Myrt except I find that the notice is no where near enough to put into scheduled meetings.

    For example, we already have our May and June meetings set with speakers, with July and August off, and our Sep to Dec meetings set. We find that booking people requires setting things up several months in advance and because of local branches don't send out monthly newsletters, we need to do advance promotion such as putting September's meeting into the May Newsletter.

    That is probably why groups viewing a webinar is probably not going to be popular. Can you tell me what your webinars are for the fall? For smaller SIG groups, it might be a possibility but again, securing a venue is not a last minute item.

    It is very difficult to get a group of people to agree to get together at a particular time and place unless it is a standard time and place. Just my opinion.

  2. Good information and an interesting idea Myrt.

    As I see it though it's the need to know months in advance that's the main problem. Our meetings are planned all the way up to Dec in order to book speakers and venues. And we let our members know months in advance and send out reminders for each monthly meetings. Newsletters do not go out monthly.

    SIGs might work but again getting together when the webinar is on and then finding a venue is an issue.

    Since we're talking about "free" webinars, with the proper software, the webinars could be captured and played at a later date.

    Otherwise, without knowing what webinars you, for example, plan to do next Feb and Mar, it would be difficult to fit into a planned meeting.

    Hence webinars will probably continue to be largely attended by single-viewers who can adjust their personal schedules to meet the webinar schedule.