Bringing speakers to your genealogy conference or meeting can be very expensive. The travel expenses alone are often cost-prohibitive for smaller organizations with limited budgets. I will offer an alternative method: I can make presentations at your event by teleconference.
I have done this successfully a couple of times lately. Once I was at home while another time I was at a large conference in London, England. On both occasions I was able to make presentations at remote events, up to 5,000 miles away. My face and the accompanying lecture slides appeared on a large screen in the local lecture halls at the conferences, and my voice was piped through the local public address system at each conference. I remained at home or wherever I was scheduled to be in person. The local organization received the full lecture, and we had question-and-answer time after each presentation. The audience was fully interactive during the question-and-answer sessions. The sponsoring organizations incurred no travel expenses. I also reduced my speaking fees because I didn't have to spend three days to deliver the lecture(s).
I would suggest this works well at evening meetings as well as at all-day events that also feature other presenters. I can be the only presenter at a smaller event or one of multiple presenters at an all-day affair. For the longer events, I would suggest that a mix of live presenters and one remote presenter will work well.
If you would like to have me present to your organization via teleconference, you will need to supply the following in the lecture room:
- A modern Windows or Macintosh computer, typically a laptop although a desktop will also suffice. The computer must contain a sound board and include speakers and a microphone. The speakers can be either internal or external. External microphones seem to work better than internal units; they cost less than $10 at most any computer store and even at some department stores. I have experimented with a number of microphones that cost up to $75 and can tell you that my favorite microphone costs $10 at the local Target store.
- A video web cam, either built into the laptop or an external camera. Such devices sell for $25 and up although many laptops include internal web cams.
- A large projection screen, the same screen you would use for an in-person lecture.
- An LCD projector that plugs into the computer and then projects onto the screen in the lecture hall. This typically is the same projector that you would use for an in-person lecture.
- A public address system capable of being heard clearly throughout the lecture hall. This is typically the same public address system you would use for an in-person presentation. My past presentations have worked surprisingly well by simply placing the public address microphone next to the computer's speakers. However, a more sophisticated system that plugs directly into the computer's sound port should work even better.
- A high-speed Internet connection. This can be the biggest challenge! High-speed Internet connections are usually available at larger conference centers but may be a bit difficult if your group meets in a church basement or at the local Elks Hall. The connection needs to be tested well in advance; do not wait until the last minute. The speed is important, but reliability is even more so. Will it sustain a connection for an hour or more? The Internet connection should be either hard wired or a fast Wi-Fi connection; the various Verizon/Sprint/T-Mobile/etc. "air cards" do not seem to be fast enough to handle streaming video reliably.
- Two pieces of free software must be installed in advance in the computer: Skype and Yugma. I will help you obtain and install the needed software a week or two before the event.
- A technically-oriented person to coordinate all this and to play the role of emcee during the presentation(s). He or she does not need to be a computer guru but should be comfortable with connecting computers and projectors, as well as Internet connectivity.
- A bit of time to test all this a few days in advance.
For more information or to check available dates, drop me a line at: http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy//contact-us.html.
I am excited about the idea of remote presentations. As travel expenses continue to climb, we all need to find innovative new ways to bring lecturers to local events. Bringing "virtual lecturers" to a conference seems to be one cost-effective solution. I would also encourage other genealogy lecturers to experiment with this and with other innovations. If any other new ideas turn out to be successful, I'd love to write about them in this newsletter.