Many organisations work with dispersed teams or stakeholders, so there must be an easy way to do an engaging remote show and tell, surely… right? I couldn’t find one, this post is the result of my research to find my own and a guide for others.
I’ve been looking for a great show and tell set up with one of my large clients. As with many large organisations, it’s quite common for people to be at various locations around the country, which means dialing into meetings and show and tells on video conferencing tools. Like many their go-to tool is Skype for business coupled with a webcam and inbuilt microphone.
Skype is just about ok for small group calls when you are one person per webcam, but it just doesn’t really work for presenting an engaging show and tell or stand-up presentation where you want to see slides or a screen and the presenter showing the work.
I have watched many show and tells, both as an audience member in the room where there are remote participants, and as one of those remote participants. I’ve also presented to both sets of audiences. It’s never really worked that well. There is always some kind of compromise, the speaker isn’t visible to remote people, the people online can’t hear or the presenter has to stand awkwardly so they are in the webcam’s sights. This isn’t great for communicating with a wider audience.
My goal is to create an engaging experience for remote attendees that is closer to being in the room without compromising the experience of those in the room.
- good picture
- clear sound
- a clear view of the presenter
- a clear view of the screen (for slides and demos)
- stable software
- a way to ask questions
- a decent recording that can be viewed later
- simple enough for everyone to do it
Here is how I am trying to meet those needs
I’ve been through a few iterations of this and here is a set up that I think works well.
It’s important to see the presenters and not just the slides, the presenters are the most engaging bit. I wanted a camera that could sit at the back of the room like an audience member, but also be able zoom in. A decent and not too expensive camcorder will work for this.
The thing I didn’t know before trying this out is that most HDMI cameras won’t give you a streaming image unless they are webcams. Webcams are made for front view close up of a person’s face, great for conference calls, not so good for presentations.
The crucial bit is turning it into a streaming signal. For this, I’ve been using an Elgato Cam Link, which takes the HMDI signal and lets you use it as your webcam. It’s small and not as expensive as some other similar devices.
The streaming video won’t be high quality enough to read many slides or clearly see demos, you have to be able to share the screen too.
So we need video broadcast software that needs screen sharing options. My preferred tool for this is Zoom. It’s really stable, it allows up to 100 participants on the pro account and it has a great side-by-side mode for viewing a screen share as well as the person presenting. It also has a chat feature for asking questions.
A couple of tips for using Zoom for presenting:
- Create a meeting and make it so that participants are muted by default on entry
- Allow screen sharing from participants so that your presenting computer is not the same as your broadcasting computer (this gives you a bit more flexibility on where you can put the camera)
- Make sure you turn off mirroring of your screen so the video is the right way round (conference software show us a mirrored image of ourselves or it would be really unnerving)
- Make sure your video source is camlink, your microphone source is camlink and your speaker is your computer (this will let remote participants be heard through the broadcasting laptop when they ask questions)
- Encourage remote viewers to play around with their viewing options, my personal favourite is side-by-side mode with speaker view (only showing the speaker)
The microphone on the camera will work well enough for sound as long as you are not in a huge or noisy space.
Videoing for later viewing
You can record through Zoom, but a better option is to record using the camcorder, which you can do at the same time as streaming. It’s a higher quality video that looks better for watching later.
With some trial and error, I’ve reduced this down to the bare minimum to keep it as simple as possible.
- a camcorder (this one is Canon)
- a HDMI to mini HDMI cable to plug the camera into the video encoder (this will probably come with the camera)
- a tripod (cheap is fine if you are using it indoors)
- the all-important Elgato Cam Link
- An SD card (for recording the show and tell)
You’ll also need a presenting laptop, a broadcasting laptop and a screen for presenting in the room
A word of advice, if you want a great remote show and tell experience you will need someone to act as a camera person to keep an eye on things and to move the camera around for question time.
Have you had great success with show and tells for remote viewers or do you have any advice on better kit? Let me know in the comments below.
***An audio addition to this setup***
This set up is great for quiet rooms, but in noisier open spaces the sound isn’t so great. Andy Fenner who I’ve been working with has iterated setup and added a Rode NT USB microphone, which plugs straight into the broadcasting laptop.