To Video or not to Video – Slides and a Webcam

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison

To Video or not to Video – Slides and a Webcam

I will admit right off the bat that I am a bit biased towards video for online events. “Like TV”. By which I mean seeing a person’s face not just hearing their voice. But ask yourself… which do you prefer? Static or moving images?

I mentioned in an earlier article that static slides and telephone audio probably aren’t the ideal format for your next big online event. However, there are some key points to consider when you are thinking about your event’s playout format.

First and foremost, what does the content call for and how do the viewers want to take it in? If you’ve got nothing but computer code and script syntax to cover, there may not be a chance to see the presenter’s face much less put him/her in front of a camera. On the other hand, if you’ve lined up a big name (and they are not presenting loads of text) then you are probably going to want to put that persons face front and center and let other materials like slides play a supporting role. A good example is the TED talks. If you’ve seen one you know what I mean. They are interesting, engaging, and nice to look at. Now imagine that you only see bullet point slides and their voice behind that. The subject may still be interesting, but you’ve lost the engagement and immersion.

Just a little side note:  Personally, I don’t get event platforms that put all the content up in front of you at the same time in so many little windows. The problem I see is that there is no main focus. This probably comes from my training in both cinematography and design. It is important to direct the viewer’s focus. It’s much easier to take in information when it is presented clearly and your attention is directed in one place. If I’m looking at a slide deck window, a video player window and any other assortment of “supplementing materials” windows, my focus is never on just 1 thing. The human eye will wonder when allowed.  I prefer a “like TV” approach where you get one screen and that window is your focus. What you put in that screen is up to you.  Arguments can be made for both sides, but that is what sets us apart from many other platform providers and we like to think it’s the best way to deliver engaging content.

Ok, so I said there were “some” key factors which would imply more than the one I just described. Secondly, Is it possible? Can you actually get the presenters to use video? I say, “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Not every session has to be a huge multi-camera production. Keep in mind that even a webcam is better than no cam at all. Giving your viewers something to connect to besides text is a big part of immersion.  Ok, sales guy hat on for a second. We have a full HD production facility that is purpose built to deliver presentations. As our client, you have access to those facilities and our production staff. Also, there are plenty of free lance video producers who can help. Beyond                       that we offer tools that allow for self recording that are easy to use and can help you avoid bland presentations. I understand that wrangling speakers alone is difficult, much less trying to produce video, but that’s what we are here for. It’s what we do and we would love to help you take it up a few notches.

Off with the sales guy hat and on with the video guy hat again. Quality is important. It sets a level of respect for your brand’s reputation. The world is full of boring slide deck presentations. You don’t see anyone commenting on social sites about the latest PowerPoint preso they just saw. Pay special attention to producing creative, engaging content and step outside of the box a bit.

In the next article we’ll get into some technical stuff. That’s what this is supposed to be about right?

Introduction from The Producer

Why Virtual?
Josh Harrison, Producer

As a provider of virtual events, the company I work for has a vested interest in putting “the right foot forward” in these articles. That is my disclaimer and I’m sticking to it. On the other hand as a technical staff member for said company I am able to offer a slightly less marketing/sales perspective on the whole thing. Which may be why my wise bosses asked me to write this in the first place. You’ll probably find these articles to be mostly about the “production” side of producing events. Which is where most questions arise once the overall concept is understood.

Just a little info about me so you get where I am coming from. I love all things technology, digital and analog. I grew up taking things apart and putting them back together (although sometimes as different things). When digital became a reality it opened a whole new world of possibilities for taking things apart and putting things together (although sometimes as different things). I started playing with machines when I was young. Coming from a musical background, I enjoyed the engineering side of audio. This lead to enjoying the engineering side of video. All of that lead me to where I am now with vConference Online as a content producer for video.

Now a little history on vConferenceOnline. Founded by Stephen Wynkoop, our parent company, Bits on the Wire, was working on a project for a community site we own known to the Database world as We wanted a way to share all of the technical knowledge from our partner experts in a way that was intriguing and interesting. Further, we had learned that people like to watch way more than they like to read (exceptions to every rule of course… as you are reading this). We decided to take what were daily audio podcasts and make them into a video show, “Like TV” said Stephen with a twinkle in his eye.

That’s where it all started back in 2006. Online video was just starting to poke it’s head out along with the infrastructure to support it. What we found in that particular space of technical learning was a lot of telephoned in audio and slide presentations, with little to no production value. We set out to change the way techy’s take in their techness. We said, “Let’s take broadcast level production and merge it with top end IT knowledge. People will love it!” So we started with a small camera, a green screen and a lot of really hot lights. The first virtual event we did was in Spring of 2008. We had 1 camera, a plasma screen with slides, and a huge desire to show the world that technical presentations didn’t have to be mind numbing. 1 year later we had grown from 1 10×20 foot room to a 4500 sq ft office with 2 full studios. Then we had another great idea (pat selves on back)… “We have this platform for virtual events built, why not let the rest of the world in on it?”  That’s where vConferenceOnline was born. The whole premise behind our virtual event platform was to offer HD video with supporting materials like slides rather than offer slides with supporting thumbnail video. We built studios with one purpose, to allow presenters to show their computer screens and slides while making a connection to their audience via the camera. “Like TV” said Stephen with a twinkle in his eye.

Many events, clients and features later, we feel we have one of the best (if not THE best) platform for online events. In this series of articles I’m hoping to walk you through the production side with a tiny bit of marketing and sales on the What, Why and How of virtual events. Stick with me, this is going to have a lot of quotation marks and parenthesis.