I am so pleased to share that yesterday I held my very first Google Hangout on Air! I presented a webinar demonstrating how to contribute to an indexing initiative for student newspapers of historically black colleges and universities on behalf of my local chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. If you happen to be interested in this topic, please check out our page and view the webinar. But, I wanted to focus this blog post on my overall experience using Hangout on Air as a platform.
Making the Decision: I’ve done several webinars over the past few years; all have been done with GoToWebinar. However, as I began to consider hosting more webinars myself, I knew I wanted to try and leverage Google Hangouts on Air (HOA). When DearMyrtle starting using it as her preferred platform of choice, I particularly paid attention. A long-time fan, and even participant, of her webinars, it did not go unnoticed by me when she made the switch to HOAs; I’ve observed that she’s had great success since she started using it about 18 months ago. She’s been a great inspiration for me as I decided I would finally learn how to use HOA effectively. The benefits of using HOA as a platform are exactly as Myrt describes in one of her early experimentation HOAs - there are no “attendance” limits, the session is automatically archived on YouTube for later viewing, and it is FREE to use. It really doesn’t get much better than that does it?
Learning HOA: I have to admit, even as technically savvy as I consider myself to be, I found (an am still finding) the process of learning how to run HOA’s less than straightforward. The information on how to run them seems to be fragmented across personal blog posts and websites. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time Googling for information. To that end, there are some that have businesses around teaching HOAs, a prominent one being Ronnie Bincer, whom I learned about from DearMyrtle. I have not yet subscribed to his materials, but with the free information he has, plus others, I pieced together enough information to get a basic understanding. I have also practiced HOAs with friends.
Day Zero: So, the big day came and all went well! I don’t have time in this post to describe everything fully, but let me highlight what I feel were my biggest successes, and what I feel were my biggest challenges.
- Successes – #1: it worked! Just the fact that I managed to carry it off was a big win. I was able to switch back and forth effectively between the PowerPoint presentation and the internet browser. It took a lot of practice and troubleshooting, but it worked. #2 – we have viewers! We had about 10 people watching live and since then we are up to more than 50 views. While I did some publicity before the event, I didn’t do as much as I wanted. I will be doing more though because the webinar was on a project that is ongoing. #3 – I am happy with the outcome. The session went so very well! And, I am especially pleased to have the archived version on YouTube.
- Challenges – #1 My checklist was incomplete. There are SO MANY STEPS to take into account to get set up effectively and while I had a partial checklist, I need to make sure I do a complete and extensive checklist as there were things I just forgot to do. And having your checklist as part of timeline countdown to going live is important too. #2 Comments – I failed at getting the viewer comments integrated into the HOA Control Room. So, I had to keep manually checking all the places could leave comments as I was doing the session. #3 Screen Resolution – when sharing my PowerPoint file and my internet browser, the screen resolution for the viewer was definitely less than optimal. I still haven’t figured out how I will correct this. The typical information you hear about HOAs is that it is important to be on a wired internet connection instead of a wireless connection. I tested two different high quality wired connection options and neither one improved the screen resolution to what I would have preferred. I will be doing more investigation. #4 – I am still not ready for JOINers – this webinar was screen share only; I still have to work my way up to having people join in as presenters.
Overall though, it was a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to doing more. You can definitely stay tuned as I make that happen. I am eager though because I see so much potential for more use of this for genealogical organizations and societies.
Have you used HOAs yet for your genealogy gatherings? Please comment if you have – I’d love to know about your experiences too.