By Steve Outing
This morning — well, maybe it was this afternoon — I spoke at the International Online Journalism Seminar in Barcelona, Spain. No jet lag on this trip, though; I spoke via web video from my home office in Boulder, Colorado, using Ustream. (The topic of my talk was grassroots media/citizen journalism/social media/social networking.)
This was my first experience speaking at a conference remotely. Originally when I agreed to this, I had planned to make the trip to Spain, but a family scheduling conflict came up and conference organizer David Domingo suggested we try the video link as an alternative to canceling.
We had some technical glitches that the audience had to endure while we got me set up to speak, but it did happen and I successfully completed my first-ever web video international conference appearance.
I can’t say this was an especially effective alternative, and I bet that audience members would say the same. It did in a pinch, is the best I can say.
There were only 2 of us on the panel, Georgia Popplewell of Global Voices (on the stage in Barcelona) and me, plus Domingo as moderator. At the end Georgia fielded most of the questions; I seem to have been mostly forgotten. While that could be because I gave a lousy speech (I think it was OK!), in my various speeches and presentations at conferences over the years, I usually get a number of follow-up questions, so I suspect it had more to do with my “remoteness” to the audience.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to do this again.
However, last week I did something similar and participated in a webinar produced by Editor & Publisher and Nielsen. That event was purely virtual: The speakers and the audience all were sitting at their home or work computers. That felt like a better experience for everyone involved, in part because it used a system that was designed for remote speaking and had features that supported audience interaction.
Had we been using a high-end video conference system today, it might have been more “just like being there.” A web live streaming service like Ustream is nowhere near as good.
I do hope that in time we as business people will be able to substitute traveling to conferences with being there virtually, as I was today. I’d prefer to be more “green” and travel less. (Not to mention, air travel is often such an unpleasant experience these days.) But it will take improvements in the technology.
And today, I definitely missed out on the personal contact with conference speakers and attendees. I hope to visit Barcelona for the first time some other time!