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Setting Up Livemeeting for a User Group

19. April 2009

In this blog, I would like to outline the recipe for hosting a user group meetings with LiveMeeting.  LiveMeeting is a great tool for hosting virtual events.  I have hosted several of our user group meetings and have experienced all the issues that can go wrong with hosting a virtual meeting.  Hosting a virtual meeting is like cooking biscuits from scratch.  There are a few important ingredients needed for making biscuits, and with the right amount of preparation you can make mouthwatering biscuits.  The recipe for making a virtual meeting a success requires that you prepare ahead of time.  The following ingredients will allow you to have that mouthwatering virtual meeting too.

Audio

I think one of the most important ingredients in hosting virtually is audio.  I have experimented with different types of audio input for LiveMeeting.  First I started with letting the speaker provide the audio input.  One option that I tried was to have the speaker use a USB headset for audio.  The speaker would simply hook up the headset to their computer and run the audio through their computer.  Two issues that I had with this option was the speaker always needed a headset, and most speakers like to move around when they speak.  With the headset on, the speaker was unable to move around.  Another option that I tried was to use the microphone on the computer for audio.  This does not work, because again a speaker likes to move around and the quality of the sound on a computer microphone was poor.

During the time I was experimenting with doing audio for LiveMeeting, I volunteered to do sound and lighting at my church.  This experience opened up another option that I think is the best solution.  If your meetings are held in an auditorium with a sound system, you're in luck.  What I suggest is working with the local sound person.  What you want to do is provide the speaker with a wireless or wired microphone, and by running the sound through the soundboard you should have an audio output on the sound board.  Depending on how sophisticated the sound board is, you will connect the audio output from the board into your computer via the 1/8 audio input on your computer.  I purchased a 6-Ft. Shielded Cable, 1/4" Plug to 1/8" Plug from RadioShack to connect the sound board to my computer.  The sound board at my church already has a computer attached to the sound board.  We use this computer to record the sound and run the projector.  If this is the case for you, you can run LiveMeeting on this computer for the audio only.  The speaker will still need to control the projector from their computer, because they will be sharing their desktop on LiveMeeting.  Doing this allows the speaker to focus on their presentation and not worry about the audio.  The audio will be managed by the sound board.  If you do not have the sound board, the next option works well also.

 

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About the time I had figured out how to use the sound board at our venue, we had to move to a smaller room.  This smaller room did not have a sound board and I was back to square one.  So with a little research and a trip to a few music stores and RadioShack, I was able to come up with the next best option.  At RadioShack, I purchased a Wireless Lapel Microphone System.  This systems comes complete with a wireless transmitter and receiver.  What I will do is clip the wireless microphone onto the speaker and connect the receiver into my computer.  The receiver comes with a RCA and 1/4” (MICROPHONE JACK) audio output.  I purchased a 6-Ft. Shielded Cable, 1/8" Plug to RCA Plug cable to connect the receiver to my computer.  The Wireless Lapel Microphone System will run about $50.00 plus tax.  This wireless microphone system is probably the cheapest one on the market, but it works.  

Internet

I think the next most important ingredient is internet access.  Depending on your venue, you might want to call ahead to ensure that wireless internet is available.  I have had situations where I showed up and the wireless internet was not working.  In this situation, there is not much you can do.  However, you should at least let your members know that the meeting will not be hosted via LiveMeeting.  What I have done is just send out a tweet with my cell phone to let everyone know about the issues.

Speaker

I believe that it is always a good idea to let the speaker know ahead of time that you will be hosting the meeting with LiveMeeting.  This will give them some time to experiment with LiveMeeting and install the LiveMeeting client.  The only thing the speaker needs to have is LiveMeeting running.  With the wireless microphone attached, the audio is run through the facilitator computer.

Facilitator

The facilitator role is very important during the meeting.  His or her job is to set up the LiveMeeting, coordinate with the speaker and set up the audio.  I have been the facilitator for our user group meetings.  I always plan on getting to the venue about 30 minutes before everything starts.  I also ask the speaker to arrive a little early also to get everything set up.  The best place to be is in the back to watch everything.  You also want to make sure the speaker repeats any questions that may be asked by the attendees of the meeting.  You will also have attendees via the LiveMeeting asking questions, so be prepared to repeat them for the speaker.     

Attendee

There is not much the attendees need to do for the meeting.  They just need to mark their calendar and plan on attending.  The only thing they will need is a good USB headset.  I have found that using just a microphone and speakers, you get a lot feedback.  I would suggest the following headset - Logitech ClearChat Pro USB Headset .

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If you have any questions or comments please add a comment below.

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