GroupBy Live Webcast Notes & Lessons Learned

Whew – it’s over! The first live GroupBy webcast is in the books. A few things to know:

Now, let’s talk about last Friday’s event.

How Registration and Turnout Worked

1,758 folks registered. Here’s how attendance looked during the morning sessions (up to lunch):

GroupBy morning attendance

Attendance climbed and then held steady through the first 3 sessions. We closed the webcast for a minute at lunch because it makes it a little easier to deal with the GoToWebinar recording files when they’re a little smaller, and then reopened it immediately:

Afternoon attendance

Afternoon attendance popped right back up to 400 – the first hour was just lunch, so no meetings were happening – but then steadily trailed off through the day. We finished at around 7PM Eastern, so I’m not surprised that people left for their drive home. (International attendees talked about how early/late it was at their place.)

I didn’t schedule sessions based on popularity at all, but just speaker availability. I sent a poll to the speakers asking what times they couldn’t present, and then worked backwards from there, filling out the jigsaw puzzle.

I’d closed out registrations when we hit 1,500 because I was worried about banging up against GoToWebinar’s 1,000-attendee limit. We only had a 40% attendance rate, though, so we were fine. I won’t put a cap on registrations on the April GroupBy, but we’ll have to keep an eye on this.

How the Presentations Worked

The volunteer presenters did an incredible job. Great material, great demos, great delivery, and great job of making their materials available before the presentations were even over. I can’t thank them enough.

I got several comments about how the video & audio was great – that’s due to the speakers all picking up webcams and good-quality microphones as recommended in the Speaker FAQ. Again, fantastic job by the speakers there.

We did have one hiccup with one presenter’s internet speed – it simply wasn’t fast enough for a remote presentation with audio & video. I’m up for ideas on how we handle that – for example, should we require that presenters include a bandwidth test with their submission?

How the Attendee Interactivity Worked

Lively discussions happened in three places:

I do wish we could make it all happen in one place – it’d be more vibrant, and I’d really love to have it happen in a searchable, archived place – but that’s not realistic in early 2017. A lot of folks only want to use one communication method, and Twitter and Slack are blocked at some offices. For 2017 at least, being a co-host is going to mean having a lot of open windows and doing a lot of context switching.

How the Scheduling Worked

I went into this expecting to do a lot of co-hosting work. I thought I’d be filling a lot of gaps between sessions, talking to the audience, doing demos of concepts.

Talking PowerShell with Drew and Aaron

Nnnnnope. As Andy Mallon told me, sessions are made of gas – they expand or contract to fill all available space.

At the same time, I got a lot of feedback that the between-sessions casual banter between me, Aaron Nelson, Aaron Bertrand, and the other presenters was super-fun to watch. Attendees felt like they were going backstage.

So for the April GroupBy, we’ll run sessions every 2 hours. Speakers will still get a max of 80 minutes, then a 10-minute bio break, then 30 minutes for the next presenter to set up and talk shop. Other presenters can also have their webcams & audios on during that time. (Several presenters stayed online the whole day.)

This does mean we’ll have less sessions – only 4-5 instead of 6 – but I think the shop talk is valuable for a bunch of reasons:

  • It makes the presenters more relatable to attendees
  • It further builds the presenters’ brands and reputation in the community
  • It encourages an open discussion between the presenters (because we don’t get enough chances to talk to each other face-to-face)
  • It might encourage attendees to submit sessions and become part of this club

Anything else you think we should tweak about GroupBy so far?

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Brent Ozar

Managing Director at Brent Ozar Unlimited
I make Microsoft SQL Server faster and more reliable. I'm the guy behind BrentOzar.com, Ozar.me, DBAreactions.com, SQLServerUpdates.com, and GroupBy.org.
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14 Comments. Leave new

[…] From here on out, I’ll blog GroupBy news over there, like today’s post about GroupBy Live Webcast Notes & Lessons Learned. […]

Reply

Hi Brent!

Interesting to see the attendance graph. I was hoping you’d post that.
On the multiple channels – I am guilty of that. But for good reason (I think). I used the builtin questions functions for specific questions (and occasionally for a remark for you only). I used twitter when I wanted the world to see my thoughts. The latter is not possible on the Webinar function since the questions are not visible to attendees. And posting on twitter will, hopefully, also work as additional advertisement for the conference.
I am not sure I like the idea of longer breaks in between the sessions. I am okay with 5, 10, or even 15 minutes of baneter between the presenters. But 30-45 minutes sounds too long to me.

Reply

    Howdy sir! Yeah, I’m completely fine with the multiple channels for now, and I agree – I wish attendees could see the questions. (Slack or Twitter would let that work, but not everyone wants to join those.)

    Reply

I don’t know that a bandwidth test in advance will be very reliable. Sure, it may rule out someone who has crappy Internet at the best of times, but won’t predict isolated issues on the day of their session.

I think presenters just need to be prepared to stop viewing the incoming webcam, and stop sharing their own webcam, in the event of poor bandwidth. Seeing people is a really nice touch, don’t get me wrong, but I suspect most attendees would rather hear clear audio without a face than hear stuttered audio and see the face it’s coming from.

Reply

    Aaron – yeah, and another presenter pointed out that presenters need to turn off backups, Dropbox, and anything else that does uploads before their session starts, too. Great advice.

    Reply

      I’m sorry for the connectivity issues. Unfortunately, I have a radio connection and that means that I point to an antenna shared with thousands of other people. The speed is usually good enough, though nothing special (10 mbps down/1 mbps up), but it slows down to a crawl at times when lots of people are connected. I can’t predict when that happens. I had webcasts from here before without issues, so it really goes down to, well, luck.

      Reply

        No apologies necessary! I have a hard-wired Internet connection in one of the biggest cities in the US, and there are some days where the whole thing just comes to a crawl. It happens to all of us, and I totally get it.

        Reply
Davi Raimundo
January 17, 2017 9:23 am

It was great indeed. Great job putting this together, Brent.
I agree with Hugo that 30 mins seems a bit too long but we shall find out.
With the presenter that we had issues of bandwidth, I think the easiest, and cheapest, solution is to just use Google Voice. I mentioned this in Slack while we were getting bits of the presentation. The host can just call into the webinar with their own phone and use Google Voice to call the presenter. Then use the phone to do a 3-way conference. Italy is only 1c/min so the entire presentation would cost about $1.

Reply

    Davi – the problem is that phone audio is nowhere near the quality of built-in computer audio. (I’ve used GoToWebinar over phone in the past, and it’s pretty bad.)

    It would have been better than Gianluca’s audio last Friday, but still not something acceptable for recording & broadcast. (I’ve tried this, and YouTube commenters have eviscerated the audio quality.)

    Reply

      That’s weird. I was listening in using phone and it sounded great on the other presentations. But, that was listening, not speaking.
      I’ve always had great experience with webex phone audio too but I remember you saying it sucked for you too so I don’t know then.
      Weird

      Reply

        Right, exactly – listening is fine. Broadcasting, not as much – the quality of phone audio just doesn’t have the frequency range of computer audio, and people listening over computer audio can totally tell.

        Reply

A thought on the bandwidth issue. I wonder how many people realize that external devices around the house can negatively impact wifi speeds? Our kitchen is between the Wifi AP and my home office. When the Microwave oven is being used, it totally trashes the spectrum and performance (especially uploads) drops to horrible levels.

Reply
Carlos García R
January 17, 2017 6:38 pm

I simply enjoyed the whole thing, keep up the good work Brent !

Reply

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