Why I Am Not A Fan of Screen Sharing For User Group Meetings

So I want to capture these thoughts while I can for whatever value they may have to myself or others in the future.

Last night we did a coding dojo on building Android apps with F#.  Reluctantly, after a little cajoling from a co-worker I decided to add a Google Hangout to the meeting.  NB: While I specifically mention Google Hangout don’t misunderstand; the problems I’m addressing have been problems with pretty much any teleconferencing solution I’ve had experience with.  AnyMeeting, WebEx etc. etc. etc. all seem to have the same issues.

So I don’t think it went particularly well (others may feel differently).  And I think I’ve finally figured out my issues with the screen share/videoconferencing approach.

The technology still has some rough edges. Repeatedly last night I was sharing a screen to show people on-line some point that I was discussing.  And repeatedly the screen share simply stopped by itself. The video conferencing portion just stopped working by itself at some points too.  This issue will go away as the technology improves, of course, but we’ll also ask more from the tech so this issue will never really resolve completely.

The speaker’s focus is split. For me, the bigger issue was trying to help the developers in the room (coding dojo) and trying to assist the developers online.  There was no way I could simply talk to the people online and also address the people in the room.

The speaker ends up having to run the video conference. This is a relatively tough issue to address because the speaker has the slide deck and the speaker knows which examples he (or she) is going to show so they end up running the video conference from their machine.  It’s tough enough to give an intelligent talk without having to worry about the side issues of when you should share your screen and when you should be showing the video feed and such.  I think if I were to do this at a user group meeting again there would be a designated video conf assistant and I’d practice things with that video conf assistant at least three or four times before the actual presentation.

If others have thoughts or suggestions on these issues, please feel free to comment.  Perhaps I’m simply not seeing what may be simple answers to these issues.

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