All things in moderation

This past Tuesday I had the privilege of moderating the SQL PASS Performance Virtual Chapter LiveMeeting. Andy Warren ( blog | Twitter ) presented an Introduction to SQL Server Statistics, which you can view here. This is the second time that I have been the moderator for a LiveMeeting, and I thought it worth sharing my thoughts as 24 Hours of PASS: Summit Preview is coming up next week.

Why did I volunteer to moderate?

When I was selected as a volunteer for the Performance Virtual Chapter, I realized very quickly that I was probably the most junior member of the group. There are a couple MVPs in the group, and the others have had involvement with the SQL Server Community for a while. I am not currently able to help with setting up the website or recruiting people to be speakers. But I can help out by trying to market our events and providing support in other ways – such as moderating for the LiveMeetings.

I had heard many other people moderate, and one person that stands out in my memory is Stephanie McCulloch from Quest Software. I always thought she did a great job kicking off the session and introducing the speaker. She was very polished, concise and projected a strong presence, even though you couldn’t see her. I listened to Stephanie and I thought, “I can do that.” When I was in graduate school I taught for a couple years; now I provide training to departments within our company, and I present at our user conference. I have become comfortable speaking in front of people…although speaking in front of the SQL Server Community is a whole new ballgame. What better way to enter the madness than moderate a LiveMeeting? I don’t have to speak for a long time, but I still put myself out there, and I still have to prepare.

Yes, you have to prepare to moderate

I take moderating seriously. First, the people who are volunteering to speak are giving up their personal time. Not only the time spent presenting, but also any time they spend preparing. Sometimes they have an existing presentation, but there is still tweaking they may do, or practicing beforehand. Point is, they are giving their time to the community – they’re not getting paid, I can’t even buy them a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke – and they are helping people; helping people like me. Therefore, I want to do everything I can to make the experience seamless and fun for them.

Second, I am all about preparation when speaking in public and the more prepared you can be the better. It is inevitable that things will go wrong. And things will go wrong when technology is involved. We’ve all been on at least one LiveMeeting where there were problems with audio, or someone couldn’t show their screen right away. You get through it, but a little bit of preparation goes a long way toward avoiding that scenario. list

How did I prepare?

First I did a LiveMeeting run-through. Back in June I did my first run-through with Greg Larsen ( blog | Twitter ), where I started to get familiar with LiveMeeting, how to record, etc. Last week I did a second run-through with Thomas LeBlanc ( blog | Twitter ). Why another run through? Because there’s a lot of features to LiveMeeting, and there’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong! So Thomas and I uploaded slide decks and played them to make sure they worked, we tested audio, I verified how I needed to play music, we confirmed where we start the recording and that we need to record it up to the website rather to our machine. Basically, we did a dry run. I did this simply so I would not be stressing out the 15 minutes before the presentation started. I verified that LiveMeeting ran well on my machine. I verified that my headset was in good working order (get one with a microphone!), I verified that I could upload without issue. In short, I prepared.

A result of our tests was a checklist I created. Buck Woody ( blog | Twitter ) often talks about the value of checklists and I’m drinking that Kool-aid. My list for moderator tasks was pretty simple:

· Email presenter one week before LiveMeeting

o Introduce myself

o Confirm date and time

o Ask if they needed help with anything

o Ask if there was anything specific they wanted me to mention in their intro

o Ask for music preferences

· Day of LiveMeeting

o Join meeting as a presenter around 11:30 (half hour before start)

o Verify sound

§ Verify plug-ins for headset (trust me, I’ve had them reversed)

§ Un-mute volume on my laptop

o Upload my pre-presentation slides and have them rotate every 10 seconds

o Play music

o Start recording to service at 12:00

o Intro

§ Inform everyone that we’re recording

§ Intro presenter

o Turn it over to presenter

§ Ask questions as they come in

o Wrap up at 1:00, remind attendees of next event

You may notice the music. Why did I play music? I got the idea from a co-worker of mine. My company does a lot of online training, and they play music before the training starts so the attendees can verify they can hear ok. It’s a simple thing, but as an attendee, I like knowing that my audio is working and I’m not going to miss anything. I also include a note on the slides that audio is playing, so people can check for it. (I do apologize to Jason Strate ( blog | Twitter ), I never asked his preferences. Denny Cherry ( blog | Twitter ), you’re up next. Start thinking.)

The other thing to take advantage of here is the pre-presentation slides. You can use these slides to highlight the speaker and also promote the next event. Again, seeing the slides provides verification for the attendees that they have a good connection.

So how did I do?

Well, I viewed the event as a success, independent of my function as the moderator, as we had over 200 attendees and many great questions. I was very happy with that turnout, and I hope Andy was as well.

In general, I think I did ok, and I attribute that to my preparation. We had no technical issues, the recording was successfully saved, and we were able to get through every question during the session.

What do I need to do better? I can definitely improve how I ask the questions. Sounds simple, and really it is. I complicated it and tried to ask the question in a more conversational tone, rather than just reading the question straight from the attendee. I think that made it harder for Andy, but to his credit, he answered every one.

What’s next?

I am a work in progress, as is my process for successfully moderating a LiveMeeting. I am sure I will tweak it as time goes on, and I will probably do another run-through before October’s session. But as time goes on, I will become more comfortable and confident. Ultimately this helps me become more comfortable speaking to the community and using LiveMeeting so that some day, I can be the one to give back to the community and present.

12 Responses to All things in moderation
  1. Argenis Fernandez
    September 10, 2010 | 12:52 pm

    You did great! Indeed, preparation is key to anything you do. Looking forward to more VC web seminars.

    Also – love the layout of your blog. Mine sucks 🙂

  2. Janice Lee
    September 10, 2010 | 12:57 pm

    Erin,told you this already…I think you did a spectacular job. You sounded awesome too. All the prep paid off definitely!

  3. Matt Velic
    September 10, 2010 | 1:01 pm

    That’s awesome. I’ve bookmarked your list cause I plan on stealing – I mean, borrowing some key ideas if ever I find myself in the position of moderating a talk. Very sad that I had a Real Life meeting that made me miss the VC.

  4. hillbillyToad
    September 10, 2010 | 1:01 pm

    The prep time is critical when working with LiveMeeting. That includes just attending one!

    I love the music idea! Stupid Question: Did you just play something on your pc and have it pipe over your headset?

  5. Erin Stellato
    September 10, 2010 | 2:16 pm

    Thanks Janice! Now let’s see how we can get you involved 🙂

  6. Erin Stellato
    September 10, 2010 | 2:17 pm

    Borrow away, Matt! I know our group has a document that details some of this, I think we can probably expand it and create a manual for LiveMeetings.

  7. Erin Stellato
    September 10, 2010 | 2:18 pm

    Thanks Argenis – had a good buddy help with the site. He is incredibly creative.

  8. Erin Stellato
    September 10, 2010 | 2:20 pm

    Not a stupid question at all. I initially tried playing it through iTunes, but that does not go through to LiveMeeting at all. So I created a playlist on my iTouch, and put the headset microphone next to it. Very kludgy, but for now, it works!

  9. hillbillyToad
    September 10, 2010 | 4:54 pm

    I’m wondering if using the Audio/Video component and the pc/MIC to pick up the music would work better than going over the phone…

  10. Erin Stellato
    September 10, 2010 | 5:25 pm

    With our LiveMeeting there was no phone involved – all sound comes through and goes into my headset into the computer. When I played iTunes, you could hear it my headphones, but not in LiveMeeting. I suppose I could try unplugging the headphone jack, leaving microphone plugged in, and seeing if I could pick it up that way.

  11. Andy Warren
    September 11, 2010 | 12:38 am

    Nice post Erin, and nice job on the moderating. I thought it went well, and I think it’s a great way to get involved.

  12. Erin Stellato
    September 12, 2010 | 9:30 am

    Thanks Andy! I appreciate the feedback.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL