A guest post by Prof Helen Beebee reporting on her use of GoToWebinar for a virtual conference.
Since one of our aims in this project is to reduce the carbon footprint associated with research events, we took the opportunity of hosting another, unrelated conference to try out some virtual conferencing software. We used GoToWebinar [https://www.gotomeeting.com/webinar].
Downsides of Gotowebinar
The downside of Gotowebinar is that it is quite expensive. It was over £200 for one month’s subscription for the version we used. Another downside was that it required someone with some IT nous to set everything up, both in advance of the conference and on the day. (We paid a PhD student to do that and it all took quite a long time, so that added a fair bit to the cost). We also needed to buy some kit — a decent webcam and a 360-degree microphone.
Upsides of Gotowebinar
The upside, though, was that it worked really well! Virtual delegates (who registered in advance) could see and hear the speakers in real time, along with their powerpoint presentations. We uploaded handouts for them in advance too. They could also hear the questions from the audience during Q&A. Best of all, they could ask questions themselves by typing them in. Our tech-savvy helper monitored them and asked them on the delegates’ behalf when they came in. We also had a symposium session where both speakers were virtual, beamed in from the US. The speakers could see the audience and hear their questions, and the virtual delegates were getting the feed from the speakers and from the room.
One thing we will think about for next time is setting up some sort of chat room for virtual delegates. That way they can talk about the papers they’ve just heard with other virtual delegates when all the physically-present delegates are doing that in the coffee break.
You can see a short podcast from Adam Ferrer of The Philosophers’ Magazine here [https://youtu.be/mAgQezZWscA], showing how it worked out from the point of view of a virtual delegate.