Lessons learned from hosting today’s IBM Web 2.0 for Business community call with Amy Shuen

Hosting today’s Web 2.0 for Business community call was nerve-racking, but I’d love to do it again. At the peak of the call, we had 98 people connected to the Web conference, with maybe three-quarters listening to the webcast. Our speaker was Amy Shuen, author of the Web 2.0 Strategy Guide, and she gave a highly interactive IBM-focused session on ROI of Web 2.0.

Big thanks to Amy Shuen for speaking, Aaron Kim for the contact, and Ian Mcnairn for the teleconference line! =D

What worked well?

Great insights! We should bring in more external speakers. We learn something, they learn something, everyone benefits.

Doing a dry run of the content on the day before helped us identify parts that the community would most likely be interested in. The additional detail made the presentation richer and more interesting. Also, we could tell people that answers to their questions were coming up soon. ;)

People made good use of the Chat feature in Sametime Unyte to ask questions and share their thoughts while Amy was speaking. Amy seamlessly wove those questions and observations into her talk, making the session engaging and interactive.

There was a good mix of graphs and numbers, too. Cool stuff!

People found the Calendar button to be really helpful, and I used it to e-mail people updates. The LotusScript agent I wrote will make it easier to e-mail everyone.

The audiocast worked surprisingly well. =)

Between the presidential inaugurations, Lotusphere, and my panicky broadcast about being oversubscribed, we managed to work around conference call capacity limits Whew. Lucky. But there was a lot of interest in the talk. The webcast was of acceptable quality, and it also gets around the international tollfree problem, which means we can experimentally scale up. Also, we should get some EMEA and AP talks going.

How can we make it even better next time?

Sort out audio recording

The key thing that would make this better is reliable audio recording. The audio recording didn’t come out correctly because my Camtasia Studio was set to record microphone input, not speaker output. I had tested this before the session, but had only tested it with my voice, so I thought it was working. It had been working (although a bit faintly) when I left the speakers on, but it stopped working when I plugged the earphones in so that I could avoid echo on the line.

I should have tested it during the dry run, but Camtasia Studio is only available on Microsoft Windows, and I had been in my Linux partition during the dry run. Using Camtasia to record the session had actually been Plan C. Plan A had been to use Skype and a call recording tool, but I kept encountering errors trying to dial toll-free number using Skype. Plan B had been to use vsound or a similar virtual audio loopback device on my Linux partition in order to record the speaker output, but since I had booted into Microsoft Windows to record the talk in Camtasia, I had to try to get it working on the desktop. I couldn’t install it because I didn’t have all the dependencies, and I decided to switch to Plan C (Camtasia audio) because that looked like it would take less time.

And the annoying thing is (of course, I only found out about this now, and I had to go and look it up myself ;) )… the conference lines have a great built-in way to do this. *2 (at least on IBM Canada conferencing systems) toggles call recording. After your call, you will get an e-mail with instructions for getting your file.

So next time, I’ll just use the built-in recording feature, and I’ll test that during the dry run.

Get rid of entry/exit announcements

You know those coming-in-and-going-out beeps that make the start and end of a call so hard to get through? You can get rid of them by calling your conference help line. Have your conference ID ready. Ask the system administrators to disable the entry/exit announcements for your conference. No more beeps.

Give people next actions or take-aways

Next time, maybe I can ask people to spend 5 – 15 minutes writing about their key take-aways from the session and what they’d like to hear about next. I could also have set up the survey to gather that kind of information right away. Good time to explore BlueSurvey. Lesson: Set up follow-up actions.

Take back presenter control

When the presenter quits, the Unyte session closes, even if the moderator is still around. This meant that I didn’t get to save the chat transcript. Fortunately, Camtasia recorded the whole thing (except with keyboard clacking noises instead of wonderful speaker insights). Based on the recording, I typed in the interesting bits from the conversation. Lesson: I should take presenter control back after the presentation.

Spread the cost of making notes

I was thinking of making up for the lack of audio recording by writing up detailed notes, but really, people should read Amy Shuen’s book. ;) It’s packed with all sorts of yummy goodness. But maybe people can help me put together a summary if I create it as a wiki page…

And more pie-in the sky improvements: wouldn’t it be cool if I could do hypersegmentation on webcast attendees, like the way the Human Capital Institute webcast e-mails distinguish between people who attended and people who didn’t? Some people put their e-mail addresses into Unyte, but it’s an optional field that many skip. I can’t put a unique token into Unyte, but I could possibly put a unique token into a redirecting script, or figure out how to fill out that part of the Unyte login form…

Anyway, that was an interesting experience, and I think I’d like to keep practicing this hosting-community-conference-calls bit until we’ve got it down to a science. That means we should start a Web 2.0 for Business Community Call calendar of ideas and potential speakers. I can also help other communities I’m part of. Hmm… This will be fun!

Here’s the recommendation I’ve just written for Amy’s LinkedIn profile:

Amy Shuen gave an insightful, thought-provoking, and highly engaging one-hour talk on the ROI of Web 2.0 for IBM’s Web 2.0 for Business community. She helped us gain a greater understanding not only of high-level ROI descriptions but also the details of calculating ROI using several timely case studies. We look forward to continuing the discussion started with her presentation. I helped organize the call, and I was impressed by her professionalism and obvious passion for her work. I highly recommend reading her book and/or engaging her as a speaker!

Sacha Chua (usual disclaimer: speaking for myself, not IBM)

UPDATE: Removed smiley image references. That’s what I get for copy-pasting from my internal blog… =)