The Checklist: How to Set up Virtual Events – Part 5 of 5

This is the fifth of five parts on setting up online events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or virtual event. Our blog as well as our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series are wonderful professional development resources.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Event Type, Audience, Timing & Pricing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Choosing the Right Platform & Registration – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Rapports & Introductions – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Test Runs, Sound Checks & Logistics – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – Feedback Forms and Follow-Ups – TODAY

You’re done, right? The event is done…or is it?

Take the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. Most likely, this event is one of many you will do.

Besides finding out what people loved best, you can notice what is NOT mentioned. This is as much of an eye-opener as anything else.

No matter if live or virtual, we have always involved feedback forms. Though, we always had these forms as hard copies with two other options – Large Print and Spanish. This was the first year we did all the feedback forms through online means.

Even when virtual events are free, having a type of registration and/or a “plan on virtually attending” form allows for an email to ask a couple questions.

However, we prefer to use Google Forms.

Here are common questions on ours…please adapt as you wish or use the wording exactly. As long as this is helpful, we are happy.

  • Basics – Name, Position/Role (teacher, parent, storyteller, etc.), city/country, Zipcode
  • Email – if do not already have from registration (helpful if people decide to be part of Story Crossroads E-Newsletter, email lists, etc.)
  • How did you enjoy _____________________ (performance/workshop/presentation)? What did you like best? Find interesting?
  • Did ________________________ (performance/workshop/presentation) meet your expectations? Why or why not?
  • What action(s) will you now take with ________________ (storytelling/writing/acting/singing, etc.) as a result of experiencing ____________________ (performance/workshop/presentation)?
  • Does Story Crossroads have permission to quote your comments on publications, fan page, websites, etc.?
  • Would you like to be added to any of our email lists and/or volunteer for Story Crossroads in some way? (list out the options – people can fill out as many as wished – only ask if not part of registration)
  • How did you learn about this virtual opportunity? (ask if not part of registration)
  • Do you have questions or comments?

We find that feedback forms that are any longer…have a harder time for completed ones to be submitted.

Sometimes, all you want is a simple 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 rating sent in an email. No Google Forms. Nothing complicated. Yet, this is so much more than what most people do. We noticed this approach for “History in Person: A Virtual Chautauqua Festival.”

While having many sessions, the St. Louis Storytelling Festival gave a link to a Google Form after each session. They posted it at the beginning of the livestream and then at the end.

We recommend posting at least five times per session:

  • Beginning, close or part of the welcoming message
  • Three times in the middle – spaced between real-time comments from other participants
  • End, close or part of the thank you/come again/upcoming events after this message

Once you have responses to the feedback forms, actually add people to your E-newsletters, email lists, or reach out if they wish to volunteer within a day or two.

For those who do not respond–or as a general email to all your registrants–you can send a “last chance/farewell” that you will no longer email them unless they chose to be part of your lists.

Who knows? Those people could be lifetime fans, tell their friends and family, and more lifetime fans cheer on what you are doing.

All because you realized that the end is not the end. Only a beginning.

You can make this virtual. You can realize your dreams for it.

Our next 5-part blog series will be “What We Learned About Proper-Distanced Events” on rephasing into live performance with safety measures.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Participate or present as part of the All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series that kicks off Monday, September 7, 2020 with Simon Brooks.

The Checklist: How to Set up Virtual Events – Part 4 of 5

This is the fourth of five parts on setting up online events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or virtual event. Our blog as well as our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series are wonderful professional development resources.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Event Type, Audience, Timing & Pricing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Choosing the Right Platform & Registration – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Rapports & Introductions – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Test Runs, Sound Checks & Logistics – TODAY
  • Part 5 – Feedback Forms and Follow-Ups

Test Runs are different than Sound Checks. And do you get headaches with Logistics? Discover what we learned.

The timing and length of time dedicated is the biggest difference between Test Runs and Sound Checks.

The “Run” part of Test Run means you could “run” to the store (or online ordering) in case something needs to be ordered to make everything smoother.

The “Check” part of Sound Check means you are checkmarking that things are still smooth since that Test Run and happens the day of the virtual event itself.

Having Successful Test Run(s):

  • Schedule Test Run a month before the actual virtual event…though can “squeeze” one in within one week before actual event, but then you can run into trouble if someone needs to purchase better equipment/lighting as a result
  • Allow for the Test Run to take about 30 minutes while people want it to be a rehearsal and be the same length of the virtual event – and thus you would moving away from a “Test Run” and into the “Rehearsal” realm
  • Doing early Test Run makes it possible to have a 2nd Test Run if things do more “interesting” than you expected
  • Invite all presenters and co-hosts/emcees involved and give clear instructions and plenty of reminders
  • Have all presenters listed in your phone so you can text in case anyone forgot or miscalculated for the time zone
  • Of the 30-minute or so Test Run, take about 15 minutes to check and play around with lighting/sound/positioning while the last 15 minutes could be to live-stream (whether or not this is what you plan to do for the virtual event) that acts as a test AND a type of promo/anticipation for the event
  • People who are NOT part of the Test Run can still participated and be scheduled to watch for any live-streaming of test runs – have these people give comments within the feed of the virtual event AND send you group text for anyone else assigned to be “watching”
  • Always connect to the Ethernet/modem and NOT wi-fi
  • Not all Ethernet cables are equal – they have “categories” with number 6 being the best for the time being for fastest ability plus you can even get 100′ cable so you can set up in the room that you wish with your laptop

Thanks to storyteller Donna Washington, I learned about this 5 1/2 -minute video that visually shows you what you need to do for Test Runs. I agree with it all except for always worrying about centering on the screen. Sometimes it is smart to be on the side depending on your needs. AND…the best 90-minute version of the know-how is through Simon Brooks and his workshop “Breaking Boundaries of the Screen: Presenting On-line” on Monday, September 7, 2020 from 9-10:30am MDT that is part of our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series.

Having Successful Sound Check:

  • Schedule your Sound Check at least 30 minutes before the virtual event
  • All presenter(s) and hosts/co-hosts/emcees need to be part of this Sound Check
  • Make sure sound/lighting/positioning work even though checked during your Test Run(s)
  • Keep the length to 15 minutes so you can allow early people to jump on early and open it up to mingling

Logistics Before and During:

  • Create/update/receive any paperwork with presenter(s) such as – contract, digital release (live-streaming and/or recording and/or picture taking/screen-shots) – see templates you can adapt at the Story Producer Resources page
  • Assign 2-4 hosts/co-hosts to divide the following roles – emceeing, admitting people into the virtual space (if applicable), watching real-time comments and/or chat within the virtual space, sharing screens
  • Develop “scenes” to share within the virtual space such as listing of funders, volunteers, upcoming events – can be video or picture files – can create using Canva (free and paid versions) – you can see examples of what we did for “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities” (live) versus what we had for scenes for “Story Crossroads Spectacular: Youth & Community Tellers” (pre-recorded)
  • Give updates as people register to your volunteers/Board as well as to the presenter(s) – this motivates people to continue to promote the event – registrations always go up when you keep track as a team
  • Receive any handout(s) as well as any slide shows–if being used–at least a couple days before the event – offer to double-check for any typos so there is time to fix

Continue with us to Part 5 for the Logistics after the event in “Feedback Forms & Follow-Ups.”

You can make this virtual. You can realize your dreams for it.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Participate or present as part of the All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series that kicks off Monday, September 7, 2020 with Simon Brooks.

Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 2 of 5

This is the second of five parts on tech skills needed to transform the live 5th Annual Story Crossroads Festival into a virtual one called Story Crossroads Spectacular.

Secrets to be Revealed:

  • Part 1 – OBS…Software Worth the Struggle – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Sound and Lighting – TODAY
  • Part 3 – Trial & Error – Test Runs
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

Sound and lighting are so much easier when doing a live storytelling festival. When–er–if–sound is a problem at a live event, the storyteller can still project and make sure the people in the back can hear even if you lose connection, have feedback, or any other microphone problems. If this happens while live-streaming, then you are in trouble.

You may not even know it is a problem until you playback that video that is already out on the Internet forever.

I have always been annoyed when professional storytellers do not use a microphone for live performances…and irritates me still with virtual performances. Some tellers rely on developed (or imaginary) theater voice called “projecting.” As an audience member and story producer of events, I don’t want to be yelled at or feel concerned that the storyteller will lose their voice mid-way through a performance.

Now, if a professional storyteller does not research and look at sound options for online performances, then I have to wonder how serious they are about their craft. I do pause a little here because perhaps the storyteller is low on funds. When performing at live events, the sound is usually provided by the host/venue.

BUT…storytelling is a craft. This craft can be a livelihood and business. This means “sound” must be your business (though technically – not as important for American Sign Language – will get to that in part four). A business is expected to have certain supplies and inventory to get by.

We live in a time when “to get by” practically means an in-home studio.

Being that Story Crossroads is a Festival, we need sound to be part of our inventory or at least have access to sound. We have been thrilled to have Diamond Rental as well as professional storytellers provide the sound for free and counts as “in-kind donations” on our final reports to funders, donors, and IRS. Thank you to those who have helped in the past: Annie and Dan Eastmond, Sam Payne, and–for this virtual year–Dave and Carol Sharp.

While many virtual storytelling festivals are having storytellers broadcast into their event from their own homes, we decided to feature mainly local talent from Salt Lake and Utah counties. This way, we could control the sound and lighting. Regular microphones and speakers would still be needed for performers–live or live-stream. We needed a USB microphone, however, for the Zoom workshop portions of the Story Crossroads Spectacular.

Amazing options are out there for sound. What to choose? Instead of providing a long list, you can search “podcasting microphone” rather than simply a USB microphone. You can get something decent for $20 and on up to $200+. We did the middle of that for about $112. This is what we went with: Podcasting Microphone with Studio Headphone Kit, Au-A04H – Professional Audio Innovation.

Not everyone will need a headphone like us. The head videographer over the two computers (plus an extra screen) had his own headphones during the actual streaming though it was nice to have ours on hand–just in case. The reason for those headphones is to make sure that the video and the sound are syncing. You never have to worry about that at a live event! Yet, it was the hardest thing to conquer in all of this venture.

When I moderated the Zoom 90-minute virtual workshops, I used the microphone but no headphones as live-streaming is much more involved than an exclusive Zoom event for those who have paid and registered.

I loved that this microphone had an arm and desk mount and can be viced/screwed to any table we happened to use. Plus, we have a pop filter, which is that super big flat circle. Then, when I use words with letter “p” or other “naughty” letters, I can be heard more clearly. Strangely, sometimes my built-in microphone of my laptop is louder than this USB microphone. On OBS (we covered a little in part one), you can record and listen to that recording before streaming. You must do this before any streaming!

As for lighting, I have done it two different ways. When awaiting our order of “nice” ones, I used what was around the house. Thankfully, I had at least two bendable office desk lights (back from newlywed time in 2001!).

You know how the power of three is important in the structure of a story? Lighting is also best in the power of three. Now, I have seen storytellers use a ring light with wonderful results. See this article on five best ones. They are considered more “selfie” than performance.

However, if you are a festival or want a level-up, then you need trio box lights. You will have the low-end to the high-end. We wanted ones that would be able to take a beating – inside or outside. We opted for quality. Thus, GVM is one of the best – as recommended to us by Baba the Storyteller. Another amazing company for quality items would be B & H Photo Video. If those costs are tricky, then Baba said there is Cowboy Studio. Be warned that the quality is not as good but will get you by.

Baba the Storyteller happens to be teaching a workshop on evolving storytelling practices through virtual means at the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Storytelling Conference & Festival on Thursday, June 4, 2020 from 3:00pm-4:30pm CDT (2:00pm-3:30pm MDT). YOU WILL WANT TO ATTEND! If you read this after the fact, there will be a digital library through the National Storytelling Network with pay-per-view options. That will not be up right away, but keep this in mind.

And…if you happen to buy the wrong item or not what you expected, B & H is one of the most amazing and smooth ones. I also respect that they are closed on Saturday – even online shopping – for religious beliefs.

As for the lights themselves, the trio box lights we chose: GVM 560AS Bi-Color LED 3-Panel Kit.

They are one of the smartest purchases we made for Story Crossroads and worth every bit of the $296 and then some. They are light-weight, extremely portable, come with a case that was smaller than I would have imagined for three–count it–THREE–box lights. How do you place those lights? Think usually triangles, this will vary. Here is a lovely video on learning placement–and some more fun phrases to add to your lexicon. As we had test runs and the festival filmed at my home, we used masking tape for each of the three legs of each light so I could pack away the lights and not have my kids trip on them.

I’ve seen other people use honking big ones that remind me of jellyfish or strange inside-out umbrellas. Our box lights are so nice for spacing as we had to have proper distancing and follow health and safety mandates. We had no more than 10 people at one time (4 videographers–1 over the computers, 3 over cameras; 2 ASL interpreters to rotate; 1-4 performers; me). We could not have jellyfish lights.

And, while many virtual storytelling festivals are having storytellers broadcast into their event from their own homes, we decided to feature mainly local talent from Salt Lake and Utah counties. This way, we could control the sound and lighting.

Plenty of adventures await me–and you–on these spectacular secrets.

Want to discover more secrets beyond this 5-part Blog Series? Rachel Hedman will represent Story Crossroads at the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Storytelling Conference & Festival on Saturday, June 6, 2020 from 3:00pm-4:30pm CDT (2:00pm-3:30pm MDT). You can register for this session only or a conference package.

Check out the the next adventure on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT from your computer- The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.