What We Learned from Proper-Distanced Events – Part 3 of 5

This is the third of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups – TODAY
  • Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience
  • Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors

People are used to Sound Checks the day of the live event…but a Test Run several weeks before are crucial when re-phasing from virtual to live.

You don’t want to figure out the routine and look the day of the event. Have your stopwatch ready to find out how long it takes to set-up. Remember that it could take shorter if you have help (still keep properly-distanced) as well as longer for the first time testing out the placement of everything.

Time flies when you have a show to put on. You want to start on time. Or at least within five minutes after the start time. Proper-distancing naturally takes a longer time for people to get to their seats due to more lines.

Be watchful and actually set-up the space to solve the following:

  • Any areas that could be bottle-neck areas for crowds of people and how to stretch out and guide people in those locations
  • Placement of visual cues for people to find stage/seating for the event
  • Places for signage, even repeating the same signage at key points
  • Location(s) of sanitation table(s) with hand sanitizer, disinfectant, etc.
  • Distances of electricity outlets – inside or outside – and making sure you have long enough extension cords as well as surge protectors that work
  • Ways to cover cords for the safety of performers/volunteers/audience when walking around – such as large outdoor mats/rugs
  • Easy place for people to find bottled water – whether given or sold
  • Practicing of how to do assigned seating for individuals/households – small 1-foot wooden stakes with last names, taped names on back of chairs with last names, etc.
  • Location of Pre-packaged refreshments for people to take home to eat (NOT on location), if offered

You need to figure out how people will enter the area – no matter if it is outdoors or indoors.

With our re-phased proper-distanced House Concerts, we needed to use the Executive Director’s backyard.

A narrow “gauntlet” exists to the right of the garage to enter the yard. If people arrived at the same time, this could be a danger zone of bottle-necking and potential problem with proper-distancing. Thus, we used the wooden stakes (as mentioned in Part 2), and pounded them in 6 feet apart. Each wooden stake was 3 feet long so we had two extra that worked as a quick 6-foot measuring tool. You can use measuring tape or two yard sticks as other measuring guides.

Now, wooden stakes combined with signage reminds people what they already know. We can all be a little forgetful.

While testing out where to place items, equipment, and signage, take pictures as well as video.

We decided that not every wooden stake needed a sign. You have too much signage…and none of them get read.

However, make sure your most important reminders are at the beginning, middle, and the end of “the path” no matter if outdoors or indoors. Always think “the power of three” for signs.

Debate if you want your sanitation to be at the front/beginning of the path or closer to the gathering area.

We chose to have it closer to the gathering area. This allows us to keep a better eye on it and possible for people to re-apply hand sanitizer, if wished. When indoors, people usually have sanitizer in the lobby area where no one can miss it rather than inside the stage area.

Please, please, please test out your electricity cords and outlets.

Connect lights and click the switches on and off. Every so often, the outlets do not work! You thought you had two or four to work with and find out that only one works. As we have sound, trio box lights, and two video cameras at any one proper-distanced event, we need all outlets and be confident that all will be well during the event.

We had two surge protectors. We tested out one of the surge protectors for our sound and lights. We…forgot to test the other surge protector needed for the two video cameras. Luckily, those cameras were charged up, but how embarrassing. Never assume. We also discovered the value of having at least one more than what you think you need. For example, are you planning on two 100′ electrical cords? Have a third. You plan on two surge protectors? Have a third.

You got this. Test, adjust, and adapt.

We will share more in Part 4 on what to do after taking pictures and videos of this Test Run so as to educate your potential audience members.

You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event.

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.

Join us for our proper-distanced house concerts such as with Nannette Watts in West Jordan, UT on September 18, 2020…or get the recording afterwards.

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 3 of 5

This is the third 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 – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Trial & Error – Test Runs – TODAY
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

May Day! May Day! Yes, we felt it was appropriate that our first round of test runs happened on May 1, 2020. In Utah, May 1 was also the first day that we were allowed to gather outside our household. Considering that we had four videographers and two performers (husband and wife – so counts as one entity/household), then I was relieved to still be following that state health mandate. I did require everyone to wear masks.

That actually caused our first test run–at least the live-streaming portion–to be “late.” Although communicated, it was forgotten to be emphasized with the videographers. Two of the four needed masks. Thankfully, Sterling Elliott, our head videographer, had a Mom that knew how to sew and did this regularly. He picked those masks up. Meanwhile, we had the videographers wait in their cars until all was “safe.”

We had announced on social media that somewhere in the zone of 7:00pm-7:30pm, there would be a live signal multi-streamed to our YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch. We did have three Story Crossroads Board Members assigned to each of those platforms.

Thank you to Joanne Cuka on YouTube, Laurie Allen on Facebook, and Jim Luter on Twitch.

As Sterling was at the computer screens with laptop AND desktop (notice plural – more on that in part five), I only had my phone to coordinate the Test Run. Yet, texting is an amazing gift, and I had a group text with Joanne, Laurie, and Jim. In the picture below, you can see me in the picture with my phone. This was me texting, reading, and then calling out to Sterling and the other videographers of the “interesting” issues to fix.

We are grateful to our videographers: Sterling Elliott, Alex Aguila, Luis Puente, Tyler Andrew – and special equipment/training from Josh Halverston from Experience Event Center, Provo, UT.

For the first Test Day on May 1, we had issues with equipment. Sterling, who has filmed since our inaugural year in 2016, had never live-streamed before. Though, I had–and still–have confidence in him. I was willing for us to learn together with him being the ultimate expert with videography.

We had a splitter as well as an intensity shuttle to put cords galore between video cameras, desktop, and laptop. I am not a “Techie.” I do not understand the science of all these tools. I only know these tools are needed. These items worked a little. BUT, we were more complicated with three cameras and not just one PLUS a split screen for American Sign Language. We learned and had equipment GIVEN TO US/BORROWED including an ATEM Pro. This was worth over $1,000. Josh Halverston, who was the kind one to do this for us, entrusted it to stay at my home so we had it for the Story Crossroads Spectacular itself.

My first thought was, “You know I have three kids. Three active kids!”

You can bet that I locked that away safely so no curious hands could do anything.

Sterling was apologetic that our Test Run was a little rough and made it necessary to do a second Test Run. I was grateful to his extra study and commitment afterwards and receiving training from Josh Halverston, who did many live-streams. I told Sterling that we still had time to do a second Test Run. One week later, on May 8, 2020, we were able to be smooth and feel ready.

Keep in mind you need to budget for Test Runs. We paid for videography. I took the place of the American Sign Language interpreter spot. We wanted to pay the interpreters the day of the event, but I could “stand in” for test runs. Thus, it cost a little less than the official event on May 13. We had budgeted for one Test Run as well as for the Story Crossroads Spectacular. We knew a second Test Run had to happen. We shifted and made it work.

Here are those video links of what was the difference between Test Day 1 as well as Test Day 2 – first one and second one.

We had two test runs for Zoom the same as we had two test runs for the Live-streaming. Some people are fine with one test run. I am boggled by anyone who do NO test runs. Even if you have presenters arrive extra early the day of, there would be no time to run and get whatever was necessary. For example, do you have a long enough Ethernet cord to avoid wi-fi?

Plus, having a second Test Run before the actual “big day” makes it possible to see if all that was discussed was solved. There could then be time to fix remaining issues. Our Story Crossroads Spectacular would not have gone as smoothly had we had a follow-up test run.

Although I had the option, I did not record the test runs with Zoom. It was the standard checking on backgrounds, lighting, and sound. Csenge Zalka from Hungary had issues with Internet connection while Bruce Walker from Alabama had issues with sound. Everyone will be different in what is more pressing to fix. They each had plans to work this out.

We also discussed about sharing screens. Csenge Zalka and Bruce Walker wanted slides shown. You can have the presenter/storyteller do that though we opted for me to do it. This frees their hands and, as my computer was linked to the Ethernet and NOT the wi-fi, a better chance that all would go well. It also made it easier to take down the slides at the right time and less stress for the presenters. Note to presenters/tellers–please do not say a page number in connection to your slides. Have your slides in order of how you mean to present. When in full-screen mode, your host will not see page numbers. Saying “next” or “back one” works. No numbers.

While coordinating slides and moderating simultaneously seem hard, this is why you always have co-hosts. For Csenge’s workshop, I had two other co-hosts. One person was in charge of admitting people into Zoom – usually the late ones. Another person was in charge of following the chat and recognizing questions to then be brought up later during appropriate question and answer times.

Now, there will always be late ones. We encouraged attendees to arrive 15 minutes before start time. We showed/screen-shared the 5-minute Zoom Basics video that we had commissioned by Jim Brule’–which is a link anyone can share if this helps teach attendees of your own events if you happen to use Zoom. Prior to this, we gave clear instructions with that Zoom Basics video link in case attendees truly could not make it 15 minutes early.

After the Zoom Basics video, we allowed people to mingle the remaining 8 minutes or so. Due to the number of Zoom attendees, we only allowed mingling by chat though we had gallery view so people could wave. You may think this mean, but we had 60+ people and things can get out-of-hand. The moderator and host need to be in control so things can be smooth. People were courteous to the rules and all turned out wonderful.

We let people know that we would end without mingling due to being ready for the next virtual event. Once again, people were kind and understanding.

Test Runs and discussions with clear instructions make it all work out in the end.

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.