What Youth Tellers Want & Need – Part 6 of 7

This is the sixth of seven parts on gleaming from personal experiences as well as experiences of the 100+ youth who have taken the stage – live and virtual – through Story Crossroads since 2016. We support youth beyond the stage through Youth Teller Reunions as well as Live & Virtual Story Camps.


  • Part 1 – Choosing the “Right” Words – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Friend/Listener/Mentor – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – The Storytelling Birthday – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Combining Talents – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – Ownership of Events & Beyond – REVEALED
  • Part 6 – Virtual Options – TODAY
  • Part 7 – Wishlist Stages

Virtual options are prevalent today…and were yesterday and will be into the future.

Almost any idea you have can be transformed to virtual.

I did not always think this way. Live events are the best experiences, yet something not “the best” can still be wonderful. Many of us have had our eyes opened to possibilities due to lock-downs and stay-at-home mandates. While areas open up and gatherings of limited-sized are allowed, virtual events continue to be viable and important.

The same goes for youth events.

What can be virtual for youth?

  • Performances and Festivals
  • Workshops and Story Camps
  • Youth Teller Reunions
  • “Check-Ins” or “Chats” with other Youth Tellers – Informal
  • Story Game Nights
  • Round-Robin Storytelling or Break-out Groups for Developing Stories
  • Submitting Auditions or Story Pieces to be Reviewed/Selections
  • Mentoring/Coaching

Sounds like everything that can be done live? Yes, you are right.

Giving yourself permission to have any live event be adapted to virtual is freeing and a relief. Things do not have to stay canceled or postponed. There does not have to be months of nothing.

Of course, if you never pursued these youth events on the live level–such as Youth Teller Reunions–then give yourself permission to have the virtual event be the premiere and add the live version down the road.

More and more, I look forward to when we can offer both kinds of Reunions – live and virtual. Perhaps the live would be in the summer while the virtual would be in the winter. Something.

In the meantime, what platforms can work for these virtual events?

Need more? Check out this article: https://www.aventri.com/blog/tech-tuesday-the-top-13-online-meeting-platforms

Keep in mind that anything that involves the virtual world needs permissions from guardian(s) the same for live events. Even when do events as free or with tuition, involve a level of registration. This can be done through Google Forms and easily transformed into an Excel document. You could have a registration service. We recently have connected with Wild Apricot and love it. Figure out what works best for you.

Make something happen. Virtually. For youth.

Be there for our youth – today.

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.

And…Spread the word about our upcoming Story Camp for youth aged 8-17 in mid-August of two kinds: Limited-Sized/Proper-Distanced as well as Virtual.

Rachel’s Re-Awakenings & Reflections-inspired by National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival, Part 1 of 9

This is the first of nine parts to focus on each of the nine days of the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival that occurred May 30-June 7, 2020. Enjoy biggest moments and action items as a result of the experience for Story Crossroads and on the storytelling world in general.

9-Parts for the 9 Days:

  • Part 1 – May 30, 2020 – Pre-Conferences/Preparations – TODAY
  • Part 2 – May 31, 2020 – Official Day 1
  • Part 3 – June 1, 2020 – Official Day 2
  • Part 4 – June 2, 2020 – Official Day 3
  • Part 5 – June 3, 2020 – Official Day 4
  • Part 6 – June 4, 2020 – Official Day 5
  • Part 7 – June 5, 2020 – Official Day 6
  • Part 8 – June 6, 2020 – Official Day 7
  • Part 9 – June 7, 2020 – Official Day 8

What Audacity and Fervor for the National Storytelling Network to Undertake a 9-day Virtual Event…

I respect people who are willing to take risks. Life was and is supposed to be messy. How would we have any exciting stories to share unless there were struggles and obstacles?

Even before this pandemic, the National Storytelling Network faced a tough year–and it did every year–to convince people to attend a conference. Many people were burned out and even questioned the need for community.

Before Story Crossroads existed, I had attended 7 National Storytelling Conferences in a row. I did not care if these events were in the same location or not. I loved the gathering. Yes, the workshops and performances were nice, but I came for all the chatter and discussions in the hallways. You could say, I search for the “bonus” or “extra” moments within the experience.

Yet, I had to somehow balance the founding of a nonprofit storytelling organization AND being a Mom of three kids–all adopted through foster care that tends to come with its own demands, state mandates, and therapy-required adventures. I grieved when I could not make my 8th conference…to eventually get to 10 years to eventually get to…well, you see where I am headed.

Despite the ups and downs, Story Crossroads came to exist. My conference attendance…did not.

Then COVID-19 came. All changed. For me. For the storytelling community. For the world.

We all faced a grieving cycle. Some of us were in denial. Others were angry. We were bargaining. Depressed. Eventually, we had to accept–though not all seem to be at that point exactly.

Still, any producer of story events–of which I happened to be with Story Crossroads–were truly there…at the crossroads.

Anything can happen at the crossroads. Good. Ill. Anything. Even a mixture of both. The National Storytelling Network faced that decision.

Instead of the typical live conference issues and problems, now it would be hard for people to gather. Period.

Rather than keep the dates towards the end of July 2020, the Board and Staff agreed to rush the event early. They sensed many story artists struggling to make sense of everything. The tech to learn was daunting enough.

While not the smartest of moves, the decision to go full-speed ahead was made out of compassion. I get that.

The Communications Marketing side of me grabbed my head and shook it as I witnessed the attempt to put all the pieces together.

Yes, we transformed Story Crossroads from a live event into a virtual. We had to start over and crash-course-learn the tech. We had about one month to make the decision and plow forth. We only had to worry about one full day.


Now, I really had a headache.

You need a minimum of a month to market any level of event. For something as big as this, it would have been smarter to keep the original dates. Work out the kinks. Have more test runs. Convince more presenters to self-promote their events better. All that.


Yet, that all said, this was the most impressive undertaking I have ever seen in the storytelling world.

This year of 2020 is historic on many levels. I place this decision by NSN to be as important–if not more important–than what has been deemed the catalyst of the American Storytelling Movement: the launch of the National Storytelling Festival.

We are seeing a second storytelling movement.

What will people call this time? There are highly-viewed videos that claim “The Great Realization” as seen in this Tom Foolery video.

May I propose the following name: The Great Global Story Realization Movement.

A time when storytelling was explored and evolved to bring healing to the masses and to the individuals. A time of frustrations yet grand learning moments that brought confidence in our skills as humans to adapt. A time of opening our minds to understand the new ways that the audience can interact with us, how the structure and techniques still provide feedback for us to feel energized and fulfilled. Yes, it is not the same. We miss what we had. We will strive to preserve and perpetuate what we had. Though, this is another generation of storytelling, another movement, another story for us.

How do we honor the traditional way of the art while surrounded by cords and tech? We surround us by each other. We look through the screen and realize that a human–many humans–are on the other side, hanging to our words, our voice, our way with sharing the art of storytelling.

Lest you thought I forgot, what of the NSN event itself? I did not attend any of the Pre-Conferences and Concerts of May 30…though I wished it. I attended from the Official Day 1 to Official Day 8. Yet, I still have inspiration from the topics themselves.

Events of May 30 and Reflections (whether or not I attended)–

Storytelling in Organizations (SIO) Pre-Conference Workshop, Double “Why”: What Russian Language Shows Us About Deep Human Connection with Artem Mushin-Makedonskiy

What I Discovered…Even When Not Attending: I was delighted that the Russian Language was being explored. For Story Crossroads, we have the academic series “Language of Story” that focuses on a specific language each year. We have studied American Sign Language, Portuguese, and German and will eventually do Hungarian. We learn so much by seeing the traditions and phrases that come from different cultures. I will need to keep Artem Mushin-Makedonskiy in mind for the future when we focus on Russian. Kudos to Storytelling in Organizations for opening minds through this workshop.

Healing Story Alliance (HSA) Pre-Conference Workshop, Developing the Oars in the Water Series, Hosted by Lani Peterson, Wally Scott, Heather Forest, and Cheryl Cofield, with Libby Tipton.

What I Discovered…Even When Not Attending: I have never been a member of the Healing Story Alliance, but I have always wanted to be skilled enough to feel “worthy” of such membership. I do believe that storytelling has great power and healing is one of its many powers.

Youth, Educators and Storytellers Alliance (YES) Pre-Conference Workshop, Personal Storytelling with College Students in Theory and Practice with Dr. Charles Parrott and the Kennesaw State University Tellers

What I Discovered…Even When Not Attending: I miss Youth, Educators, and Storytellers. I used to be Co-Chair many, many years ago. It feels strange to not be directly involved as before. YES recently combined with the Storytelling in Higher Education, and this workshop topic was an obvious collaboration. Before founding Story Crossroads, I helped with the Weber State University Storytelling Festival. While elementary to secondary schools are the target audiences of this event, the connection with the university also means we worked with college students. The personal stories were certainly the way to most of these student’s hearts (as opposed to folktales). The Moth has inspired other related events. Utah has one like The Moth…but called The Bee. And what aged audience attends? Mainly your college students as well as up to your 30-year-olds. Yes, other ages are there, though fascinating to see this trend nationwide. Oh, I would have loved to hear Dr. Charles Parrott’s thoughts on this scene!

Youth, Educators and Storytellers Alliance (YES) Youth Spotlight Performance, Host: Lisa Overholser; Emcee: Angela Lloyd; Brought to you by the Tattletales (Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia), the Southern Crescent Storytellers (Southern Order of Storytellers Cluster Group), and the Young Tales Storytelling Program (sponsored by the Ridge and Valley Storytelling Guild)

What I Discovered…Even When Not Attending: I started storytelling in 1994 as a sophomore in high school. I am biased and love youth storytelling. Oh, how it killed me to not be able to go due to my shift at the library. I was there in spirit.

Healing Story Alliance (HSA) Spotlight Performance, Performers: Heather Forest (Emcee), Michael McCarty, Noa Baum, Antonio Rocha, Valentina Ortiz Pandolfi, Nancy Wang, Dan Yashinsky, Laura Simms, Heather Forest (Closing song)

What I Discovered…Even When Not Attending: Holy cow, this line-up! Again, my heart sought to be there but my body needed to be librarian. I guess keeping my job was more important. Still, I was there in spirit. I probably sang the closing song…I was that connected.

For the rest of this blog series, I will have specific moments and realizations from presenters. That happens when I actually attend events!

Yet, this felt “right” to compliment the dedication and actions of the NSN Board, Staff, and Volunteers. Even when pointing out the parts that make me shake my head and dream that 600+ registrations of this event could have easily been 1,000+ registrations had the original dates been kept.

But, you have to love spunk. And the heart and mind to do it.

Thank you for taking part in this re-awakening journey for me. Please post comments, and we can continue the discussion.

Let us be dreamers AND doers, together in story. Congratulations to the National Storytelling Network for doing both.

We did this 9-part Blog Series in anticipation of the Digital Library being put together by the National Storytelling Network. Whether or not you attended virtually, you can still access the recordings through pay-per-view options. More details to come soon and will be at http://www.storynet.org/virtual-conference/.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities with three options to watch it featuring our panelists: Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Sheila Arnold, Darci Tucker, and Brian “Fox” Ellis. We are grateful to funding from Utah Humanities.

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

Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 5 of 5

This is the fifth 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 Revealed:

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

Cords, cords, cords! And fun boxes and such to stick those cords into…thus the reason that multi-streaming with two or more cameras (in our case, three) that you hire amazing people to work this out.

Multi-streaming by itself is easy for me to do alone—only using my laptop with the built-in camera. “Easy” is relative but I purposely stream every Monday night from 9:00pm-9:45pm MDT on Twitch to practice AND share behind-the-scenes of running Story Crossroads. Even if no one tunes in, this keeps a nice record of takeaways or learning moments. If people do tune in, then there can be more of a conversation.

Anyway, I would go bonkers if I was multi-streaming AND running multiple cameras. Yet, I have seen it possible with the amazing in-home studio of Baba the Storyteller. Can I say–WOW! Check out his specific virtual storytelling page for an idea.

Though, the longer I see the streaming equipment, the more comfortable I become. Not to be head honcho over it…but more comfortable. Think of what it took for you to get used to a microphone as a performing artist. You were not a natural right away unless you constantly held toilet paper tubes to your mouth to practice.

You must have the right equipment. In part one, you learned that we had an intensity shuttle and splitter but did not accomplish all that we needed it to do with the number of camera feeds. In the collage picture above, you see an ATEM Pro that was lent to us by Joshua Halverston of Experience Event Center, Provo, UT. Joshua knew we wanted to get one for our inventory at some point (costs $1,000+ so looking for grant), and he recommended an ATEM Pro Mini instead of ATEM Pro. It’s more portable. Plus, even as technology changes, this would still be a great investment that would last 10 years+ if not longer.

To multi-stream for live-stream, you will want to open OBS or any other broadcasting software. OBS is free to download and runs beautifully. You will note above that the black screen with “Coming Saturday…” is the regular OBS part while the far left is my “Multistreaming” Dock. You must know that word: dock. I think of it as a fancy way to say “little box thingys” much like how you can have a chat box, control box, etc. But in the streaming world, think “dock.”

You have other “docks” if you go on the far top left of the OBS screen and click “View” then “Docks” then “Restream Channels.”

When new, start clicking around and find out what happens. Not every button. But I feel “safe” clicking things under “Docks.” If they are checkmarked, then they are already showing on your screen. You can click them off and on. I don’t like having all the docks on the screen. It gets crowded. Though, DON’T click “reset UI” or “lock UI” or “Custom Browser Docks…”. Be comfortable before you even delve there, if you would need it.

You will need a multi-stream service, and that will range in price depending on how many places you want to multi-stream. We chose to stream to: Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. You could stream to 30+ platforms, but many are video game related and won’t make sense for storytelling. I LOVE how all the comments from these three places feeds into one chat box. There are even icons of those platforms so you can address that viewer in-the-moment or study further.

We narrowed down our multi-stream services to two companies: Restream and Streamyard. Either way, you are looking at about $40/month. If you search, you can usually find 20-30% off discount codes through Facebook or other ways for Restream. I consulted with our head videographer, Sterling Elliott, and both of us agreed that Restream was more “friendly” in our needs. Though, I know that Streamyard has been used by storyteller Simon Brooks. Go with your gut. Restream has a happy squid and Streamyard has a crazy duck…no, that was not what it came down to though–seriously, the squid is cuter. We loved that Restream had a specific listing of Zoom. Not that Streamyard cannot do Zoom multi-streaming, but Restream had a relationship with Zoom first.

When multi-streaming in Zoom, you need to be sure your settings are what they need to be. Jim Brule’ has a wonderful video on checking on your settings for Zoom. Of course, things are always changing, but this will give a wonderful visual checklist. Enabling to stream/multi-stream from Zoom is there. We commissioned him to do a 1-hour training with our Story Crossroads Board on Zoom as well as a 5-minute Zoom Basics video with our branding. So…highly recommend his expertise. Our attendees need as much training as the producers/hosts.

Now returning to OBS and live-streaming–let’s talk “scenes.” You will notice that the lower left side has possible places to upload scenes, which can be a picture or video that you click on either before, during, or at the end of a stream. There is also “sources,” which are possible images, text, your logos, music–many options–that feed into and/paint each scene. The “Coming Saturday…” is a text source in connection with my “Behind-the-Scenes Monday Night Streaming.” I can change and update that text and be as simple or as decadent as I wish.

We did not use any scenes in the middle because that was reserved for the main event–the performance! We did use a scene at the beginning to say the name of the session and who was performing. We used several scenes at the end to thank funders, thank American Sign Language interpreters, thank our videographers, etc. It is also smart to have a scene saying when you will stream next.

This was a SUPER IMPORTANT scene at the end of each stream–thanking our funders:

Note that this is a picture that fits the size of the streaming screen. You don’t have to keep to that size. You may want to have a small box to the side while streaming. For ideas on playing with scenes, check out this video by Tech Guides.

We “shut off” after a stream to give an actual break rather than leaving the cameras on with a sign saying “Break.” Certain platforms–like YouTube, Facebook, etc.–only allow a certain length of streaming. They vary from two hours to eight hours, but why not give everyone a break including the videographers? Be smart and courteous!

So, this is the “end scene” of this 5-part Blog Series, though more posts will be made in the future of tips as well as celebrating people who use storytelling. Until we tell again!

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. There will be pay-per-view options of the recording afterwards.

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.

Spectacular Secrets from Story Crossroads Spectacular – Part 4 of 5

This is the fourth 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 – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Involving More Than One Language – TODAY
  • Part 5 – Multi-Streaming and “Scenes”

With so many languages in the world, why would we limit ourselves to only one at a festival? When I attended the largest family history conference in the world, there was a woman who spoke with me about storytelling. She had her Spanish interpreter. I admitted to the woman that I was surprised that this conference did not budget any kind of interpretation services. She vigorously nodded her head.

I was re-committed that having more than one language was and is always part of the Story Crossroads mission. We state this in our by-laws as well.

Since the inaugural Story Crossroads Festival, we have always had Spanish and American Sign Language. By the third year, we added Audio Descriptions for the Blind. We have more plans to add languages with Chinese being the most likely one as there are over 8,800 people in Salt Lake County who speak it. We will some day own translation devices/headsets as part of the Story Crossroads inventory. In the meantime, we have received these as in-kind donations every year…until this year of 2020.

Arranging interpretation services is simple for a live event. What of a virtual one?

That big day came when the Story Crossroads Board decided to transform the live festival to a virtual one. My head swirled with the intense workload with less than a month and a half (closer to one month) to find answers. Normally, we have a year to plan each festival. Sometimes longer.

From watching live-streaming of the National Storytelling Festival and the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, I saw a small rectangle for American Sign Language. Live-streaming is more involved than a pure live performance. Then adding a screen? That meant “tech power.”

However, I wanted a split screen instead of a small rectangle. Depending on the device, the rectangle could be too small for anyone needing ASL. Sterling Elliott, head videographer, created the split screen that matched the look of Story Crossroads Spectacular. It was an “image” that could be added into OBS. Remember we delved a little into OBS with part one of this series?

We dedicated two cameras to the story artist(s) and one camera solely for the American Sign Language. We had two big rugs (normal ones to put near a door/entryway) to cover the cords so that the American Sign Language interpreters would not trip when trading and giving each other breaks.

What was harder than working out live-stream and ASL? Zoom and ASL! At least, it was harder because Story Crossroads pays for a Zoom Pro Account and not the Zoom Webinar package. We had the two 90-minute virtual workshops on Zoom as exclusive events with a sliding scale fee. We could live-stream AND multi-stream out from Zoom, but we did not do this for Spectacular. We will for our June 20th event with “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities.”

If we were with the Webinar package (expensive, close to $1,500+/year compared to our $112/year plan), then we could assign a presenter/interpreter. With the Zoom Pro, we are allowed up to 100 people at a time. We felt safe in having that for the workshops. A paid account, no matter what level, still offers much more than the limited free version of Zoom.

Despite interpretation services/features not part of the Zoom Pro default settings, you can request without extra cost for the Webinar/interpretation services. BUT, Zoom is majorly backlogged–understandably–and it will be a while before that happens for us. We simply did not have enough time to pursue it.

Here is what I wrote to Zoom:

When reading the Zoom overview on interpretation services, it said to send you a message here to enable this feature. We are registered with Zoom through storycrossroads@gmail.com. Let us know if you need anything else. You can also call/text me at (801) 870-5799.

I sent that request over a month before the Story Crossroads Spectacular. I get automated messages every week reminding of my case number. They apologized for the delay. I am not mad. I love Zoom and am quite loyal.

I have experienced other virtual conferencing and nothing is as user-friendly or has enough features like Zoom. Google wants to compete? Neh. I love their Google Docs and other features, but they are too far behind to catch up to Zoom. And Facebook with rooms? Neh. Cisco Webex? Nightmare. And if someone complains about security with Zoom because of Zoombombers? If you don’t share passwords on social media, then most of the time it will not be a problem. The host can enable features such as the waiting room. Admit into Zoom who you expect. Zoom has been amazing at fixing any issues. Zoom had to build a plane in flight, and they have flown above and beyond what was ever imagined.

We had two options:

  1. Encourage people to “pin” the video of the American Sign Language interpreters. See our Zoom Basics 5-minute video to understand how this works.
  2. Have a breakout room for those needing American Sign Language, but then you don’t see the presenter.

The first option was much easier.

AND, be sure that your American Sign Language interpreters, when possible, can sign from the same place. Even if not in your own home or venue, we had the signing from one of the interpreter’s homes and the second interpreter met her there. They kept proper distancing and made things so much smoother logistically.

Be sure that this one ASL box/screen in Zoom is renamed as “ASL Interpreters.” When someone clicks “Participants” on the lower bar in Zoom, these names tend to list alphabetically and allows for people to find the interpreters faster to pin the video. “Pinning” is what individual attendees can do and does not affect how the other attendees see the Zoom screen. Once pinned, you can even make that person’s box/screen larger by dragging at the lower left corner of that same box/screen.

We had wished to still offer Spanish. It would have been back and forth with the speaker of English to the interpreter of Spanish. The flow would not have been as smooth virtually as what you can do live. Possible, yes. They would both need to be unmuted, which the host/co-host could oversee. Though, with this being our first virtual kick-off—and a big one at that—we wanted to ease on some of the complexity.

Instead of a person interpreting, much like we do for American Sign Language, we considered Spanish closed captioning. You then pay for a third party person to type those closed captioning in the moment. It can cost per minute. Automatic English closed captioning is possible, but it is about 30 seconds behind. That gets frustrating for anyone needing it.

Obviously, any spoken or sign language can work through virtual means. Never even thought about it? Well, now is the time.

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

Big thank you to the following:

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.

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.