Quick Guide: How Flutter Philippines Conducts Webinars
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was forced to practice social distancing. Remote everything is the new normal, our daily routine has and will continue to change our lifestyle.
A notable example of this is the tech giants such as Twitter that have announced that they would let their employees work remotely indefinitely. Facebook has announced that a portion of their workforce can also work from home permanently. Google and Microsoft announced that they would resume office work in 2021. Other companies such as Coinbase and Shopify have announced that they will be remote-first moving forward.
Companies weren’t the only ones affected by this, the tech communities have now also started to shift to doing online meetups, webinars, podcasts, and conferences. In turn, online collaboration tools such as Google Meet, and Zoom has had an increase in user base with more and more users relying on these tools for communication with their peers every day.
In Flutter PH most of our events were done offline. Since we can no longer do that we have also adapted and are now hosting online events as well.
Here’s what we’ve experienced so far maybe you can learn from us as well.
First, let’s talk about the tools we have used and are currently using. I won’t go into too many technical details but I’ll walk you through why we are using our current toolset listed below:
- Live Streaming: Streamyard
- Stream Destinations: Facebook, and Youtube Live
- Question & Answer: Slido
Previously we have opted to use the following
Zoom, and Youtube Live
At first, this seemed to be the obvious choice. Zoom made communication and setup easier because of how easy it was to use.
Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and room systems.
We had the following considerations in mind and with Zoom it was easy, it just worked:
- Inclusiveness: We wanted our participants to be able to communicate with our speaker/mentor.
- Setup: Zoom made it easy to join a meeting. Live Streaming was also built-in, this is so we can archive our meet for others to view later on.
- Access Controls: As an admin, you can manage the participants by limiting what the participants can do, this is so that during the talk there wouldn’t be any distractions.
A week later reports sadly showed that Zoom has a lot of security issues and since we volunteers worked for tech companies we were advised not to install Zoom and therefore had to search for an alternative.
Google Meet, OBS, and Youtube Live
Within our team, we’ve been using Google Suites which is why we have access to Google Meet. If we didn’t have that we would have opted to use Google Hangouts instead.
Google Meet is a video-communication service developed by Google. It is one of two apps that constitute the new version of Google Hangouts, the other being Google Chat.
The reason why we did not use this at first was because of the following:
- Google Meet does not support the Gallery View while Zoom does.
- Google Meet does not have the automated streaming functionality that Zoom had so we needed to set up our own using OBS.
Using this setup proved to be usable for us for our dry runs, and meetups, but during one of our events, we have encountered technical difficulties with live streaming on OBS.
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a free and open-source cross-platform streaming and recording program built with Qt and maintained by the OBS Project. As of 2016, the software is now referred to as OBS Studio.
OBS proved to be challenging to set up and maintain, our laptops weren’t powerful enough for this setup on one of our webinars we encountered the following issues:
- Erratic frame rate and video quality.
- Desynchronizing audio.
- Challenging software support for sharing computer audio (we don’t have a windows pc) options are limited on macOS.
- Our streaming laptop blasting away with it’s cooling fans.
Because of these issues, we had to update our setup once again.
Finally here’s our current toolset
For Live Streams: Streamyard with Facebook, and Youtube Live
Streamyard is a live streaming studio in your browser. This service made it very easy for us to setup a live stream because we did not have to possess the following ourselves:
- A dedicated machine with enough power for live streaming software.
- A fast and stable internet connection to keep the stream from being janky.
We stream not only on Youtube but also on Facebook. This is due to the segmentation of our members. Since some prefer one over the other we couldn’t just choose one service so we chose both. Streamyard makes it easy to stream into multiple services.
For Question & Answer: Slido
Now because we were using Live Streams instead of calls/meetings for our webinars, we now had lost two-way communication with the participants previously possible because of Zoom and Google Meet’s voice chat and chat boxes. Fortunately for us, we found Slido.
Slido (pronounced as Sly-doh) is an easy-to-use Q&A and polling platform for live or remote meetings, events, classes, and webinars. What made Slido our weapon of choice for Q&A is because of the following features:
- Ease of use: Anyone can join any session as long as they have the invite code.
- Anonymous Questions: Users have the option of whether or not to supply their names.
- Prioritization: Questions can be upvoted so we can prioritize which question the community wants to be answered.
- Simplicity: It’s very easy to use and the UI/UX is great.
Do you need a good microphone for webinars?
Surprisingly no, for most of our earlier webinars, we were using microphones from our laptops or headphones. If you live in a quiet environment this poses no problem, but if not then you get a lot of background noise. Luckily, we found a tool called Krisp.ai.
Krisp.ai is a virtual microphone that sits between your physical microphone and conferencing apps on your system. It mutes the noise (dog barking, crying kids, etc) going from your background to the call participants.
Fortunately, Krisp.ai comes with a free trial for their Pro Plan. If you would like to try it yourself and in turn help us out with our broadcasts, register using any of the referral links below. You will get a month free and our trial period gets extended as well.
Imagine crisp and noise free audio on your conference calls and podcasts.
It’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are there so we can grow. For us Flutter PH this meant we had to find ways to set up our webinars even with our limited resources. We have learned a lot due to this, here are a few of them:
- Conduct dry runs. We have tested a few setups within ourselves before we go and use it on an event. This has helped us narrow down what the best set of tools are. This of course won’t remove all of your problems but can help reduce them.
- Engage with your members. Simply announcing that there will be an event is simply not enough to keep everyone’s attention. A community will only be a community if people converse with one another. With that, you can keep a stable attendee count throughout multiple events.
- Keep a checklist of things. These are the set of things you need to prepare for your webinar, it can be anything for example:
1) Q&A form.
2) Announcement posts, etc.