Our Very Own Premiere: Remote Keynote

From our writer Richard Gross. Follow him on Twitter @ArghRich

Remote working? Check! How about remote conferencing…? We tried a remote keynote for our inhouse event.

Remote is the new co-located. Remote meetings have long been seen as a burden and not a boon. Having previously experimented successfully with remote pair programming, we were ready to try a new format. At our annual department breakout session, we tried holding a keynote where our speaker was presenting remotely. It was a very successful experiment for all parties. Thanks to the right choice of tools, we were able to bring Bad Kissingen and Stockholm closer together than they have ever been before. However, in the end it was our speaker, Henrik Kniberg, that made the new format work.

Henrik Kniberg is an agile and lean coach and has been helping companies improve for the last 10 years. He has worked mostly with Spotify and Lego during the past few years, helped establish the Spotify engineering culture (version 2014), and is probably the best person to ask what product ownership means.

Henrik’s keynote covered the topic of Quality vs. Speed. That in itself was a first for us. However, the real premiere was that he held the keynote remotely. This way of presenting is part of a new challenge that Henrik has decided to tackle: climate change. By having the keynote via video conference, we refrained from contributing to the CO2 emissions that would have resulted from the transportation necessary to give the talk in person. Our company, MaibornWolff, was lucky enough to be the first to take him up on the offer that he made late last year.

Henrik’s talent in making complicated matters easy to grasp was on full display during the keynote. Perhaps even more than during a regular, full-house keynote because he was able to interact directly with the audience of 40 people. When he was not asking or responding to questions, he easily switched between prepared slides and props, such as burned toast. We enjoyed his succinct and funny presentation immensly and would love to have Henrik back for another event.

Audio or video was never an issue during the 1 hour presentation. Even during the 30 minute Q&A that followed, everything worked. All audience members, regardless of their position in relation to the microphone, were able to ask questions and hear the answers.

If you decide to hold a remote keynote, here are a couple of important points to consider:

Network

Please connect both the presenter and the audience PCs/Macs via cable. The package loss of wifi hinders fluent video transmission.

Presentation

If you only have one display for your remote speaker, use a 16:9 projector and a 4:3 presentation. This way, the speaker’s video stream can be placed on the black bars next to the presentation so that it’s always visible and nothing is obscured.

Questions

There is still a delay before the audio and video from the audience arrives at your speaker. Plus, the video quality is not good enough to see individual lips moving. When an audience member poses a question, it’s a good idea to provide a visual indicator to the keynote speaker when the question is over. “Lowering the hand” on the conference software is an easy way to do this, if the “raise hand” feature is available.

Audio

  • Please select your tools wisely and do a thorough sound check before starting.
  • We used the Jabra Speak 710 UC and placed it in the middle of our audience of 40 so that everyone could hear and respond to our speaker. This model is also great because you can link multiple devices and cover a greater area.
  • Henrik used the Blue Yeti due to it’s excellent sound quality.

Video

  • We used the Logitech Conference Cam. It is a good choice for video if you leave the lights on above the audience. Most cameras are not good in low-light situations, so try to avoid taking videos of dark environments.
  • For better image quality, it might be a good idea to go for 4K video like the Logitech BRIO.
  • Henrik used the in-built Facetime camera of his Mac.

Software

  • We used Zoom because we are very familiar with it and enjoy the ability to record the session for later viewing. Zoom also provides a Q&A plugin for webinars of up to 1000 people.

We hope this short post has inspired you to try a remote keynote as well. Henrik is certainly very happy to turn the burden into a boon.

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