This past week we had another Queen City DotNetNuke User Group meeting. This meeting was unique in the fact that we had been promoting hard because DNNCorp flew one of their engineers out to speak to our group. Will Strohl arrived to Charlotte late last Wednesday evening. I gave Will a late night mini-tour of Charlotte and we talked as we rode around. Our meetings happen every 3rd Thursday so it wasn’t long before the next day came and it was meeting time.
At some point either Wednesday night or Thursday during the day I told Will that I thought we should open the meeting up and try a Google+ Hangout to see if any DotNetNuke developers in other areas would like to jump on to watch the presentations. Will was open to it and so I made a point to bring my laptop. When we got to Microsoft (our group meets at Microsoft Charlotte) we began setting everything up. We weren’t really sure how the video or audio quality would be, but we wanted to give it a shot. I put my computer off to the side of the table (near an outlet) on the front row. I turned the Google+ Hangout on and posted a link to it on Twitter. Within minutes I had my first taker. Gifford Watkins, a DotNetNuke phenom from Nova Scotia, jumped on to see what the fuss was all about. Shortly thereafter we had one more, then another, then another and before long we had a crew on a Google+ Hangout at least 20 minutes before the meeting began.
One of the first things I did was to give the guys a walk-around tour of the meeting. I got my laptop in my hands and showed them the room and the spread of food that we had at the meeting. I showed them the server rack near the door and randomly videoed people and talked with them as I walked around. It was kind of like a live virtual tour of the meeting. I did this to try to give the hangout attendees as much of a view of what was going on as possible.
The guys online were saying that they could hear me well and see the video clearly so it seemed like it was working out well. I told them we would do the best we could to make them feel like they were attending the meeting with us. To achieve that we also had one of our guys join the hangout. Will turned his laptop and joined the hangout and he interacted with the attendees via the chat window. One issue we had to overcome was when someone at the meeting would ask a question from the back of the room. Obviously the guys online couldn’t hear the question so Will would type it out to them in the chat window. He also typed some lines of code that one of the presenters used in his slide deck to make sure the guys could clearly read it. During the Hangout one of the guys typed that being a part of the Hangout was better than being at the actual meeting because they got to see the presentation plus they didn’t get in trouble for “passing notes”. His statement referred to the fact that the hangout attendees could read and write message to each other in the chat window. Will also typed to the hangout attendees and asked them if they had any questions for the speaker and sometimes they did so we were able to ask the speaker questions from hangout attendees as well! Remote Q&A with the speaker. Cool stuff!
In this picture you can see our speaker, Will Strohl, interacting with members of the Google+ Hangout
One note that is worth mentioning is that to make this happen the hangout attendees needed to turn their microphones down. I could see where some of the attendees were muting each other because they were getting feedback or their sound would steal the “stage” of the live speaker momentarily because that’s how Google+ Hangouts are configured. We just had to ensure that our speaker was the “live speaker” in the hangout and muting the microphones did this.
I will add one unique note as well. We had one DNN guy who wanted to attend the meeting. Robb Bryn was attending a meeting in the afternoon and was heading to Charlotte after his meeting. His meeting went over by a couple of hours so he was unable to make it. Though, when he found out about us opening it up to a Google+ Hangout he was able to join the hangout from his phone while driving down the road. I could literally see him in his truck riding down the road with trees passing him in the background of his driver’s side window. Eventually Robb finally pulled over on the side of the road and watched the whole meeting from his vehicle. Now that is some dedication and also some awesomeness that he was able to achieve via his Google+ app on his phone.
Richard English raising his DotNetNuke mug as he enjoys attending the meeting from afar
By the time the meeting ended we had 12 people total on the Hangout from Egypt, the Netherlands, Ohio, Cali, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Nova Scotia, and a few more states up north. They weren’t all on at the same time and some came and went, but nevertheless it was very neat to open the meeting up and reach out to even more people via the Hangout. At the end of the meeting the guys on the hangout were all commenting on how everything went well and they said they really enjoyed it. Some remarked that they felt like they were there and that the video and audio was very clear. They could even read the text that was presented on the screen. We asked them if they thought joining the hangout added value or was beneficial for them and they all overwhelmingly remarked saying yes! They also requested that we do it more at future meetings.
Ultimately the decision to open the meeting up added a new dimension to the meeting. During the meeting we had a lot of energy in the room as well as online in the hangout. There were 2 different conversations going on at the same time and it was really cool to be a part of the live & virtual meeting at the same time. I think we’re definitely going to try to do more of these in the future and I would encourage any other user groups to give it a shot so that members in your community who aren’t in the local area can also attend and contribute.
Google+ Hangouts just changed our user group meetings for the good! And with that said…be sure to tune in to our next meeting!