True Stories of Families Reunited Thanks to Genetic Genealogy - free webinar by MyHeritage now online
The Case of the Broken Link: Decoding the URL - free webinar by Cyndi Ingle now online for limited time

Behind the scenes of a webinar that went "poof"!

You would never know it by listening to its recording, but yesterday's live webinar was going along just fine, and then poof! It was gone.

In nearly 700 live webinars, this happened one other time. Back on March 13, 2013, we were enjoying learning from Judy Wight about Irish research when all of a sudden - poof! The webinar turned off, or crashed, or whatever you want to call it. We learned afterwards that about a minute before it disappeared, the new Pope was announced. Its announcement must have spiked internet traffic everywhere and killed the GoToWebinar servers. A couple of frantic minutes later, it was resolved, we continued the rest of the live webinar, and listening to the recording you would never know anything had happened.

Yesterday, the two presenters for the webinar connected about 30 minutes early, and we proceeded with our usual tests to ensure everything was working as expected. I've done enough of these now that I am rarely, or should I say, never nervous anymore about the tech behind a webinar. I still have to be alert, but if something happens, I usually know how to resolve it very quickly. Well, for some reason, and maybe I shouldn't have, I shared with the presenters about the experience with the "Pope webinar of 2013," and teasing them, I told them not to do anything that would cause the same result. We laughed a little, and made our final preparations.

About twenty minutes in, just when their DNA story began to cause its first few emotional tears (we were warned to have tissue nearby and they were right!), for the second time in webinar history - the webinar went poof! The dreaded "the webinar has ended" message appeared on my screen. My first thought was, "oh no - there's no restarting a live webinar after receiving that message." As fast as I could, I logged back in to my GoToWebinar admin account, surprisingly noticed that this webinar was still in the list (hurray for that!), and I quickly clicked the Start button. Slowly but surely, the first panelist was back online, then the second, then the hundreds of live webinar viewers started to return. Oh good, this was going to work out. I thanked everyone for their patience and the webinar proceeded as expected, and turned out to be one of my personal all-time favorites. But what happened?

ArrowHere's where I won't expose the entire truth. It wasn't one of the presenters, but one of us (ah hem...) on the admin side of things (it wasn't Marian either...) clicked the small X in the upper right of their control panel. Clicking the X is what one does to leave a live webinar. But when you're in the admin area of a live webinar, and you click the X, it means something different. As in, it will close the webinar for everyone. Oops.

It all worked out, and the live webinar resumed. Lots more emotional tears were shed as we viewed the DNA-related family reunions. But now we have months of good material to use to tease our colleague. He'll (oops, I just "accidentally" revealed his gender) probably have a phobia now of clicking the X button in any software.

If I hadn't written this article, this history would have been erased because the recording of the webinar turned out perfectly. Really - you'd never know anything went amiss.

After a live webinar concludes, I begin the work of encoding, importing, editing, marking, producing, and publishing the recorded version of the webinar. Below is a portion of what my video editing software looks like. You are seeing the timeline of the recording of a recent webinar. Notice there are two tracks. Track one is where the actual video resides. If you look carefully, you'll notice that I added a couple of zoom elements and one transition element in this track. Track two displays the waves of the audio. It looks like my voice was a little louder at the very beginning and at the very end - but those are both things that I can easily even out before publishing. The timeline for a normal webinar looks just like this one, nice and clean.


Now take a look at the timeline in my editor for yesterday's webinar. Tracks one and two look great. And then the twenty minute mark hit. While I was able to successfully restart the live webinar and all went well, the recording of the live webinar did not go as smoothly. What you see in tracks three, four and five are pieces of video, audio and graphics that I had to splice in from various pieces of technology that I use in the background.


What normally takes me about an hour to go from the end of a live webinar to what you see in the Webinar Library took about three hours yesterday. I was only able to do what I did because of many processes and technology that I have in place such as the use of dual internet service providers, a mifi card, an audio mixer system with digital voice recorder, the ability to split out the audio from a video file, and much more.

I write this not to boast of the technical expertise I've developed over the years (or to tease my colleague), but to give a little bit of the behind-the-scenes of what makes our webinar series run. There really is more than just pressing the "Record Webinar" button to make it all go smoothly.

Now, if you want to view one of the finest webinars in the now 668-class library, go watch True Stories of Families Reunited Thanks to Genetic Genealogy. But be sure to have your tissues handy.


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I mentioned in a Guild webinar that attendees have come to expect perfect webinars because Geoff makes it look so easy - thanks so much for showing what goes on behind the scenes (lots of time and planning before and after, lots of tech skills and equipment, hard work and a little buck of luck). Legacy has been at it for a while now and sets the bar high - giving terrific opportunities for learning to the genealogy and family history community. Thanks for showing us how the show comes together.

Totally agree with Tessa. I have never seen one webinar produced by Geoff that has been anything other than a professional, smooth and informative product. So perhaps the "glitch" was just a little something orchestrated by mischievous leprechauns honing their tricks prior to St. Patrick's Day! ; )

An interesting video would be showing how the webinars are actually made and edited

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