Talking Without an Audience

I had the unexpected opportunity earlier today to do my first MSDN DevChat webcast.  Or a webcast of any kind. One of my colleagues, Dave Lloyd was giving a webcast on the new features in ASP.NET Whidbey.  The webcasts originated from the Microsoft Canada office and I went along to be his question monkey and to provide an audience. Once I got to Microsoft, Adam Gallant offered me the chance to do a webcast on C# scheduled for two hours later. Never being one to turn down a chance to speak, regardless of the circumstances, I accepted.

For those of you who have never done a webcast, the process is straightforward.  We were in a small conference room, four of us in total. The presenter (Dave) is hooked up to the LiveMeeting manager and a headset.  Dave basically controls the slides and demos and speaks into the headset.  The rest of use handle any questions or issues as they arise.

The weird part of the process is something that presenters will understand.  I personally thrive on the interaction that I get from speaking in front of an audience.  More importantly, I tend to adjust what I say and how I say it based on the feedback that I get.  If I see a glazed look, I dial back on the details.  If I hear snoring, I rachet up the 'coolness' factor. You get the picture.

The challenge of a webcast is that none of this feedback is available.  You're in a room talking on the telephone without the benefit of seeing or hearing the audience.  It is a surprisingly isolated experience.  To make it even worse, the other people in the room have their own conversations going on (quietly, of course) as they answer questions and deal with problems. I just ended up closing my eyes and kept going forward.

So the next time that you're listening to a webcast, feel free to chime in with any questions or feedback your have.  It will probably be welcomed by the speaker, if only to let them know that there really are people on the other side of the network connection.