How it works

Not sure how a webinar, or a hangout works? Here's a brief overview:

  • Organizer (Host) - The individual, society or company that hosts, publicizes and produces the webinar. This is the one who pays for the webinar-giving service, and may or may not pass this cost on to attendees.
  • Presenter (virtual speakers) - The individual who provides the talk, presentation screens and answers questions at the end of the webinar.
  • Panelist -  The individuals who provide the talk, presentation screens and answer questions at the end of the webinar, if the event is a panel discussion.
  • Attendees  - Individuals on their computers or a gathering of people viewing a single computer that may be projected on a screen in the meeting room. 1 computer = 1 attendee.
  • Note: Individual presenters may also be organizers, providing the webinar service for a speakers fee to individuals or societies. In  this case, societies don't have to provide the software to attend the webinar.
For attendees, the software is free, though various organizers may charge for a specific webinar. When you click to participate in a seminar at the time of the event, the software interface will download automatically and install quickly on your computer. This assumes you have administrative rights on the computer and its anti-virus software.

For organizers, the cost to produce a webinar is about $1 per computer connection, unless the organizer is a non-profit organization. Then the non-profit software to run a webinar with a maximum 1,000 attendees is about $97 per year with an unlimited number of webinars. This does not include the speaker's honorarium.

Individual presenters who do not accept corporate sponsorship, may offer webinars and act as organizers and presenters at the same time. An example of this would be where an individual offers virtual presentations to societies.

Most modern computers, tablets and smart phones are readily equipped for webinar and hangout participation, provided high-speed internet access is available. There are three ways to participate in a a webinar or hangout.

#1 INDIVIDUALLY from any device
Some webinars employ the "1 computer to many devices" model, where you can tune in live  from any computer with internet access to view the presenter's slides, and ask questions.

  • Individuals register and participate in a live webinar or Hangout on Air using their home or office computers, tablets or smart phones at a specific time. They may listen with their device's customary speakers, but if they wish to ask a question of the presenter, a USB headset is recommended. Option telephone access is available. Improvements to hardware technology means attendees may ask questions via their tablet or smart phone with only partial audio degradation.
#2 AS A GROUP with one computer
Other webinars employ the "1 computer to 1 computer" model, where attendees gather in a large meeting room equipped with a single computer with internet access to view the presenter's slides and ask questions live.  

  • A society gathers in the usual meeting place to participate in a live webinar, using a computer, projector, screen, speakers and high speed access to the Internet. The audience hears the presentation through a mic placed near the computer speakers, or alternately through the meeting room's sound system. Audience members may ask questions of the presenter by standing at the mic so all parties can hear.
  • A society gathers to view an archived webinar or HAngout on Air. Using a computer, projector, screen, external speakers and high speed access to the Internet.

If a webinar is recorded and later made available on the internet, it is possible for individuals with access to the archive site to view the webinar, anytime at their convenience. Computer speakers are fine in this instance.

The genealogy presenters on the GeneaWebinar blog and calendar are experienced using GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, Skype/Yugma and/or WebEx, and Google Hangouts on Air. Their contracts typically call for a run-through during the week prior to a scheduled webinar. In all cases, the cost of travel for the speakers is eliminated.

It is marvelous how technology has made it possible for more people to learn how to improve their genealogy research techniques.

Here at GeneaWebinars, we will update our calendar to clearly state the "type" of webinar each event will be. That way, folks hoping for home access to a webinar that is clearly an option #2 are not disappointed.

Hang in there, while we learn how best to describe the application of #1, #2 and #3 here at GeneaWebinars.

So take the plunge and participate in one of these webinars. You'll be amazed at how much fun you'll have learning how to improve your genealogy research.

IMAGE: AdobeStock_79287972 licensed to Pat Richley-Erickson.