What's the best setup & gear for hosting live webinars? What do you need, to ensure high quality audio, video and an overall positive experience for your attendees?
In this post, I'll show you a behind-the-scenes look at the webinar streaming setup that I currently use, after doing countless webinars and tweaking my setup continuously, over time.
Before we can talk about the tools & tech of the setup, we have to define our goals clearly. There is no such thing as a single "perfect" webinar setup. If you are on the road and portability matters more than anything else, a laptop, webcam and lightweight USB microphone may be your perfect setup. If you work from an office and mobility isn't an issue, your setup will look totally different.
In this post, I'll show you such a setup for a "fixed" or office location setup. However, regardless of your circumstances, there are a few things any good webinar setup should ensure:
To stream good video and audio quality, you need to have a fast, stable internet connection. Apart from being on a fast connection to begin with, there are a few additional factors that can help you get a better connection:
If you need an additional speed boost and you're on a slow connection, test out the Speedify service. With Speedify, you can combine multiple connections into one "bundled" connection. In my testing, it doesn't seem to make the connection noticeably faster, but it can help on unreliable connections, because it can fall back onto the second connection if the first one fails.
With that, let's go through the setup I use for my live webinars. Each component of this setup is made to fulfill one or several of the goals listed above. Let's go through each aspect:
I always prefer using 2 screens for webinar presentations. For this, I connect my laptop to an external monitor. Each screen serves a different purpose:
Having 2 screens is helpful for running a smooth presentation. By sharing my entire screen 1, I never have to switch from slides to screen sharing or switch from sharing one app or window to another. I simply share the whole screen and anything I want my audience to see goes on that screen.
At the same time, I always have my admin controls in view. Again, that means there are no interruptions or awkward pauses when I need to interact with the webinar tool and do things like select a poll to share.
To ensure better stream quality, I set both my screens to a 1920x1080px resolution. Although both of them are 4K screens, I use a lower resolution for webinars to save on bandwidth and processing power. Webinar viewers won't see the stream in 4K anyway, so there's no point recording at such a high resolution.
Laptops usually have built-in webcams, but I recommend using an external webcam for your webinar streams. There are 2 reasons I recommend this:
I currently use the Logitech C920, but don't take this as a recommendation. This cam is popular, but not without its issues. I can't make a confident recommendation for what webcam to get, as I haven't done any testing myself.
My recommendation is to avoid cheap webcams. If you spend only $20 on one, it's probably not going to be any better than a laptop's internal camera. Plus, make sure that whatever cam you get has a thread, so that it can be mounted on a tripod.
I use the medium Gorillapod as a tripod. This allows me to place the webcam close to my eye level and I can also place it in such a way that when I'm looking at my main screen, I'm looking almost directly at the camera.
The quality and resolution of live video during a webinar is always going to be pretty low. Because of this, you shouldn't get a bottom-of-the-barrel cheap webcam, but there's also no point in overspending on a 4K webcam.
A greater factor in picture quality than the webcam will be your lighting. A poorly lit scene will look bad, no matter what camera you point at it.
Here's what we want, in terms of lighting and scene: soft, direct light illuminating your face and a distraction free, non-messy background. The easiest way to achieve this is to face a window and stream during daytime.
Since that's not always an option, I use a studio light in my setup. I use the Godox SL-60 with a large softbox. This is a ridiculously good light for the price... but I don't recommend it. At least not for webinars, specifically. It's a good light, but it's big and bulky and I got it for my video work, not for webinars.
In most cases, a smaller LED light panel with built-in diffusion (or with a softbox mounted to it) will do the job just as well, without taking up as much space or costing as much money.
Audio is an important and often overlooked factor for good webinars. There are 2 issues you should be aware of:
The good news is that there are many options for clean, high-quality audio and many of them are quite affordable. I'll start with the setup demonstrated in the video and then provide some further recommendations.
The setup from the video consists of a Rode Videomicro connected to a Zoom H1 recorder, mounted on a mic boom. I love this combination because it delivers unreasonably good audio quality for the price. You could easily spend 10x more money on audio equipment and barely hear a difference.
I like using an overhead mic configuration for my videos and for webinars. The overhead configuration lets me place the microphone relatively close to my mouth (rule of thumb: the closer the microphone is to the audio source, the better the sound quality). In addition, this configuration keeps everything out of view and keeps my hands free.
A microphone like the Rode NT-USB is a good (and slightly less complicated) choice, that I can also recommend. However, this microphone needs to be right in front of your face and suspended away from any surface that you're interacting with, to deliver really good sound. It's best to mount it on a swing arm like this one.
For me, the downside to this setup is that A) my face is partially obstructed by the microphone in the live video and B) the mic and mic stand can get in the way of my hands when I'm using my mouse and keyboard during a presentation.
This is, quite frankly, not a reasonable setup for webinar streaming. Yes, the audio quality is better than in my recommended setup, but by the time the signal is uploaded to a webinar platform, compressed and sent to your attendees, I doubt anyone will notice much of a difference.
I have this audio gear for my videos and so I might as well use it for webinars too. If I was getting a setup only for webinars, I'd never have chosen this setup. And even for online videos, it's a little excessive...
Before you spend more money on better microphones and such, invest in a noise-free, low echo environment to stream from.
Make sure to close windows and doors, to minimize outside noise and interruptions during a webinar. To minimize echo in the room, draw curtains, add carpets or throw down some sound blankets.
Now that you've seen my webinar setup and you know the principles behind it, it's your turn. Even if you don't buy any extra gear, what can you do to ensure better video, audio and presentation quality on your next webinar?
What's your favorite tip from this post and video? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.
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