When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and caused shutdowns in March 2020, the Education and Engagement department was busy travelling the state for National History Day in Indiana contests, running in-building programs, and planning for a full summer schedule. When our job centers on engaging Hoosiers around the state, and we’ve traditionally been doing that in person, we were suddenly faced with a new challenge: How can we continue to reach Hoosiers when we can’t travel or bring people to the History Center?
Cue virtual programming.
You may know what a virtual program looks like; you join through a Zoom link, see some presenters usually at their computers, sometimes they’re sharing a PowerPoint or other media. You probably see a member of the Education and Engagement team who give an introduction and conclusion. But did you know that there’s a lot more that goes on behind what you see to make a virtual program possible?
Welcome to the behind scenes of a virtual program!
Callie McCune (above left), Bethany Hrachovec (above right), and Cheyenne Grimes (bottom) prepare for a virtual program. Bethany and Cheyenne will be running things behind the scenes while Callie presents during the program.
For a virtual program, there are usually around two staff members that you never see. Their job is to provide last-minute support for whoever is on the screen. If someone is trying to share their screen and it’s not loading, these staff members may share their own screen in lieu of the presenter. If someone’s internet cuts out, one of the backup staff members may be quickly turning on their video and sound to take someone’s place. They’re dropping links in the chat, encouraging conversation among participants, compiling your questions, and helping to solve any problems you may be having seeing or hearing the program. They may be turning microphones or videos on and off, spotlighting presenters so you see a certain speaker, and sharing content.
Cheyenne Grimes adds a link to the chat box of a virtual program so that participants can learn more about the subjects discussed in the program.
These staff members try to be some of the most prepared people possible for the program, all to create a smooth experience for you, our guests! Of course, there are always things outside of our control. Sometimes a presenter three states away has a poor connection, sometimes the microphone is breaking up, sometimes the dog won’t stop barking. While there will always be things beyond our control, what we can control we try our best to.
In the top right-hand corner of the image, you can see that three IHS staff members names are visible, but you don’t see their video. They will remain invisible for the program so that you just see the presenter and their screen.
Next time you join a virtual program, I hope you now have a bit of an idea of what goes on not just in the program, but also behind the scenes.
If you’ve never joined us for a virtual program, why not give it a try? Sometimes it’s a moderated conversation, or a lecture, or perhaps a virtual trip around the building meeting historic characters from Indiana’s past. No matter what type of virtual program you attend, you’ll see that the Indiana Historical Society staff is here to bring you stories from around Indiana safely and hopefully one day both virtually and in person!