I recently delivered a speech for a client who held their retreat in a remote location several hours away from the nearest airport. Another client wanted me to speak at their innovation conference the following morning, but my travel schedule wouldn’t have allowed me to arrive at the second event on time.
Fortunately, they were open to me delivering this two-hour-long interactive workshop virtually. When I am at home, I conduct these presentations in my dedicated studio. However, I was on the road and still wanted to have the same capabilities.
Welcome to my travel virtual studio.
Whether at home or on the road, my goal is to deliver a captivating presentation. Therefore, I prefer not to rely on the basic screen-sharing feature available in Zoom; instead, I seek a more interactive approach.
Quite often, for a virtual event, I would find a nearby office to rent by the day and set up shop there. This allows my background to be a little more interesting. However, the client was happy for me to do it from my hotel room, and the internet was lightning-fast.
This is why I use Ecamm Live as the software for my presentations. This allows me to do cool things like having the slides over my shoulder.
Go full screen with me in the corner. I can even put on a timer on the fly.
Or, my favorite, write on the slides.
When I recently posted a picture of my virtual studio on social media, people wanted to know about this setup.
I’ll first talk about hardware, as that is most universal. Then, toward the end, I will share how I use Ecamm Live and how it connects with my iPad and Stream Deck.
I have a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and two monitors for the set-up you see.
I use a 14” MacBook Pro with the M1Max chip. This is a beast of a machine. But this setup will work with almost any Mac. However, if you decide to run Ecamm Live and Zoom simultaneously, you’ll want a pretty fast machine, and I highly recommend getting a Mac with Apple Silicon.
Any iPad will work. I have an iPad Mini as I also like using it during my live speeches when I walk around. But any will work perfectly for the virtual set-up where you will be stationary. Ideally, get one that supports an Apple Pencil, as the writing experience is great.
Let’s turn to monitors as there were many questions on this. There are literally hundreds of monitors on Amazon you can use. Google: 15” flat travel monitor.
If your Mac does not support multiple external monitors, consider getting a DisplayLink adapter. This will enable you to connect multiple monitors without an issue.
Many asked me about the camera I use. My MacBook Pro has a 1080 webcam that’s pretty good. When I want to up my game, I use my iPhone as the webcam. Since I always travel with this, there is no extra hardware to carry, and it is super simple to set-up. All you need is something like this to attach your iPhone to the Mac.
In addition to the core hardware above, I have several additional items that improve my experience.
I use an external keyboard, mouse, and mousepad. I have a backup non-Apple pencil just in case the battery on that dies. I have a “clicker” to advance the slides (any will work). A USB light that attaches to the computer (again, any will work). Folding stands for the monitors. A wired lavalier microphone with a long cable. I like these clear-wired headphones (I only put them in one ear). I use an extension cord for the headphones.
In addition, I use a Stream Deck, which may not be necessary for your set-up. See how I use it with Ecamm Live below.
Ok, that’s the hardware. The next question I get asked: how the heck do you travel with all of that? Fortunately, everything packs flat. In fact, I can fit the entire studio in a briefcase that fits under the seat in front of me when I fly.
Here’s what it looks like when packed up:
As you can see, I have two Macs and two iPads when traveling. But I only used one of each for my virtual set-up. The other Mac and iPad are for more personal use (watching videos on planes).
Presentation Hardware and Software
As mentioned, I use Ecamm Live as it allows me to present picture-in-picture as depicted above. It’s a fantastic piece of software that only runs on Macs. OBS is the option for non-Apple computers.
There are many ways to use Ecamm Live, but for me the most flexible is to run Keynote and then display the slides on the left-hand monitor. Ecamm Live then blends what is displayed on that monitor with what is coming in from the camera. Each view you see above (over the shoulder, full screen with me in the corner, three-quarters view) is a different “scene.” I won’t get too technical about Ecamm Live here, as that is probably only of interest to a limited number of people.
Ninja move: If you want to travel even lighter yet still have all of the capabilities, ditch both monitors and use a virtual one instead. You can send your Keynote slides to the virtual monitor, which will appear in Ecamm. Although I prefer to see the Keynote slides on the left monitor and appreciate the flexibility of the right monitor, this is certainly an option for many.
I then use the Stream Deck to change scenes. For example, the upper left button is just my face. The one next to it would display the slides over my shoulder. The one below that one would display my slides full screen with my face in the corner. Content is not linked to a scene or button. It is only the camera display. This is a bit different than what many other people do. For most, a scene is content. But I find this limiting.
The iPad is so critical to my set-up. It is wireless connected to the Mac and allows me to write on the slides. But equally important, it allows me to change the order of the slides on the fly.
Here’s what I see on my iPad:
I can see the current slide and the next slide. This is helpful as every presentation I do is customized and different. But the real magic is the fact that on the left, I can scroll through every slide and select one at any time. The audience never sees this, but I can bounce around to any slide at any time. It’s a game-changer. If I am running out of time, I can skip slides without anyone knowing. If someone asks a question about something I talked about previously, I can get to it in a second.
Ok, that’s it for now. I am sure you have questions. I’m happy to answer them.