How We Built an Advanced Live and Streaming Event Solution on a Shoestring Budget

Every company needs it, and every marketer dreads it – the All Hands Call. Though it seems simple enough to bring everyone together to share corporate results, messaging and updates, it can get pretty complicated behind the scenes to mix a room full of people in a live event with a large team dialed into a collaboration bridge (video / web and voice) while ensuring that everyone has a quality experience.
When we built our room, I had the same needs that most of you probably have too. I needed a solution that was:

  • Easy to use and train people on
  • Easily accessible to internal and external participants
  • A high quality experience
  • Easy to build out quickly and flexible to add to over time
  • Extremely cost effective

With that simple task in mind, I went about pulling together a solution to hold effective meetings that would include a quality online and live experience. Luckily at Avaya, we have several technology solutions that allow us to create great online conferencing experiences. Just for fun, we have rotated through several of the various solutions we have available, and I’m happy to say we have had success with all three of our major conferencing applications using this setup, including Avaya Aura Conferencing, Avaya Scopia and Avaya Live Engage. (Each has unique strengths depending on what you want to accomplish in your meeting – but more about that in a future blog post!).
When holding a meeting, there are 4 things you need to think about at the same time:

  1. Audio from the person presenting, which needs to be crisp and clear
  2. Presenting content, usually in the form of slides
  3. Video of the person presenting, which needs to accommodate for their movement and feel natural
  4. Someone to moderating the meeting, ensure that the audio, video, presentation are broadcasting properly, and that participants are well managed, muted, unmuted, etc.

As a musician, the audio piece came to me the most naturally, so I attacked that first. Here is a high level overview of the install we chose. (Don’t let this diagram scare you! It’s actually quite simple).


First we had speakers; a projector and a screen mounted in the room and placed a mixer and amplifier in a small AV area to get sound to the room.

To capture sound in the room, my solution was to use wireless lapel and handheld microphones in the presentation room, and put all of the receivers in a smaller AV area. The wireless receivers connect to an 8 channel mixer. The secret ingredient in the mixer is having an Aux channel. The Auxiliary channel is used to control what is sent out to the audio bridge, while the main faders are saved to control what is sent out in the live room. This means that I can put music out from an iPOD on the room, but not broadcast it onto the audio bridge or vice versa. (See below).


The magic that makes this all work is a very cool Avaya Conference phone called the B179. It has a breakout box option which allows you to send high-quality audio feeds directly through a phone line. I use the Auxiliary send from the mixer to feed audio to the conference phone.

Here is the phone and breakout box – the black cable sends the audio in from the mixer, the white cable sends audio out from the bridge to the mixer. (IMPORTANT – for the mixer channel that carries the audio out from the phone, you MUST keep the auxiliary send knob for that channel at zero. Otherwise, you will end up feeding audio from the bridge back into the bridge. Nobody will like what that sounds like!!!)


And here it is attached to the mixer.


Now that we have audio to and from the phone, everyone on the bridge can hear any audio we send them from the mixer, and anyone in the room can hear the microphones in the room and everyone on the bridge. Perfect!

Regardless of whether you choose Avaya Aura Conferencing or Avaya Scopia to handle your meeting, you are going to dial in your audio to the meeting using the B179 conference phone. Now all of the audio for the meeting is going to come in via the audio bridge. (Instead of using a conference phone, you could use a PC to capture sound from the mixer and send it to the conference. I find that the phone setup provides me with excellent audio quality, allows me to put the conference in lecture mode if I have noisy participants and offers a lot of flexibility without supervision, your preference may vary).

With audio out of the way, it’s time to tackle our last 3 elements:

  • Presenting content, usually in the form of slides
  • Video of the person presenting, which needs to accommodate for their movement and feel natural
  • Someone to moderating the meeting, ensure that the audio, video, presentation are broadcasting properly, and that participants are well managed, muted, unmuted, etc.

It is very difficult (though not impossible) for one person to effectively handle all of these things while presenting to a large live audience. To make it easier, I split these tasks across 2 laptops – one that presents content, and one that is manned by the moderator. The result is something that looks like this:


PC #1 remains at the front of the room and is connected to the room projector. It is also logged into the conferencing application we are using, and is presenting the slides via the web to remote collaborators as well. The PC is under the control of the presenter, who advances slides using a wireless presenter.

PC#2 is 10-15 feet back from the front of the room and is logged into the conferencing application. This PC is where a lot of the magic happens, and someone needs to pay attention here during the whole meeting. A high definition webcam picks up and shares video of the presenter. The moderator mutes everyone else’s video, so that the room video is the only thing showing in the video window. If the bridge is kept open, the moderator mutes noisy participants here. The moderator also manages the chat window – providing feedback from those on the bridge to presenters in the room.

One thing to keep in mind with this setup – in order to be heard outside of the room, you must be speaking into a microphone! This setup feels so natural to people in the room, they often feel like they can talk to others on the audio conference as if they are there in the room. As the moderator, it is your job to make sure that you pass along the microphone before questions are posed!

Another benefit to this setup – Avaya Aura Conferencing and Avaya Scopia allow me to record the sessions for later playback / editing. This has made our presentation room a great resource for recording training sessions. Downloading the video also allows me to strip out the audio from the conference, and make it available to others as webcasts. (The B179 phone also accepts SD Cards, and will record the session for you so that you can do this without manipulating video files, which is super cool!).

So there you have it – an AV setup that can easily transfer Avaya Aura Conferencing or Avaya Scopia into a powerful multi-site presentation / training and broadcast system. The entire budget for this project will run you around $4,500, depending on the quality and quantity of the gear that you require, and what you already have installed in your boardroom or training room.

If you already have an Avaya Conferencing solution, you’re 90% of the way to empowering your organization more effectively – and forever eliminating your fear of the dreaded All Hands Call.

Good luck!

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