In the last few years, I’ve had so many requests to speak at garden club meetings, master gardener classes, book groups, conferences, botanical gardens, bookstores, and libraries. I try to get to as many of them as I can, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Maybe the travel costs are too high, or maybe I’m already traveling to another event and simply can’t be in two places at once.
But guess what? Some of you are surprisingly resourceful! In the last year I’ve been getting more requests to “meet” with a group by webcam or telephone. It’s not exactly the same as being there, but for groups with a limited budget or a narrow window of time, this can be a great option. With a webcam visit, I’ll be able to see and hear you on my computer screen, and you’ll be able to see and hear me on your computer. It’s a simple video conference, and I promise the technology is very easy and affordable.
Option 1: Set up a Webcam or Telephone Visit at Your Regular Meeting Spot
A webcam visit is easier than you might think and costs very little. Here's what you need to get started:
- A computer with an Internet connection at your meeting place.
- A webcam with a microphone (available at any office supply or electronics store for as little as $40). It should take no more than 5-10 minutes to get this hooked up. Some computers come with a built-in webcam, especially Mac notebooks.
- A free Skype or Gmail account. I like Skype a little better, but it's up to you. Skype requires you to download a piece of software and Gmail does not. Both are free and take only about 5 minutes to set up.
- A projector so that you can project the video image on a screen for the whole group to see. This is not entirely necessary, but if you have a large group, it might be awkward for everyone to gather around the computer screen.
Once you have all those pieces in place, I'll be happy to test the equipment with you before the meeting.
And if you're not able to gather all those pieces together? We can always do a telephone call via speakerphone instead of videoconferencing.
Here's a short video I recorded with my webcam so you can get an idea of what this would look like:
Option 2: Arrange a Videoconference Event at Your Local Library or College
Many libraries and colleges have videoconferencing facilities that community groups can use for a small fee. If that's an option in your community, then I will go to my library, your group will go to your library, and we'll be able to see and hear each other as if we were together in person. The cost is slightly higher: you'd need to pay a $250 fee, which includes my library's charges to use their room and equipment, plus whatever your library or college charges. It also requires that you find a time that works for your group as well as the two libraries. But the advantage is that you just show up and enjoy yourselves--someone else takes care of the technology!
We can even do a 'virtual' booksigning!
If your group would like to buy books from me, I can sign them during our event, write personal inscriptions, and ship the box of books to you after the event. Books would simply need to be ordered in advance through the bookstore my husband and I own, Eureka Books. (Click here to find out more)
If your members already have books they'd like signed, I can sign bookplates during our event, send those to you, and you can add the bookplates to your own books. You can even sell books yourself at the event and make a nice profit for your group--just ask about that when you get in touch.