Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

I'm experimenting with periodic live webinars where you can see and hear me explain and demonstrate things using your computer at home.

The term "webinar" is a neologism (I had to look that up Smile) and is short for "web-based seminar." More correctly, it probably should be called "web-based conferencing", but the word webinar is easier to say and remember.

Webinars presented by Ask Leo! are much like a classroom, except that you go to your computer instead of some school building. You do have to register and the "classroom" is only so big. You do have an opportunity to ask questions and you get to see everything that I write up on the board.

Let me explain that in a little more detail and then describe the steps that you need to take to register and participate in a live Ask Leo! webinar.

A Webinar

The concept is actually pretty simple: a webinar is a live event that's managed over the internet. When you join the webinar at the scheduled time using your computer, a small program is loaded that then allows you to:

  • See my computer.

  • Listen to me speak.

  • Type in questions that I can see.

(The web conferencing software has many more features that I'm electing not to use right now.)

Essentially, it's very much like us being together in a classroom, with me demonstrating whatever I'm talking about on a projector and with you being able to ask me questions as we go.

It's kinda like being in a classroom...

Possibly, I'll also be recording the webinar. I don't plan to make every second of every webinar available, but I will be structuring each webinar into "chunks" that will make some sense as stand-alone videos. They'll be made available publicly sometime after the webinar.

To actually attend the webinar, you have to register first.

Registering for the webinar

At some point prior to the webinar, I'll publish a link - typically in the newsletter the week prior. You can also check which will point at the information page for the next upcoming webinar.

Click on that link and you'll be taken to a registration page out on

Webinar Registration Page

I use Go To Meeting as the service provider for my webinars.

Enter your name and email address. Optionally, please select your country and your state or province, if applicable. The later two help me tailor webinars to my audiences appropriately.

You'll then get a confirmation notice via email:

Go To Meeting confirmation email

Save that email. Go To Meeting will send assorted reminders as the webinar date and time approaches; one way or another, you'll need the link in that email to attend.

At the scheduled webinar time

Regardless of how many people register, I'm limited by Go To Meeting to 100 attendees.

It's first-come, first-serve at the meeting time, so I recommend showing up a couple of minutes early.

Click the link that you were given in your confirmation email to join the webinar.

Joining the webinar

Go To Meeting installs a small program on your machine to be able to access the webinar. You may need to confirm a UAC prompt or two as well, depending on the version of your operating system.

Once connected, you'll see two windows:

  • The window in which the webinar will be displayed. Prior to the start of the webinar, it'll just contain the title of the webinar and some other informational text.

  • Go To Webinar controls. These will allow you to control aspects of how you view the webinar.

Go To Webinar Controls

The controls will look much like this:

Go To Webinar attendee controls

You can ignore anything to do with microphones. For various reasons, I don't plan on taking audio comments from attendees. (I'll show you how to ask questions below.) You will want speakers with which to hear me.

Unless you have no speakers, you do not need to use the provided telephone numbers at all. Your PC's speakers are all that you really need.

The controls may automatically minimize to a smaller widget:

Go To Meeting widget

You can click the orange boxed arrow to restore it and then click on the View menu and uncheck Auto-Hide the Control Panel, if you like.

On that View menu, you can also select whether you want to view the webinar window itself as a window or view it full-screen. (The control panel will float on top).

That's it! Once the webinar starts, you should see a window (or full screen) in which you'll see my computer or whatever else I elect to display:

Go To Webinar view of Leo's machine

Asking questions

I encourage you to ask questions during the webinar. It's one reason why I'm exploring this live format.

To ask a question, simply type the question into the question field in the Go To Meeting control box:

Type your questions here

Press Send and your question will show up on my Go To Webinar control panel.

As you might expect, I can't guarantee that I'll get to every question in the time that we'll have, but I'll certainly do my best.

About my machine

What I display is typically not my actual machine, but rather a virtual machine running whatever operating system is appropriate for the topics to be covered. (My current, actual machine has a desktop that is 5760x1200 across three monitors - a size that is not only unwieldy for webinars, but it actually screws up the video recording if I show it even briefly).

One side effect is that you'll see a window border around what I present:

Parallels desktop in Go To Webinar

That the window border is visible at all is a side-effect of how I tell Go To Meeting to display only that one window. You can safely ignore it and concentrate on what's within. As you can see above, there's the Go To Webinar viewer, inside of which is the Parallels Desktop window, the menu associated with Parallels Desktop. Finally, inside of that is the (virtual) machine that I'll be using for the webinar.

I try to size things so that the machine window is 1280x720 in size - also known as 720p in HD TV terms. Videos created from the webinar will be trimmed to that size.

While you most certainly can view the webinar with screens smaller than 1280x720, if your computer supports a size somewhat larger, I'd recommend it.

If you missed the webinar

This article explains how you can view the recorded video segments: How do I view your past webinars?

Remember, it may take a few weeks for the videos to become available, so keep checking back!

Article C4838 - June 5, 2011 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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