All of you in higher ed world are probably involved in the same thing that we are at Duke in the month of April: Admissions yield! We admit our students at the beginning of April, and they typically have until May 1 to decide which of their college admissions offers to accept. We, of course, want them all to pick Duke!
One way that we try to help our admitted students to figure out if Duke is the right fit for them is by giving them access to current Duke students. Our Duke Students channels on Instagram, Snapchat (@DukeStudents), Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are great ways to reach them, but we also want them to have some real “face time” with our current students. Enter our student live-chats.
- Choose a time. We usually aim for a time when our east and west coast students can join, and also a time that works for high school and college students. (Basically, that means nothing before noon.)
- Set up your tech details. We use YouTube Live (Google Hangouts On Air), but you could do this with any number of platforms. YouTube Live works well for us because it’s easy to have our students “call in” from anywhere they happen to be.
- Work with your admissions team to let your admitted students know. We send an invitation to the live chat to each admitted student so that they can watch at the appointed time and ask their questions. Send your admitted students the link to the YouTube video, not the link to join the Google Hangouts On Air. They’ll be able to watch the video on YouTube and ask questions in the chat box, but they won’t show up on the video screen with your student hosts.
- Coordinate your student hosts. Make sure they know what time you’re starting, and send lots of reminders! Ask them to be in a quiet place with good wifi and headphones with a microphone. (Their Apple earbuds will work.) Let them know where you’ll be sharing the link for them to join the chat on the big day and ask them to join the chat a few minutes early to trouble-shoot any tech issues. (Trouble-shooting for us usually involves having them try a different browser or re-start their computer if something isn’t working. Super high-tech, I know.)
Getting Ready on the Big Day
- Sign in to YouTube and get your event going. It won’t broadcast immediately, so you have time to do your set-up before you hit go.
- Invite your student hosts to the chat using the link that your Google Hangouts On Air will provide. (We’ve tried it lots of other ways, but texting the link to the student hosts on the day-of is the most reliable method for us.)
- Get all your student hosts signed in.
- Test their sound and lay down your ground rules. (We don’t have many besides our long-standing “grandma rule:” Don’t say it if it would offend your grandma.) One of our ground rules is also that the student hosts mute themselves when they’re not speaking. This keeps the video from automatically flipping to them if a noise happens in the background or they sneeze or something.
During the Chat
- Once you start broadcasting, turn off your own video and sound so that it’s just your student hosts who are showing up on the screen. You may also want to change your cameraman settings so that you’re only broadcasting the large video that you see to your audience, and hiding the other thumbnail video feeds. (If your student hosts are goofing around when they’re not the ones talking, this keeps them off the screen!)
- I keep open my Google Hangouts On Air window and also open the YouTube window with the chat in it. This is where your admitted students will be asking questions. If you don’t have a question right away, don’t panic! It’s best to have a few frequently asked questions to start with, just in case the chat starts slow.
- As the questions come in, I paste them into the Google Hangouts On Air chat for the student hosts. This keeps the student hosts from having to flip back and forth to the YouTube window, and since I’m not talking on the chat, I can field questions and put them in a good order for them to answer. I’m basically the silent question moderator.
- Set an end time or stop when the questions stop. We can usually go for a solid hour before the student hosts get tired, so we say we’ll go for an hour unless we run out of questions. We often have more questions than we can answer in an hour!
- Vet your student hosts before-hand. I pick students I already know are enthusiastic, good on camera, friendly and reliable.
- Practice! Run a test YouTube Live if you haven’t done it before, preferably on your personal channel or on a test channel somewhere.
- Don’t panic. It’s live and sometimes stuff happens live. Someone’s wifi will cut out or there will be some weird background noise or a host of other weird issues. Roll with it. Your audience knows it’s live and they’ll understand some hiccups.
- Re-use it when you’re done! We caption our student chats and re-share them for admitted students who may have missed out on the live chat. In fact, most of our views come from people re-watching the chats on YouTube.
- Have fun! It’s a cool, great way to connect with your admitted students and share your enthusiasm with them.
Our latest student chat is below, and if you’d like to see one live, our next one will be April 18 at 8 pm EST.