Pre-Chalk Talk Instructions (Remote)

Pre-Chalk Talk Instructions

For Remote Online Recording

Producing a Chalk Talk is easy, fast, and fun!

Thanks for sponsoring an episode of EE Journal’s popular Chalk Talk webcast series. This brief is designed to help you prepare for your Chalk Talk recording session and to answer the common questions people have about producing a Chalk Talk on-demand webcast episode.

You need 3 things:
a PowerPoint presentation
a presenter
a couple hours in a quiet place with good Wi-Fi

Chalk Talk has been running for over ten years. We have produced hundreds of episodes with dozens of sponsors and we have a large and loyal audience following. We have fine-tuned the process of recording and producing Chalk Talk based on years of accumulated experience and analysis of results and audience response. Our goal is to produce the most interesting and engaging online presentation possible with an absolute minimal amount of time, effort, and stress on you, your company, and your speaker.

Now, we can record your Chalk Talk episode via online meeting, with the same broadcast-quality audio we have achieved for years with in-person recording.

There’s no need for rehearsing or scripting. The final product is better if you don’t.

We actually recommend NOT scripting your presentation. We know you want your final Chalk Talk to sound relaxed and natural, so we put Amelia (our Chalk Talk host) in the role of your target customer. She asks the questions that lead directly into the slides, creating a conversational atmosphere. It’s as if your presenter is having a casual coffee shop conversation with Amelia-as-the-customer (except, of course, they brought PowerPoint slides).

Before we start recording, we’ll work with you to come up with an appropriate set of questions for Amelia to ask as a transition/lead-in into each slide. (We typically do this during the recording session before we start recording.)

For example:

This back-and-forth conversation/interview format is proven to have much higher audience retention than a single-presenter webcast.

Don’t worry about your hair or makeup.

We record only audio for your Chalk Talk. We ship you the required gear ahead of time, and setup/teardown is minimal. These instructions will help you get going.

Your presenter will get unlimited “do-overs” during their recording session. Wrong word? Just pause, and go back to the beginning of the sentence, beginning of the slide, Amelia’s last question…whatever! There’s no pressure. Our professional audio editor will take out most of the “uuhhhs”, “ummms”, long pauses, etc. – so the final result ends up sounding perfectly polished.

Before the recording session, you send us an electronic copy of your PowerPoint – which we will synchronize with the final audio after editing. We often add additional animations to the PowerPoint to help illustrate what your speaker is saying, and to make the presentation more dynamic.

Note: This needs to be your FINAL copy of the slides. Changing slides after post-production is in process is an enormous amount of effort.Your slides need to be finalized before we start post-production.

How long should my presentation be?

We have produced Chalk Talks as short as six minutes and as long as an hour. Our recommended target is 15-20 minutes, as that is the peak point for audience retention. We recommend approximately one slide per minute – so between 15 and 20 slides is an average presentation, however we can deal with far more or far fewer. We want to take whatever time is needed to tell your story well, in a concise and compelling format that holds the audience’s attention.

How should I prepare my PowerPoint slides?

The PowerPoint slides can use your company’s normal format/template. We build the “chalkboard” environment, titles, landing page, intro and closing music during post production. Your PowerPoint slides may include rich media such as video clips of demos or Camtasia-style software demo captures, if you think those would enhance the presentation. Be sure to remove any “company confidential” material and markings from slides as they will be going into a public webcast.

As you prepare slides, pay close attention to font size. Bigger is better! A lot of people watch Chalk Talk on smartphones, tablets, and other smaller-screen devices. You don’t want the audience straining to read microscopic fonts on their tiny mobile screen.

Also, we recommend that your PowerPoint slides be in widescreen (16:9 or 16:10) format. Since all of the devices we broadcasting to are widescreen, your presentation will make the best use of the space if it’s widescreen too. Of course we can still handle “retro” 4:3 slides if that’s what you prefer. (There will just be blank space on both sides of your slides.)

Remote Recording Session – Setup Instructions

Before your scheduled recording session, we’ll ship you your very own fancy headset. It is critical that you use this headset rather than any alternative microphone setup, as our editing setup is pre-configured for the audio characteristics of this microphone and we have thoroughly tested the recording process with this equipment.

The headset you’ll receive is a high-quality Sennheiser GSP 500 or 600. Prior to your recording session, unbox and test your headset with your computer to be sure the headset’s microphone and headphones are working correctly with your computer. The headset can be plugged directly into your computer. No driver installation should be required, as the headset uses your computer’s built-in sound card.

The headset comes with two sets of connectors – one with a combined microphone/headphones plug, and one with separate plugs for microphone and headphones. Use the plug that is appropriate for your computer. Most PCs will use the cord with separate mic and headphone connections, and most Macs use the combined single plug connector. Choose the appropriate plug for your computer and plug in your headset! Just make sure to check that the cable is fully plugged into the left ear cup, as sometimes the cable is not entirely in the connector.

Download and Install the Zoom App

Next, you’ll need to download and install the Zoom video conferencing app. If you already have the Zoom app, you can skip these steps and check to make sure you have run available updates that you’re running the latest version of Zoom.

For those who do not already have Zoom:

• Go to:

• Download and install the Zoom client.

Start up Zoom to Test/Setup

• Run the Zoom app you just installed

• Start a new meeting (don’t worry, it’ll be just you this time)

Configuring Zoom

• First, let’s set up the audio

• Audio settings are in the bottom left, near the microphone icon.

Zoom Audio Settings

Bring up the Audio Settings

You’ll see separate settings for the “Speaker” and “Microphone.” Use the drop down to make sure they are both set to the headset (this might be called “External Headphones” or by another name depending on your operating system).

Make sure to un-checkAutomatically adjust microphone volume.” 

Set the “microphone input volume” a little below halfway.

Click “Test Speaker” to test that the audio is coming through your headset. It’ll play you a little song. Adjust the “Speaker Output Volume” to a comfortable level for you.

Click “Test Mic” to test that the headset mic is working. In a Zoom conference you will not hear your own voice in your headset. This is NORMAL. So for this test, it’ll record you and play you back to yourself. (Don’t you sound great?) 

[NOTE we have seen rare cases where company-owned machines have had the external audio input/headset jack(s) disabled by the IT department. If this test does not work for you, you will need to have it re-enabled or find a machine with a non-disabled sound card.]

Scroll down –

• Under “Suppress background noise,” check “Auto.”

• Under “Music and Professional Audio,” check “Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone” and “Echo cancellation.” Leave other boxes unchecked.

• If you’re having trouble locating these options, make sure you’re using the latest version of Zoom. If you need to use an earlier version, scroll down to the bottom of the window and click “Advanced” to find the missing boxes.

Now go to the Recording settings

Check “Record a separate audio file for each participant

Un-check everything else

Note the location where Zoom will put your local recordings (you’ll need to know this at the end of your session)

Our setup work is done…

• You may now quit Zoom

• Be sure you have sent us a current copy of your PowerPoint slides

As soon as your PowerPoint presentation is finalized and you’ve tested your headset with your computer, you are ready for our remote recording session!

The Recording Session

• You’ll get a Zoom meeting invitation

• Join the meeting (with your headset on)

NOTE: You will not hear your OWN voice in your headset – this is NORMAL.

• First, we’ll double check your setup and make sure everything is working

• We’ll ask you to turn on “original sound” in Zoom (in the upper right corner of the window)

• When it’s time to actually record, we’ll have you start recording on your end

– This makes a local copy of your audio, which is much cleaner than what comes over the internet connection

– We’ll have you press “record” at about the same time we do on our side.

After the Session

• When we are done recording, we’ll end the session.

• Once our session is ended, a dialog box will pop up that shows the audio from our session being converted to a M4a file. Do not turn off your computer while this dialog box is compiling.

• After it is done compiling that file, we want you to send us this local audio recording that Zoom saved on your computer.

•  Zoom puts the recording in a folder called “Zoom” on your computer (we asked you to make a note of this location earlier in this presentation. If you need to check the location again, go back to “Audio Settings” and look under the “Recording” tab).

• Inside the Zoom folder is another folder named with the date of the recording and the owner of the Zoom recording session (usually Amelia). It will look something like this: “2021-01-28…Amelia’s Dalton’s Personal Meeting Room.”

• Inside that folder is another folder called “Audio Record.” Select the file that includes your name. It should look like this: “audio_only_…your name.m4a

• Send us the file using whatever system your company uses for large file transfer — Dropbox, WeTransfer, etc.

A humorous intro gets people’s attention.

We write and add Amelia’s chalkboard introduction during post-production. Our goal is to create a humorous segue into the main point of the presentation before Amelia introduces your speaker. We generally do not need any assistance from you for the intro – unless you have a creative idea, which we can discuss during the recording session.

(Okay, you need four things, actually.)

At some point, we’ll need a headshot of your presenter. This doesn’t have to be a high-quality portrait. We’ll be turning it into a fake, old-school Polaroid and putting it in the webcast player on the chalkboard.

How long is post-production?

Post-production usually takes about 4 weeks. During post-production, we edit the audio, add music and intro, synchronize the audio with your slides, and turn the whole thing into a video, which we upload to YouTube as “unlisted.” We then send you a link to that proof copy for review.

How are Chalk Talks promoted?

Once you have approved your Chalk Talk episode, we can go live whenever you’re ready. Your Chalk Talk will be live for at least one year, and includes a tremendous amount of advertising/promotion over the course of that year to drive traffic to your webcast.

We promote your Chalk Talk as a “Featured Chalk Talk” on the EEJournal home page and content pages (articles, news stories, etc.), in the EE Journal daily newsletters, on our YouTube channel, our Facebook page, and our Twitter stream. It will be everywhere.You’ll be famous.We’ll even send you embed code so you can put it on your own site if you want. Just let us know.

(Well, maybe you need FIVE things. But that’s all, we promise!)

We also ask you for a “call-to-action” link for the presentation.Typically, this directs the viewer to a page of your choosing where they can take the next step of engagement – buy a dev kit, download eval software, read a white paper, etc. We embed clickable links into the video and put the call-to-action link in the description below the video player as well.

Most of all – we want your Chalk Talk experience to be easy and fun for you and your presenter. We really enjoy creating Chalk Talks, meeting new people, and learning about new technology. We think that enjoyment and spirit of fun comes through in the final presentation and makes the audience feel that way as well.