By Nick Whitehead, Head of Marketing, Viocorp
Live streaming a corporate event is a great opportunity to reach a broad audience. For your marketing and communications departments, the chance to generate huge audience engagement and social interaction in real time sounds like an obvious win. But when everything happens live, pulling it off smoothly can be a challenge.
Picture this: your spokesperson steps on stage to discover his slideshow doesn’t work and viewers have to watch him fumble with a laptop for five minutes. You broadcast from a glitzy conference room only to use up all of your venue data allowance in the first half hour so your major launch starts to buffer or cuts out completely. You provide a live Twitter feed to generate engagement but get inundated with negative responses that are publically available for anybody to see. Your brand reputation suffers and, depending on how serious the issue, somebody somewhere may even lose their job.
The success of a virtual event rests on your ability to keep the stream up and running, while also moderating audience interaction in real time. The key is to plan and test the stream in advance to make sure everything runs without a hitch. If your business is looking to live stream an event, here’s a checklist of what to consider before, during and afterwards to make sure it’s a success.
Planning is the most important process for any event. This is particularly important for live streaming because any mistakes will impact your audience in real time. To avoid any unexpected glitches, test everything in live conditions. These are the three most likely sources of pain:
Corporate networks can present a challenge when getting the stream out to viewers, especially if you’re trying to push an HD stream from your boardroom without alerting your network team. It’s a good idea not to rely on a single uplink, or you might find your video cuts out and you have no way of fixing it. For example, relying on venue internet to broadcast an HD stream from a conference venue will chew through your data allowance quickly, so you need to have a backup plan.
Platforms like Netflix and YouTube have conditioned us to expect buffer-free video on our devices, but streaming an event to viewers across a corporate network requires an enterprise-grade video platform that won’t kill your network. You don’t want viewers to experience slow loading times or buffering because your network doesn’t have the capacity for a large-scale live video audience. A business-grade video platform that provides adaptive streaming and enables stream splitting (making 100 viewers look like 1) will provide the best viewing experience across different devices, adapting to each viewer’s connection and automatically adjusting the bit-rate for high-quality video.
Perhaps surprisingly, this is even more important than video quality. If the visuals cut out, the audience can still follow the audio while you fix the problem. If the sound drops out, they’re much more likely to leave before you can get it sorted out. Make sure you have a reliable way to capture all of the relevant audio, as well as a viable Plan B. Don’t make the mistake of switching audio on before the event begins – the last thing you want to do is broadcast the pre-event chatter from your presenters.
Interactivity is one of the most valuable benefits of live streaming. With a real-time poll, scrolling Twitter feed or live Q&A, your event can develop a collaborative dialogue and generate substantial social engagement. This is great for your business, but only if your team successfully moderates that engagement to protect the brand from negative communication. If your business is really risk averse, you may want to proactively moderate and only display filtered comments. For a more open event, you can display everything but make sure your live platform has the ability to quickly filter out anything inappropriate.
In the case of live Q&A, it’s important that your presenter isn’t trying to read off a rapid feed of incoming comments. Have a second display set up for the presenter that is easily legible and shows them only one question at a time. It’s also a good idea to have extra people trained and ready to jump in as moderators in case you receive floods of responses or there are technical issues you need to address.
Now that the hardest part is over, have a replay ready to go as soon as the event ends. Anyone who couldn’t make it, arrived late or simply wants to revisit a moment will appreciate this. It’s also important to speak with your marketing or internal communications team about how they want to repurpose the content. On average, viewers will watch live-streamed video 5x longer than on-demand video. So while your 30-minute presentation might have captivated a live audience, it’s highly unlikely that viewers will watch a replay for the full half hour. Marketing may want to break the video into separate topics, or share the slides and transcript online. This means your team needs to have the necessary webpages built, tested and live before the event – you don’t want to share a link with viewers only to have them arrive at an error message.
Broadcasting an event in real-time can be a nerve-wracking proposition. But the business benefits are considerable, and any issues can be avoided if your team follows the right steps. Trial your event in live conditions and be aware of any single points of failure, like your uplink connection or audio setup. You’ll thank yourself later for providing additional backups or extra resources on-site. Talk to your marketing or internal communications team and determine what success looks like for them. A little planning and testing will go a long way towards delivering a successful event for your business and its online audience.
This article also appeared on Computerworld.