I’d like to continue the discussion about raising the bar with the latest Meeting & Event technology. I wrote previously about the necessity of upgrading to HD Video and Audio (see my “Are You Carrying the Flag for HD?” LinkedIn post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-carrying-hd-flag-kymoul-vanterpool?trk=prof-post). Now I’d like to take it the next level, urging both Meeting Planners and AV professionals to consider live-streaming your next event. The demand by your attendees for the latest technology is becoming evident.
What I’m talking about.
“Live-Streaming” is the real-time (or close to it) broadcasting of the events happening at your conference, to those not attending. It’s not new. Victoria’s Secret did it over 15 years ago, with technology cobbled together far inferior to options available to us now. And today, we can also add interactivity, allowing the viewers to submit comments or questions real-time, to make the experience even more compelling for everyone.
And we all know about “post-event” options, like webinars or webcasts that are recorded and served up after the event is over. But for this discussion, I want to focus on the live side of the equation.
I know what you’re thinking:
“I’ll lose attendees to my conference if they can just watch it live, without attending.” Indeed, that’s the common fear. That, plus the potential incremental production cost to execute a live-streaming event. I’ll talk about dealing with the cost later. First, let’s discuss the potential loss of attendees.
To Stream or Not to Stream, that is the Question.
First, think about an attendee’s entire experience at a conference. Part of it is seeing the main session, keynotes and PowerPoint presentations. But nothing beats the personal interactions, the networking opportunities, the actual social part of attending a conference.
- Bonds are created and deals are made.
- An engaged attendee will make sure they shake the hand of the speaker, exchange business cards and ask that burning question they’ve been stewing about all year.
- And don’t forget the trade show. Swag bags of goodies from vendors with the latest technology in your industry.
- Maybe they’ll discover that new piece of equipment or technology that’s part of a potential up-grade in your company within the next year.
All these are the real benefits of attending conferences in person. Those who only want to see the keynotes or PowerPoints weren’t coming anyway. And you probably already decided to post the presentations on your website for them.
Why are they not attending?
- Is it really because they could get the streaming anyway?
- Is it because their company has spent their travel budget already?
- Has the staff has been cut, everyone’s covering multiple jobs now and they don’t have the time to be out of the office for 4 days straight?
- Is there a limit to the number of people Management will allow attending? Those left in the office get nothing?
- And what about International members? The travel expenses alone may make their attendance prohibitive.
But how wonderful if you could engage them all, real-time, as part of your event. They would see your information real-time, be able to put it to good use right away, and feel like part of the association.
So, let’s agree.
Just because you offer live-streaming of your event, doesn’t mean you’re going to immediately lose your attendees. They were already staying home, for other reasons. Live-streaming is only going to offer those not attending to see your event, become more educated, more enthused about your company or association, because they could watch the live event, despite the reasons that they had to stay in the office.
Increase Your Reach with Live-Streaming
Are there new, potential association members who would like to see your event? What a great recruiting inducement, to get them to sign up when they see the caliber of your event and value of your content. So why not send a message to your “Prospective Members” list and invite them to watch your event live? Their interest in the event’s live streaming will start your engagement with them and could lead to increased membership.
Make Money With Live-Streaming
Depending on your industry and your business, you may have the opportunity to make money on live-streaming. That would not only pay for the incremental production cost, but could be real revenue to your bottom line. It just depends how you structure the fees. For example, companies with more than 10 attendees, in person, could get the live-streaming for a reduced fee, per viewer. And how much, incrementally, would your trade show booth participants be willing to pay to have a visit to their booth part of your live-streaming programming? And after the event, maybe you can charge a fee for non-attendees to see the videos that you’ve recorded. Only you can determine if your members will see enough value to pay incremental fees. You may just have to test it out, and evaluate the reactions.
As I mentioned in my article about HD Video and Audio, the younger attendees are getting used to live-streaming, with podcasters and even members of their family. User-friendly applications like Meercat, Periscope, Google Hang-out, Livestream and U-Stream make this possible for anyone, even through their mobile devices. You should be looking into technologies like these and others that allow you to do this on an appropriate scale for your event, like Mindsite, Telestream, Justin.tv, Spacevidcast or Wowza.
What’s It Take?
OK, so what will it take to pull off live-streaming at my event? You should already will be budgeting for the appropriate HD Video and Audio equipment. Live-streaming has to become its own line item on the budget.
First you have to consider the appropriate bandwidth at the venue. This will be your first challenge, both from consistent availability and from a cost perspective. Many venues are drastically over-charging for the bandwidth, making live-streaming prohibitive. That has to change. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring in your own satellite trucks for your connectivity, and that’s expensive. As Meeting Planners, this should be one of your negotiating points and requirements during the selection process for your venue.
Meeting Planners, you should be looking for A/V professionals who have experience executing live events. You should ask them:
- How will they anticipate any potential failures that might happen?
- Do they have back-up equipment if there are technical issues with the equipment?
- Are they paying attention to all the details, real-time, to be sure the event is pulled off flawlessly?
- Do they have the appropriate skill-sets? Live-streaming brings with it a whole new level of “IT” expertise, beyond what you might normally need for an event production. Live-streaming involves servers, configuration, encoding, connectivity and more. Make sure there’s a strong IT person on the team.
So, the point is: “Start!”
Attendees are going to demand live-streaming, and you don’t want to be left in the dust, while others have already figured out.
- Meeting Planners: Have the live-streaming discussion with your A/V professional.
- A/V Professionals: Start recommending live-streaming to your Meeting Planners. As I’ve said before, we need to continue raising the bar to stay ahead of your attendees’ expectations.
What do you think?
I’m sure I’ve raised some eyebrows with this discussion. Tell me where you agree or disagree. What have I left out? What’s working for your associations or clients? I’d love to hear from you.