YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, so it’s no surprise that video has become an essential component of corporate communication, event marketing and social media strategy. In this “Meeting technology 101” column, we’ll examine two new tools meeting planners can use to engage audiences, disseminate information and promote events.
In the rush to generate new video content, many organizations forget that online audiences are “information snackers” — they don’t have the attention span (or the time) to watch a 10-minute promotional spot, no matter how gorgeous the production values are.
“The average corporate video is being watched for 38 seconds,” says Pete Callaghan, president of interactive online video production company HuStream. “There’s too much content.”
HuStream creates interactive videos that let viewers choose the information they want to watch and the order in which they receive it. HuStream records a corporate spokesperson on location, via webcam or Skype and uses that footage to produce several short video segments. At regular intervals, viewers have a menu of options they can choose from; each choice leads to different content.
Website URLs and documents can be embedded into video segments as can data entry fields. So if a video is promoting an event, planners can include PDFs of loading dock information in the exhibitor section, sponsorship forms in a separate category and a whole host of information that attendees could use to register for the event, schedule sessions and download speaker handouts in segments targeted to them. What they view, how long they watch and what call-to-action items they choose are compiled in reports that help clients customize the viewing experience even further.
“The average engagement time across our projects is five minutes,” Callaghan says. If you say, ‘Here’s a brochure to our event,’ you don’t know if they’ve read it or not. But if you break it into bite-sized chunks of info, you can see what choices are being made and what order of information is not being consumed.
“For example,” he continues, “if you know a clip is 45 seconds long, and 85 percent of the audience go to this clip but the majority is leaving in 10 seconds, you know something’s wrong.” HuStream customers can then make corrections and upload new segments to increase audience engagement.
The cost starts at $8,000 and is based on the complexity of the project. HuStream also can be used for training and education.
Callaghan predicts that within five years the type of customized experience that HuStream offers will have changed how all websites operate. You’ll see video conversations served up the moment you need them, he says.
Here’s a short video about some of HuStream’s features:
Communicate in real time
Video also is being used to engage attendees once they’re on-site.
Closed-circuit conference television has been around for a long time, but its messaging is only effective if attendees turn on the TV and keep it on the (notoriously boring) conference channel. HCN (Hotel Communications Network) takes a different approach by creating a digital ecosystem that exists bedside and can be carried with guests on their mobile devices.
HCN installs a computer screen in every hotel room that acts as a meeting-specific billboard. It turns itself on every day at 8 a.m. and goes off the air at 11 p.m. Meeting planners can decide what information is sent to which rooms. For example, every room might receive a video featuring a welcome address from the organization’s president. Then exhibitor rooms might only get trade show-related information, while attendee rooms may get both agenda and meeting room information.
All attendees can download a widget to their mobile devices that lets them access those materials and receive instant messages from meeting organizers and sponsors. A chat function that lets attendees communicate with each other after-hours is in development.
“The screens can display this year’s award winners, a map, information on transportation,” says Kevin Bidner, HCN’s president and CEO. “There can be a document center for keynote speakers and videos. The meeting manager can send a single message to a single room or bulk messages to several rooms.” And because the information is based in the cloud, meeting planners can use any device (including their smartphones) to access the HCN dashboard and update meeting information as needed. The HCN system also can be used to communicate with groups of people housed in multiple hotels.
“The screens are in every room in the hotel, but the messages only hit the room block that’s coded to your meeting,” Bidner explains.
The technology is surprisingly affordable — as little as $1 per room per night or $500 for an unlimited number of rooms but a limited amount of customization.
HCN is available in the Hilton Chicago and InterContinental Chicago with a third hotel in Chicago expected to come online this fall. Bidner says he’s negotiating with hoteliers in Orlando, San Diego and San Francisco and hopes to have a HCN presence in 18 markets nationwide within the next 24 to 36 months.
The key to its widespread acceptance may lie in the benefits that HCN offers hoteliers. When it’s not being used for meetings, guests can use the screens to order room service and talk to the front desk.
“Hotels can get rid of paper,” Bidner says. “It allows them to update hotel information and share it with the guest more frequently and less expensively. One of our hotels has changed their menu several times; you can’t do that with paper. They use those screens to market themselves, their venues and their services.”
Tune in next month, and I’ll share some hi-fi and low-fi ways meeting planners can create real-time collaborations.