It seems hard to believe that just a few short years ago the idea of having a remote, online audience for a meeting or event was bleeding-edge technology. I remember all too vividly the trials and errors of combining services such as Skype and the just released Google Hangouts, with what was, at the time, state-of-the-art live-streaming technology. The goal was not to just broadcast the event, but to create a remote audience that could interact with and take part in a conference in real time. There were plenty of missed steps along the way, but those early experiments paved the way for award-winning uses of technology to connect attendees from around the world.
These days, however, there are so many live-streaming options for your event that it’s hard to swing a microphone and not hit the latest video streaming service that’s popped up in the news. Periscope, Blab, Hangouts Live, YouTube Live, Facebook Live—the list goes on and on.
As with all technology, competition and time have brought down the prices of the high-end, live-streaming options, while simultaneously increasing the quality. What’s been fascinating, though, has been to watch the proliferation of these free and low-cost streaming services, bringing the ability to make any meeting or event instantly accessible to attendees all over the world. While they’re not replacements for high-quality streaming services, they can be powerful tools in the event planner’s toolbox. Here are just a few uses to get your mind going.
In the weeks leading up to your event, why not engage your audience a little early and get them excited for it? Encourage your speakers to schedule a live stream to promote the event. Promote the stream times and dates as part of your pre-event communications, giving your audience an opportunity to get to know the speaker and their subject matter in advance. Keynote speakers could do an “Ask Me Anything” session, simply give a brief introduction into their sessions, or pre-gather questions to help tailor their message, making their sessions even more relevant to the target audience.
Venue tours and setup
As the event approaches, you could live stream a tour of the venue, giving the in-person audience the “lay of the land” before they arrive. It’s one thing to see a map of a convention center, it’s quite another to know exactly what it will look like. You could show them the ballroom or event space before it’s all set up, making your dramatic decor transformation all the more mind blowing. In fact, why not live stream some of the setup itself? People love seeing behind the scenes, and it can help build anticipation.
During the event
As I mentioned above, I don’t see apps such as Periscope as replacements for paid live-streaming services. Watching a shaky feed from a cell phone camera can’t replace quality camera and sound being fed through a high-quality streaming service. It can be done, but as with everything, you get what you pay for. It’s important that if you do decide to use one of the budget services to broadcast portions of your event to set expectations accordingly. These services can change, upgrade or go offline completely without warning, so it’s important to be realistic about that. Make sure that these types of feeds are being promoted in the spirit of sharing, spontaneity and fun, rather than any kind of “official” broadcast of the event. That said, it’s still important to promote when these streams will be active in order to attract the most viewers.
Engage, engage, engage
The best part of the latest crop of streaming services is that they’re all the children of social media. Twitter owns Periscope; Facebook Live has been an important rollout for Facebook, aimed squarely at celebrities, podcasters, thought leaders—anyone with a following. As a result, these platforms have had interactivity built in from the beginning. Viewers can react in near real-time, ask questions, chat with other viewers and share the feed with their friends with just a few swipes of their phones. Take full advantage of that opportunity!
Whatever service you’re using, make sure someone is responsible for looking at, and responding to, audience questions and comments. Whether using a budget app or a high-end service, consider giving the remote audience their own host or emcee—a familiar face that will be a consistent guide throughout the event.
Remember that you may have viewers from time zones on the other side of the world, so plan accordingly. While your in-person attendees may break for lunch at noon, it’s not noon for everyone, so what does the rest of your remote audience do during that time? Games, quizzes, interviews? Get creative!
Embrace the tools
While many planners have stood fast in their opposition to live-streaming tools, those that have embraced them have found them a valuable resource for promoting their events. Rather than replacing or somehow cannibalizing the live attendance, those that use them effectively have actually seen their in-person attendance increase, not decrease. With all the possible services available, there’s never been a better time to start learning more about virtual and hybrid events, live-streaming apps and other streaming applications, and what they can do for your organization’s events!