Livestreaming Events: Expanding Your Event’s Reach

Social media has had an impact nearly across the board for live events. From marketing to attendee engagement to post-event surveys and several steps in between, all have been affected by the immediacy of social media.

 The latest social media advancement is actually not all that new. However, it is one that event planners are not yet using to its fullest potential and one that could transform your current event: livestreaming. And luckily your options for livestreaming are broader than ever. Facebook offers Facebook Live, Instagram provides Instagram Live, YouTube has YouTube Live (sensing a pattern?), for Twitter users there’s Periscope. As your ability to livestream has increased, so has an event planner’s reasons for utilizing the technology.

 The benefits to you as an event planner are that livestreaming can increase your attendance, both virtually and physically, and turn a regional event into a global one.

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Livestreaming exposes your event to those who otherwise might not attend.

A recent survey by Digitell, Inc. interviewed over 100 professionals who attended virtual hybrid events. The results uncovered that the vast majority of the responders, 83 percent, were not planning to attend the event they livestreamed. In other words, there is virtually no overlap between the people who want to attend your event and those who attend it virtually.

 One of the biggest fears that event planners have when it comes to livestreaming events is that it will cause physical attendance to decrease. However, it turns out that is not true. For example, 10 years ago the Professional Convention Management (PCMA) noticed that attendance at their annual convention had fallen off. So, for their 2010 event, the PCMA offered its members the chance to livestream elements of its annual conference.

 “A lot of people thought virtual meetings were going to destroy our industry,” Jennifer Kingen Kush, vice president and executive director of PCMA's Digital Experience Institute said to Successful Meetings. “We felt very confident that they wouldn't, but we felt we needed to experiment with digital technology in order to understand it. That's when we started doing digital events.”

 Their livestreaming plans began slowly, but over the years it has become an essential component of their events.

Livestreaming Drives Physical Attendance

Another fact the Digitell survey uncovered was that livestreaming actually encouraged virtual attendees to attend an upcoming physical event. In fact, 68 percent said they planned to attend in person after participating virtually.  

PCMA's experience confirms these findings. Since it started livestreaming in 2010, physical attendance at its annual event has increased every year. PCMA found that “An average of 23 percent of virtual attendees convert to physical attendees within the next 24 months,” according to James Parker, President of Digitell.

“We've seen an increase in our face-to-face attendance every single year, and digital events have created a pipeline of engagement that has resulted in future face-to-face registrations, online purchases, and memberships,” said Kingen Kush. “We've proven that [cannibalization of live events by digital events] does not happen and that the opposite is actually true: Virtual meetings can be a very strategic tool for growing face-to-face programs.”

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There are Multiple Livestreaming Opportunities Throughout an Event

Any significant experience is an excuse to provide a livestream. And many smaller ones are, too. Featured speakers, special sessions, opening and closing ceremonies, entertainment, product launches, special announcements, experiential activations, and more all deliver opportunities for livestreaming.

However, your chances for livestreaming extend beyond the open and close of the event itself. You can work with speakers, influencers, and sponsors to hold Q&A sessions in the days leading to the event or take viewers on behind the scenes tours as the event comes together. You can also build anticipations as your event nears by livestreaming any big announcements, like new speakers, entertainers, and sessions. 

Be Thoughtful with Your Livestreams

 However, just because you can livestream everything doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. You will likely discover that some sessions that are more friendly for livestreaming than others. 

“One of the things we tried at the beginning was livestreaming our lunch programming,” said Kingen Kush referring to the PCMA annual convention. “It was like being invited to dinner and not being able to eat. The timing was awkward. You could hear silverware. It just didn't work. So, we took a step back and realized that we needed to design the experience based on what we wanted the online audience to feel and walk away with. So, now we don't share our lunchtime programming; and if we do, we record it, then broadcast it afterward.”

This is especially true for organizations that are just starting out with the technology. It’s a smart idea to just livestream a few keynote presentations to slowly acclimate to the process. It is all about delivering the most significant value for your online audience’s investment. Someone watching a livestream doesn’t have the constraints of an in-person attendee. It is extremely easy for them to leave. That’s why it is essential to carefully curate the content you choose to share.

Plan Your Livestreamed Events Carefully

“It's not just turning on the camera and hitting ‘stream.’” said Kingen Kush. “It's having a deliberate plan for how presenters will acknowledge the online audience and interact with them.”

In addition to curating your content, you should carefully consider what is going to be on air. Livestreamed footage cannot be edited, and there are no second takes. Flubs and minor memory lapses are fine, even expected for live broadcasts. But, the one mistake you cannot afford to make is to air unseemly or inappropriate comments. Even something overheard in the background can negatively impact your event. 

While you can’t control the surrounding and ambient sound that is carried over a livestream, you can control where and what you shoot. Be sure that everyone in front of the camera is prepared and professional, and that the surrounding scene is appropriate for the at-home crowd.  

Photo by Veeterzy on Unsplash

Photo by Veeterzy on Unsplash

The Value of Your Livestreamed Content Will Continue After the Event

Livestreaming is not a one-and-done exercise. All of your livestreamed content can be saved and repurposed for marketing materials to promote upcoming events. With an effective plan in place, it is even possible to monetize this content. PCMA has been able to achieve profits from their eight years of video content to generate $1 million in revenue for the organization.

“From an ROI standpoint, our digital events have funneled over $1 million back to the organization. But it's not just ROI, which a lot of our leadership is focused on. It's also ROE – return on engagement,” said Kingen Kush. “We looked at people who had not attended our events for five-plus years, but who attended our digital events online. For all these individuals, we saw an increase in website sessions, an increase in opened emails, an increase in clickthroughs, and increased engagement with all our articles online. We're very happy with the results.”

There is an Audience for Your Content 

If you have a social media presence, you have an audience for your livestreamed content. 

Even if you don’t have a social media presence, you have an audience – you just have to work a little to reach them (also, you really should cultivate a social media presence). 

Many of the activities we mentioned in the “Livestreaming Opportunities” section will also help you generate an audience for your livestream content. Offering Q&A sessions, behind the scenes access, and special announcements will help you build a following for your live content. Promote these thoughtfully, and you’ll get views.

Livestreaming is becoming an essential part of running a live event. It gives those who were interested but couldn’t attend a glimpse at your event, and it encourages them to participate at a later date. If you want you livestreams to come across looking professional and polished, we can make that happen. Give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.

TTG Marketing