How Livestreaming Can Add Value to Your Events
There’s this music festival that takes place in a small California town called Indio located in California’s Colorado Desert area. It is not easy to get to. Indio is approximately 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles and 2.5 hours northeast of San Diego, meaning even locals have to hit the road for a couple of hours and for out-of-towners the journey is even more cumbersome. What’s more, unless you want to camp on the festival grounds, most accommodations are at least an hour away from the festival, which means even more travel.
You might think that all of these obstacles would encourage people to stay away from this two-weekend festival. Especially since many of the most popular musical acts are livestreamed, so anyone can watch, live and in real time, from the comfort of their couch as opposed to the heat of the desert.
But that is certainly not the case. This year, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival sold out its first weekend in 40 minutes and the second weekend was gone hours later. The speed of these ticket sales has been consistent for years. For example, the 2017 and 2018 tickets sold out in three hours. In fact, the last time the festival didn’t sell out in hours was in 2011. That year it took three days for tickets to sell out. That’s not bad, but it’s still days, not hours.
So, what changed? Well, for one, 2011 was the first time that some of the festival was livestreamed. In 2012, Coachella tickets sold out in, you guessed it, three hours. Despite the travel difficulties, the lack of accommodations, and that people can watch from their air-conditioned homes, the livestream seemed to increase people’s desire to attend instead of decreasing it.
Many event organizers fear that livestreaming their event will lead to a drop in physical attendance. However, it turns out that is not the case. For example, in 2010, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) decided to livestream parts of its annual conference for the first time. The results were impressive. Since it began offering livestreaming, physical attendance at this PCMA event has steadily increased year after year and the profits from years of once livestreamed now recorded video content generated $1 million in revenue for the organization.
Planning Your Livestreaming Content
When you decide to livestream, it needs to be done with the same amount of care and thought that you put into the rest of your event. Which means you can’t just set up some livestreaming capabilities and walk away. The livestreamed portions of your event are as significant as any other element, so they need to be incorporated in your overall event strategy. If you’re adding livestreaming as a last-minute decision, it will likely feel that way to the audience. However, if you give yourself (and your team) plenty of time to plan for the livestreamed content, it will come across as an organic portion of the overall event.
However, just because you can livestream your event, doesn’t mean you should – at least not all of it. If you think about it (and, frequently, through experience), you’ll discover that some elements of your event are better suited for livestreaming than others.
There are two areas to consider when deciding what to livestream. The first is practical. Some parts of the event may simply not translate to a virtual audience. An example is any presentation that occurs during a meal. Regardless of how engaging the content may be, the clinking of silverware, the murmur of conversation, and the movement of waitstaff and attendees may result in a poor home viewing experience.
The second is your intent for the event and determining how livestreaming matches those goals. What type of experience do you want the virtual audience to have? Do you want them to benefit from the educational opportunities you’re providing, or would you just like to showcase some entertainment? How do you hope to engage with the at-home audience (if at all)? Would you like the focus to be on your brand or should brand identification be incidental to the industry knowledge you’re attempting to convey?
Answers to these questions (and others you’re likely to discover as you contemplate livestreaming) will help you identify the content you want to share.
Focusing on Audience Engagement
Once you’ve settled on the content, it is time to determine how you hope the home audience will engage with it.
Remember, it’s okay to provide the remote audience with a different experience than the one the in-person crowd receives. You may find that your event necessitates it. It’s fine, as long as you are just providing them with a different experience, not a lesser one.
There are many possibilities you can attempt to ensure your virtual audience is engaged. You can start by providing a dedicated moderator. The person will be able to answer any questions that arise and also troubleshoot (or notify people who can troubleshoot) in case any technical issues crop up. In truth, you are going to want an employee monitoring the chat to catch and delete any offensive comments quickly. You’d like to believe that your virtual audience would be respectful at all times, but this is the internet, so no guarantees.
You can also use the chat section to host a Q&A following any educational or speaker sessions. This is another way your moderator can be of service by coordinating the question queue, helping to guide the subject matter expert (who may not be comfortable with chat Q&As), and keeping track of the time.
You can also provide downloadable materials to your virtual attendees, such as educational handouts, programs, and presentations. In fact, by having the presentation materials on hand, the home crowd is likely to get greater benefit from the sessions.
Finding a Livestreaming Partner
While it’s true that anyone can livestream anything as long as they have a phone with a data plan, that’s not the best option for your professional event. Unless you want your livestream to look like it is being filmed by your tween-aged nephew, you should hire a professional crew.
Hiring a company has many benefits, including the fact that they have all of the equipment and the expertise to use them. With a professional company, you can be sure that your feed will have a professional appearance, which includes the look and sound of the presentation. A professional crew will also be able to handle the in-person crowd, so no one will mill about or accidentally stand in front of the camera, for example.
A company will also be able to provide you with the ability to encrypt and password-protect your streaming content, which can be essential if you are sending proprietary information.
The vendor you select will likely charge according to your type of event, the streaming speed you require, and the size of your audience. So, a large Fortune 500 event with a massive streaming audience will cost more to produce than a smaller corporate show that streams to a couple hundred people.
Livestreaming lets you deliver your event to a crowd that is interested but unlikely to attend in person. However, once they see what you have to offer, they are much more likely to buy a ticket to next year’s event..