Live streaming events is a great way to expand your reach and make your content and programming available to a new audience. There’s a lot of benefits to live streaming events, but truly successful live streamed events are more about audience engagement and less about technology.
Nearly any event can be live streamed. It’s up to you to determine why you want to live stream and find the best way to make it happen. Here’s your complete guide to live streaming events.
The Value of Live Streaming Events
It seems like almost every event these days has some kind of live stream element, and for good reason. Live streaming events is a great way to improve visibility. It helps you gain a new audience who might not have heard of your event before or who couldn’t make it. Live streaming allows attendees to share the event with friends and co-workers who might enjoy it, which expands your reach. A live stream can also be enticing for speakers because it allows them to reach a larger group of people.
Live streaming events can also be incredibly cost-effective for everyone involved. Instead of paying to send people to an event, which can add up with airfare, car rental, registration fees, per diem, and missed work time, companies can simply allow those people to watch a live stream of the event. Attendees don’t have to take the time to travel to an event, and their employer doesn’t have to foot the bill. Plus, event planners don’t have to pay for wasted meals and rooms. Everyone wins.
However, just because it seems like everyone else is live streaming doesn’t mean that should be your only reason for doing it. Don’t jump into live streaming because it seems like the hot new trend. Instead, make it an important part of your event strategy.
Nearly every type of event can benefit from some aspect of live streaming. It’s up to event planners to find that purpose and make it beneficial to the event. In order to decide on your purpose, you have to consider your remote audience. How you want them to interact with the event will help determine what kind of live stream you need. Consider what you want the live stream to accomplish by thinking through these questions:
- Do you want the remote audience to have the same in-room experience as people at the event?
- Would you rather just offer a window to the event and have the remote audience be a fly on the wall?
- Is the live stream’s purpose to help professionals with career skills and industry knowledge?
- Do you want your remote audience to be able to network?
- Is the main goal to showcase your brand?
Answering these questions can help pinpoint your target remote audience, what you want their experience to be, and the purpose of your live stream. You’ll also want to consider how much of the event you want to stream. For some types of events, it works well to stream the entire event. Other events are better served with only a portion streamed to a remote audience.
Every event has a different purpose for its live stream. Once you’ve determined the purpose for your event, you can start creating your live stream strategy. Most people focus only on the technical aspect of a live stream. They know they should include a streaming element and focus more on what service to use to provide a clear connection. More important than the technical aspects is the strategy behind it. The best live streamed event is still ineffective if it wasn’t targeted at the right people or didn’t create the right experience.
Choose your audience and consider the experience you want to give them. A live stream focused on giving people the same experience remotely as they would have at a professional event is going to be much different from a live stream that simply acts as a way to spread the brand’s message by showing potential customers what’s happening during a specific conference session.
You should consider your remote audience just as much as you consider your in-room audience. According to Brandt Krueger, AV and live streaming guru, “Plan for a live stream just like you do for your in-room audience.”
Planning a live stream shouldn’t be a last-minute thought after all the other details for the event are finalized. If you tack it on to the end of your planning, your stream will likely feel disconnected and be ineffective. Instead, plan for a live stream like you plan for the rest of the event. Make it part of your event strategy and plan from the very early stages. For larger events, it can be helpful to have a member of the event planning team totally focused on the live stream strategy.
Every live stream has five components that work together to create an effective remote event. When creating your live stream strategy, take all of these components into account. Skipping over one of these can hurt your stream, both technically and strategically.
- In-room AV production team. These are the people who set up the camera and audio feeds. They should set up the camera in a place that won’t be in the way but that also won’t have people constantly walking in front of it. Test the equipment and the feeds before the event begins.
- Provider on-site box. This device takes the camera and audio signals and converts them to digital. Depending on your service, this can be a digital tool or a physical box. If you hire a streaming vendor, they may send a technician to set up and take care of the box.
- Venue internet service. Make sure the venue has reliable and fast internet. This impacts how quickly the feed can be converted and sent out. If you know you’ll be live streaming a large portion of your event to people around the world, make sure the venue’s internet can handle it before you sign the venue contract.
- Provider platform. The digital signals are then sent out through the provider’s servers. The quality and speed with which this is sent out depends largely on the service you choose. Be sure to get the details of their server and speed before you finalize your vendor deal.
- User’s internet service. The reliability and speed of the user’s internet impacts if they can clearly stream the event. This is the one aspect of a live stream you don’t have control over, but people still assume it’s your responsibility. No matter what service you use to stream, there will likely always be someone who can’t get it on their end for reasons that are out of your control. Be prepared to deal with people who are frustrated their internet can’t handle the live stream.
Your strategy and remote audience will help determine what kind of live stream vendor you need. There are a variety of options, ranging from free to very expensive. In general, you get what you pay for with live stream vendors. The more you spend, the higher quality stream you’ll have. Vendor fees are generally based on the audience size, speed, and type of event. A large, corporate event with thousands of attendees that is streaming to viewers around the world and must be quick is going to be more expensive than a smaller event that is only streaming to one remote location.
In general, hiring a vendor is better than doing it yourself for larger, corporate events. While the free options have their benefits, they aren’t as reliable as the paid options. Paid vendor services are also often encrypted and password-protected, which can be important if your event is sharing proprietary information. Popular services include LiveStream and MediaSite. These services tend to be more expensive, but they are known for their quality service and product. As with all event vendors, get quotes from multiple companies before you make a decision. If possible, watch a live stream they do for another customer to get a feel for their quality and extra features.
Another option is to hire a freelance AV team. These are generally experienced AV crew members working a side job on their own. They likely don’t have the name recognition or clout or other, larger services. However, they’re typically experienced and slightly less expensive than large companies. A freelance team can be a good option for medium events.
If you don’t want to hire a live stream service or don’t have the budget, there’s also a DIY option. Doing it yourself is much cheaper (even as low as free), but you likely won’t have a high-quality stream. You’re at the mercy of the service you’re using, and they don’t owe you as much if you aren’t paying for it. However, if you’re streaming a smaller event, just want to test it out, or are trying to reach a more general audience, there are many solid DIY live stream options.
The most common free services are Facebook Live and YouTube Live Events. You can also try Instagram Live for a mobile experience. These services are easy to set up and allow you to stream to a larger audience. Most events streamed on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram can be shared and accessed by anyone, which increases the chance for more people to see your event. As a bonus, it’s easy for people to connect with the stream because just about everyone has a Facebook or YouTube account.
Live streaming your own event is a good option if your goal is to showcase what’s happening at your event. If all you want to do is put a camera in the corner and show what the speaker is saying, doing it yourself can definitely work. It limits how much interaction you can have with the remote audience, but it can be a good way to test the waters and share your message without spending too much money.
Your job isn’t done once the stream is set up. The live stream is only part of the equation. Your goal as an event planner should be to create a complete experience for the remote audience. After all, they’re as important as your in-room audience.
How you connect and engage with your audience will vary depending on your strategy and the service you’re using to stream the event. In general, you’ll have more options for connection and communication when you pay for a more complete package through a vendor. A free service is very limiting with how you can connect with the audience, but it’s still possible. Don’t make your remote audience feel like second-class citizens. Involve them fully in the event, and you can see great results. Remember that the remote audience doesn’t have to have the exact same experience as the in-room audience. Each group can be treated differently, but they are equally important.
Here are a few ideas of how you can connect with a remote audience while live streaming events:
- Special materials. Provide the remote audience with a downloadable program, additional materials, or links to the speakers’ websites.
- Interactive slides. Send the presentation slides to the remote audience members and allow them to click through the slides at their own pace. This can be especially useful if your audience is viewing the event individually from their desks.
- Chat Q&A. It’s common for events to have question and answer sessions. When planning these, consider how to involve your remote audience. Allowing them to send questions via chat or instant messenger can help them feel like they are part of the event
- Designated moderator. A moderator assigned specifically to the remote audience can help make sure their needs are met and their voices are heard. If a large group of people are viewing the live stream in one place, it can be helpful to send a designate moderator to the location to build connection and send information back to the live event.
Live streaming events can be a powerful part of your strategy. Don’t get caught up in the technical aspects of streaming. Instead, focus on audience engagement and strategically connecting with your remote audience. With a solid strategy and goals, your technology choices will come easier.