Live and Online
The 5 Key Considerations for Successful Webcasts
The Ingredients You Need To Pull Off Broadcast Quality Webcasts for Modern Events
Webcasting is a method of delivering a presentation or event to an online audience using streaming technology. While webcasting as a medium to extend a message has been around since at least the mid-1990's, capabilities and use cases continue to evolve.
Today it's become much easier to pull off a great webcast thanks to new technologies and platforms becoming more powerful while also increasing in simplicity, but even so, not everyone is getting it right. Whether for your live event, virtual event, brand town hall, or live social video campaign, if you plan your webcast using the following five ingredient considerations, it should be a smash hit!
1) Date & Time
Often the most basic but overlooked way to increase the success of your webcast is simply putting some research behind picking the right date and time to maximize viewer engagement.
Be aware of dates where you may experience a spike in internet usage creating location-based bandwidth bottlenecks. We're talking about Amazon Prime Day, or March Madness Finals. Trying to stream out of a hotel ballroom when everyone at the hotel and in the surrounding city areas is online either watching video or shopping will certainly run into some issues with video lag-time and when the player isn't working perfectly, you will lose frustrated viewers. Not to mention your target viewers may be distracted by these same events.
Speaking of distractions, you'll want to avoid any days that bookend a holiday or holiday weekend, and also stay away from internet rush hour which is typically between 7 and 11 PM local time.
We recommend scheduling your webcast for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between the hours of 10 AM and Noon EST—a time of day that works well for West Coast, East Coast, and European viewers. Of course there are considerations based on industry and audience demographic, but that has proven to be most effective time period for our clients.
Production quality is the number one thing that can keep your audience engaged and it can't be stressed enough. If your webcast doesn't look or sound good, people won't watch.
The days of webcasts coming out of a single static camera capturing a wide shot of the stage from the center of the room are long gone. That just won't cut it anymore. People want to feel like they are watching a TV show.
We recommend using a three camera setup with feeds going to a live switcher, a custom graphics package with branded lower thirds, a logo ticker, bumpers, and if the presentation includes a PowerPoint, mix those slides right into the stream full screen. Again, treat it like a TV show. We use Broadcast Pix for a switcher, but Livestream Studio, Tricaster, and Wirecast are great options as well.
Picking the right streaming platform for your specific event, message, and audience is crucial. There are a few options to consider in regards to choosing the right platform, but it's a must that your webcast be mobile optimized and work across operating systems (MAC/PC) and browsers.
You have the traditional players like ON24, Sonic Foundry, TalkPoint that are perfect if your webcasting a presentation with slides. These platforms feature a separate slide window and video window, include Q&A and polling tools, and with their low bit-rate streaming are great for broadcasting internal meetings, town halls, or investor relations events over corporate intranets.
Next is the crop of high-quality, high-definition video players built to deliver TV quality broadcasts using adaptive bit-rate streaming perfect for mobile. These are platforms like YouTube LIVE, IBM Cloud Video, Livestream, or Brightcove and they are great for external events like user conferences that are less concerned about the need for private corporate networks.
Then there is the field of live social video, which YouTube LIVE is also a player in but additionally includes Facebook LIVE, Instagram LIVE, and Twitter's Periscope. You can and should use these social live platforms in conjunction with other broadcasting platforms to reach as many people as possible, and its especially smart to use live social video if you already have a large audience on social media.
Going live on social networks is well received when conducting candid interviews on trade show floors, at launch events, streaming speaker Q&A sessions from the stage on a conference, or really any behind-the-scenes feeling moment where you can pull the curtain back for your online audience and bring them into the fold in a unique way. These videos live on with their ability to be downloaded after the stream ends and then re-shared to various networks.
An interesting tool we've used is Socialive and that allows you to distribute a single stream to multiple channels, measure viewing analytics across platforms, and improve engagement by monitoring comments from one spot and responding or even embedding those comments straight into the live feed.
There are two sides to thinking about presenters and those are the comfortability of whoever is presenting, as well as the location of presenters.
Speaking to a camera is different than speaking to an audience in the room and people tend to present better and more naturally when there are people in front of them to speak to. Even if your webcast is more of a town hall or panel discussion (not part of a large meeting or event), we recommend always having a small audience in the room. This helps presenters forget about the camera and deliver better messages.
We also recommend shying away from using a teleprompter when possible. People today have a much better authenticity gauge and they want to feel more like they are part of the show, and not just being talked to. If this is a challenge for your presenter, try shooting interview or panel style and broadcast a conversation instead of a speech.
So the other side of the presenter consideration is to not be afraid of bringing people in from multiple locations. What was once a multi-satellite major operation is now a fairly simple process. Tools to connect different parts of the world in real-time are becoming commonplace.
You could make it simple to connect presenters with a video conference solution like Zoom, Blue Jeans, or Skype, or you could go the high-end broadcast route with solutions using low-latency HD video over IP like Dejaro or Teradek Slice. These are what major networks like the NFL, MLB, or CNN are using to bring in remote feeds without satellites, and with the emergence of HEVC (high-efficiency video encoding) codec and 5G technology on the horizon, these tools will become more and more efficient.
It's hard to say which of these five webcasting ingredients are the most important, (I think you need them all to bake this cake!) but you certainly can't know your webcast was successful without a measurement plan. And it's important that you think about how to measure the success of your webcast BEFORE your broadcast.
Before your virtual event, conference broadcast, or whatever else you plan to webcast, create a metrics plan for measuring success. What are you goals for the stream and how will you know you've achieved them?
Is it number of unique views, time spent watching, understanding where and when viewers drop off, geo-locations reached, poll responses, comments, and other audience engagement stats? It's to study and understand everything, but if you're just getting started, we recommend picking three metrics that will be your benchmarks for success.
Collecting data without a plan or measurement targets won't really give you the insight you need to know your investment in the webcast paid off.
Regarding a way to ensure you hit your most important metrics, you might want to try using a tool like AmpLive to boost your live stream and reach audiences on external publications the same way you might use a programmatic advertising distributor to get more eyes on your owned content.