Serving two audiences can be tough… but rewarding

photo-1460794418188-1bb7dba2720d_825pxA sad fact is that a large number of conference speakers aren’t very engaging at all, even for the audience in front of them, never mind a remote audience viewing on their computers and mobile devices in another country and possibly even on a different day.

I don’t just say this to be contentious; the assessment is based on my personal experience having been involved in the conference and events industry sector for some 37 years. This is not intended as a criticism of the game folk who are prepared to stand up and present their expert knowledge to an audience. It is an acknowledgement that being the greatest micro-biologist, the most adept legal brain or innovative technologist does not automatically mean you are going to be a great conference speaker. Just because you lead your field doesn’t mean you are going to be a great communicator when you stand at the lectern and try to convey that expertise.

Of course with web broadcasting a conference there is a second remote audience to engage with, presenting further challenges to effective communication of ideas and knowledge and making it tougher still for the speaker.

For my first 25 years in this industry, part of my role as a conference producer was to help exactly these experts to give their best performance; to genuinely engage the audience in the room, in order to most effectively communicate their message. For the past 10 years or so, I have been involved with web broadcasting conferences and have come to understand the additional challenges and barriers to communication this presents. But I have also come to realise the opportunities it affords owners of conference content to create knowledge assets of lasting value. Opportunities, which to date for many organisations are going largely unexploited.

To see what I mean, make a web search for “association conferences and congresses” and take a look at the event websites that show up. I guarantee that still, in 2016, only a small percentage of them offer any significant opportunity for remote participation, live or on demand. Most organisations are missing out on a substantial opportunity for return on the investment they are already making in creating their conferences.

For most associations, conferences are their biggest investment and they are throwing much of the latent value of their events away by NOT capturing the content. Often the incremental cost of doing so, pales into insignificance compared to the value of extending the reach of their event and the membership retention and acquisition capabilities that building a library of specialist knowledge makes possible.

But it doesn’t come easy and it can take some time for this new way of accessing conferences to become established, to warm members up to engaging online and to become something that this wider audience comes to expect.

All the more heart-warming therefore, when statistics emerge to support the theory; when we are able to track progress over a number of years and see measurable success. One such case-in-point is Sedex, the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange, for whom we have live-streamed their annual conferences every year since 2012.

Sedex graphs
Sedex Annual conference – A story of increasing remote engagement

As an organisation they have got much better at communicating with their online audience before, during and after their annual conference. As a result, we have seen a marked upturn in viewing and interactivity levels as shown in these graphs.

Even more satisfying were the results of the post event survey following the 2016 conference;

  • 92.5% of respondents rated the live streamed event very good or good.
  • 97% of respondents rated live interviews that were streamed between conference sessions as very good or good.
  • 90% of respondents would join a live stream again.

But as I said, success doesn’t come easy and as live streaming conferences becomes more expected, it is vital that organisations give adequate thought, effort and resources into ensuring they have remote participants rather than just viewers.

Remote engagement is where the true value of web broadcasting lies.

Enabling remote presenters

ico-screengrab

Yesterday we successfully webcast an international conference on data protection enforcement being run by the…

Posted by BeThere Global on Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Above is a screen grab of the on demand webcast made available after the event for those who couldnt make the live stream.

Zoom Zoom!

Zoom logo

 
A couple of days ago, we carried out a live link up between a hotel meeting room in Basingstoke, UK and a conference room in Washington DC, USA.

This wasn’t a webcast as such, because there was no requirement for viewers to join via the web. It was in fact a co-presented session at the National Speakers Association Conference “Influence 2015” in Washington DC on “Creating a new income stream with hybrid and virtual events”.

What was different was that the two speakers were more than 3000 miles apart; Media Coach Alan Stevens was on stage at the Marriott Wardman Park, while PlanetPlanit’s Paul Cook was (along withe the BeThere Global team) at the Hampshire Court Hotel, Basingstoke and projected on the screen in Washington.

For 90 minutes the pair entertained and informed the 100 or so physical delegates in the room in Washington – all professional speakers of course – on the very subject of “virtual speaking”.

From the flow of questions and the dialogue that ensued, clearly a topic of great interest to this audience. The session took the form of a masterclass in this particular form of hybrid event.

Topics covered included the future of events and how the landscape is changing and the different forms that hybrid events can take. But the lion’s share of the time, was devoted to practical hints and tips about how to dress, suitable backgrounds, how to address the camera, ensuring audience engagement and some of the technologies that enable it all to happen.  All of course presented from the perspective of a professional speaker.

In our role as creators of virtual and hybrid events, there was nothing particularly new or radical about this event, although for the audience in Washington it was quite a novelty. Where the interest lies for us, is in the fact that we were able to carry out a synchronous audio and video hook up without the expense of a cumbersome video conferencing unit at one extreme and without the vagaries and unpredictability of Skype at the other. Until recently these were really the only two practical options. One very expensive, the other just a bit scary and unpredictable!

What we used instead was a service called Zoom.us, which is essentially software video conferencing. Using this together with the hotels’ broadband connections (at both ends) and our regular BeThere Global hardware meant we lost none of our portability or speed of set up but were able to deliver something that would have been very complicated and costly not so long ago. What is exciting in terms of pushing the envelope for virtual events is that this same software allows the participation of up to 25 “callers” – or in our context “speakers”. With the right event design and careful management multi location virtual events are now an affordable reality for the mainstream conference market. This is fortunate, as we are increasingly being asked to provide exactly that!

 

Some examples of our conference recordings and webcasts

Major Events
Webcasts and conference recordings are a great way to get your message out to a much larger audience, including the media and news organizations. This press launch was viewed live by hundreds of industry representatives around the world. Events can by posted and shared on websites so that anyone can view them or they can be offered by “invitation only” where viewers must identify themselves in order to view. To help prevent password sharing we can require an individual’s social media credentials to log-in. Webcast can also be offered only to those connecting on the company’s internal network.

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The Hewlett-Packard 75 Year Anniversary and ProLiant Gen8 Sever Introduction Live from Las Vegas

 

Associations and Trade Groups
Today on Facebook anyone can start a group that provides much of the same networking and information sharing that was once the exclusive domain of associations.  Professional associations need to provide more services to attract and retain members so whether it’s sold to generate new revenues, posted on YouTube to educate and gain awareness or provided exclusively to attendees, conference recordings and webcasts deliver the groups message months after their events have ended.

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ECSS 2014 Amsterdam – Challenges of the Paralympic Games
A Brave New World: Ability, Technology and Ethics

 

Continuing Professional Education Providers
CPE often requires the audience to complete examinations before and or after the event to evaluate the learning experience.  Here is a medical conference with in room and on-line audience polling. Polls, feedback and comments can be anonymous or tracked to each registered attendee. Feedback windows can be either open with cross chat allowed between viewers, similar to Twitter, or fully moderated with only the organizer being able to view the comments or republish them for the group.

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CME medical event with in room and on-line audience polling

 

Government and Non-Profits
In this clip from the TRB/National Academies of Science – Harbor Safety Committees meeting provides slide and presenter indexing that allows viewers to locate a particular presenter or slide instantly. Because we capture everything in real-time we don’t require the presentations in advance leaving your presenters completely free to develop and deliver their presentations as they see fit. We regularly provide webcasts for government, local councils, non-profits and education.

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The 2012 Joint Conference on Harbor Safety and Maritime Security Committees

 

Building An Audience Using YouTube
Sustainability Live 2014 was the UK’s ultimate business event for energy efficiency, energy recovery, water and waste-water management. The keynote sessions were presented live and are available now on the Sustainability Live YouTube channel. This activity substantially raises their search engine ranking and overall visibility.

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • Mobile makes up almost 40% of YouTube’s global watch time
  • YouTube is available on hundreds of millions of devices
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 4x since last year

sustain
Sustainability Live on YouTube

 

Software Demonstrations
For this major software association our operator captures a live software demonstration. During the presentation he reconfigure the webcast screen to suit the content being presented. We can have full screen video of the presenter, the presenter in a window or the software demo full screen at its native resolution. The webcast “stage” is fully customizable to any configuration and can include logos, hyperlinks or messages from your sponsors. This real-time video switching alleviates the need for expensive post-production while providing the production values often missing from our competitors webcasts.

software-cap
The Pass Summit

 

Remote Presenters Using Skype and Google+
In this example you will see how we employed SKYPE to bring presenters from around the world to the Event Camp, part of the Incentives, Business, Travel and Meeting Expo held in Abu Dhabi this spring. In this session “The Secrets of Virtual and Hybrid Event Marketing” the presenter will discuss how to get the most from your virtual event. BeThereGlobal.com provided HD cameras, microphones, bandwidth tests and  production advice to the remote presenters before the event to assure flawless execution on the day.

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Event Camp Live from Abu Dhabi

 

Round Table Discussions
In this short clip from a medical investigator meeting we demonstrate how our operator uses robotic twin cameras and our own broadcasting software to capture round table discussions and add production value in real-time. This unique technology allows us to provide broadcast quality service and to do it at very reasonable rates.

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Medical Investigator Meeting

 

Multiple Room Events
For the Medical Users Software Exchange we recorded the slides with audio from 104 sessions in 17 rooms. This is an economical way to record as it does not required a camera operator in the room. These recordings added value to attending the event as only paid attendees could view them.

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Log in at MUSE 2014 International Conference
Username mark@bethereglobal.com
Password mark123

 

Portable Systems
For this event the client required portable webcast systems that could be moved between fifteen rooms to cover the sessions that were most subscribed to.  Our systems with their remote controlled camera and back-up encoder did the job perfectly.  VMware uses YouTube to host events because they want the most eyes on their content, automated text transcripts, universal playback across all devices and availability around the world.

portable-system-sm
VMware 2014 Barcelona

YouTube Live for Associations (getting the most eyes on your event)

July 2014 – The European College of Sport Science held it’s 19th annual congress in Amsterdam, “Sports Science Around the Canals”.  The congress had 2,760 attendees, from 75 countries, who viewed 4 plenary sessions, 8 key note lectures and 896 oral presentations.

ecssThe ECSS.tv web platform broadcasts scientific presentations and lectures plus interviews and background materials from the ECSS annual congress and many other ECSS events. Full access to ECSS.tv is provided to members only from their individual accounts. ECSS.tv is funded by a single sponsor Aspetar, the first specialized Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in the Gulf region.

youtube smECSS.tv also has a YouTube channel dedicated to educating the public at large about sport science and the role ECSS and its members play. YouTube is the ideal place for attracting viewers from across the globe and introducing them to the ECSS and its activities thus building awareness and importantly ECSS membership. YouTube was chosen because:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • Mobile makes up almost 40% of YouTube’s global watch time
  • YouTube is available on hundreds of millions of devices
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 4x since last year

btg small For BeThereGlobal.com this is our second year recording and web-casting for ECSS.tv. Utilizing a crew of just two we live webcast all of the keynote and plenary presentations and captured over 40 select sessions in two rooms for on-demand viewing.  All of these activities where posted daily on ECSS.tv for immediate viewing and feedback by the attendees.  Next year this event moves to Malmö, Sweden where we are looking forward to providing enhanced event coverage that will include more session recording and webcasts plus live broadcasts from the ECSS.tv studio located on the exhibit floor.

Our congratulations to ECSS and the local organizers, the MOVE Research Institute Amsterdam, the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research and both the VU University Amsterdam and VU University Medical Center Amsterdamfor a hosting such a marvelous event.

ecss 2014

ecss plCHALLENGES FOR THE PARALYMPIC GAMES: FAIRNESS AND IDENTITY
Title: BRAVE NEW WORLD: ABILITY, TECHNOLOGY AND ETHICS
Speaker: MCNAMEE, M. [UNITED KINGDOM]

ecss supTHE FUTURE OF SPORTS NUTRICIAN – DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Speaker: MAUGHAN, R. [UNITED KINGDOM]

ecss nutritionTECHNOLOGY AND SPORTS NUTRITION
Speaker: CLOSE, G. [UNITED KINGDOM]

ecss juggleECSS Amsterdam 2014 – Opening Ceremony – The juggling of sport science. It’s the art of letting go!

When it comes to creating hybrid events are organisers asking the right questions?

Let’s start with the importance of ‘why’. I contend that it is more important to establish and clarify your objectives for a hybrid or virtual event, than for one that is purely face to face.

“Start with Why”, is the title of a book by Simon Sinek in which he argues that the greatest success comes to those who know and can communicate why they are doing something, rather than what they do.  As a result they are able to inspire people to action. He cites examples as broad ranging as the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King and Apple. If you haven’t read the book, I urge you to get hold of a copy. Alternatively you could save yourself a few hours and simply watch his TED-X film on the subject (below).

Sinek’s mantra is “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” I believe he has it dead right and that the very same argument applies to the business of creating events – physical, virtual and hybrid – just as much as it does to inventors, activists and corporations.  And the power of being driven by a genuine purpose, or belief, will outgun any amount of resources.

Think of your event in this way.  If you can start with a clear understanding of ‘why’ you are creating it, what it’s true purpose is and you can express that effectively you will have a much better chance of getting your target audience to show up than if you don’t and can’t.

When it comes to virtual or hybrid events, where by definition you are trying to build a remote audience, it is even more crucial to know, understand, integrate and communicate ‘why’ you are organising your particular event. The effect is amplified for two main reasons:

First, you are likely to have to inspire people to attend from a distance without the advantage of physical human interaction to aid persuasion and gain commitment.

Second, even if you get them to sign up, as a remote participant, it is extremely easy and painless for people to just not show up. There isn’t the embarrassment factor of failing to attend a physical event for one thing; not the same feeling of letting people down. The problem is compounded because with remote participation there is much more likelihood of getting distracted by email, phone calls, visitors or the thousand and one other demands on our time. Furthermore, with no prepaid travel commitments and very often little or no cost to register, there is little to lose. In this context, the remote audience simply must be inspired by the event if they are to turn up at all.

It is for all these reasons that the very first questions we ask our new or prospective clients are, “why are you creating this event?” and “how will it help you to achieve your objectives?”

Once these fundamental questions are answered (and only then) is it sensible to move forward to the more detailed planning phase of hybrid event production.  At this stage there are a multitude of questions that need to be considered, too many and varied to address within the confines of this article, so I’m going to focus on the next key question – who will attend?

The question is phrased very deliberately as a successful hybrid event should involve much more than passive watching and listening on the part of remote participants. To be truly successful the remote audience must engage, interact, participate. This can only be achieved when there is clarity in the following key areas:

  • Knowing who your key target audience(s) is/are
  • Establishing how and where they are most likely to access the content
  • Understanding what their expectations are of what they will get out of their participation

Only then can the hybrid event organiser make correct decisions in crafting the content.

Having explored why and who, a third essential question that has to be answered is whether the online content should be available live or on demand? Very often the correct answer turns out to be a combination of the two.

This is perhaps one of the most contentious questions in planning a hybrid event and one where there can be two opposing views. Some organisers seem set on going live just because they can; because it’s the latest bright and shiny thing to do with a conference. At the other extreme are the supporters of the “cannibalisation theory”; a view that streaming a conference or event will reduce physical attendance. As with all the fundamental questions the hybrid event organiser needs to ask, there is no one size fits all answer. There is a multitude of strategic, practical, commercial and cultural considerations to take into account in determining whether a particular event should be available live or not.

We always advise our clients that there needs to be valid and compelling reasons to ‘go live’.  Live streaming should not be undertaken lightly and can create additional stress for the organiser, but on the other hand it is becoming increasingly accessible, reliable and affordable and not something to view with trepidation. And when it comes to that cannibalisation theory, we have seen anecdotal evidence that suggests the reverse may often be the case; that having participated remotely people get an indication of what they are missing and resolve to physically attend next time.

If those compelling reasons exist and the decision is taken to go live, then we always recommend there is the opportunity for remote participants to become actively involved with the event. At the simplest level this might take the form of the facility to make a comment or ask questions, respond to polls or interact via social media. Well used, the addition of these feedback loops can transform passive viewing into a genuinely interactive and engaging experience. More importantly, it opens up the possibility for the organisation to exploit their conference content assets in a way that just hasn’t been possible until now.

Coming back to where I started, having the correct answers to these and the multitude of other questions organisers need to ask in order to create successful hybrid events is dependent on knowing the answer to that very first question; the need to start with ‘why?’

[This article was originally published in Conference News]

Creating Hybrid Events

As you know event planners are entrusted to create positive, informative and hopefully compelling events for their attendees, whether delivered on location or via the Internet. One of the many challenges they face is how to transform their event into a virtual or hybrid event that provides both a quality remote viewing experience and profits their organization.

At BeThere Global we are working hard to develop hybrid events that are connecting people in truly meaningful ways. By creating techniques that meet the goals of simplicity, affordability and effectiveness we are ideally suited to support the event planners’ efforts to deliver quality hybrid events.

Below are a few examples of recent conferences that were transformed into hybrid events. Perhaps some of the approaches taken would work well for your events? Please have a look at and let us know your thoughts.

Conference TV
The Conference TV concept is simple; you have your important industry leaders in one place, so why not take advantage of this and have them interact with your entire membership. Conference TV allows people to communicate in a relaxed and well recognized talk show format.  They can explain their ideas, discuss the conference and take questions from anyone with Internet access. This programming can be delivered on your website, on TV monitors at the venue and at the conference hotel. You can program a full day of live sessions, interviews, promotions and social media check-ins that will be viewed not only by those that couldn’t attend but also by those that did.  pass_studio

You might want to locate the Conference TV Studio on the exhibit floor and offer virtual tours and interviews that provide your exhibitors the opportunity to connect with your entire membership.

 

Audience Interaction and Feedback
If your event is to hold the online audience’s attention it must engage them and require they do more than just sit and watch. Our Viewer Interactive Program is designed to do just that. Taking cues from social media VIP allows your audience to submit questions or comments to the group and to participate in audience polls. It’s like a private Twitter feed with the added benefit of being moderated as all feedback is previewed by your staff or the presenters before it is displayed to the group. In a recent medical seminar, VIP allowed both the Internet viewers and the audience in the room to participate. The on-site audience joined in using their smartphones thus eliminating the trouble and expense of dedicated audience response keypads.

Multiple Cameras and Session Indexing
At the TRB/National Academies Harbor Safety Committees meeting our operator used multiple remotely controlled cameras to capture questions and answer sessions. This technique economically delivers the production values that are often missing from webcasts. Indexing that allows viewers to locate a particular presenter or slide. Because we capture everything in real-time we don’t require the presentations in advance and your presenters are completely free to develop and deliver their presentations as they see fit.

The Opportunity to Include Off-Site Presenters
There may be times when an important presenter cannot make it in person to your event. So why can’t they participate remotely?  Now they can, using tools to which they already have access. For example Skype and a webcam. A speaker can deliver his or her full presentation with slides and videos from wherever they happen to be. Our operator controls the screen layout and is able switch between video of the presenter, their slides or a combination of both. The presentation is displayed in the room for your on-site audience and streamed live on your event webcast. It can also be played later on-demand and as part of your conference recordings.

eventcamp

Click on this image to seethe on demand page for this example

So as you can see at BeThereGlobal we feel that a webcast is much more than a webinar or a poorly produced, grainy YouTube video. Hybrid events should grab the minds of your audience and allow them to be part of the program wherever they are located.

When you look back, everything is different

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”

This quote from C.S Lewis seems very apt regarding the huge variation there has been in the web casting projects we have been involved in over the past few years, because at the time they somehow didn’t seem that dissimilar. They all involved a certain amount of preparation and development work. They all involved an assessment of client objectives, technical requirements, connectivity, audience sizes and so on. They all involved more or less equipment and personnel and they all involved delivering the recorded files either as live streams or as video on demand.

I guess part of it comes down to the diversity of our clients, who seem to cover most of the possible sectors; from medical and technological associations to global financial institutions; from small not-for-profits to even smaller businesses; from strapped-for-cash local authorities to cash-rich individuals; from cutting edge technology companies to organisations running traditional political debates. It seems there is no limit to the variety of organisation that has the need to spread their particular word and rightly sees streaming their events as the way to do it quickly and effectively.

Over the next few weeks I plan to tell the stories of just some of those events. I can’t promise anything to rival the Chronicles of Narnia, but then this is real life; not fantasy!

Making sense of it all

Today Association Event Planner published my latest guest blog in their Insider Views series, the message of which was about the need for associations to strategically consider the value inherent in their conferences and congress sessions and how they can get the best return on their investment. It is a reaction to and comment on the controversial speech delivered by Andrew Keen, who incidentally describes himself in his Twitter bio as “The Anti Christ of Silicon Valley”, at the International and European Associations Congress back in June, when he warned associations about the perils of losing their “exclusivity” by sharing content on line for free. You can see the full speech here – and yes it is free!

Shortly after I saw this had been posted my attention was drawn to a blog by Dan Rayburn about the YouTube live stream of the Felix Baumgartner Red Bull Stratos jump and the subsequent media hype over the number of viewers it attracted. It reminded me that its not only associations that are trying to make sense of how to profit from streamed content.

As Dan says

“Webcasting events live on the web has been going on for more than 15 years now and it’s time the media stops getting all giddy with bandwidth numbers and instead, starts asking the questions of how this medium can be monetized, when content owners will start to make money from live events and what changes need to take place in the market so that webcasts can be profitable events for content owners, as opposed to simply a way for someone to show off meaningless stream count numbers.”

I think he missed the point with this specific example, because clearly, as a blog comment by Daniel Demsky points out in no uncertain terms,

” It was a giant Red Bull commercial for crying out loud!”

That agreed, Dan’s point is sound for any content owners who are or are planning to stream their content live (or on demand); they need to consider very carefully the business case for so doing. Having millions, thousands, hundreds or tens of viewers – whatever scale of audience you aspire to – counts for nothing if you don’t have a sound reasons for streaming in the first place.

Don’t get carried away by the shiny technology; it has to make solid business sense or you are wasting time, effort and money.