Profit from hybrid events (Part 1)

Conference recording and web-casting are ideal ways to add value to your event because they:

  • Allow members/staff/customers/prospects who cannot attend in person to participate.
  • Give physical attendees access to all the concurrent sessions.
  • Extend the availability of the content beyond the few days of the conference itself
  • Provide content that can be used to promote programs, sponsors and future events.
  • Offer increased opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to connect to your audience.

But for most organizers the real issues are will these activities reduce physical attendance and will they generate revenue. The fact is that the conference industry is probably past the tipping point with providing content on-line.

Let’s take a clue from the entertainment industry. In the 90’s the music industry was slow to adapt to on-line delivery and their profits were decimated by piracy. Yet Hollywood embraced on-line delivery and today more films will be watched online (legally) than purchased as physical products. According to IHS Screen Digest Americans watched 3.4 billion movies online in 2012, a considerably larger number than the 2.4 billion DVDs sold. In the meantime, the music industry has been playing catch up. Between 2000 and 2010 CD sales declined by 50% and last year digital music sales surpassed physical music sales making up 50.3% of all music sold. So its clear content owners ignore online delivery at their peril.

Bringing these learnings back to the conference world and combining it with our extensive experience of recording and streaming conferences across many different sectors, we recommend organizers deploy some or all of the following tactics if they want to profit from what are increasingly being called ‘hybrid events’.

  • Provide members with live coverage of plenary/general sessions. But give remote viewers a voice; allow them to participate by submitting questions to the presenters or responding to polls. Events streamed live create interest in your organization, promote future events and expose your message to news media and social media.  Depending on your objectives, you can limit access to members (or other specific group) and invited guests.
  • Record all sessions to improve the value offer for physical attendees.  A large conference or congress would normally require require attendees to choose between simultaneous sessions. They may be torn as to which to choose, or may decide to skip a session in favour of networking time. It’s a powerful offer to allow them to catch all the sessions that interest them later at preferential rates as a ‘thank you’ for being there.
  • Create an on-line Conference TV channel that offers daily updates on activities at the conference. The schedule might include interviews with speakers and delegates, plenary/general session coverage, social media check-ins, promotions for upcoming activities and exhibit floor tours.  All of this activity generates buzz and allows viewers to see what they are missing. Conference TV can be advertiser/sponsor supported and offered free of charge to maximise reach.
  • Poll your audience on relevant issues  and on the sessions they view / attend.  This information can be invaluable to conference organizers. Find out what worked well and what did not.  Discover insights into the views and practices of your members. Consider offering your exhibitors a poll as a paid upgrade.

Perhaps by now you are convinced that streaming elements of your conference on-line is a valuable exercise and is probably something you are going to have to do sooner or later anyway.

In my next blog I will look at some of the specific models that can be applied to generating revenue and also some of the techniques that can be applied to reduce or avoid piracy.

 

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!

BeThere Global Wins Competitive Pitch for PASS Summit 2012

PRESS RELEASE
Recording and streaming experts BeThere Global to record and stream content from the world’s largest conference for Microsoft SQL Server professionals.

PASS Summit 2012 takes place in Seattle, Washington from 6 – 9 November and is attended by over 3,800 SQL Server professionals. With over 120,000 members in 188 countries PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) is dedicated to helping the Microsoft SQL Server community to connect, share and learn. BeThere Global’s success is based on three fundamental principles – the belief that all conference recordings should be:

  • Compelling to watch
  • Compatible with the widest possible range of playback devices
  • Easy to purchase

“BeThere Global proposed an integrated and creative approach to PASS to suit our ‘tech savvy’ audience. We’ve created PASS TV, a live stream broadcast of three 12-hour days of technical sessions with an overnight replay. It’s a great concept and one that we’re exited to be sharing with our members”

said Thomas LaRock, PASS VP of Marketing.

“People don’t want to wait for a DVD to be produced, packaged and mailed anymore. On-line delivery is immediate, sustainable and secure”

explains BeThere Global CTO Mark Buckland.

“Today a viewer can catch a seminar wherever they are – at home, in the office cafeteria, during their commute – whenever there is a little downtime. It’s like a trade journal or a book; they bring it along and catch up when they can.”

PASS TV will offer a breakfast show in the mornings, social media reports and check-ins, interviews with key presenters, exhibit hall visits, and other PASS programming. There will be simultaneous recording with HD video of the presenters and their slides in 6 rooms, plus HD slide capture in another 10 rooms. The Keynotes will also be live streamed.

BeThere Global CEO Martin Shepherdly adds:

“We are helping PASS get more value from its content by making it more available and more compelling to watch. We will deliver live and on-demand HD quality video programming that will attract and support PASS’s, members and sponsors. We are recording over 400 hours of content in 5 days of conference using a crew of 8 local videographers to support our international crew from New York and the UK.”

– ENDS –

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.

After the Olympics

What next?

By the end of September “London 2012”, by which I mean the Olympics / Paralympics / Cultural Olympiad and all that good stuff that has so dominated the UK and London in particular over the summer will be a fading memory. It has been an amazing and emotional summer of sport, theatre and music that, much to the pleasant surprise of most Brits (and, it has to be said, against most expectations),  seems to have gone rather well!

We ourselves will be involved in the final event of the Cultural Olympiad on behalf of Peace One Day, when we live stream their concert from Wembley Arena on the 21 September via YouTube. This promises to reach a significantly larger audience than the concert that bookended the season back in June that we streamed live from Derry. This one features Elton John and James Morrison, along with Two Cellos and Peace One Day Ambassador Jude Law.  If you can’t be there in person – I think tickets are still available – then do watch at http://www.youtube.com/peaceoneday

But then the evenings will be getting darker… London will get colder and gloomier as winter approaches… oh no! But its not all doom and gloom; one bright event that I can recommend any business owner, current or aspiring, to attend takes place on Saturday 6 October is “Become a Key Person of Influence – 8 hour Brand Accelerator”
This event will assemble an all-star cast of high performing business leaders to share with you the exact sequence to follow if you have a skill, talent or message that more people should know about. Having taken part in the “KPI Programme” myself I can highly recommend this day.

The Olympics may be over, but there is going to be plenty of inspiration available on that particular Saturday.

HTML5 Video – what does it look like?

BP US AthletesFollowing on from my post back in March, about some of the developments in transitioning to HTML5, this morning I read an exceptionally interesting post by THE streaming expert Jan Ozer on the highly informative  Streaming Media website, which alerted me to a very impressive “video-site” (to call it a web site doesn’t really do it justice) that demonstrates HTML5 video most effectively. Above is a screen grab from the home page.

I urge you to read that article as well as visiting the site, which is all about the US Olympic athletes. Use an up to date browser so that you can experience the HTML5 video to the full. Drill down through the site and view some of the athletes’ videos; it provides a great viewer experience.

In Jan Ozer’s interview with Michael Mangi, VP Interactive Technology at Ogilvy & Mather, who were responsible for creating the site for sponsors BP America Inc., Mangi states;

We wanted a fully immersive experience; video that fills the browser without cumbersome player controls or distractions

That is exactly what they achieved. Very exciting!

Experiencing YouTube LIVE!

Artists perform at the Global Truce 2012 Concert in Derry
PHOTO: Newton Faulkner at the Global Truce 2012 Concert in Derry. Inset (clockwise) Imelda May, Pixie Lott, Jude Law
Backstage at Peace One Day Concert in Derry

A couple of weeks ago we had our first experience of streaming an event using YouTube live streaming… from this portacabin in Northern Ireland!

Now you may or may not be aware that this is something that is not generally available to your average Joe webcaster! They only launched the beta platform in April last year and as they said in their blog at the time;

“Today, we’ll also start gradually rolling out our live streaming beta platform, which will allow certain YouTube partners with accounts in good standing to stream live content on YouTube. The goal is to provide thousands of partners with the capability to live stream from their channels in the months ahead.”

And they are moving towards that goal with a growing number of accounts with access to the YouTube live platform, but the perception is that to date it has been presidential addresses, state visits, major news and sporting events and the like that have benefited from live streaming on YouTube – until now that is. Such is the power of a ‘good cause’ to get things done. In this case the ‘good cause’ was Peace One Day and its founder Jeremy Gilley simply phoned up a heavy hitter he had met at Google and asked if we could use the YouTube platform to live stream the Global Truce 2012 concert from Derry. The answer (after a modestly short delay) was “yes” and so our adventure into live streaming the YouTube way began.

All in all it was a very positive experience. We were supported every step of the way by our contact David Thorpe, Senior Sales Engineer at YouTube Partnerships who introduced us to the platform and held our hand through testing, both before and during our time in Derry.

To cut a not very long story short, everything went incredibly smoothly – both at the recording end of things in the Derry drizzle and at the YouTube bits and bytes streaming end. Given the 4+ billion streams a day YouTube delivers you probably won’t be surprised at that.

The Peace Bridge, Derry

(As an aside, despite the drizzle, Derry was a real pleasure to visit; a very friendly city with an immense amount of civic pride in the on-going regeneration, a very welcoming pub in the Park Bar and a striking Peace Bridge linking the two halves of the city – well we were only there for two days so it’s not a very comprehensive list.)

I’m hoping that BeThere Global CTO Mark Buckland will be writing a more technical appraisal, but in essence The YouTube interface was reasonably straightforward to navigate and the live statistics were very satisfactory, providing a clear and constant update as to the number of viewers connected, the peak viewing numbers and the average time viewed. Particularly interesting was a graphical depiction over a timeline of how many people were connected to the different bitrates we were streaming. If anecdotal eveidence is worth anything, the viewer experience seemed to be excellent, as I received many “wow it looks/sounds good” type messages of support from friends and family. Funny how they don’t seem to show as much interest in the corporate, scientific and financial events that we normally stream as they do when it’s Pixie Lott and crew! (Another aside; if you saw the concert weren’t the Wonder Villains great?)

Performers at the Global Truce 2012 Concert in Derry
PHOTO: Derry band The Wonder Villains. Inset Jeremy Gilley, The Guillemots

Overall the concert seemed to be a great success, both for the physical and the virtual audience.

The stream was viewed in 88 different countries and in total over 6000 hours of video was streamed to an audience that peaked at 2,529. Given there were only a matter of days to promote the live stream; a pretty good result in anyone’s book.

Now YouTube, how about making your excellent service available to us permanently?