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.

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.

ecss pl
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

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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.

investigator
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

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.

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?