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!

 

New solutions

Maarten Emons
Maarten Emons test driving his BeThere Global SOLO

We are delighted to have delivered the first BeThere Global SOLO system to Ngi-NGN (the Dutch Computer Society).
This is a single camera, self-operated system that allows organisations to record and live stream events for themselves. It all packs into the very compact bag and weighs in at less than 15Kgs.

With only a little training, Maarten Emons (Elected Member of Board for the Dutch Computer Society and responsible for Marketing and Communication) and his team are up and running live streaming their events.

Said Maarten;

“The BeThere Global SOLO is for the Dutch Computer Society a low cost and easy to operate device to let volunteers broadcast our sessions. Currently we are experimenting and thinking of buying more systems next year. It takes us 25 minutes to set-up and start streaming to YouTube. The support given by BeThere Global was great! We are working together to make a good instruction manual and further improve the system. So far a great solution which will have a big impact for our association!”

If your organisation is interested in a “self-drive” webcasting solution then the BeThere Global SOLO could be for you, please get in touch! 

How do you know if it’s working?

Having worked in the world of conferences and events my entire working life (to date) I have seen many fads and fashions come and go. Sometimes these have been technology and gimmicks used for the sake of it – clients and producers just wanting to have the latest bleeding edge product. Sometimes it has been a theme or approach inspired by some topical event, TV series or film.(Although I do lay claim to pitching a client an X-Factor theme a good decade before the TV series landed!). Something else that arrived around the mid 90’s but has proved itself much more than a fad (quite rightly), is ‘measurement’.

Previously clients were happy with a good ‘gut feeling’ or a reasonable number of (metaphorical) slaps on the back as the measure of success of a conference or event. But ever increasingly powerful procurement departments decided that just wasn’t good enough any more; it was necessary to prove that objectives were being met, that the return on investment justified the cost, that events work!

Along the way they took a lot of the fun out of the business. Conferences and events by and large grew more sterile, less creative… but at least they had statistics, graphs and balance sheets that proved their value! But there is the problem;  a lot of dry data is produced which is often difficult to digest and even harder to interpret. And who really believes statistics anyway?

Last month I learnt there is an organisation out there called Fr3dom Health, that has realised the problem with this approach and that numbers alone are not enough! Not only that, they have developed a platform to provide a sophisticated quantitative and qualitative measurement service for event owners that goes way beyond the spreadsheet. We were contracted by them to produce video content to support the measurement of the success of a large Department of Health event Innovation Expo 2013. As Toby Knightley-Day, MD of Fr3dom Health puts it

“Its about telling stories”.

That’s music to my ears.

Here is Toby talking about the event…

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!

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?

Streaming live on YouTube

The River Liffey, Dublin

As I write this we (that’s myself and fellow BeThere Global founder Mark Buckland) are on the ferry heading into Dublin and the onward drive to Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland in order to do our bit to provide a web audience for a very important and exciting concert.
On Thursday 21 June, the Peace One Day Celebration, as Part of the London 2012 Festival, will be taking place in Derry’s historic Ebrington Square. In conjunction with Peace One Day and Production Network (who are providing the cameras and vision mixing) we are delighted to add our expertise and encoding services to stream this event to a global audience.

The concert features;
PIXIE LOTT
IMELDA MAY
NEWTON FAULKNER
GUILLEMOTS
WONDER VILLAINS
and contributions From
Jude Law and Jeremy Gilley

Wherever you are in the world, join us as we open the London 2012 Festival in Derry-Londonderry and mark the 3-month countdown to Peace Day on September 21, 2012.

Watch the concert LIVE at 7.30pm BST on Thursday 21 June here: www.youtube.com/peaceoneday

Peace One Day – Insights

Jeremy Gilley

Just over a week ago we were privileged to sponsor the recording of Peace One Day Insights at the Grange City Hotel in London.

For those that aren’t aware of Peace One Day I urge you to visit the site and read and watch all about it. Then get involved! It is the most exciting and worthwhile ‘cause’ I have come across in recent years and is starting to gain real traction, as its visionary founder Jeremy Gilley (pictured) and his team of supporters and patrons work towards institutionalising a global day of non-aggression on the 21st September every year, so that it becomes as established in the world’s calendars as Mother’s Day. Having met Jeremy for the first time, I was supremely impressed and equally moved by his energy, enthusiasm and unwavering passion for a cause he began creating fully 12 years ago. This video tells you how it all began…

The Peace One Day Insights events are specifically targeted at SMEs. This is not surprising given that SMEs account for two-thirds of all employment globally and there are over 4.5 million of them in the UK alone. Jeremy together with President of the patrons programme Steve Bolton have identified this as the ideal target audience to help them build the groundswell of activity and engagement that is needed to make this a self-sustaining day in everyone’s calendar.

Aside form Mr Gilley’s energy and dedication, the thing that struck me having attended the event and later reviewing some of our recordings, was how much synergy there was between all the speakers and the cause the event is designed to support. Sounds obvious that it should be the case, but it shows great skill and sensitivity on the part of the person who researched and developed the day’s programme and also underlines the power of a truly worthwhile cause to draw in people who are naturally aligned with its objectives.

If you would like to see the recordings we have set them up on a Vimeo channel here. As an aside, I would be interested to hear your views on Vimeo as a viewer. It is the first time we have used it to create a channel. Seems to have some good attributes, although it is somehwhat annoying that you don’t have the freedom to instantly jump up and down the timeline as you do with our CDN hosted recordings. You have to wait for the file to download before you can jump to the end. That said; don’t jump to the end! All these recordings are all well worth watching.

Watch out for more news as BeThere Global becomes more involved with Peace One Day!

What it is to be a Global Small Business

It’s great fun this global business malarkey!
Last week we were in Amsterdam and responsible for live webcasting the keynote speech at Blackberry DevCon Europe (and also recording many of the breakout sessions) working with our friends at Shelton Fleming and Blitz Communications. This week we were in Las Vegas with M-Is webcasting the HP press event announcing Proliant Gen8 servers. And now today and tomorrow we are recording a training course for ISUOG in Paris.
And all the time I’ve not set foot a plane!
Mostly London events for a while now so I won’t feel so left out of the air miles race.