A 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.
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.