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]

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.

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?

Embedding webcasts into Facebook

Live stream embedded in Facebook

As I write this, we are working with our friends at George P Johnson to live webcast the IBM Smarter Business 2011 conference taking place in Oslo. Their clients at IBM have embedded our stream into their Facebook page.

I must admit to thinking it was only possible to embed a live video stream in Facebook using the Livestream plug in. Very encouraging to see this is plainly not the case. I think we will be shamelessly borrowing this technique in the future! Good work IBM!

7 Questions Conference Organizers should ask themselves about their events

2 camera live webcast
  1. Are you frustrated at the amount of time and effort that goes into putting the presentations together, for them only to be seen and heard once by an audience limited to the number of seats you can squeeze in the room?
  2. Do you want to engage a remote audience who cannot or will not physically attend your event?
  3. Do you believe that there is inherent value in the knowledge and expertise contained in your presentation content that you should be recording?
  4. Do you want to reduce the cost of your event? Of course this needn’t be limited to hard cash; you may be looking to reduce the environmental price tag too.
  5. Do you want to enhance the experience of delegates by giving them access to recordings of the sessions?
  6. Are you trying to find new ways to retain and recruit members?
  7. Are you looking for new ways to generate revenue for your organization?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you should be talking to us about recording and webcasting your next conference, congress, seminar or presentation.

Why? Because we have a straightforward, proven and affordable solution to all of these problems.

Please get in touch, or simply fill in the form.