How Interactive Are Your Live-Streaming Events?

Using Second Life's 3D Online World to Train Online Students

Thanks to the ever-cheaper world of digital media, it costs less every month to distribute or stream video, images and other content to and from events. While it’s certainly still not cheap to live-stream events well (see last weekend’s TheRumble2012 live-streaming debacle as proof), scaling is the real issue here, not technology or money.

But access isn’t enough. For live-streaming experiences to match or exceed their in-person counterparts, it’s important to offer that one thing most people attend conferences for in the first place: interaction.

SocialFish agrees. In their recent blog post, they recommend integrating social streams, including surveys and polls, and offering live Q&A sessions. While we agree these three are important, we have a few more suggestions to make your online experience rock.

Provide A Moderator
When we say moderator, we’re not talking even a Jim Lehrer level of involvement, but simply someone with enough power to ban users, moderate the worst comments and answer any technical questions. This means your moderator absolutely needs to be in touch with your marketing and IT teams during the event, and not just some kid working for a large NYC company. Give this person power, access and enough responsibility to look after the event fans’ best interests. And please tell them not to use text speak unless necessary.

Cap Your Tickets Sold
As TheRumble2012’s failed live-stream shows us, scaling live video online is hard. Instead of irresponsibly selling as many tickets as possible, try charging a bit more for guaranteed access. Would you rather have your service work perfectly for 5k people or not at all for twice that? As a long-time customer of similar live streams, I can say I’d much rather not watch a poor live-stream and download the footage immediately afterwards than suffer through poor performance during the event.

Contact The Big Boys
Windows Azure runs a number of high-profile online events (Olympics, some of the NFL offerings, Microsoft worldwide product launches). Azure and similar large services are better equipped to handle such massive undertakings than the boutique digital shop that employs cool-dressing hipsters and ‘found a great deal’ on overseas hosting and redistribution equipment. Trust them.

Live-streaming correctly is worth the time and expense. After all, even if your offering is full of interactive opportunities, does it matter if no one can access it?

Branding = Content Marketing(?)

@brockuniversity Social Media

Personal branding is so hot right now. From snazzy logos to custom-fitted public personas and editorial calendars to outfits designed to be just hipster enough, personal branding does for individuals what Madison Avenue did for big brands back in the ’50s and ’60s — it helps you put your best foot forward.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand what branding, personal or otherwise, actually is. Copyblogger puts it best (best read in Tyler Durden’s tone and pace): “Branding isn’t your company name. It’s not a tag line. It’s not a logo. Branding is just another name for creating a perception.”

Sometimes that perception may be that you’re an expert in your field, other times it may be that your small business has the best customer service around, but whatever it is, your branding should be as close to a reflection of your actual business practices as possible. What do we mean?

Be True To You
Are you impatient and tough to work with, but able to always produce great work on time? Play that last part up, instead of trying to hide the first.

Transparency Matters…Kinda
When it comes to customer decisions, sharing the criteria your company used to determine such is a great idea, as can your thoughts behind boosting employee morale. But when it comes to decisions about laying people off, dropping clients or other, more intimate, issues, sharing the step-by-step process with the world in a blog post isn’t the best idea. Save those stories for late nights around the conference table.

It’s Okay To Polish Your Story
One of the biggest concerns with social media, content creation and any additional marketing/advertising mediums is the amount of time it takes to do it right. While we’d all love to have an in-house storyteller capable of creating content that shifts the world’s perception of you to however you’d like, it’s not always possible. Hire a great writer to get you started, and then build off what they do.

Be Consistent
One of my own failures in branding via content marketing on my own blog is the complete lack of focus on any topic. Sure, I can say, “but it’s all about me, which is consistent!”, but that doesn’t work when you’re a small business trying to repeatedly attract new customers by giving each a somewhat planned experience. Pick a few things to laud and leave your competitors to picking among your left overs.

Content marketing that’s helpful to potential or current clients benefits both sides in the long run. Good luck.

Live Streaming The Right Way

DR1 live, fuld skærm i super kvalitet

No matter the event budget, technology available or planning involved, live streaming events still isn’t a fool-proof process. From faulty local setups to server issues to client-side problems, live streaming has a way to go before it’s as reliable as TV programming.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be really, really great. With technologies like Windows Azure available, budget and planning are often the only obstacles when offering decent live streaming in HD (720p, usually) for those who can’t be there in person.

While we’re not huge fans of live streaming without the aforementioned budget and planning considerations, we have and will continue to promote such as complementary options or value adds for event attendees. We will always believe the true power of events is in the personal contact, but know that live streaming’s convenience is a huge plus. Just remember to set expectations.

Be Honest About Bandwidth
While most residential cable connections can handle live streaming, it’s important to remind viewers that all other network traffic should be kept to a minimum. Downloading large updates, using web-based apps or uploading files should be done sparingly in order to keep your live stream flowing correctly.

Allow For Buffering Delays
Live streams will occasionally freeze. While most techies accept this as part of the deal, non-computer-savvy folks may be annoyed at this. While most live-streaming tech dynamically buffer their streams to allow for interruptions in traffic, letting your viewers know ahead of time will ease much of their worry.

Keep Pricing Reasonable
Seldom are event planners able to recoup live streaming costs via paid viewers alone. While we like charging a fee of some kind to help offset costs, recruiting a sponsor or even showing very short ads is likely to work better. Live streaming, at least for most current events, is far more of a marketing/advertising line item than a true attendee offering.

We’re eager to see how The Rumble 2012, featuring Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart, works out this Saturday. Have you signed up?

Talkin’ ’bout your generation

... four do it yourself divers

The idea that traditional methods should be used because they’ve always worked has been taught for decades. The Greatest Generation, and then the Baby Boomers, are both proud of and have benefited from a steadfast determination to improving year over year, without making major changes unless forced.

This worked because information didn’t use to travel as quickly as it does now. From memes trending on Twitter to YouTube again blowing up because of a funny video, the ability to broadcast quickly has increased our perceived need to adapt to it.

Now that the traditional hierarchical business arrangement is no longer always determined by longevity, the type of conference attendees are also no longer mostly old, mostly white men. With this change brings up three distinct classes of people, which we like to divide by generation. While we understand that not every 55+ year old will look and/or act like a Baby Boomer, the generalizations for each class pertain to a typical member.

Baby Boomers
These conference goers are less likely to be technology reliant, more likely to request analog information (brochures, etc.) and more likely to ask permission before trying something new. None of these attributes make them any less productive or valuable as a conference member, but to get the most out of their involvement, more instruction and structure would be beneficial.

Results from this group won’t always rock the boat, but we bet their solutions will work for a long while.

Generation X
These are the rebels willing to work within the system. Known as one of the first mainstream-recognized creative classes, Gen Xers and their experimentations of the late ’90s paved the way for the successful digital companies we have now. This group typically appreciates loose boundaries, generalized instruction and some sort of framework for completing tasks.

Expect Gen Xers to excel when improving previously discovered methods.

Generation Y
Most of these adults grew up with access to technology, and to many the idea of analog methods, siloed instruction and non-collaborative work is foreign to them. While they may claim to have a complete disregard for rules, they’re desire to break rules requires they exist in the first place. We recommend make instructions simple and then get out of the way.

Gen Y seems to accept failure as a learning tool more readily than most others, so expect to see a lot of experimentation before recordable success.

Have you noticed generational differences between age groups or mindsets among your attendees?