Updated: May 7, 2020
The global events industry has taken a massive hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, and new restrictions will continue to force the industry into an experimental phase. As unfortunate as it is, we have to make the best of a terrible situation, and we should view this as an opportunity to test things we normally would not have the capacity to attempt, such as virtual events. Common -- often unfounded -- worries that virtual events will eat into live event attendance must be put aside as events and planners look for alternative ways to get their message across. We have decided to quickly outline things to consider if you are attempting to stream.
Before we begin. We have been forced into the current climate by a Black Swan event but that does not mean virtual events are inferior to live events. Virtual and semi-virtual events have their own merits, being budget friendly and sustainable (less travel) being just two benefits. However, like all events you need to set your goals, and know your KPI and desired ROI to determine what will work best for you. Are you trying to keep your brand alive and get your attendees excited for a postponed event or keep them interested in attending next year? Are you looking to get some quick information out there? Is the event expected to be a replacement to the real thing providing the same value? These decisions will greatly impact the format you choose and your technical requirements. For most events we recommend working closely with a good AV or Production company to help determine your needs; however, this blog will provide you with a good guideline to help your planning phase. Like all events, remember to ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE!
It goes without saying that content is key. No matter what you do if your content is flat and not properly rehearsed, no matter what else you do the event will most likely fall short of your goals. In addition to having great content, this blog will NOT cover a few key things which you still need to consider:
Technical Requirements (although we will touch upon some basics)
Security (but don’t worry, most hosting platforms are very secure)
Failure points: virtual events come with a host of unique failure points, and there are things out of our control such as your attendee’s internet connection.
Streaming is the obvious transition for your event, and is what we would recommend for most people considering alternatives during this time. It goes without saying that not all streaming is the same; your event could be a simple webinar with one speaker or it could become a full-blown production. We will assume you can run a small-scale stream yourself, and will focus here more on high-production streaming for your event.
If your speakers are local you can still produce your main stage for the camera with minimal people on-site. If you do this you need to make sure your lights are not getting in the way of your stream and that your speakers are clearly visible on camera. If you can still run a main-stage and honour your deal with your AV/Production company we recommend doing what you can to support each other during this troubled time, but more and more it is looking like staying indoors and keeping our social distancing will be key.
When running a smaller set-up from the comfort of your home you should still consider your visuals. What are you using for a backdrop, how bright are your lights? Before you stream you should do the regular checks (audio, lighting etc). However, even after doing your checks you should Monitor the Feed. You should be viewing the stream as your audience would, on wi-fi to ensure what they are seeing is a great experience. You will be surprised how many times you will discover audio or video issues that you might not have noticed otherwise.
Things to consider: with virtual events you need to pay more attention to your dead space. At a live event your audience is in the room, networking and is harder for them to leave. With a virtual event if you don’t do something to keep your audience engaged they are likely to go grab a coffee and may forget to return. Keep them engaged. We recommend taking a look at current e-sport events, having hosts during this “down-time” to sum-up talks, update your audience on what to come can keep people engaged. This is also a great time for audience Q&A with the host of your stream. You can also have a “studio” to go back to in between talks; if you are working or streaming remotely you can still have a studio “off-site” to handle your down-time.
Engaging your audience: Engaging your audience is important for any event, but it is even more so now that you have the virtual space separating you and your attendees. Adding services, chat services, polls, Q&A panels and one-to-one sessions will help engage your audience. (We recommend apps like Sli.do). You might also want to consider adding virtual networking spaces or allow your attendees to request one-on-one chats with other people tuned into your chat. In a way, virtual events create an opportunity for more personalization such as allowing you to make quick introductions between attendees.
Camera needs (Single vs Multi-cam): Unless you are sending simple messages to your audience we recommend staying away from streaming on your phone. The production value will have people dipping out consistently and your message will get lost. If you are charging for your event we recommend talking to your AV/Production supplier for their help in getting the best production value; however, we can recommend a few cheaper options for you if you are heading on this journey yourself.
Equally as important as your camera choice is the number of cameras you are using. Think back to your favourite shows or YouTube videos, are they one-camera head-on shots or multiple? Most likely they are multi-camera set-ups frequently switching between different depth and perspectives. As we mentioned you need to engage your audience with virtual events and if you don’t have multiple cameras your content is going to feel bland as you don’t get the same movement as you would at a live event. Multi-cam also gives you options in case something happens to one camera (there’s nothing worse for a live-stream event than having one camera which doesn’t work).
If you are using a multi-cam set-up with production level cameras and a crew, then consider investing in some Tally Lights (the blinking red light) for your cameras so your host & speakers know where to look. However, if you are looking for a smaller set-up take a look at Mevo for some quality budget cameras and My Sling Studio for intuitive software to help create a multi-cam set-up.
Platform: There are multiple platforms out there for you to host your stream and they are all great (such as Livestream, Brightcove). If you want some suggestions, reach out to us, but we won’t spend too much time on this. However, we did want to warn you about a few things if you choose to host on social sites.
Audio - social hosting sites use an algorithm to target copyright claims so you need to be careful on your audio choice. Even if you have the proper license to use music the algorithm may flag your video and take it down. By the time you get it back up and running your event will be over and the audience gone.
Tech Support - Since your hosting is done through social media you won’t have somebody on site to help with any trouble-shooting and ensuring the quality is up to par. You might not have this anyways if you are doing a smaller home set-up but keep this in mind.
Monitor your content: Chat rooms come with their own trouble, like monitoring the links and content that go up while still keeping questions/chat as “live” as possible. We recommend having a team monitoring what goes on and removing unnecessary spam (or abuse).
Use hardwired dedicated internet. Speak to your provider and tech-team for optimal performance, but as a base we recommend upload speeds of: (HD 720p = 4 megabits/second; 1080p 9meg-bits/second; 4K 25mega-bits per second)
There is going to be a delay. If you or your host ask a question to the audience you need to consider the delay in transmission, plus give them time to think and reply. Your host needs to understand this and be skilled in making the time pass smoothly. A strong script is recommended for a live-stream, but we usually find it works better if the audience are the ones sending in the questions. We recommend you take a look at Sli.do
Hire customer service/troubleshooting to be on site (or handle calls for you). You’re going to have some people calling or writing in with issues (most likely due to their internet connection), but you want somebody on site to confirm that everything is running smoothly and that the issue is not on your end.
Other Options that you can consider include:
Going fully Virtual: This option removes the need for speakers & teams to get together in person but comes with some additional considerations and can be used to provide live or pre-recorded webinars and webcasts. Some providers you may want to consider include: Hexafair, Teooh, Ubivent, Vfairs, Workcast
Multi-Hub Events: Smaller, scattered events tied together though multi-video streaming. (We recommend against this until the Covid-19 crisis has been beaten)
P.S If you are canceling we encourage you to donate to charities when possible. If your catering is already paid for considering donating to your local charity or food bank.
If you would like to discuss how you can take your virtual event even further feel free to get in touch with us @ www.wearesaga.com