Back in those early, halcyon days when a live video stream from an event in your sector was a rare and precious thing, one could build and they would come.
Now, as more people cotton on to the benefits of live streaming, there are a plethora of streams available from around the world, together with hours of useful content in the form of recordings.
Whilst this increased awareness of events online is great for me as an event amplifier, it is creating a competitive environment where it is very difficult to convince people to commit the time to watch a particular live video stream for any length of time.
We are fast approaching the point where organisers who want to invest in providing a live video stream from their event need to work as hard to attract an audience to that stream as they do to attract delegates to attend their event in person. I have been receiving more and more requests for live video streaming at events, which is great, but I have reached the conclusion that I need to be working more closely with event organisers from an earlier stage to understand what they want to get out of the live stream, and to provide more strategic advice about the ways they can use a live video stream to meet their aims.
This might include…
1. Advertise the live video stream early
People still value face-to-face meetings, so if they CAN come to your event in person, they will. Knowing there is a live video stream available will not sway the decision for most people.
However, most event organisers spend so much time panicking about “bums on seats” that they fail to promote their live video stream until very close to the event – or worse, leave it until the day of the event to announce that a live stream will be available! By that stage, everyone who might have watched remotely has a full schedule for the day and can’t take time out, or doesn’t get the message about it until too late. As a result, the stream gets low viewer numbers. The organiser is disheartened and feels that the stream has not delivered value for money.
I always advocate advertising the live video stream early, and promoting the link to people who have signed up to attend in person. Many organisations will not foot the bill for multiple team members to attend an event, either for operational reasons or due to the cost involved. The one or two team members who are permitted to attend your event are the perfect people to promote your live video stream to the other members of their organisations. The same thing works with speakers – if the speaker knows they will be streamed early enough, they can promote this to their colleagues and associates to help raise their own profile.
It is essential to have a link to promote from an early stage, even if this is just a simple holding page. Circulating a link for the stream will increase the chances that someone who hears about the stream will be able to find it easily or bookmark it for reference.
2. Advertise an online programme
It is important to help your remote audience to choose which sessions they particularly want to watch so they can clear space in their schedule to watch. Few people will be able to watch the whole event from beginning to end, so providing a clear programme of what will be streamed when will help the remote audience to dip in and out to follow the sessions of most value to them.
It is also useful to provide some guidance about how to participate in an online event, including practical advice about following live, such as blocking the time out in their diary, telling colleagues that they will be busy, or finding an alternative space to watch via a laptop or tablet device where they won’t be disturbed.
3. Think about a broader audience
For your physical event, you may have an audience profile that is fairly specific, or at least contains people with a lot of overlapping interests. After all, they have to be interested in being together and hearing the same kind of material for the whole event. Your remote audience can be much, much broader. A member your remote audience may only be interested in one particular session. They would never travel to your event and for that one talk, and you probably never thought to market the event to them as a result.
I believe this is one of the key opportunities missed by most event organisers when they live stream their event. They assume that the remote audience will be very similar to their local audience in every way. However, if you think about each of your sessions in isolation, you might identify a broader audience who may wish to watch just that one talk. You can then reach out to those people through different channels to promote the live stream of that one talk and almost make a mini event of it. The speaker may be able to help with this.
4. Think strategically
Finally, it is important to consider how you could use your live video stream to meet strategic goals. This might involve creating links between other events happening at the same time, perhaps by streaming a session to another workshop or conference, or by establishing “pods” where small groups of people come together to watch the stream and engage with the discussions.
You also need to be really clear about what you hope to achieve with a live video stream. What will success look like? How many viewers would you be happy with? Are there any sessions where you would hope for higher viewer numbers? Mapping out these aims for the live video stream will help to establish how much effort needs to go in to promoting the the stream, and what strategies you might use.
Live video streaming can be an extremely effective and cost efficient way of opening up an event to a much wider audience. However, as with most event amplification techniques, as we move from a period of experimentation into a period of common practice, event organisers need to be clearer about their aims and be prepared to work with their event amplifier more closely to help make the most out of such a service.
I would be very interested to hear if anyone has tried any alternative techniques to those described above to help generate an audience for a live video stream. Please leave a comment below to share your own experiences.