Can a live video stream allow you to offer more events for the price of one? In this post we explore how event organisers can offer fringe event packages built around their live video stream programme to increase participation and impact.
Live video streams are often used to transmit an event to an often anonymous remote audience who are ‘out there somewhere’. The number of viewers can vary due to factors beyond the organiser’s control and it is difficult to measure just how valuable the stream has been to the event community beyond the venue.
We have been looking to increase the ways that live video streams can benefit event communities by looking beyond the traditional viewer metrics. After all, some events will have naturally popular live video streams, whilst others will be watched by relatively few. However, if the right people are watching and getting a real benefit from taking part remotely, the number of recorded viewers becomes less significant as a measure of the success and ultimately the ROI of the live video stream.
Live video streams can already be shown in overflow rooms and exhibition spaces at larger venues, particularly as these venues invest in networked plasma screens. This is a fantastic side use of a live stream, and certainly increases the number of eyeballs watching your stream, if not the recorded viewer count. An estimate of the footfall in areas where the stream is shown will give the organisers a better idea of how much the stream was viewed.
This got me thinking: Are there other ways a live video stream could be repackaged to help deliver a higher return on investment for event organisers?
Coordinated Fringe Events
What if an event live stream could allow you to offer two events (or more!) for the price of one?
Surrounding your event with small workshops or fringe events that happen simultaneously in different locations is not a new idea, but I believe advances in technology and the drive for event organisers to demonstrate ROI could bring this technique to the fore. Many organisations now have meeting rooms with a large screen/projector and an internet connection as standard, making it easier to show a live video stream to a small group of people without the need for a video conferencing suite or an AV technician. Many individuals and departments are also pushed for time and may struggle to get approval for travel expenses to attend events in person.
Could promoting your live video stream as part of a package of materials to help people run a connected, local fringe event help those individuals and departments to engage with your event more effectively around their other commitments?
Here are my thoughts about how to structure official fringe event packages to promote to selected sectors of your potential audience. These could be built around any individual presentation or group of presentations at in your programme and allow you to offer a more involved, hybrid experience to small groups of people who are able to conveniently gather together in a meeting room or local venue.
Creating a Fringe Event Package
1. Identify Potential Audiences
Identify audience groups that may be interested in specific talks at your event, and are likely to be able to assemble in small groups. There may be several different groups who will have an interest in different event themes.
2. Create Customisable Fringe Event Plans
Design a series of workshop tasks, activities or debate questions that could be used to build a fringe event around specific live streamed sessions. You could include a variety of options to allow local organisers to plan their own programme tailored to the needs of their group. Think about any CPD or other training needs these groups might have that your event could contribute towards.
Remember to think about the time constraints individuals and teams may be under. Offering short sessions – such as a one hour live streamed presentation followed by a 30 minute discussion session – or half day workshop packages may be more practical and allow people to work their participation around any other appointments in their calendars. You could even frame these as ‘coffee shop’ sessions for 4-5 people to gather around a laptop in a cafe to watch one presentation, then discuss the presentation and submit their response.
3. Provide Technical Guidelines
Provide a set of simple technical instructions for hosting a fringe event, including the link to the live video stream and timings for individual sessions of interest. Explain how participants can engage with the amplified discussion around the main event and how the fringe event group can feedback to the main event.
Your technical guidelines may also include advice about using hashtags to ensure a consistent approach, details about how to register a fringe event with you so you know what is going on where, and a feedback form.
Put these materials together into a short, downloadable pack and promote them along side your main event. You may want to target your marketing for these packages at specific audiences who you don’t think will sign up to the main event itself. Encourage people to organise their own fringe event and provide advice about how to do this, including a match making service if there are disconnected individuals in the same geographical area with shared interests.
5. Collect Fringe Event Outputs
It is important to have a plan to collect the outputs from the fringe events to help demonstrate the impact your main event had further afield. This may involve a live link up via something like Google Hangouts as part of the closing comments, providing fringe event participants with the opportunity to deliver their contribution verbally. Alternatively, you may ask the fringe event organisers to provide examples of concrete outcomes (such as hack projects) or a summary for use on your event blog. Choose the form of feedback that will give you the best idea of how the fringe event helped its audience and can be most easily reused in your post-event content strategy.
Bums on Seats
Offering easy-to-download-and-use fringe event packages may involve a little more work on the part of the event organiser and/or programme committee, but will it impact any other aspect of the event?
The concern that seems to be upper most in every event organiser’s mind is the problem of ‘bums on seats’. After all, this is why the original event was conceived and funded. There is often a fear that offering a live video stream (or advertising it too early) will impact ticket bookings. This fear is likely to raise its head again at the suggestion of promoting fringe events.
If you want to increase the reach of your event by amplifying it (by means of a live video stream, fringe events or any other technique) you need to be confident that there is an audience out there that is interested in at least some of your event topics, but cannot get to the event for some reason. This may be due to restrictive travel expense policies, distance, accessibility issues, diary conflicts, or any of a whole host of other reasons. You already know that these people will not come to your event. Offering a variety of routes to engage with your event to different extents could help you to reach these people and increase the impact of your event.
That said, you will need to ensure your event’s marketing plan is targeted so that the right people get the right messages. Those who might attend should be given that option first, then offered alternatives to help them engage in part of the programme if they can’t make it, whereas other groups that you might not have considered contacting about the main event could be targeted with information about how to run a fringe event based around their needs.
Events with dispersed audiences or a wide thematic scope could enhance their offering to the community with optional fringe event packages allowing smaller audiences to tune into the parts of the event that are most interesting to them and discuss these with local, like-minded people or colleagues. It may require thinking beyond the traditional boundary of your event, but will result in a more flexible format with a wider appeal and clearer ROI from your live video stream.
If you would like help planning your amplified event strategy or developing fringe event materials, please contact [email protected].