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Live vs. Virtual Events: Ideal Streaming Solutions for You
A live stream is a compelling way to introduce your corporate content to new audiences. While businesses have known for years that they could broadcast video of a live event, the shutdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic gave the online event model a central, permanent role in the world of conferences and business gatherings.
Now that it’s possible to organize a live physical event again, your company has some decisions to make:
- Should you live stream your in-person events?
- Is it worth keeping virtual conference events on the schedule?
- What type of infrastructure should you have in place for each kind of live event?
While the wide-open landscape of event organizing can seem intimidating at first, having more options is a net positive for your business. Now, you can settle on the exact live event model that works for your business. Furthermore, you don’t have to limit yourself to one kind of event. You can throw a virtual conference one quarter and a streamed hybrid event the next.
Once you understand the state of the live event streaming market, as well as your company’s objectives, you can build a strategy from there.
Live events and streaming: State of the industry
When COVID-19 lockdowns were at their peak, there was no ambiguity around the virtual events industry. If companies wanted to have any kind of gathering at all, they would have to stage it as an online event. This period led to a trial by fire for companies, as each business had to settle on a virtual event platform and learn the best practices of staging a virtual conference in real time and ensuring virtual attendee engagement.
Now, on the other side of that divide, how do organizers and attendees feel about the prospect of live events vs. online events? Emerald Xcelerator’s research on the conference space found that while more than half of attendees (54%) are interested in getting back to networking in person, 62% hope that companies continue to offer webinars.
It’s worth remembering that online events aren’t just a stopgap to offer when people can’t gather in person. They offer benefits that make them a useful part of strategies in their own right, including:
- The ability to cut down on attendee travel, whether for environmental, budgetary or scheduling reasons.
- Video recordings of sessions that can be saved and released as view-on-demand offerings later.
- Data on attendees that companies can use as part of their ongoing digital marketing strategies.
Added to the attraction of lower ticket prices, all these advantages have helped online events stay relevant, even as employees have gotten back to working in person and traveling for their jobs. Virtual events can help companies connect with their customers, give information to their employees or launch a new product to the media and the public.
Turning live gatherings into hybrid events by streaming keynotes and other sessions is a way to grant the benefits of online events while also tapping into the excitement and networking potential that characterize in-person conferences. This is a powerful value proposition, and as such 97% of Bizzabo survey respondents expect there to be more hybrid events in the future.
Each of the different kinds of live streamed event — an in-person gathering with hybrid event elements and an all-online meeting — comes with its own best practices. Learning these factors will help you determine which type of event is right for your particular company, while also enabling you to make the conference go as smoothly as possible.
Live events with streaming: What to know
A live gathering with online hybrid event elements comes with complexities — after all, your business has to thrive in two separate spaces at once. However, the rewards can be great. Delivering a positive, engaging experience for attendees while also reaching an expanded audience online may represent a major victory for brand visibility and help you pursue your business objectives. So, how can you maximize the effectiveness of your streamed live events?
- Focus on the live elements first: Since a hybrid event is two events in one, it’s worth asking which half of the equation to focus on. In short, an event organizer should focus on getting the in-person elements of the conference up and running, and then treat the online stream as an addition. After all, if the presentations on stage go badly, the results will be disappointing to both in-person and online audiences. While it is important to have the video and audio setup optimized for live stream broadcasting, nothing is more valuable than rehearsing with talent and crew members.
- Ensure your technology is up to the task: Technological deficiencies can throw an event off track. Cameras, microphones and the computers used to broadcast sessions are important parts of the tech setup, but arguably the most vital piece is a solid internet connection. While it may be tempting to assume that a physical event can be broadcast over Wi-Fi or a 5G cell connection, it’s much better to have a wired Ethernet connection and test it for speed in advance. How-To Geek highly recommends Ethernet broadband because these connections can easily reach 1 Gb/second and, unlike Wi-Fi or wireless networks, their speeds are more consistent at times of high demand.
- Prepare and practice: The tech walkthrough of a hybrid event venue should ideally happen a week before the conference starts. This will give personnel time to learn of any potential problems posed by the location and work around them. Then, a day or more before the event starts, talent and presenters should rehearse the cues and marks of their sessions. Even elements that will be surprising to attendees should not be a shock to the people running the show. It’s important not to let corporate politics stop full-scale preparation from going ahead — everyone who will appear at the event should be a part of the run-throughs.
- Have the right level of video staffing: A professional video crew can capture a live event effectively, running a well-produced live stream while also making evergreen view-on-demand content. With that said, these experts can only do their best work when they have adequate people for the task at hand. For an in-person corporate event, that means:
- A technical director
- A creative director, for a more elaborate gathering
- One engineer
- One sound technician
- A number of camera operators equal to the number of cameras
- Grips and production assistants as needed
Turning an in-person meeting into a hybrid event is a way to get a great return on your company’s investment, reaching audiences in two ways at once.
Online-only event streams: What to know
The switch to exclusively virtual event production during COVID-19 lockdowns proved one important point for event organizers: These conferences are useful enough that they have a permanent place in the corporate playbook. The relatively simple requirements to host an online event, coupled with the ability for audiences to attend from anywhere in the world, have allowed companies to find success by going virtual. So, how can you build an effective digital conference for a virtual audience?
- Take advantage of digital content possibilities: Does a live streamed event have to be all live? As long as you have a good video content creation team on your side, the answer is no. You can introduce pre-recorded footage into a broadcast, which enables you to up the production values of those non-live segments, or even shoot multiple takes. For example, your business could stitch together a filmed and edited product launch hype video and then have executives take questions in a live streamed Q-and-A session for a virtual audience after.
- Run tech checks for all participants: Broadcasting a strictly online conference comes with relaxed tech requirements. After all, video platforms such as Zoom are designed to broadcast sessions to audiences. With that said, it’s no good to get complacent about technology. If a participant is using an unreliable internet connection to dial in, that could have harsh consequences for the stability of the whole event broadcast. It’s worth checking every presenter’s technology setup with a practice broadcast before going live.
- Practice every element in advance: Just as with a live event, presenters should make sure they’re ready to hit all their cues and make a seamless presentation for the audience to keep your online event moving smoothly. Furthermore, it’s worth testing out graphics packages, pre-recorded video content and the transitions between live and taped sessions. Broadcasting live is an essential part of audience engagement — Sprout Social cited a Forrester survey that found live videos get 10-20 times longer than pre-recorded content — so your team must be ready for the pressure and demands of live presenting.
- Right-size your event staff: One of the appealing points of hosting an online stream instead of a full-scale live event is the ability to operate with a smaller crew. This doesn’t mean your company doesn’t need any video professionals on hand, however. Working with the right expert crew members can help you keep reaching your at-home audience effectively, with high-quality visuals and audio keeping the audience engaged. The crew for an online event typically includes:
- A director of photography, responsible for visual elements
- A sound technician, to handle all the audio
Online events are an exciting proposition because, even with the ability to travel, businesspeople find it easier to engage with companies online. Eventscase added that even when registrants don’t show up for online events, and almost 50% of them don’t, these conferences still serve as valuable sources of on-demand content, helping you follow up with those who didn’t attend.
Choosing an event type that works for your business
When deciding whether a virtual event or live gathering is right for your company, it’s important to remember that what you choose doesn’t have to be the only model the business uses. It’s entirely possible to organize a virtual product launch, and then follow it up later in the year with an in-person live streamed conference.
This means whenever it’s time to begin planning an event, you and your team of event professionals get a new opportunity to pick what type of gathering it will be, a virtual experience or an in-person event. As for the factors that influence your decision, you can ask yourself questions such as:
- Do I have a good venue for this event? While an online event does not require a suitable physical venue, a hybrid event very much does. That venue should be set up to accommodate your audience and have adequate infrastructure for all planned presentations. Finally, the space needs a powerful, reliable internet connection.
- What’s the ideal format for the intended presentations? If you’re planning on making an announcement that would work well as a pre-recorded video, an all-online event with a live streamed Q and A may be the best model for you. If you’d rather have the excitement of a live audience in the room, however, there’s no substitute for an in-person conference.
- Are you ready to commit to a larger team? While an online-only event can be well produced with only two video crew members, an in-person gathering calls for more camera crew, directors and other engineering crew. The technology needed for such an event is also more advanced.
Whatever you decide on, the experience and skill of the video personnel can determine the quality of the final results.
Working with experts for your event live stream
Crews Control provides expert video production crews for all types of corporate needs. In today’s era of live streaming video, this includes all kinds of conferences and gatherings, whether or not they have in-person audiences.
Today’s viewers are very familiar with streaming video, as they’ve spent years consuming digital content while unable to travel. This has raised the stakes for streaming events — you can’t afford to launch an amateurish online event when competitors will likely be delivering high-quality content.
Learn more about live streaming events by reading our ebook, or contact Crews Control directly to discuss where events fit into your strategy.