We all have been accustomed to having virtual events or meetings live streamed since the early days of COVID, but what have you tried to do recently with your organization’s in-person live events now? Even though it seems like COVID barricades might not be that far behind us (and not behind some at all), I have seen far too many events—big and small—not continuing the trend to live stream to online audiences.
To be honest, the impetus for this particular column is due indirectly to my daughter’s passion for the work done by Wildlife Warriors, a non-profit started by Steve and Terri Irwin. She wanted to help me live stream a benefit gala they are running this year, and I sent a message to the org’s CMO asking if I could volunteer my live streaming production services to the event, and he declined saying that had no plans to live stream the event. I was left scratching my head, wondering why not? I’ve donated or highly discounted my services to several non-profits over the years and saw tremendous benefits from doing so for the org.
Reasons Not to Stream?
Let’s review some common reasons I’ve heard over the years to forego the effort of live-streaming an event.
- Ephemerality: In short, stakeholders might believe that the content of the event doesn’t have the potential for much of a life span online. This belief can be true for some types of content, such as short internal briefings with staff, but even then, there’s likely some value to be had in streaming–and archiving–the content.
- Planning: Lining up a schedule for live streaming and archive involves pre-production, production, and post-production efforts. Some events just don’t have the lead time to get everything lined up to make a live stream and archive happen.
- Viewership: The live stream isn’t worth the effort if only a handful of viewers join the stream. More often than not, my clients tend to overestimate how many people will show up to watch a live stream, and past disappointments with this metric will de-incentivize future efforts to stream and archive.
- Resources: You need people with know-how and production gear to pull off a successful live stream and archive. Many orgs mistakenly believe that they can’t possibly train internal staff to handle the responsibilities of live streaming, not realizing that it’s easier than ever to coordinate the effort without feeling overwhelmed.
- Cost: In line with the last reason, resources require a budget to allocate to them. Stakeholders might believe it would just be too expensive to live stream and archive.
Reasons to Stream!
Ok, perhaps the last section’s points resonated with you, either as a stakeholder yourself or as someone attempting to get traction within your org to make live streams happen. If you’re in this position, here are some quick takeaways that you can use in your first meeting with your team to get live streams on the calendar:
- Build your brand: Simply put, your org can’t afford to not stream its events. COVID has especially driven this point home with brand recognition. Even if live stream viewership numbers are low initially or sporadically, people now have the expectation that if they can’t be at an event in-person, they can watch it later, raising awareness of the content you’re delivering.
- Add value to your archive: Historical record matters, and organizations that maintain an online archive establish a presence online that their competitors may not have. Metrics from nearly every live event I’ve streamed for clients has much more viewership after the event is over than there was during the actual event.
- Engage your audience: The audience that matters will most likely be watching your live stream. These people are your tribe, your devoted followers. Even if they are few in number initially, they will likely be the ones who share your content with others and help build momentum toward a solid audience for future events.
- No hardware/software/service barriers to entry: Costs are coming down for nearly all hardware related to streaming. Smartphones with an adequate external mic might be all you need to get started, and with modest budgets you can acquire better gear for better production quality. At a recent event that was live streamed, we used $400 SRT HEVC encoders to live stream 4K content to the online audience. I was completely blown away by the options in the encoder and the UI/UX of the web-based controls.
- Access: Not everyone can come to the live event, either due to schedule conflicts, cost of travel, space restrictions or even health regulations. Having your content available in the live stream will be appreciated by the viewers that show up.
- Additional revenue stream: While many live streams are free to viewers on social media outlets, you can always look to paywalls to provide some if not all of the funding to put together the resources required for the live event. COVID has made many options available in the marketplace.
I’m usually frustrated if I can’t access or review content from live events by orgs I follow after the fact, especially if I didn’t even know the event was happening. While I don’t expect I’ll be getting a call from the Wildlife Warriors anytime soon, I do hope to see more and more organizations live stream their events in the months and years to come.
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