It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m watching the skyline of New York City fade into the distance on the way back from Streaming Media East. To be honest, I’ve never experienced a conference or trade show that was quite so busy. I had practically no time to check email or goof off on Twitter. I mostly talked to people about streaming video, and it’s clear that live streaming on the Internet is only going to get bigger.
Streaming video is a very interesting topic. Basically, it means watching video online before it has been downloaded, so it is the only way to webcast a live event. For a large enterprise network, the live event may be produced within the same building or campus as most of the viewers. For a live webcast meant to be viewed all over the world, it can be produced just about anywhere, provided the producer, the viewers and everyone in between have fast Internet connections and goof-proof capture and delivery technology.
Live Streaming is Easier Than You Think
Compared to television, live business and education webcasts are a lot more prevalent. There are live webinars and videoconferences going on all over the world every day. In television, live broadcasts are used primarily for sports, news, and only one scripted program that I know of, meaning Saturday Night Live. And all of these productions require a small army of people in highly specialized technical capacities.
Live streaming on the Internet is a hundred times easier, of course. It usually takes a couple of people to prepare and present the material, while two or three other people provide technical and marketing support. That’s it. As long as you follow a few webinar rules, specialized hardware and software does the rest.
The Magic of the Event
There are several reasons to present material in a live production online. Some of them are tangible and measured, but the best reasons, as usual, are more psychological:
- There is excitement surrounding a live event: Remember when the NBC television show ER did a live episode? For a show that featured loud dramatic drumming, doctors wheeling bodies around and people yelling “Stat!”, it was an ambitious undertaking. And the network never let you miss just how difficult and daring it was. A live event like that lets you push the limits of a coordinated marketing campaign, using email, partnerships, public relations and social media to raise the expectations of the audience.
- The higher perceived value yields better ROI: When used for lead generation, a live webcast is seen by the audience as having greater value, requiring their involvement at a specified time. There is a higher threshold of dedication, which means the people who take the time to register and attend are the ones most ready to do business with your company. Next to directly asking for your product demonstration, a live event usually drives the highest lead quality for your business.
- The timeliness of the content raises immediacy: The best example of this is the news, where you need to watch if you want to know what happened in crime and politics, how the game is going, and what tomorrow’s weather will be. For your purposes, if you need to cover what is happening in your industry, or a new technological advancement, or the details of an upcoming retail sale, a live event is practically the only way to do this.
- People want a chance to interact with you: In just about every interface you have with people, there is a delay. You post website pages and blog posts, and people find them days later. On social platforms, it may be hours. With live events, the audience has the best chance to respond immediately to what you say, and get questions answered in a raw context, where you haven’t had a chance to run your answer through the marketing mill. That’s a compelling draw.
- Live events get higher response rates: This seems counterintuitive, since a piece of content that is recorded or published for posterity will eventually drive a lot of business, but a live event pushes much of that business into the short-term. The result is a higher response from people who are interested in the company or its products at the moment. It creates a spike of activity that can cause a flurry of sales activity and help the business reach a revenue goal.
- It’s easier to track engagement: One reason given for live events is that the organization is able to gather a list of viewers through a registration process, while a piece of recorded material may be published in many places that are not trackable. This means that at least once, the live event is seen by the maximum number of viewers it is ever going to reach at one time, and you will know who they are. Later viewing won’t be as effective for lead generation.
- Live events let you try out ideas: Producing a live event can create a buzz around a big milestone, such as a product launch or partnership announcement. You can create a program involving a big-name guest or a controversial topic. You may want to present something that simply can’t be done in a scripted way. You can also decide that your live event will not be recorded, raising the stakes for viewers to register and attend.
There is a lot of magic behind the scenes during a live event as well, which is what Streaming Media East was all about. The technology runs the gamut from cameras, video capture devices, transcoders, specialized servers, content delivery networks, and hundreds of software applications. I found it highly enlightening, and the biggest lesson I can take from the event is that live streaming is big, and is fast becoming a cornerstone of Internet activity.
Your comments welcome!