Webcasting Tips in the Age of Mobile and Social

My career in public relations precedes the internet and because I’m a TV producer by trade I have always approached web tactics from that perspective. As such I have been involved in video webcasting before it actually was even practical.

When Rilutek was approved for ALS in December 1995, I helped produce a webcast for the announcement. Since I was in NY for the first day of Spring (where we got three inches of snow after an unusually terrible winter), I was reminded of that day in 1995, because the city was also in the throes of an awful winter storm. As a result, a lot of the media and the patient advocates could not attend our press conference and were forced to rely on the webcast as their main source of information. The servers held up and we had 15,000 participants in the webcast, which at that time was a stunning number. Everyone involved saw the potential of the medium.

Today, its routine for livestreaming video events to reach millions. And while mobile and social have revolutionized the web, the tactics have also greatly expanded the reach of webcasting.

Although Ustream has had technology to allow iPhone users to watch a live streaming webcast since 2009, it hasn’t really become common place for consumers to watch live events on mobile devices until the past year or so. The ubiquity of Skype and Facetime is putting live streaming capabilities in the hands of everyone, now. It’s one thing to Facetime with your family members—why not use the same technology to reach hundreds or thousands? As bandwidth and capacity has increased, hosting a live event online has become easier and cost effective. And if you don’t mind commercial sponsorship, you can even use a platform like Ustream for free to reach thousands of viewers live, something that might have been cost prohibitive not too many years ago.

While it may seem that all you need for a good webcast is an iPhone or webcam  facing the front of the room and an internet connection, the reality is that a live webcast is an experience. We don’t just see the speaker, it’s about the content and the production which means that both the webpage which houses the live stream and as well as what goes inside the video frame that the viewer sees, need attention.

There’s an old saying that your show is your showcase. If the quality is poor, it reflects on you and your message.  These days anyone can identify that the lighting is sub-standard, or that the speaker is too far away from the camera, or that the audio isn’t clear. If the focus is a Powerpoint, Keynote presentation and/or slides, they should be crisp and you might allow viewers to download a PDF of them afterwards.

A good webcast production team ensures that most importantly, your viewer notices your content, not a blurry image or bad audio. I am obviously biased, but I lean towards TV producers for webcasts, because that’s the medium everyone is familiar with, and it’s ideal to have a team that has  experience in webcasting as well as video production.

You may already have much of what it takes to do a webcast. Remember, most webcasts will begin on a webpage—why not host it on yours? (Technically, your website may not support a live webcast. That’s ok. It only has to “look like” it’s hosting the webcast, in much the same way if you link to a YouTube video on your website, it’s YouTube that is hosting the video, not your actual server).

You probably already have many of the tools you need for producing a content rich program. While there are many services that can provide you with really fancy looking “platforms” for your webcast, what you’re really trying to provide is information to your viewer. Hey, don’t let them leave your site! Many elements of a webcast are embeddable features that your web designer can easily incorporate into a webpage. A suitable player for your viewer can be embedded into your webpage, but it doesn’t need to end there. Items like live Q&A, a Twitter feed and even live captioning can now easily be inserted into a webpage.

And that webpage could be your Facebook site, it doesn’t have to be a traditional website.

Finally, while I keep talking about a “live” stream, the vast majority of live webcasts are actually consumed from the archive. In other words, more people will see the archive of your webcast than the live event—that’s just a reality of life today, the web today and the various time zones that might want to participate. So make sure you have a plan to archive and that the archived version is up quickly if not immediately after the live event. (If there was a terrible glitch, missing audio or a slide out of order in the “live” event, it’s perfectly ok to edit or “clean that up” for the archive for a better viewing experience).

So while you may need the expertise of a good video production company to help you accomplish your goals, doing a webcast may be a simpler process than you realize. And using the manpower and resources that you already have can help reduce the costs of producing it.

Questions, comments, I’d love to hear from you….