Live streaming was originally introduced as a solution to a simple problem. People wanted to go to events, but couldn’t. One thing followed another, and now more events than not have a digital audience in addition to the physical one. Obviously, it’s more complex than that; nothing that exists is that simple. But, at its root, live streaming has always been fairly straightforward in its aim.
It’s time to move forward.
Both technology and the general attitude toward live streaming have evolved since its genesis. There is now the capability and the desire to transform it from a basic fix to something that’s interesting in its own right.
So, let’s take a look at
We all know what they say about first impressions. Members generally have a pretty good idea of how they’re going to feel about a conference long before it’s begun. That’s why building excitement beforehand is such a useful tactic; it makes people who’ve already decided to go glad they did and can be the tipping point for those who were on the fence.
One of the best ways to encourage attendance is to create FOMO—that is, a Fear Of Missing Out. This term describes a situation where a person sees posts on social media about an event and worries that they might get left out of something valuable. Something like an event hashtag directs all the pre-event excitement to one place and makes those who aren’t in on it wonder what they might be missing.
A well-executed promo video can also build expectations well. The higher the production value, the more innately impressive it will be, of course. But even a few clips of things like speakers, interviews, and the location the conference will be held at can be impressively effective.
Of course, the best time for people to feel engaged with an event is while it’s going on. A simple way to do this is to open channels of communication between all attendees. For several years, associations have incorporated polls and surveys into their sessions. By encouraging speakers to incorporate questions into their presentations, associations have already been fostering engagement. Some of these questions are there to test how much the audience knows on a given subject; others gauge its general opinion. Both help to create connections between attendees.
The thing with audience participation, though, is that it needs to be convenient. Sure, there are people who want their voices to be heard enough that they don’t care about that. But most are content in silence if speaking requires too much effort.
This applies especially to virtual audiences. Physical attendees have the speaker right there, expecting everyone to take part. Most of the people around them are going to be doing it. This adds up to a certain pressure that just doesn’t apply to virtual attendees. That’s why our live player has polling built right into it: so that there are as few barriers to their engagement as possible.
In the past, it was popular to have people text certain codes to a number during a session. Each corresponded to a multiple-choice option, allowing people to voice their opinions or answer factual questions while learning the same of the other audience members. Luckily, things have gotten a bit less clunky in recent years.
While not always the most important part of an event, just being in a conference center is often the most exciting. Getting to meet with like-minded people during breaks and just mill about in that sort of space creates interest. This, in turn, makes it easier to retain the information from the sessions. So, how can that feeling be created in a digital medium?
The strategy that we’ve seen to be most effective is to incorporate behind-the-scenes extras, like an interview booth. Having a host ask fun questions to a number of key speakers and other important figures can really bring up the mood between sessions. Roving reporters are another way; they can go around and find what’s most interesting and include the virtual audience. And while there can be specific people doing this, it’s not the only way. Check out this article about how one organization democratized their engagement! They got lots of unique perspectives on the event without interrupting any individual’s experience.
Chatting is a core element of live streaming. However, many organizations aren’t using it to its full potential. The medium is, by default, casual. Still, there are barriers to participation, and it can take a bit of a push to get the conversation rolling. For this reason, some of our clients have used engagement specialists—that is, staff members dedicated to helping attendees get the most out of the chat.
They usually start a conversation with a simple icebreaker. “Where is everyone from today?” is pretty popular. It works so well because it’s easy and something that each person will have a different answer for. Or, if some do have the same answer, then it’s something to bond over. Subconsciously knowing this, people are eager to participate. This is important because it breaks down barriers. Later on, if someone is confused about something during a session, there’ll be nothing stopping them from asking their fellow virtual attendees about it.
Just as an event can cause excitement before it happens, so can the energy continue long after the physical attendees have gone home. Rebroadcasting is better at this than offering the recordings on demand—although there’s no reason not to do both—because they have just as much potential for engagement as the original stream at a fraction of the cost. There’s also plenty of room for adapting it. For some, it might be best to recreate the glamour of the entire conference. Or, consider airing highlight-worthy sessions on a monthly basis to keep the excitement fresh throughout the year.
And offering sessions on demand can augment engagement. If someone is reminded of their experience at the event (through, say, a post-event promo video or rebroadcast), they might want to watch some content from it. If that’s not possible, their excitement will probably just fizzle out. But if it is…
Engagement is important because it’s effective. When an event gets people excited, it’s directly beneficial to the organization putting it on. The attendees are more likely to come to the next event and recommend it to others, and they’ll be able to pay attention and retain what they learned better. And the best part is: it doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. By making just a few of these small changes, an association can take its event from competent to prominent.