As technology continues to explode and evolve, it’s sometimes hard to discern if the latest “latest & greatest” is actually a useful tool or just another flavor-of-the-week gimmick. Some “innovations” present themselves then quickly flame out while others make a splash, demonstrate staying power and utility, and ultimately become mainstream.
Think back over the not-too-many years: email, text messaging, Facetime, etc. Where would we be without them? On the flipside, when was the last time you stood by a fax machine waiting to receive an important document? Yeah, me neither.
Live video streaming – or more colloquially, livestreaming – is one such innovation that’s earned its mainstream stripes. And for good reason. In fact, for many good reasons. Here are a few:
Reason #1: Cost – It needn’t be exorbitant. Livestreaming is like buying a car. It can be a down-and-dirty, eminently affordable venture (albeit lacking many of the bells and whistles you really wanted) or it can be a no-holds-barred, trick-it-out and give me the masterpiece-on-the-showroom-floor experience. It’s up to you.
There are many options for the budget-strapped, from using Facebook Live on your phone to buying an inexpensive live camera such as a Mevo (less than $400). And with apps like Periscope and Meerkat gaining in popularity, basic livestream is literally at your fingertips.
Slido is also an increasingly popular platform and features the ability to stream multiple rooms from a single control point (much like a switcher in a network television studio cutting back and forth between feeds emanating from different locations).
Certainly, quality livestreaming requires a reasonable investment. But you may discover the costs of connecting via cyberspace are lower than a face-to-face event. And as a side note, if you have a great need to connect but your annual budget is looking rather skinny, livestreaming is a solid Plan B.
Also, pre-taped video is an option but keep in mind there’s a palpable difference between the real-time, digital connection of livestreaming vs. a polished, post-produced video that may have come together in 25 takes, or more. It’s simply more authentic and personal; the difference between watching a Springsteen music video and sitting front-row at one of his concerts. The energy is completely different.
Having said that …
Reason #2: Ability to Effectively Scale your Program Design – Say your CEO wants to have a real-time, heart-to-heart, human-to-human “chat” with his sales force which happens to number several thousand. What are the chances of pulling that off effectively and convincingly in a cavernous setting like an exposition hall?
Instead of relying on ill-fated stage tricks and techniques, you could livestream said CEO from his or her office or home or even in an outdoor setting (assuming you can control ambient noise and have a weather back-up plan). To the viewer back home, the CEO comes across more genuinely 1-on-1 than a tiny character pacing back and forth across a 120’ wide conference stage or, worse yet, seated in an elegant wingback chair that looks like a dollhouse item from 300 feet away. And no, I-mag doesn’t deliver the desired effect when you know you’re surrounded by hundreds, or even thousands, of others. (Suspended reality has its limits.)
Reason #3: Enhance Your Chances of Landing the Perfect Guest Speaker – Often, you identify a motivational speaker for your program only to discover he or she may have the specific day you want open but is bookended on either side by other commitments and can’t shoehorn you in without jeopardizing the others. Enter livestreaming. Though you sacrifice the full impact of being in the same room with a noted speaker, the message can still be delivered effectively to your audience via livestreaming. And you’ll likely secure that speaker at a lower fee and minus the “first-class travel for two” component.
Not too long ago, we had a key conference speaker who wanted to address our group but commitments flanking the date precluded him from investing the time to travel. Instead, we set up a livestream, including interactive Q&A with the audience. Technology is absolutely wonderful – when it works – but we were sweating bullets and crossing our fingers and toes that everything would go as planned, technically speaking.
Mercifully it did, though the speaker refused to connect via hard-wired line which created a wrinkle. The resulting wireless delay – the time it takes for a connection to digitize, compress, transmit, route, receive, decompress, and buffer — made things a bit clunkier than we would’ve preferred. But all in all, it was a successful solution to an otherwise inescapable scheduling problem.
Reason #4: Crisis Management – Say there’s an unforeseen set of circumstances — a natural disaster, a sudden illness, a manufacturing shutdown or a last-minute delay in the launch of a new product – and you need to communicate with the troops. You don’t have time to book venues, travel, F&B and the like. Livestreaming can help you navigate crisis situations in a timely and effective manner.
Reason #5: Convenience – There are cases in which livestreaming provides a unique, different and more convenient way to connect with your audience with less planning and execution involved than a traditional venue-based sales meeting, leadership conference, etc. More and more, companies are sprinkling livestream events into their annual communications calendar.
Plus, nobody likes to travel on a weekend day, cutting into personal/leisure time, so livestreaming can bring Mondays and Fridays into greater play as productive meeting opps similar to their midweek friends named Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Mind you, livestreaming will never supplant traditional, time-tested face-to-face events – nor should it – but it should be seen as yet another tool in the kit with a careful analysis of when it behooves you to gather your people in one spot, and when it’s better on connect via cyberspace. One doesn’t beget the other.
Actually, we saw this in the aftermath of 9-11 when many, if not most, U.S. companies pulled back on air travel and large destination events; often opting for regional drive-to programs or a form of livestreaming in its absolute infancy (renting movie theater space and contracting with a satellite provider to, hopefully, connect the various “download audiences” in multiple cities, simultaneously). I seem to recall, minus the free Junior Mints and popcorn at the concession counter, there was a lot of grumbling about such events and questioning of how impactful and effective they really were. Very quickly, face-to-face events re-emerged from the shadows and order was restored in the meetings & events universe.
Livestreaming can also be an effective training portal in which curriculum is delivered over a pre-scheduled period of days or weeks in multiple sessions vs. cramming a week’s worth of face-to-face training into a three-day meeting with no chance, along the way, for knowledge to sink in, or to test out and master what the trainee has just learned.
Reason #6: Interactivity – Similar to a Q&A session with mic wranglers hustling up and down the aisles at your traditional event, questions or feedback during a livestream event can be delivered real-time via the internet. In fact, you may enjoy higher levels of Q&A engagement simply because the shy person in need of more info doesn’t have to stand up in front of others.
Reason #7: Helps Eliminate “Down Time” – Sales people, by and large, are hard-wired to make money, make money, make money. If you take them out of the field for a command-performance, 3-4-day sales conference, they get restless very quickly. Livestreamed events can help deliver necessary content without putting such a large dent in the sales reps’ appointment calendar.
Reason #8: You Can Cover Your Assets – Once the actual “live” portion of your streaming program is done, you have all the digital video and audio assets that can repurposed as reference tools, marketing materials, training modules, or simply archived for posterity.
So, to wrap up …
Again, livestreaming is not a substitute for good ol’ fashioned people-to-people contact. The energy and effect of sharing a handshake, a hug, a conversation or a meal with a colleague isn’t something the internet can replace. But livestreaming can be a great way to leverage new technology, save money, and still communicate in an effective manner.
Give it a try … but remember, face-to-face events remain the most powerful way to connect with your audience.
Livestreaming is a great way to leverage new technology, save money, and communicate in an effective manner. But face-to-face meetings are still the most powerful way to deliver messaging.