THIS ISN'T A TECHNICAL REVOLUTION.
IT'S A REVOLUTION OF INCLUSION.
What was once an experiment for the technically adventurous is quickly becoming business as usual. Every week we're streaming another executive message, town hall, annual sales meeting or new product introduction for our clients. We're entering the age of telepresence one quarterly update at a time.
Why the shift now? A convergence of sorts. Over the past year, streaming has become much more reliable, affordable and "broadcast" in quality. At the same time, corporate America sees more clearly the direct link between timely communication and employee engagement. And in turn between engaged understanding and business results.
As a result, streaming is starting to pay real dividends. Some of those are financial — massive travel savings — and some are strategic — the ability to direct a company around a message far more quickly than before.
Is it hard to pull off effectively? Not if you understand the gotchas and have a good planning guide ...
YOUR PLANNING GUIDE FOR EFFECTIVE STREAMING
1. Craft an experience specifically designed to engage an online audience.
Our clients like to treat their online audiences like TV broadcast audiences. The livestream switches between presenters, their PowerPoint/Keynote decks, roll-in videos and even shots of the live audience. It’s so different from the single-person-on-a-webcam days of, well, last year.
The other way to drive engagement higher, even in these one-way broadcast setups, is to allow remote participants to ask questions of the main presenters via text messaging and web-based audience polling applications like Pigeonhole Live or Poll Anywhere. Their questions are curated by a content team and passed on to the speakers to add to the “liveness” of the conversation.
What you can’t do at this level: take live questions via video from people at remote sites. The issue is latency: any remote offices you’d try to tie in would be on 15- to 30-second delays with this level of equipment.
This is where the next possibility kicks in …
2. To elevate things to the next level, engage in two-way real-time communication with remote leaders and associates.
It’s now possible to approach things like broadcast news always has, cutting from the main location to remote "live reporters" or co-presenters with TV-like smoothness and delays of only a couple of seconds.
The big news for anyone who’s tried this before: we can now do it without cost-prohibitive satellite trucks. Instead, we can now employ “Ultra Low Latency Streaming” solutions at the remote sites, integrated into your secure network infrastructure.
As you might imagine, there are cost and effort differences between one-way and two-way setups. We can present both scenarios to help you decide between the two.
3. Make sure the stream you send out is both smart and powerful, exponentially so.
Whether you choose one-way or two-way communication, you’ll have a beautiful high definition feed to send out to the world. The next step is to infuse that beauty with intelligence and power.
Your audience may view your event any number of ways: via your company website (behind or in front of the firewall), through Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter, you name it. On their desktop or mobile device.
The smarts come when you use a platform that can sense the throughput capacity of the user’s receiving connection and adjust video quality accordingly. If viewers’ connections are strong, the stream plays in pristine HD. If their connection gets bogged down by network traffic, the stream temporarily adjusts quality to continue to play in real time, albeit more compressed.
The exponential power part comes from using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) that securely pool your feeds on remote redundant servers that lie closer to your people. This is especially important when communicating with far-flung audiences during peak hours.
4. Now that you’ve designed the dream, conduct site audits to understand the current reality.
Before committing to anything, we do site audits to make sure outgoing streaming locations have big enough outgoing pipes. Ideally, we want a 10-Mbps dedicated upload connection, unthrottled by additional activity at that location during the hours of the livestream. Time permitting, you can install a new connection if one isn’t already there.
If two-way communication is part of the plan, we audit remote sites as well. We may recommend that people in remote offices view from a conference room to avoid multiple individual streams bogging down that location.
5. Use both a high-performance main platform and a backup stream.
Your professional-grade platform will lie at the center of the action, sending an HD signal out to the world through a Content Delivery Network.
As a backup, we often recommend sending the same signal out to those platforms with ubiquity and billion-dollar infrastructures. Two out of three streaming events we produce also stream simultaneously through Facebook Live, YouTube and/or the Livestream site itself. If one event service goes down, the other is good to go.
We don't start and end there, however. Almighty as they are, consumer platforms do not really deliver the professional functionality or reliability our clients need. They may also be blocked by your IT department. Plus, they don't always save archives for later viewing.
6. Design your security to keep the bad apples out while still letting the good ones in.
Corporate video streams almost always contain confidential information. At a minimum, you need password protection to prevent unauthorized viewing, but you may also want domain restrictions or ‘referrers’ that only allow viewers to log in from a website you select, or geo-restrictions that whitelist viewers only in approved countries or ZIP codes. We can help with all of that.
You also need to ensure access for the people you want to get in, however. For that, you need a streaming platform that will bypass your own content blockers and firewalls. Many public hosting and streaming websites are blocked by corporations, universities, libraries and other institutions. Our service delivers content via a network that’s less likely to be on anyone’s block list. And, we’ll work closely with your IT department to ensure access.
7. Test before you go live.
For one of our clients, we posted an event promo video in the two weeks before the event as a surreptitious way to test the company network. It received nearly 10,000 hits. We then knew we would have minimal issues with the 26,000 people who connected live on event day or the 100,000 views that followed later.
8. Maximize this new communication asset you just created.
Since you’ve put all this effort into streaming a livecast, you’ll often want to make your content available for later viewing. Some public platforms don’t allow for that. Other platforms play back archived streams at a much lower quality than the original livecast. Others won’t let you edit your live content to tighten things up. We know each platform’s capabilities and can explain the pros and cons of each.
We’ll preserve your content for future viewing in HD quality, easily editable into smaller segments or highlight reels. Our on-demand streams play at the same high quality as the original feeds.
Some organizations even choose to deliver content on a subscription or pay-per-view basis, such as direct selling companies, associations and continuing education providers. One of our clients monetized their opening sessions and most popular break-outs to the tune of $11,000 in sales the first week it went live.
Subscription or pay-per-view models are not for everyone, but easily doable for anyone.
9. Approach streaming with the same standards you bring to your live events.
Corporate streaming shouldn't be a do-it-yourself special nor the last-minute responsibility of overworked IT departments. We've seen that movie and it ends with frustrated abandonment most of the time.
Our clients have learned something important out here on the cutting-edge: today's audiences want more than picture-in-picture windows next to dry PowerPoints. They want the same visual experiences they see on TV and are now finally getting with other streaming pioneers like YouTube, ROKU and Hulu.
Mills James was a television and live event production company long before we were a streaming provider. We believe it's important to approach streamed events not as webcasters but as show producers. We advise our clients to think purposefully about the things that have always mattered to audiences: show flow, scripting, talent, camera choice, lighting, audio, graphics and rehearsing.
We now add to that list things like latency, server reliability, encoding quality, geo-blocking and firewall management. But those are not things you should ever have to worry about.
Today’s audiences react to experiences that resonate. Ones that are branded, smooth and impactful. We can help you get closer to that ideal at any price point.
Get started with scalable reliable secure video streaming today.
We'll help you extend your reach, accelerate your messaging and dramatically lower your costs ... whether you need a simple executive communication in hours or a large-scale production streamed to thousands of people in a dozen two-way locations.
Tell us more about your next event and we'll help you realize these extraordinary benefits.