A guide to live streaming a conference
Live streaming a conference for the first time can be a challenge. Even the most seasoned event organizers can crumble under the pressure of going live.
But don’t fret. Live streaming a virtual conference can provide a positive impact on your business. From expanding your brand’s global footprint to delivering a quality live experience for attendees – there’s a lot of value in learning how to live stream.
In this guide, we’ll share why event organizers should consider video to grow their business. We’ll also walk you through all the ins and outs of how to stream a conference or live webinar.
What is a live webinar and live stream conference?
First, let’s cover the basics on live webinars and conferences.
A live webinar is an online presentation or discussion broadcast in real-time. Typically, it includes a single presenter or panel of presenters discussing a topic. A slide deck, multimedia, and video clips are often used to enhance the webinar presentation.
Today, online events and webinars have expanded. More brands are live streaming for the first time to conduct meetings, presentations, and events in the era of distributed work.
For event organizers, this poses a new challenge. How do you bring the in-person conference to the online space?
That’s where live streaming a conference comes in. It takes the in-person event experience online.
This includes broadcasting conference sessions and offering tools like live Q&A and polling to keep conference attendees engaged. The production requirements are more complex than a webinar given the number of sessions, speakers, and multimedia needed to put off a full scale conference, but the results are well worth the effort.
Now that we have a grasp of the two types of live events, let’s talk about the value of streaming a conference.
9 reasons to live stream a conference
There’s a lot to consider before you dive into live streaming. However, we’ve learned there’s a lot to gain by jumping in.
When it comes to business initiatives, KPI’s, and general goal setting, live streaming a conference can impact important areas of growth. From revenue increases to global reach, there’s never been an easier, more effective way to expand your business.
Check out some of the ways your business can benefit from live streaming a conference.
1. Drive brand awareness
Without a physical venue or catering costs to worry about, conference budgets can shift to bigger marketing campaigns with a global target in mind. Event organizers who previously worked with physical constraints can market to areas of the world without worrying about attendee travel costs and other physical limitations that may have previously deterred you. With virtual and hybrid events, there’s no longer a regional limit applied to your marketing spend.
2. Reach a global audience
By ramping up your marketing efforts, you’ll likely see an uptick in new audiences. This is a big win. Aside from having new contacts to add to your database, you’ll discover new audiences coming in from regions around the globe. Your once limited business territory will grow tremendously. And don’t worry! There’s always plenty of room in a virtual conference.
3. Optimize resources
By shifting to a live conference, there’s an opportunity to invest in virtual needs while saving on overall costs. This includes: a platform that reflects your conference goals, high quality production assets, and a team to make your live stream an all around immersive experience for your audience. With live streaming, you’ll even save on costs and time typically used towards travel to venue site visits.
4. Nurture customers
Sometimes we forget to give back to those that make the wheels of our business turn. Take the time to feature your existing customers in your live stream conference. Ask them to be a speaker, keynote, or moderator. Giving customers a spotlight in a virtual conference is a way to thank them for their loyalty and nurture your ongoing relationship.
5. Hit attendance goals
Live stream conferences are a budget-friendly event to attend for both attendees and speakers.The ability to tune in from the comfort of home is the icing on the cake to guarantee high conversion rates.
6. Expand the target audience
Live stream conferences attract audiences from around the globe and it’s likely that event marketers and producers will see an increase in attendees from their target audience. For marketers who practice ABM (account-based marketing), the size of your target audience may expand beyond the limitations of a physical space.
7. Evergreen content
Live stream conferences live well past the launch date. With the right video hosting platform, you can record your conference automatically without additional equipment. Repurpose your live recordings in post-event marketing campaigns including next year’s highlight reel, sales enablement materials, or for an upcoming webinar.
8. Increase business revenue
Picture this: you’ve strategically spent your live stream budget, reported on your attendance rate, and started your post-conference marketing initiatives. It’s time to sit back and watch results come in. Whether you are saving from skipping physical vendor costs, increased ticket revenue or gained new business, all signs point to an increase in overall business revenue.
9. Nothing beats a live stream
While it’s “safe” to go the pre-recorded route, nothing beats live interaction with your audience. Launch polls, live Q&A, and word clouds to get real time data to understand the engagement level of your live stream conference. Aim to create engaging in-frame content that immerses your audience into your virtual experience. Provide networking opportunities for all to connect socially through various chat functionalities or meeting scheduling tools.
How to live stream a conference
Now that you understand the value of live streaming, let’s walk through how to stream a conference.
We’ve whittled it down to five easy steps. Before wrapping your head around the technical aspect of a live conference or webinar, focus on your conference goals. Too often planners skip this important step to dive into production. But once you have your goals narrowed down, you’ll be able to prioritize what’s really important for a seamless experience.
Set conference goals.
Consider some of the common event goals including:
- Increase in audience attendance
- Increase in ticket revenue
- Reach or surpass a certain sponsorship goal
- General brand awareness for your business
Once you have goals and a working agenda is in place, you can better assess your event’s technical needs. It’s okay to not know all the specifics, but having an idea of what you need when speaking with production professionals will be a tremendous help and learning experience.
Check your internet bandwidth.
Ensure you have enough, if not slightly more, bandwidth for streaming your live conference. As a rule of thumb, aim to have 1.5x your stream’s bitrate available to account for potential network fluctuations. (a bitrate is the amount of data encoded for a unit of time. It’s referenced in megabits per second when streaming.)
Ensure you have an audio mixer, switcher, and encoder.
You’ll need an audio mixer that will convert your audio sources from a microphone into quality sound for your live streamed event.
Along with a webcam or camera to record content, you’ll also need an encoding device that will convert your video into digital format for live streaming to the internet. In the case when you want to alternate different shots, you’ll also need a video switcher.
Find the right live streaming platform.
There are a ton out there, but take into account their niche. Some are metrics driven and deliver amazing data. Others cater to networking and gamification. Do your homework and watch demos before making a final decision.
Invest in a production team.
First impressions count. If this is your first go at a live stream conference, it’s highly recommended that you hire a professional production team. For your event investments to make an impact, your live stream conference needs to deliver a great experience. A professional production team will guarantee seamless execution and support. You present the vision, while your production team works on bringing your vision to life.
Choosing your streaming platform
When evaluating streaming platforms, consider the purpose of your conference. Why are you running this event? Is it to educate your audience, network, interact, or simply share content? Also, think about what kind of data you’ll need post-event. Take into account the entire event lifecycle, from conference registration to on-demand access.
Distinguish between your “must have” features and your “nice to have” features when researching all the various types of platforms. With the rise in live streaming, there are so many types of platforms. Work to clearly outline your needs to expedite the evaluation process. To get you started, here are a few different types of platforms for live streaming content.
Social platforms. Chances are, you may already be using social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. They allow your brand to tell a story while connecting with other like minded users. Platforms like Facebook and Youtube enable you to reach a wide range audience from all over the world. With so many existing users, these platforms are easy to access and navigate for most audiences.
Webinar platforms. These platforms have an educational focus, great for live webinars and/or masterclasses. A few popular ones include ON24, and GoToWebinar as they allow for audience Q&A, presentations, and more.
Gaming platforms. If you are all about the visuals, tech, and gaming, platforms like Picarto, Twitch, and Smashcast are perfect for immersive engagement.
Video Conferencing platforms. Conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft teams allow 1:1 communications for internal meetings and real-time collaboration.
All-in-one platforms. Live streaming platforms like Vimeo Enterprise allow you to create, host, and distribute your video content while also casting your content to other destinations.
Pro tip: Once you have your streaming platform set, consider simulcasting to social media channels. Simulcasting can help you reach audiences wherever they are including Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Twitch or a specific destination via RTMP.
3 production tips
Managing a live stream conference can be scary for first time streamers. Here are three easy production tips to help you put on a great conference.
1. Work with a professional production team.
Regardless of your event budget, here are a couple of roles to consider to help you put on a great production.
Producer: This is you! As the producer, you create the vision for the event. From the agenda, speakers, and content, you are logistically in charge. In the case of a very small team, you may also act as a show caller ensuring the run of the show plays out just as it should minute by minute.
Director: They work very closely with the producer. They are responsible for recording the live stream from the technical aspect. They will cut to different shots taking direction from the producer and even provide their own professional input.
Sound operator: They operate and maintain the audio mixer that is used to record, enhance, or mix sound.
Teleprompter operator: They are responsible for transcribing scripts or recordings into a readable format on specific screens that are used to prompt speakers to begin speaking or at least remember what to say.
Broadcast engineer: They make sure that the live stream is on time, has the appropriate bandwidth, and is streaming in high quality. They are also the go-to person for any stream troubleshooting needs.
2. Check your equipment needs.
Aside from the basic technical needs and your streaming platform, there are a few other equipment needs to check off your list before going live.
Camera: The camera is essential for recording and will connect to the encoding device that converts your video in a format for live streaming. If you also plan to take multiple shots from different angles, determine how many cameras you will need.
Tripods: For a steady capture camera tripods are highly recommended. When using multiple cameras, pre-set them on tripods positioned for your desired shots.
Microphones: Although handheld microphones are typically on the more affordable side, lavalier microphones are more appropriate ( and common) for streaming as they are clipped on clothing and allow for a free hand option. If you must use a handheld aim for a condenser microphone or a headset microphone.
Laptop: If you aren’t using a laptop provided by the production team, you’ll need to use your own. Make sure you have all the correct cords and adapters along with it. You may even save on production costs by supplying your own laptop(s).
3. Always be prepared.
Seasoned event organizers know that anything can happen onsite. The same goes for live stream conferences. Prepare for the unexpected as best as you can.
Extra cables: In the case when you are filming outside of a studio, pack extra cables for any set changes or camera adjustments. It’s also good to have on hand if a cable stops working!
Power strips: Need to charge that laptop or your cell phone? Bring an extra power strip for all miscellaneous electronic items because chances are all outlets will be used for the production.
Batteries: For equipment that is wireless, pack an extra set of batteries. Make sure you’re prepared. Sometimes shoots go longer than expected or equipment is accidentally left behind.
Run of show: the bible of virtual events
You have the equipment and the team to support your virtual event or live stream conference. Now, you need to know when certain aspects of your event are to take place like certain camera shots, cutting from one speaker to another, and interstitials.
This is when your run of show (ROS) comes into play. It’s the one document that lists all the content of the live stream conference minute by minute. This document is shared with the majority of the team so they know what video to display on screen, what audio should be playing, and when everything should happen.
Test your live stream
Just because your conference is a live stream does not mean you cannot (and should not) rehearse. Rehearsals are critical to bring to light any red flags, bumps, or hiccups in the program. You will learn so much from your rehearsal that it will almost guarantee a successful live stream.
Aim to run through the entire cycle of the event. Play all your content as if it were the live date including video, graphics, interstitials, transitions and even the sessions themselves. Have your speaker participate in rehearsals so they’re familiar with both the flow and logistics of the event.
Allow for enough time. Slot out time between the rehearsal date and live date to make any changes or adjustments to your programing. A general rule of thumb is 2-3 days before the live stream conference day. However, keep in mind that his depends on the duration of your conference.
Run through the event on your streaming platform. Set your platform to private or create a test account if your streaming platform permits. Watch from the attendee’s point of view to ensure their experience is line with your expectations.
Live troubleshooting tips
Every event organizer knows the best laid plans often go awry. Here are a few easy tips to help you get through any technical hiccups.
Sometimes troubleshooting is simpler than it seems. Simply maintaining clear communication with your audience before and during the live stream conference helps set expectations while also ensuring a seamless experience. When sending reminder emails to attendees before the start of the event, include information on how to contact support or include troubleshooting guidelines recommended by your streaming platform.
During the event, note troubleshooting details within your conference housekeeping rules. The event host can typically provide those troubleshooting details live throughout the conference. You can also display this information in a short video, holding slide, slate, or interstitial. When using a robust streaming platform, you can even explore an option to include a chatbot that can connect your audience to a support directly.
In terms of troubleshooting the live stream itself, this is where your production team will save the day. They will take the necessary technical actions to ensure the stream is stable for the duration of your conference.
Wrap up: live streaming a conference
Live streaming a conference can have real business impact for your brand. If you’re looking to broadcast a single webinar or are gearing up to go live with a multi-day, streaming conference, now is the time. Here are our final tips before showtime.
- When planning a virtual conference, have the entire conference life cycle in mind as you consider your conference goals and desired business outcomes.
- Narrowing down on your goals will help in your platform decision making. Once you know what features and metrics you need, you’ll have a proper checklist handy as you research your streaming platform of choice.
- Equip yourself with the right production gear and team. Leave the technical aspects to the professionals and keep your focus on the in-frame content.
- Plan ahead and allow for ample time to rehearse your event, ensuring an amazing virtual experience for your audience.