Producing a live webcast for an upcoming event is a complex job, which involves a few important tasks. This post aims to briefly cover all of them, as well as highlight the most common mistakes event organizers make.
Preparing and provisioning a server-side infrastructure
A key part in producing a live event webcast is to decide on a provider of media servers, that are used to deliver the live video stream to numerous simultaneous viewers on the Internet. Preparing a server-side infrastructure with media servers, that support the required number of simultaneous viewers is a topic we have covered in a previous post. Normally there are two ways to approach this task. You have the choice between, either implementing this in-house, i.e. setting up a load balanced architecture, using for example and edge-origin configuration, or relying on a third-party Content Delivery Network (CDN). Depending on your requirements and budget, there are pros and cons for either option.
We developed Selfstream to help event organizers with this part of the workflow.
Designing and implementing a webcast page for your event
Many event organizers underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to design and implement a responsive and intuitive webcast page for an event. Considering that this is the end product all online viewers see, it should be one of the main priorities for every online event. Event organizers should take their time to carefully prepare all the information they want to feature on the event webcast page, and allocate enough time for it to be designed and implemented. Mainly this includes preparing a detailed program of the event, names and biographies of the speakers, their presentations (PDF, PowerPoint, or other format), any additional pictures, flyers or videos to be embedded.
Marketing your online event webcast
The most common mistake people make when producing an online live webcast for their event is to assume that thousands of people will find out about it and eagerly wait and watch it from the beginning to the end. Obviously this is almost never the case. We have literaly produced a number of events with requirements for media servers that accommodate thousands of simultaneous viewers, only to receive a mere hundred total views of the webcast. You should never assume that people will just find out about your event, and always market and advertise it in advance.
Moderating your event page during the live event
Another common mistake event organizers and webcast producers do is leave no one responsible for moderating the online webcast event page during the live event. Commonly events, that are properly advertised in advance, have a bigger online audience, compared to the live audience on location. Therefore it is always a good idea to produce as much real-time information to the online audience as well, such as notifications for lunch breaks and speaker changes, or any other happening that is obvious to the present participant, but not to the online viewer.
Filming and producing a mixed live video feed
While all the topics mentioned above are quite important for every webcast production, filming and producing a mixed live video feed is probably the feature, which differentiates an amateur live streaming production from a professional one. The reason is that this task requires real-time decision making, compared to the rest. Usually you can calmly prepare all the details for a live event in advance, but the live video production. Furthermore it involves a number of people, who need to have constant communication with each other, a difficult thing to do at a busy venue.
When preparing to produce a live streaming, there are a few questions that need to be answered before the event commences:
- How many filming video cameras would be included in the live stream? The operators filming with each camera should have communication with each other, so that at any given moment they know whether they are filming with the camera that is being live, on air.
- Are there any presentations and videos to be embedded in the live stream? If yes, they need to be encoded or converted to an acceptable format in advance.
- What is the program of the event and who are the speakers? Usually the streaming operator, who is responsible for encoding the live feed, is also loading titles and/or notifications for the online audience. Therefore they need to know the order of appearance of speakers, presentations and videos.
- Would there be any online users engagement, such as a questions/answers panel, with the online audience?
In general there are a number of different use cases when producing a live webcast for an event. Depending on budget, an event organizer can arrange for the production of a live webcast for their event with a variable quality. It is not surprising that the real-time filming and production of a live feed is one of the most expensive parts. It is a task that is very difficult to automate.
With services like Selfstream, the complexities of a server-side architecture and implementation of a webcast page are removed. Therefore it is of essence to understand what are the requirements for your event, and consequently make appropriate decisions on what you can compromise on, if necessary.