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How to Execute a Successful Webcast
A primer on selecting the right equipment, making the right production decisions, and establishing a solid webcasting plan.
Fri., April 18, by Nico McLane

While a webcast is, by definition, a live event, a key part of a webcast’s success is the value it retains when it is accessed and repurposed after the fact. An effective webcast will live on long after the event has ended, and it has the potential to be repackaged across infinite channels that have a deeper "measure" of return on investment. If you deliver a meaningful, quality product in the live webcast, these are the opportunities that should not be missed or mismanaged.

If you are working in an enterprise environment, the measure of success is ROI based on real (not implied) savings to the firm. This is what I call a transitional savings.

For example, compare the cost of an operator-assisted conference call—i.e., a dial-in conference call with 500 or more participants that are able to ask questions during the call—to the cost of a live audio webcast with accompanying slides and a simple web-based Q&A portal (something between chat and a message board). The firm’s expenses for the operator-assisted conference call will average $10–$15 per caller for the live call, and the replay will run about 25 cents per minute. To see how these cost savings accrue over the course of the year, with an average of one conference call/audio webcast/video webcast per year, see Table 1.

Table 1: Annual Cost and Savings
12 conference calls/year = $241,920
12 video webcasts/year = $72,000
Total savings = $169,920
Payback period: 2 years

12 conference calls/year = $241,920
12 audio webcasts/year = $3,000
Total savings = $238,920
Payback period: 3 years

Even when video is factored into the mix, the cost savings of webcasts versus conference calls remains substantial. What’s more, consumer expectation is different and offers a great deal more in marketable follow up.

The "Grade A" Live Webcast Experience: Click and Go
As with any live audio/video experience, production values are a key component of a good webcast. What are the defining features of a successful webcast and an effective webcast strategy? Here’s a checklist that may come in handy as you plan your webcast event:

- Webcast participants require multiple methods for participating (e-vite, customized Outlook integration via CMS portal with a branded landing page, dedicated blog with on-site updates, text message updates, reminders or signup, on-air or location-based digital invitations and advertising, or other media portal access such as iTunes, Rhapsody, IP-based points of entry, etc.).
- Users are authenticated, and their participation behavior is tracked and graphed.
- Users are invited to participate in a preflight.
- The webcast link is clicked and the correct player automatically launches and begins to play based on user profile or dynamic environment/device detection.
- If issues arise, "help" support and troubleshooting are provided in multiple locations and with multiple methods.
- The entire webcast is viewed without any rebuffering, dropped frames, jitter, or delays.
- There is no-to-low network interruption during webcast.
- An immediate replay is available with downloads and takeaways.
- Provide considerate follow-up via a survey questionnaire; invite participants to have questions responded to by the speakers/performers or offer a prize related to the event.

Respect the Product
A webcast is a product like any other product or service you provide. As with those other offerings, you need to respect the product. What does this mean? Determine the end-user "experience" and the true gauge for an "acceptable experience" that can be leveraged to transition costs from other means of communication. Scrutinize your audience, the message, and possible delivery methods available to you. Vanity aside, is video really necessary to achieve the desired outcome that will be the measure of success?

For example, if you are producing a live webcast that provides a unique, valuable economic forecast, the real message the "participants" want will live in the slides (charts and figures). Seeing that data represented graphically onscreen is much more important than seeing the economist’s face. Besides, you can always include a headshot.

This type of nonvideo webcast will save you time and initial investment, and—more importantly—give you the ability to focus on the quality of the content that you do provide. Specifically, you need to focus on the quality and the relevance of the product. Provide crisp, clear audio experiences with slides that are easy to access and read in detail. Brevity and relevance in the message are the keys to achieve success via a potentially episodic webcast that has this type of message. You should also offer a means of interaction, such as live Q&A, sending an email, or live or post-webcast chat or after webcast chat. And you should always include something like a "Send to a friend" option.

In short, give the end user what he or she needs or wants, but make sure it will work.

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