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From Remote to On-Prem Events: The Pendulum Swings

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Before COVID, corporate streaming was slowly growing, as executives, marketers, and event planners realized that not everyone could make every event, and there’s a larger audience out there that wants to be involved, but may not be able to devote the time or dollars to attend an in-person event. And some people didn’t want to travel at all.

When COVID hit in 2020, in-person events, globally, were shut down. After some months, event organizers and companies that had done quarterly and annual meetings and public pro­duct announcements before the pandemic realized those events still had to happen. The worldwide public still wanted or needed to know what was going on, and the pendulum that was slowly swinging in the direction of streaming was slammed full throttle. All of these events had to be streamed and include remote presenters, disparate audiences, the using public, or internal CDNs. Things got very busy for streaming producers, streaming tool manufacturers, and cloud service providers.

Then, come early 2022, the pendulum swung back in the complete other direction. Event producers, company HR managers, church pastors, etc., wanted to “foster in-person connections” and actively shunned streaming in favor of “encouraging” people to meet face-to-face. It was important to rebuild the personal connections that were lost during COVID, they said. Many people still didn’t want to board planes, trains, or buses and be seated with hundreds of others for an entire day. But even those clients who were slowly expanding the streaming part of their meetings before CO­VID were no longer calling us.

Part of the reason is that online meeting tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex became essential during COVID. The demand for new features went through the roof, and the solution providers responded. What had been clunky tools with limited features and bad audio became much more capable. Now they can highlight/pin multiple speakers, do picture-in-picture and overlays, blur out messy rooms for privacy, provide high-quality sound, and deliver Full HD video.

These meeting apps became capable streaming event production tools. They added event features like registration, schedules, meeting areas, chatting, and more. In time, they were providing a more involved and complex streaming solution than the outside companies were providing before COVID.

So, what happens next? Will the IT and marketing people tasked with planning company meetings continue to run the virtual shows? Will churches and organizations continue to provide hybrid services? Will big events continue to bring in outside companies to do their streaming, or will they be content with the new advanced capabilities the business chat apps offer?

I, for one, see the rapid growth of software solutions during COVID as providing “good enough” services to organizations that were only reluctantly bringing in outside services because they lacked in-house expertise. Now, a decent video camera and microphone plugged into a laptop deliver good results, and COVID’s demands provided the time to make it work.

But I also see a larger part of the market that went the chat-app route out of necessity recognizing that live-streaming production is hard. It’s complex and confusing, and many times, it just doesn’t work the way you’d expect it to. Mixing good live audio is a mystifying process to many, as is delivering good lighting, adjusting compression bitrates, managing networks, and interfacing with IT for bandwidth and QoS, redundancy, and backups. It all comes with experience. Many people who were forced to provide these services in-house during COVID will be happy to return the job to the experts.

The pendulum has swung back away from streaming for a brief period, but COVID opened millions of eyes to the power, capability, and convenience of streaming—for the providers and the attendees. It also helped a lot of people realize that it’s not as easy as it looks. I see the end result moving that pendulum toward more streaming—and more kinds of streaming—in the near future.

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