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Best Practices for Enterprise Video Webcasting

[Editor's Note: This is a vendor-written article. StreamingMedia.com accepts vendor-written articles based upon their usefulness to our readers.]

Whether for all-hands meetings, product introductions, or employee training sessions, enterprise video webcasting has emerged as a highly effective way to inform and engage corporate employees. But the road to effective webcasting can be a rocky one as companies evaluate hardware and software strategies and the impact on their networks. In this article, we’ll look at some best practices for webcasting that will ensure a successful event.

There are three components in a successful video webcast:

  1. Good, relevant content with interactive features to engage viewers and keep them engaged
  2. High quality video
  3. Strong reporting capabilities to measure the success of the webcast

Make Your Content Interactive

The whole point of a corporate video webcast is to engage and inform employees. This means that the content of the webcast is interesting, and that it is distributed at the highest quality level.

On the content side, the event should be scripted and carefully planned. Hold practice dry runs of the webcast in the weeks leading up to the event to get everyone comfortable with the process and work out any kinks. On webcast day, consider having the executive leading the webcast deliver it before a live audience: executives are more engaged and enthusiastic when speaking before a live audience than when they simply present to a camera.

When building the content, make it as interactive as possible. Consider breaking up long video segments with PowerPoint slides and viewer polls. Changing content helps keep viewers engaged and polls solicit opinions, which also keeps viewers engaged. A question-and-answer mechanism also helps keep viewers engaged in the webcast.

It’s also best to have a single point of contact for the overall webcast who can coordinate content and distribution. There are a lot of moving parts when preparing for a webcast, so it is best to have one person manage the webcast as a project and delegate various components as needed. It’s useful to have an event producer who is well versed in the details of putting on a live webcast.

Finally, the webcast should be tested a couple of weeks in advance, and the test should include not only employees at branch offices, but individual work-from-home users as well, to ensure that the distribution quality is what it should be. These tests can help unearth network bottlenecks so they can be addressed in advance. A good webcasting system will enable automated tests that don’t require actual viewers. There should also be “Plan B” practices in place in case something goes wrong.

Distributing the Webcast: High-Quality, Uninterrupted Experience is Essential

Efficient, high-quality delivery of the webcast is essential to the success of the production. Every viewer in the corporation should experience a high-quality video product, regardless of the location, type of connection or device being used. After all, if the video pauses to buffer or stops and starts due to poor network connections, the viewer will quickly lose interest.

The typical practice with all-hands meetings is to gather employees in conference rooms, but this may not always be feasible, and it will exclude many employees who can’t make the meeting. From a distribution standpoint, the webcast’s producers should enable distribution to any desktop or mobile device in order to capture the highest percentage of viewers. The webcast should also be available for playback after the event to accommodate scheduling conflicts of some viewers.

Distributing a webcast throughout a large organization can be a complex and expensive undertaking. The key is to avoid taxing the corporate WAN or LAN. Video files are large and can create bottlenecks that interfere with other corporate traffic.

Traditionally, companies would invest in various pieces of network hardware, including encoders, encryption servers, distribution servers, and web caches located at branch offices. The problem with this model is that it is expensive and time-consuming to deploy, it won’t necessarily reach individual users or mobile users, and it doesn’t solve the problem of video’s impact on the LAN.

To address the LAN and WAN congestion problem, companies have pursued several strategies, including reducing the size of the video through compression, multicasting the video, and using WAN optimization products. All of these alternatives fail to address the fundamental problem of getting the highest-quality video to every desktop or mobile device with virtually no impact on the network.

A better solution is to use a video distribution service. Such services can be deployed within days throughout an organization and can reach individual desktops outside of branch offices as well as mobile device users. The best video distribution services use peer-assisted software under which each user device acts as a cache for the video, serving it to other, nearby devices as needed.

The advantage of this approach is that the WAN and LAN are not unduly taxed because the video is largely coming from an adjacent workstation rather than from a server located across the WAN or a cache located elsewhere on the LAN. This approach also scales extremely well, because the more viewers watching, the better it works, as there are more caches available throughout the network.

Reporting: Evaluating Your Webcast Performance

To gauge the success of a webcast, you need the ability to tell who watched it and how long they watched, both during the live webcast and also for any later replays of the program. The video distribution solution should provide this visibility, along with a proactive network scanning mechanism that identifies potential network bottlenecks in advance.

With proper planning, smart execution and delivery, and the reporting capabilities to measure the relative success of the webcast, enterprise video webcasting can be an integral part of a company’s overall communications strategy.

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