Lessons Learned From Live Events
Third, if clients are paying for the event to be webcasted live, be sure they know about any problems with the test that are out of the control of the webcast team. Although companies such as TV Worldwide have been doing live webcasts for more than 10 years, for many people, it’s a brand-new technology. That means that if anything goes wrong in a webcast, the obvious party to point the finger at is the one with the newest technology. If there are problems that will seriously impact the quality of the live webcast, the client needs to understand that going in. If it goes well, the webcaster usually ends up getting the credit. If not, and if the client was not made aware of the issues, it not only reflects badly on the webcaster but also can sour the client on the technology itself.
4. Choosing Your Format
While there is certainly some debate about which format is the best for live webcasting, the most important factor to consider is the audience that will receive it. While there are several options for Mac users to watch Windows Media content, for example, there are still complications from user to user, and it’s important to be prepared to answer any technical questions from users. Using Flash video is one way to avoid the Windows/Mac compatibility issue. But at the time of this writing, it can be argued that Flash requires a slightly higher bandwidth than Windows Media to deliver the same-quality encode. There will undoubtedly be those who will argue this point, and it’s true that it certainly depends on what encoder you use, from both the power of the CPU and the memory to the software or hardware encoding solution you use.
5. Providing Interactivity
Perhaps the most powerful reason to deliver a live webcast is the ability to enable interactive participation for viewers. There are many ways to do this, from polling and online-form responses to chat-based and email-based question-and-answer opportunities. However, beware of overcomplicating the process and adding technological "toys" just for the sake of having the most advanced technology. It is important to remember that the focus should be on the webcast. If additional technologies require additional bandwidth or take people away from the webcast experience, it can threaten the success of the whole project.
With audience participation, it is also, once again, important to know your viewers. If there is any chance that audience members may input information that is potentially competitive, contentious, or otherwise embarrassing to the client, it may not be the best option to provide live interactive chat, for example. Although it may seem low-tech at this point, there are advantages to keeping audience participation limited to some sort of moderated technology, such as email. This enables audience input to be filtered to protect the message of the webcast and keep it on-topic.
Live webcasting makes up only a fraction of streaming media today. But when it works well, it can be one of the most powerful and democratizing of media. However, until webcasting is truly a ubiquitous medium with even the least tech-savvy of users generally assuming that it will work seamlessly from production to end user, webcasters takes on the responsibility of representing the medium in addition to themselves. The best rule of thumb is the tried and true acronym KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.