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How to Produce an All-Day Webcast

This article will discuss an all-day webcast that Morningstar does every year for its Individual Investor Conference, going through the decisions made in pre-production, the vendors selected, and the workflow, and share some tips that readers take into your webcast productions.

Pre-Production

In pre-production, we’ll touch on 5 key topics: how to craft an agenda that works well online; vendor selection; developing the user experience (before, during, and after the event); planning signal flow, including how you're going to get an image from your camera onto a user's device somewhere in the world; and finally, testing.

Beginning with the agenda, it’s important to engage in discussions on the webcast agenda with key participants in the program. For example, I'm fortunate enough to work with lots of really talented editors and writers that are specialists in whatever field that they're presenting on, so they can help obviously craft the agenda.

As a producer, you definitely want to be in those discussions early on because that will not only help you to lend your expertise in terms of what works well on video and what doesn't, but also help you guide the agenda in a way that will work well from a production standpoint.

For example, event organizers might come up with the idea that you should have 12 panelists on-site, and we then bring in a thirteenth via Skype and also have some slides. As the person best-attuned to what works in video in general and webcasts in particular, you might suggest, “That might be a little too much for a single two-hour session; let’s tone it down a little bit.” Being a part of that discussion up front will certainly help you in the long run.

Another reason I like to be involved in agenda planning early on is because I can help build in breaks for my crew. Since we’re streaming for 6-7 hours, I want to make sure that we have time built in to the agenda where we can switch positions if needed, people can take a break, they can use the restroom, get lunch, that sort of thing. If you are not part of those discussions, then your staff could essentially have to work through the entire webcast without a break, which would make it really difficult to produce.

Another advantage of incorporating breaks into the program is that it gives you a chance to leverage pre-recorded content. During those breaks you could show promos for the upcoming session, or you could show educational content that's already been recorded. You can do lots of different things in those breaks to keep the viewer engaged, but it’s just as important to build them into the schedule to allow you and your crew and everybody involved behind the scenes to take a little bit of a breather.

During advance discussions of the webcast agenda you can help influence the session format. Whether it's all panel discussions or if it's all single presentations, uniformity can kind of wear on the viewer over time. For example, one thing that we did for single-presenter sessions in our program is when it came time to do Q & A at the end, we would have our host essentially come back out on stage and facilitate the Q & A, so that the presenter didn’t have to do that as well as presenting, because that can be a lot for somebody to take on. That helped vary the format within a single session. Participating in advance agenda planning lets you recommend a mix of panel discussions, presentations, and pre-recorded content that will keep your audience engaged. And in our program, since we went from 9AM to 3PM, we also included a break for lunch from 12:00 to 1:00.

Naturally, given that our conference was online-only, we didn’t provide lunch for our attendees, but did give them a kind of halftime break where we had two of our editors get on camera and basically recap the morning for the first half-hour. They talked about what stood out to them, played highlights from the morning, and then hinted at some of the best elements of what was to come in the afternoon.

That approach proved really successful, in that it helped viewers to help digest the things that they’d just watched. It also got them excited for what was to come so that they would stick around even longer.

For the second half of the lunch we showed a pre-recorded, 22-minute longform documentary-style feature that went into some of the details of what was coming up in the following session, so it really teased out a lot of what attendees were going to experience in the afternoon.

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