January 12, 2010

Some Tips on Streaming an Event Live

So my organization recently beta tested streaming video using Ustream.tv for a state of the organization speech at an event. We asked three members to sit and watch the stream from home while it happened, and then provide us with feedback - both positive and negative.

I also had left the event midway through, and watched it with a critic's eye from home. Here are a few tips I have for those of you wanting to utilize it:

1. Know the Exact Layout of the Room - So we had seen the room in the hotel walkthru, and had what we thought was a good idea of how it would be set up. However, the morning of, we found that the screen was not next to the stage as we had thought it would be, and thus was out of the shot. The streaming would have been MUCH more useful with the Powerpoint slides easily seen by those watching from home.

2. Test, test and test again - We tested the internet connection when we did our walkthru to make sure it would be strong enough, etc. However, we did not have the A/V hooked up to see how the sound would be in the room with the mic. While it worked out ok for us, we should have also tested this beforehand. In addition, we should have tested with the actual people who would be speaking to ensure that it was ok.

3. Prepare and Plan for Ambient Noise - If you're live streaming, be sure that there aren't people right next to the webcam coughing, typing loudly on their computers, whispering, etc. The microphone on the camera picks all of that up, and it can be distracting for those watching at home.

4. Prepare Your Speakers for the Online Aspect of the Presentation - At times, I think the speakers forgot that there was an online audience, and said things that people in the room would "get" but perhaps not those online. When doing something like this, speakers need to be prepared for that and adjust their remarks accordingly.

Going along with #4:

5. Engage with your online audience early - When welcoming people and introducing the session, your speakers should also welcome those who are in the online audience. In addition, they should include sayings like "if you're speaking, please be sure to speak up so our online audience can hear you", etc. The person who is at the computer (i.e. the chat moderator) should also provide some nuggets about the room, who's there, how many, etc.

6. Q&A - If you are taking Q&A from the audience, be sure to repeat the question for the online audience, as well as engage the online audience by answering some of the questions they might have. Solicit this when you solicit the questions from those in attendance (i.e. I'd now like to open it up to questions from those in the room and those watching us online.)

7. Provide online-only interaction - In the future, we will likely try to engage the speaker with the online-only audience following the talk in a question & answer session specifically for them. So, we'll ask the speaker to spend 10 extra minutes following the session sitting down in front of the webcam, and answering some of the online generated questions from the Q&A. This will make the experience special for those watching at home.

As I close, I think we'll likely integrate streaming events into our efforts. However, there are a few things we'll do differently to ensure a better experience for those watching at home. We'll probably only live stream events in smaller rooms, with limited Powerpoint/visual aids, and perhaps with smaller crowds. We'll carefully pick and choose what we stream, and when we do, it will be exciting to those of our members who are unable to be there in person. I'm excited about its possibilities for our future!