There are a number of online tools available that will enable any tech-savvy marketer to produce and host their own live webcast. These tools help businesses to build engagement with their target audience and put a face to their brand.
However, hosting a live webcast is not an easy task. It requires a lot of planning, scripting and coordination.
With the Royal Wedding quickly approaching, Leah Andrew and Andrea Lown, founders of Toronto-based startup SmartBrideBoutique.com developed an online webcast to kick-off their “Princess for a Day” contest. They invited a number of wedding experts to join the chat to talk about everything from health and beauty to accessories and flowers.
Below is a summary of my Q&A with the SmartBride founders after their first attempt at hosting a live webcast using Vokle – a web-based video event platform.
Why did you choose Vokle as your video event tool?
Lown and Andrew used a text/chat based tool called CoverItLive.com for their last event. However, they said that they “moved to a video chat this time to add a more personal touch to the event and make it more visual and exciting for viewers.”
CoverItLive does have a streaming video feature using UStream feeds. But according to Lown, the user experience just seemed a little disjointed. So, they went with Vokle instead.
There are lots of options for tools, but you need to evaluate what will work best for you. It’s important to consider both the experience for the viewers and for the producers of the event.
What are the pros and cons to using Vokle over other products available online?
The major pros to using Vokle for a video event are that it is:
- Simple to use and really fast to set-up
- Doesn’t have intrusive ads
- Allows you to attract viewers from their larger audience because the event is public in their stream
- Enables you to embed it in several different places. This allows content partners to promote the event within their own user base and host the event on their own website
The cons to using Vokle were:
- There were no archival features
- The sound quality was greatly reduced as the producer brought on more experts as co-hosts
- The statistics about the event were hard to find afterwards
How did you prepare for the live event?
Andrew and Lown say that the first thing you should do is to figure out what you want your audience (or customers) to get out of the webcast. Here are the key tasks that they recommend taking care of ahead of time:
- Define the theme and flow of your event
It’s important to figure out who will be speaking in the webcast. If you are looking to educate your viewers about a very specialized topic, you may want to consider inviting experts to come on your show as guests. You should segment out your topics of discussion and determine how long each section should last.
- Divide tasks among your team
There are many moving parts throughout a live webcast event. So, it's important to have some extra hands. For example, there were four team members working on the SmartBride event including: an on-camera host, a cameraman/producer choosing camera shots and approving audience questions, a Twitter feed (scheduled in advance) or host, and a text-based chat host.
- Prepare a script for the event, Twitter and chat hosts
You can provide links via chat windows and Twitter feeds to illustrate your discussion with your audience. In the case of the SmartBride event, they linked to images of dresses, make-up tips and accessories that they were discussing in their show.The ladies included all of the Tweets and chat comments that their team would need to post within the script. That way, the chat and Twitter hosts could follow along with the script and copy/paste or schedule the key messages for their audience in to their Twitter tool of choice (i.e. Hootsuite, TweetDeck, etc.). You also need to prepare any guests or experts by giving them a heads-up of what questions you'll be asking.
- Do a dry run
It’s imperative to do a practice run. That’s because any number of technical issues can pop-up including cameras, sound, Internet connections and more.
- Arrive and set-up early
Everyone involved in the webcast should be logged on for one final test about 30 minutes prior to the event starting.
How did you promote your live video event?
Andrew and Lown say that you should send an event invitation to your existing user base around a month or so in advance. However, remember that people usually need a few reminders. Also, don't forget to send a day of reminder as well.
You should encourage users to share the event with their social media contacts. The SmartBride team used small prizes on Shweet.com to encourage people to share information about the event via Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, it’s a good idea to reach out to other sites and businesses with similar audiences and ask them to promote, or even to embed the event on their site and invite their own communities to register. You should also make sure that your event is public and visible to the existing visitors of the tool you are using.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from hosting your first live webcast?
It’s important to simplify the event flow as much as possible. “We had several experts commenting on different aspects of a wedding,” says Lown. “Next time, we might focus the event around one aspect and feature only.”
They had a number of experts join the event throughout the hour. By just focusing on one expert next time, it will allow for more time to answer audience questions. In addition, only focusing on one expert will require fewer camera changes and coordination.
Finally, only about 30% of brides who RSVP'd for the event actually made it. Next time, the SmartBride team would send out a reminder about 30 minutes before the event to remind people to attend. Apparently, Vokle.com has a feature that does this if you have viewers RSVP through their site.
Have you used other tools to host online webcasts? Which ones worked best for you?