On 8/26 at 6:30pm we went live with the first online simulcast for the Knowledge Management Institute. We did it even with a few last minute challenges: one of our 3 speakers dropped out on the day of and our A/V expert also dropped out on the day of (both due to illness).
We soldiered on. This post is both the story of what happened and the lessons we learned from the experience. I hope it will serve as some sort of a guide for other associations. If you have experience in this regard, please share as a comment.
Marketing: we promoted the free event on some KM mailing lists, our own mailing list, KM LinkedIn groups, and Twitter.
Preparation: we tested as much as we could (hardware, software, bandwidth) days before the event. We arrived to the event 2 hours early to set-up equipment and run tests. We could not get our video camera to stream (remember, no A/V expert) so we went with a back-up webcam.
Event: we went live within a few minutes of on-time. We started and stopped the live event after each session because we wanted it to be broken into separate files. We were running a Buzz format session which means 3 speakers for 10 minutes each and then 20 mins of discussion in-between. We had ~15 person online audience for just about the whole event. We hope for more ongoing, but felt that was good for our first event.
Here is a description of the software that we used (all free):
- We kept the camera on the speaker and we used procaster.com (free download) to merge in the speaker’s slides from the streaming computer. An on-site producer selects between speaker-only, slides-only, and smaller speaker together w/smaller slides at each point in time for what goes into the stream.
- Procaster.com automatically streams to an account on livestream.com (free account if you are willing to allow some ads into your video stream). You can pay money if you want the ads removed.
- We took the embed code from livestream.com (it shows up right on the widget) and pasted it into the “Embed” field in twebevent.com. This combined our live video with a Twitter Chat and placed it in the twebevent schedule for additional exposure.
To accomplish the above software configuration I recommend someone who is at least intermediate with using web applications.
Other important items:
- you will need upload bandwidth of at least 500kbps (.5Mbps). You can test that with speedtest.net from the location where you will be streaming.
- It is best to outfit the speaker with a wireless mic that draws the sound into the streaming computer. If the speaker is not mic’ed, you may get variable sound online as they walk around.
- Camera with tripod and zoom allows speakers more mobility
- If you are at a hotel with a conference code to get on their wireless, make sure that it allows you several connections. This will allow some flexibility with testing (one streaming, one watching) as well as the ability for some on-site people to be tweeting to the event while another is running the livestream.
- If your event is structured like the Buzz where there are periods of time that the audience is discussing something at individual tables, point the camera at the crowd so that the online audience at least knows what is going on. Also keep them posted on timing via Twitter
- If there is on-site Q&A, draw some of the questions from the online environment. After the on-site session is over have the presenter answer more online questions on camera just for the online audience.
- If you have an extra projector, project the tweets that are coming in during the presentations. If you have a very large audience, you may want to moderate that Twitter stream. There are a few applications that will help with moderation. Twubs.com is one.
- Upload the presentations somewhere that they can be accessed via URL (if you don’t have this, you can do it with Google Docs, remember to make the docs shared as “public”) Link the uploaded docs into the twebevent so that people can download if they like.
- Open the presentations on the streaming laptop in “Normal View”. Then use the procaster “Zoom” function to frame the slide. This will allow you to do other things on the screen like: changing from one presentation to another, use the procaster producer, and use the slide picker on the left to jump to any slide without flipping around the slides
All in all it was a great experience. You can view some of the videos that we captured at http://twebevent.com/KMIevent. We will be running another simulcast on Oct 7. Join the KMI mailing list or just follow the #KMers hashtag for more information as we get closer.
Please contact me if you are interested in learning more. I am @swanwick on Twitter
Friday, August 7 was the first live trial of twebevent (read overview here) for #bizbutterflies at ISES EventWorld (archive available here). Several lessons were learned from the experience and some of the audience provided their feedback. The live session was simulcast via two online channels. One through twitcam and the other through twebevent. The audience began somewhat split between the two platforms, but it was clear early on that the twebevent chat was more active and so the twitcam audience migrated to twebevent.
Some pros and cons to each platform:
- twitcam allows you to broadcast your webcam. twebevent does not CREATE a broadcast, but it can consume twitcam video streams or video streams from ANY video streaming provider (ustream.tv, Qik, just.tv, etc…). While twebevent is more flexible/powerful, twitcam requires one less step and so is easier to broadcast
- twitcam shows tweets that contain the twitcam event URL. twebevent shows tweets on the host’s desired hashtag – It seems that expert Twitter users prefer hashtag based Twitter chat
- Video NEXT to chat (twitcam) is preferred to video ON TOP of chat (twebevent)
- Hosts like the rich text space that they get on twebevent (left of video). There is no equivalent on twitchat
- twebevent allows for far more characters per tweet. This is because twitcam auto-attaches both the twitcam URL and the host Twitter handle with every tweet. twebevent just auto-attaches the hashtag. Note: twebevent allows audience to tweet the event URL via a “Tweet this Event” button, but it is separate from the chat.
Some lessons learned for next time
- The best broadcasting combo might be procaster/twebevent Like twitcam, procaster also streams for free into livestream. But, procaster also provides the ability to merge the presenter and their slides into one video stream. The host can grab the embed from livestream to place into twebevent
- Important to have a static URL that one can advertise WELL ahead of the event. Changing URL’s creates confusion
- motion sensitive webcam, while better than a static webcam, is still not ideal. Best to have someone manning the camera to follow the appropriate speaker.
- Need to test twebevent with Apple/Mac computers
- Need to check with TweetChat if they can make a narrower version so that video and chat can go side by side in twebevent
- Would be nice to allow a preview video in twebevent that is available to play until the appointed time for the event
All in all we are extremely happy with the first trial of twebevent. It seemed to be the platform of choice for the online audience. We have lots of improvements in mind and we look forward to partnering with the #eventprofs community to meet as many of their needs as possible.
Events have been hit hard. The perfect storm of the down economy, the stigma of business meeting travel, and the advance of technology have led to a sudden change in the events industry. Less expensive unconferences and virtual conferences are booming. Virtual components are being added to in-person conferences to help reach those who cannot travel.
Thanks to many great online tools, it is possible to collaborate and contribute in meaningful ways without attending in-person. There are higher-end tools like The Social Collective, Pathable, and Crowdvine that have a nice feature set, but also an accompanying price tag. Twitter is free and can be used without those tools, but takes some organizing:
- A blog post about a study of how Twitter is being used at conferences
- A paper: comprehensive academic view of Twitter use for conferences
- A great post from Travolution Summit 2009 about their Twitter use experience)
If you want to provide a virtual audience with content richer than Twitter’s 140 character information nuggets, there are new products emerging. They not only harness the power of Twitter, but also combine a video/audio feed so that everyone can discuss the same content from wherever they are. Your virtual audience will have a much stronger “feel” for your conference content.
twebevent.com is one such product. It allows you to present your brand as the host, stream the live or recorded video, and combine it with a Twitter Chat using whatever Hashtag you prefer…..all for FREE. twebevent is a new start-up so you may encounter some blips, but if you use the customer feedback (blue button on the right edge of their page), you can give your opinions for product direction.
twebevent provides the :mashup” environment, but a host still need to find a way to video capture and stream. Companies like Speaker Interactive can help with those logistics. Products like ustream.tv and livestream.com can handle the live streaming. Qik will even live stream from your phone. YouTube and Vimeo are two good options for uploading recorded video. In any of those cases, just copy the embed code to a twebevent and it will appear for your audience.
If you prefer to keep things really simple, avoid the complexities of video and just open up a phone bridge through providers like talkshoe or blogcastradio and connect the audio stream embed into the twebevent.
If anyone has any questions or comments, I am happy to connect. If you want to read more, check out the lessons learned from the first twebevent live trial or try my previous blog posts re: “Future Conferences” part 1 and part 2.