A Live Webcast Checklist

Which Format – Flash or Windows Media Video? Why not MP4 video instead?

These were the two most popular formats for webcasting. However today, it is recommended to webcast in the H264 (MP4) format, which will enable viewers on all platforms and devices (including smartphones, iPhones & iPads) to view the video.

Most individual clients aren’t particular as to what format is used but we have found that as it stands today, MP4 is certainly the recommended format. As long as they can easily tune in, the average viewer is not too choosy. Government departments & large corporations used to prefer Windows Media (WMV) but no more – Html5 videos (displaying the MP4 / H.264 format) have become the norm.

For most audiences though, MP4 (H.264) streaming is recommended because it is much more commonly accessible and is cross-platform (as opposed to Flash or Windows Media) and is viewable on 99.9% of all newer systems.

Offer the Live Chat Audience Interactivity option:

It makes any event far more dynamic and interesting if the online audience is allowed (even encouraged) to post questions and comments during the event and the presenter is able and willing to respond – either immediately or after the session. It makes the proceedings interactive and spontaneous, which as we know, makes any communication more effective and audience-friendly.

It is advisable that a ‘moderator’ be appointed to deal with incoming questions and pass them on to the speaker – not just to avoid interruption to the flow of the presentation, but also to filter out any potentially embarrassing questions and situations.

Recording & Archiving Video of the Event:

While Live Webcasting is a great communication & branding tool, it is important that the video be recorded and provided to viewers who were unable to attend, as an ‘On-Demand’ streaming video on the website. Not only does this add to the convenience factor for persons who missed the Live event, but its been shown to increase audience retention by allowing even attendees to come back and review the information multiple times.

Online Registration and log-in

If your webcast is for a select audience and you do not want it accessible to the public, it is strongly recommended to have a registration system with a password-protected log-in system which blocks public access. There is also the added benefit of collecting user information in an online database to monitor attendance and post-event contact for follow-up.

  • Registration fields should be limited and non-personal for free webcasts – in fact, consider whether personal information collection is necessary.
  • Limited info such as name and business information such as the name of their organization and their business email address should be more than enough.
  • The webcast should have an evaluation form
  • Your webcast should include an evaluation form upon log-out. This form can get very useful feedback from the attendees as to what they thought about the event and also solicit ideas for future topics & improvements.

We have found that he response rate for most forms is between 50% to 70% and the forms also provide very useful sales-related information.

Optimize all presentation slides for online viewing:

Unfortunately, most professionals and organizations do not ensure that their PowerPoint slides are viewer-friendly. They forget that when slides are reduced in size to accommodate a computer monitor, everything shrinks down and if small font sizes are used, it will be impossible to read in a webcast.

Here are some helpful basic guidelines:

  • Use 24 point text or larger
  • Avoid more than 3 to 5 bullets on a single slide
  • Pictures should fill the entire slide and not be reduced in size

Arrange for good lighting:

At many conferences, the lights are turned off or dramatically dimmed so that people can see the slides on the large screens. While this is fine for people in the live audience, it results in the video of the speaker being way too dark for the online viewer. There are a couple of solutions for this situation:

  • Dim the room lighting – especially over the presentation screen, but keep a spotlight over the speaker’s podium.
  • Arrange for the gain (exposure) on the video camera to be turned up to compensate for the low-light situation.
  • Never have a room that is completely darkened.

These days however, projectors are much brighter than they were before and it is not necessary to dim room lights as much.

Pay attention to the speaker’s background:

Having a typical, dull, hotel wallpaper behind the speaker’s podium, or even a curtain that is either too dull or worse – a distracting pattern, is a huge no-no.

  • It is a great plus to have some kind of signage behind the speaker – bearing either the organization’s logo or their promotional banner.
  • Avoid stark black or white backgrounds entirely, or speakers with black/white clothing will show up as torso-less heads!

Position of the speaker’s podium & presentation screen:

For digital presentations it is a good rule of thumb that the speaker should be positioned to the audience’s right and the screen to the audience’s left – see the diagram below:

speaker-audienceaudience layout for live conference event webcast

Controlling the Presentation Slides:

  • The speaker should be given control of the PowerPoint slides using a remote ‘clicker’ – this avoids the use of the irritating phrase “next slide please” and makes for a much more professional presentation.
  • Make sure the speaker(s) are familiarized with the clicker controls to avoid embarrassing glitches

Announcements to the online audience:

Nobody likes being ignored and that includes people who have taken the time to register and attend your webcast.

  • Before and during the event, announce that a webcast is going on and say hello to the online audience.
  • If your videocast is interactive, make an announcement to the effect that questions are welcome during the event using live chat (however, do stress to the actual live audience that they should hold their questions till the end of the session in order to avoid interrupting the speaker’s flow).
  • Sometimes it’s OK to answer a few incoming questions at an appropriate time, depending on their context. The online audience then stays engaged, which makes it a more interesting event.
  • Do however, make it a point to inform the web audience that not every question may be answered depending upon time constraints.

Other technical points to consider:

  • It is best to webcast live using a wired rather than wireless Internet connection – this will avoid interruptions due to a dropped signal.
  • The audio feed for the videocast should preferably be taken from the venue’s audio mixer board output, rather than using a separate microphone system. It is inadvisable to use shotgun mics and the like because the sound reproduction won’t be optimal (unless the camera is positioned very close to the speaker’s podium – even so, the shotgun mic may be unable to capture any music or audio coming from the computer presentation, since that would be routed to the hotel speakers.
  • Position the camera and other equipment at the back of the room in order to avoid interfering with the audience’s view.