• Paul Walker

Cancelling an event? Is livestreaming a viable alternative?

If an event hasn't already been cancelled, the #Coronavirus outbreak means we are probably thinking about it. Some events need to be rescheduled / cancelled while other can go ahead but in a heavily modified way. What's the difference? When should events be cancelled, when can they be livestreamed, what format changes need to be made and how much does it all cost?

So let me start with cost because streaming can be inexpensive or expensive. For example, one day of livestreaming with a single camera and two microphones is as little as £650. This means our customer would need to set up on something which can take the stream (e.g. Facebook) and it's pretty straightforward. Where costs jump is adding a second camera because then we need to 'mix' the feeds which means hiring someone to do that. And then adding multiple cameras, we we're talking about £3,500 - £7,000 per day depending on numbers of cameras, setup etc...

So when is it worth continuing with the event using streaming and when isn't it appropriate?

Firstly, it's easier to say when it isn't worth streaming. For example, one of our customers is rescheduling an annual, customer conference. Their customers get value from the content but mainly because there are a lot of SME CEOs in the room and they can all network together. There are also a lot of operations managers / directors and marketing people, again, all of whom want to talk to each other to find out best practice within their industries. While ostensibly, the conference is about information, networking is equally, if not more important and streaming is a waste of resources because nothing can really replace the handshake. This means the conference simply needs to be cancelled or rescheduled.

A completely different case is when it's more about the content and for example, one of our customers is hosting an infectious diseases conference with a heavy sponsorship element. There's definitely an element of networking but the reality is the content is so strong and relevant that people around the world will tune in for this. In fact, there may be more 'attendees' and although the format is changing dramatically because of the streaming element, the reality is sponsors are getting fantastic bang for their buck and the virtual attendees get a chance to engage with world class experts. And in addition, we can 'digitise' the networking element seamlessly with some re-engineering.

And what do we mean by digitising networking? Well, even in the 'content' situation, we have to recognise that the reason attendees are at a conference is not simply to listen, rather there will be a networking element and there will certainly be a Q&A engagement.

To allow this to happen, this means re-engineering the conference and this means creating engagement. This means setting up Q&A tech and even networking amongst small groups after Q&As. So, for example, if several 'visitors' have the same question, to create virtual, monitored, breakout rooms so questions can be asked and people can engage, swap details and more.

And this final element is relatively inexpensive because the tech is cheap. So, typically, we're seeing numbers of £2k - £5k to set this up over a few days within environments with great infrastructure.

So streaming by itself isn't a solution (and I say this as someone who streams for customers!) Rather, it's the infrastructure around it and re-engineering the conference so virtual visitors get the ability to engage with speakers and each other. Streaming is only one part: Sure, it's an important part that kicks everything else off but the real solution is that engagement model that can turn a cancellation into a worthwhile, virtual conference.


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