Monday, February 6, 2023


Scott Murray is the SVP for the Production and Streaming Business Unit within Telestream.

Most companies were already powering marketing with video in “the before times,” but the Covid-19 lockdown brought video into all aspects of enterprise communications, stepping in for meetings, presentations, training, town halls and more.

While live video was previously used only for important events, organizations now embrace the dynamic nature of live broadcasts for all kinds of events where in-person meetings were no longer possible during the pandemic. And the development of easy-to-use tools that enable anyone to create and deliver live and pre-produced video also accelerated along with the video-ification of enterprise communications.

If one of your goals for 2023 is to up your game in the use of live video streaming, here are some tips you may find useful. I’ll frame this conversation in the context of a live town hall event scenario, but the same guidance applies to a hosted webinar, roundtable, press event, training presentation or any livestreamed event.

Live And Sim-Live

There are only two types of video: live and on-demand.

Live video is exciting and spontaneous; people on-camera can banter with each other and interact with the online audience in real time through Q&A and chat functions. The downside is that it’s incredibly stressful, both for those on-camera and those behind the camera. You need to rehearse diligently and work out any possible technical issues ahead of time. Because network traffic, bandwidth availability and other conditions vary by time of day, you need to test all aspects of the production in the exact same conditions as you’ll have on “game day.”

A less stressful option is “sim-live,” where you record an event or presentation, along with Q&A, as if it’s live. The upside is that you have the opportunity to make mistakes and address them after the fact, so you can produce a flawless stream to play for your audience. The challenge here is making sure on-camera participants create a level of energy that “feels like” a live event. And you must be transparent with your audience that the event is pre-recorded, which takes away somewhat from its authenticity.

You can also blend the two—pre-producing the main presentation then hosting a live Q&A so the audience can interact with your presenters. At Telestream, for press events, we use a combination of pre-recorded and live elements—live openings, some pre-recorded content, then a live Q&A. I find that it gives us the best of both worlds in terms of quality and spontaneity. For town halls, we go with a fully live approach. Our CEO likes the energy and banter they generate. We’ve found that training works best for us when it’s pre-recorded.

What can trip you up with sim-live is not matching perfectly the wardrobe, lighting and backdrops of the pre-produced session in the live part. Was your CEO wearing a jacket and sitting in her office when you recorded the presentation? If so, make sure she’s wearing the same jacket and sitting in the same spot, with the same lighting and sound for the Q&A. The same goes for all guests. Continuity is key.

When determining whether an event should be live or sim-live, consider things like your main presenter’s comfort level, who the attendees are—Press? Employees? New hires?—and whether the primary goal of the event is to communicate information, inspire or build relationships. That will help guide the formality of your event.

Mantra For Technical Director: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

If you’re in charge of orchestrating live event production and streaming, your goal is to keep everything as simple as possible. Key considerations are in engineering setup, show setup and execution.

Engineering setup is the “plumbing” of your event. Develop your plan: How many cameras? What kind of lights and how many? Will you add names and titles to appear on shots of your participants? If so, make sure you have the right lighting, backdrop and chroma key capabilities so you can add them for streaming. If your presenter and/or participants are not entirely comfortable on camera, include a teleprompter in your setup. Will you have guests joining virtually? Test their sound, cameras and lighting under identical conditions to your event.

The show setup is the content of your event. Who will speak when, and for how long? Don’t skip the step of creating storyboards. Have a rundown of the entire show, from when the camera comes up to how the Q&A is moderated. Does the CEO want to write on a whiteboard during the presentation? What does that mean for the camera? Does your engineering setup include a camera that can be zoomed and controlled to accommodate for that whiteboard segment? When guests join, at what point do their titles appear on screen and for how long?

If you’ve done your engineering and show setups properly, execution should go smoothly. At Telestream, we do the heavy lifting in the show setup, so when we execute live shows, it’s as simple as pressing a single button to execute all the changes that have to happen, like bringing a new guest into the room and having their graphic come on screen then fade out. You’ll want to set up your macros as part of the engineering setup to make sure those production elements are combined into one step.

Finally, enlist someone to watch the quality of the stream off-site so you can adjust on the fly as needed. If you’re going to stream a pre-produced event, be sure to include quality control (QC) as part of your execution. Watch the entire presentation, including Q&A, to make sure it’s flawless.

Conclusion

In 2023, live event production and streaming isn’t something companies do just for “special” projects. It’s part of run-rate communications to all audiences. As you step up your video game, take the opportunity to devise an enterprise-wide strategy and infrastructure for video—where and how it will be used, produced and distributed—to ensure consistency, quality, and operational and cost efficiency.

In part 2 of this article, I’ll cover creating pre-produced content and screen-captured presentations.


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