Roughly 20% of all conference live streams I've observed this year are done well. (Truth be told, I think I'm being generous with that 20% figure.)
"Done well" as in delivering on at least two of these counts:
- Making me feel like it was time well spent
- Sharing new and valuable insight I'd never before considered
- Seeing critical issues through a new lens or vantage point
- Introducing me to a thought leader I now want to follow more closely
- Making me wish I had registered to attend the conference in person, so I could engage in more face-to-face conversations around this topic
No easy task, but when a conference live stream is well-orchestrated, it's a beautiful thing that delivers an abundance to both the participants and the conference host.
If only we could figure out a way to separate the duds from the masterpieces. In an effort to do just that, I offer the following conference live stream wish list items. Some are high level, some are rather basic. Still, they touch on deadly sins I've been tolerating for far too long:
Start on Time
I'm going to start with a fairly basic hygiene issue. I'm amazed at how often these broadcasts start late. A 7-9 minute late start is becoming the norm. When you stop to calculate the dollars being paid to your remote audience as they watch dark screens or worse -- the inevitable sound check (Check, Check, 1-2-3... Can you hear me?), it's staggering. Have a back-up plan -- maybe a video you'll play to buy a few more minutes while you tackle whatever's causing the delay. Don't waste those eyeballs.
Beef Up the Opener
Some broadcasts begin with showing love to the sponsor. Then, there's the litany of bio's about people we don't know (yet). Startle me with powerful statistics that give breadth and context to the topic. Tell me a fascinating (fast-paced) story I can relate to right out of the gate. Remind me why I decided to dial in for this broadcast. Make me want to stay longer, because in a few minutes, other things will be begging for my attention. As for bio's, keep them brief -- no more than a few sentences. Better yet, put them on the sidebar with links for details. If somebody says something interesting or even controversial, we'll click to find out more -- and this time, we'll remember this person. As for sponsor acknowledgements, save them for the big finish. Deliver a great session and that sponsor thank you at the end will have more impact.
Invest in a Strong Moderator
Not a polite, professional who will lull me to sleep. Get somebody who will escort me through the broadcast from start to finish. Somebody who's commanding, compelling and who understands why I want to explore this topic. Somebody who can draw the best out of your panel of experts... which brings me to the next wish list item.
Prune Your Panel
For most live streams, I'd prefer it if you indulged me in a riveting one-on-one conversation. All too often, I watch panels spiral downward into a series of monologues. "Okay, Mary now it's your turn." I want to see more dynamic and spontaneous exchanges.
Engage Your Remote Audience
Where's the live chat box? Give remote participants an opportunity to ask questions, exchange observations, chime in with additional information, etc. At very least, open up a Twitter stream hashtag for these exchanges. Make sure you have someone managing your remote audience. Someone who will toss out a poll, ask questions and provoke comments. Sure, many participants will continue to lurk, but with the right web moderator, you'll stir up strong and valuable feedback. PS: The only thing worse than no chat box is one that's empty.
Be More Courageous with Questions
Watching the presidential debates reminded me of this one. You can't let over-the-top statements go unchallenged. Your audience is counting on you to manage a lively, yet respectful and credible exchange. If your live audience is timid, you can usually count on the remote participants to ask the questions most people are thinking about.
Finish Big and Include a Call-To-Action to Learn More
If you've done your job well, everyone has enjoyed this session and they're craving more like it. A brief wrap-up is nice, but go a step further. Give this audience one more opportunity to take what they've learned and go a layer deeper. Maybe it's a webinar next week. Maybe it's a book or white paper. Maybe it's joining a regional chapter of your organization, where they're already planning a follow-up session on this same topic.
How about you? What steps are you taking to improve the conference live stream experience? What's driving you nuts as you participate in these sessions? Let's fire up the chat box and get smarter together.
(photo by stevegarfield via Flickr)