How To Host A Live Streamed Virtual Event

8th November 2020 No comments

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have been turning to digital tools to host virtual events. From conferences and seminars to award ceremonies and internal presentations, corporate events are now taking place entirely online. But in a world suffering from Zoom fatigue, how do you make your virtual events stand out?

At Southpoint Films, we’ve been live streaming events for many years. We’ve broadcast conferences, music events, and even interactive events like Annual General Meetings. It’s fair to say we know a thing or two about live streaming.

With it looking increasingly likely that virtual events are here to stay, we’d like to share some of our experience with you. We hope this helps you with planning and hosting your own virtual events.

So with that in mind, here are some practical tips to ensure that your next virtual event runs smoothly.

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Planning Your Event’s Content

Whether you’re hosting a simple presentation or a full, multi-speaker conference, you need to plan your virtual event carefully. Without a physical audience to bounce off, any pauses, hesitations or delays are going to be felt by everyone watching. Don’t just wing it!

To keep your stream tight, here are our suggestions…

Prepare a running order

Prepare a running order that outlines what’s going to happen and when. As a minimum, you need a column for time and a column for what’s going to be happening at that point in the event. However, you can expand this document to include information about who’s going to be presenting, the location they’re going to be presenting from, or any graphics and slides that might be accompanying what’s happening.

Script what you want your presenters to say

Consider scripting what you want your presenters to say. Presenting to camera is very different to speaking at an event, and this will give your presenters something to rely on if nerves take hold. Additionally, a pre-written script can be loaded into a teleprompter. This ensures that everything your presenters say is word-perfect.

Prepare any slides, graphics and pre-recorded videos

Think about how you might use slides, graphics and pre-recorded videos throughout the event. These can be great for breaking up a packed schedule. They can also give you a buffer to catch your breath and solve any unexpected technical problems.

Behind the scenes of our live stream for Southern Co-Op in 2020

Planning The Technical Aspect

Producing high quality video content can be tricky enough at the best of times. Producing a polished video in realtime is even harder.

When it comes to planning the technical side of your virtual event, you’ll need to consider the following…

Which platform will you use for hosting your virtual event?

There are lots of platforms available for running virtual events. Do you want your event to be embedded on your website? Will the event have any interactive elements? How are you providing access to the event – are you charging people to attend? How many people will be attending?

All of these factors will influence which platform you should choose.

How many people will be presenting?

It’s important to decide how many people will be presenting during your virtual event. You’ll also need to work out how many people will be speaking at the same time. For example, will there be panel discussions?

Is this a fully virtual event or a blended physical event?

This depends on the circumstances of your event. Your event may be fully virtual with presenters dialling in remotely. You might be running a physical event (even if at reduced capacity) and sharing that online to a wider audience.

Equally, it may make sense to bring your presenters together at a “studio” and broadcast from there. This can give you more freedom and flexibility with your production. Whichever approach you choose, the technical aspect of your event will need to adjust accordingly.

Will you be showing videos, slides and other graphics?

You’ll need to think about the types of media you plan to incorporate into your event. Playing pre-recorded videos should be quite simple, but making sure they look and sound right can be challenging at virtual events.

Showing slides can equally pose some technical challenges, especially for virtual event organisers who plan to present and host the event. It’s a simple thing, but showing a presentation will take over your computer’s screen. If there are problems with the stream, you might not know until it’s too late.

All of these factors will determine the best technical approach to take. If this is sounding daunting, why not get in touch? We’d be happy to help you explore your options.

Our Advice For Technical Success

Wherever possible, keep your virtual event simple. Try not to overcomplicate the technical requirements. Things that are usually very easy to do at a physical event, such as adding another speaker to the mix, can add huge technical complexity for a virtual event.

That isn’t to say that you can’t do something fancy or clever. But you’ll need to think carefully about whether an idea is absolutely necessary before committing to it. Often technical scope increases will result in higher production costs, so be prepared for seemingly small changes to come out of your budget.

A common error that virtual event organisers make is mistaking “virtual” for “cheap”. While there are cost savings in venue hire, catering, printing, accommodation and travel costs, there will still be costs. You’ll no doubt need to pay for the streaming platform, preparation of your graphics and video content, a crew to run your live stream, and potentially a venue to run the live stream from. These costs can add up, and the more you spend the better your virtual event will be – just like with physical events.

However, the cost doesn’t need to be astronomical. Our team at Southpoint Films are familiar with a variety of virtual event solutions and can adapt to almost any budget. If you’re looking for help with your virtual event, please get in touch.

Streaming the HJA Virtual Staff Awards in London, 2020

Rehearse & Test, Then Rehearse & Test

There’s no greater rule with live streaming than to rehearse and test, then rehearse and test some more. If you don’t, you’re leaving the success of your virtual event up to chance.

There are so many things that can go wrong in a live environment. The teleprompter may stop working. A pre-recorded video might fail to play. The internet connection in the venue may cut out. There may be a power failure that causes all of the equipment to turn off. (That’s happened to me!) You can’t mitigate every possible issue, but rehearsing and testing will help you and your team calmly navigate any unfamiliar waters.

Rehearsing will also help you tighten up the show. Without a few run throughs, your presenters might not know when to start or stop talking. They might miss cues, leaving them staring vacantly into the camera while live on screen. Or they simply might not have their slides ready when it’s their turn to talk. Practising in advance will help you iron out these issues.

Your rehearsals should be full dress rehearsals, with everyone involved in attendance, and with exactly the same setup as you’ll be using on the day. This helps resolve any technical or production issues ahead of the live event. When producing virtual events, we suggest a full rehearsal on the day of the event or in the days leading up to the event. For bigger productions we suggest multiple rehearsals over several days.

Finally, during the event, there’s nothing worse than seeing your attendees point out problems with your live stream. Maybe the sound is too quiet or the video isn’t coming through clearly. Make sure you have someone in a remote location watching your live stream as it’s being seen by your attendees. Ask them to report on the quality and overall function of your event. This will help you get ahead of any problems before your audience notices.

Equally, don’t forget to tell your attendees how they can get help if they’re struggling to access your event. Provide them with an email address, phone number or social media handles that they can use for getting support.

Shield Your Presenters

Our last tip relates to how you treat your presenters when your event is live.

Depending on the scale of your virtual event, you might be feeling quite stressed. If things aren’t going entirely to plan, you (and your team) will definitely be feeling stressed. In our experience, you need to shield your presenters from this as much as possible.

Speaking to camera can be difficult at the best of times – especially for people who aren’t trained presenters. Don’t let your presenters get caught up in the commotion of the production if you can avoid it. Even if things are going wrong, your presenters should be able to continue without interruption.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to shield your presenters from any comments that the audience may be leaving in the chat room or comment box. Real time feedback like this can be distracting. Your presenters should be able to plough on regardless of what the audience is saying.

Often there are times when you need to pass a message on to your presenter midway through a presentation. Make sure you have a system in place, or natural stopping points, where you can interject and talk to them without disrupting the event.

Live streaming Southern Co-op's Virtual AGM and SGM 2020

Going Live With Your Virtual Event

Hitting the “go live” button for your virtual event can be a bit daunting, but it’s also very exciting. Having planned, rehearsed and tested your setup, you can stream your virtual presentation, conference or training session safe in the knowledge that your content is being delivered exactly the way you want it to be.

If you’re looking to go live, our team of professional videographers are on hand to stream your project with ease. Interested in live streaming your event? Contact us to find out more or submit a brief.

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