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How to Make the Most of a Live Event: How the University of Illinois Successfully Broadcasted Obama’s Speech

When the University of Illinois scheduled President Barack Obama to speak on its Urbana-Champaign campus in September 2018, they knew that there would be more people who would want to watch than they could possibly fit in the room. The location could only hold up to 1,200 audience members. More than 22,000 students registered for the ticket lottery. In previous generations, everyone else would have just been out of luck. But the university wanted to make the most of the event, and to share it with as many people as possible.

After a fabulously successful event, they have some lessons to show.

Lessons for Broadcasting Campus Events

  • You’re not limited to one location. The university chose to simulcast the event via the web to two sister campuses in Springfield and Chicago, to increase the number of participants in the communal live event.
  • Leverage social media platforms. Local and national news outlets were present, and CNN had its own feed. But YouTube Live ended up receiving more views than all of the networks combined.
  • Reach out to the whole community. The university alerted alumni that they could join the live event online, creating a major opportunity to support the University of Illinois community.
  • Ask your speakers to advertise for you. Obama himself heavily promoted the event on social media. It really proved the power of social media to drive traffic, including reaching audiences the university ordinarily would never come in contact with.
  • Invest in live captions. While the networks didn’t offer live captioning, the University of Illinois made sure to. It makes a huge difference in terms of accessibility.
  • Make the video available on demand. Not everyone will be able to join a live event. Making the recording available after the fact can dramatically increase reach and impact. More than 17,000 people watched the speech on mediaspace.illinois.edu in that first weekend. Very few of them dropped off, either—most viewers played the complete recording.

How Successful Was the Event?

The live broadcast was an incredible success, bringing Obama’s message (and the University of Illinois’ role) to a huge audience. They had predicted around 1,000 online viewers for the HD broadcast. They saw 10 times that number.

  • 10,613 concurrent viewers at peak
  • 112+ different countries
  • 2,330 different cities, many from Africa
  • 17,000+ VOD views and counting

When it comes to making the most of campus speakers, the University of Illinois has cracked the code of how to share with the widest audience.

School live broadcast reach

When it comes to making the most of campus speakers, the University of Illinois has cracked the code of how to share with the widest audience.

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