So you want to create a webcast. Who’s involved? We’re going to take a look at some of the roles involved in making an awesome webcast, from webcasting producers to presenters to the audience. The Producers: The most important people in the webcast. They make sure that everything is set up, that people show up, that nothing gets screwed up, and that somebody follows up. There couldn’t be a webcast without them. The Presenter(s): The most important people in the webcast. The stars of the show, these folks create the scintillating content that keeps audiences engaged. There couldn’t be a webcast without them. The Audience: The most important people in the webcast. They’re the whole reason the webcast exists—if the audience doesn’t get the message, there was no point. There couldn’t be a webcast without them.
That’s not a mistake. All three groups are equally important. A successful webcast will ensure that everyone achieves their goals and has a positive user experience.
There’s no reason your webcast can’t make everyone happy. Let’s take a look at what needs to be done to ensure a successful webcast for all your stakeholders.
Planning, from the Webcasting Producers’ Point-of-View
The webcasting producers are the ones who make sure the event goes off without a hitch. What are some of the best practices to ensure not only a successful webcast, but also a low-stress experience for the production, AV, and IT teams?
Have one single point person overseeing the process, who coordinates both the content and distribution sides. That person can delegate as much as necessary, but making sure that a single person is paying attention to the event as a whole can prevent painful misunderstandings and mistakes.
Decide who your audience is. Are they going to be limited to internal and VPN users behind the firewall? Or will it be open to external users on the web? Make sure that your security is set up properly to handle your intended audience. Ideally, leverage your existing entitlements and permissions for secure event access rather than starting from scratch.
Figure out how many attendees you expect. The last thing you want to do is choose a webcasting plan and then blow through your limit. Choosing a service that has no concurrency limits can eliminate this worry.
The event process can be schematically described as composed of 4 parts:
Video Production: the actual production and filming of the event
For a professional-quality broadcast, the best results will come from a studio production that includes a dedicated encoder.
A webcasting platform that automatically synchronizes slides with the video will not only ensure a flawless broadcast, but also eliminate the need to edit the recording later.
Transcoding: taking the event feed and preparing it for streaming
There are two options: pass-through or live transcoding.
In pass-through, the audio and video exit the system exactly the same as it entered, without any changes. You can have multiple bit rates in pass-through, but you have to send all the streams in. In this case, you would need enough uplink to support the number of streams you’re broadcasting.
With live transcoding, the data is reformatted into multiple formats, for delivery as an adaptive bitrate stream to play on multiple devices. This is your better option, as it will allow you to deliver quality experiences to any device, anywhere. The stream will automatically be sent in the correct format to playback on the receiving device, and will even adapt to changes in available bandwidth, increasing the bitrate for a higher quality at high available bandwidths but dropping it to a lower bitrate if the bandwidth drops to prevent buffering.
Streaming: broadcasting the event to the attendees
With traditional WAN and LAN solutions, you risk creating bottlenecks, slowing down not only your stream but everything else on your network. A better idea is to deliver through a Cloud CDN, an on-site eCDN, or integrating with your current delivery service.
Unicast is when the client and the server has a one-to-one connection. Multicast is required for true broadcast; multicast-enabled routers forward the data packets to all of the local clients. It can save an enormous amount of bandwidth, but much of the internet is not capable of streaming multicast. For internal broadcast, when a WAN link is not multicast capable but the local LAN is, you can deploy a tiered solution. Placing an edge that can turn a WAN unicast stream into a LAN multicast system can save traffic on both without requiring multicast on all the WAN links.
Here’s the general flow:
Test your system weeks in advance. Make sure you do your testing with plenty of time to fix any issues you discover.
Don’t just limit testing to the office network—make sure that the webcast looks great on remote mobile devices as well. Ideally, your webcast should play beautifully on any device.
Practice your workflow. Everyone needs to know how to do every part of their responsibilities. The step that you don’t practice, even if it seems easy, is the step that’s going to fail when you go live.
Cross-train as much as possible. If something goes wrong the day of the event, whether it’s a team member out unexpectedly or something going haywire that requires more attention than planned to fix, having someone else able to jump in and handle a different role can make the difference between a funny story at the bar and a total disaster.
The Event, from the Webcasting Producers’ Point-of-View
Live analytics that update in real time during the event will help you stay on top of your audience’s reactions as well as make sure you can head off any Quality of Service (QoS) issues.
Pay attention to who watched, and for how long, as well as whether the viewing was live or DVR. This can give you a lot of insight for future webcasts.
After the webcast, don’t forget to elicit feedback from your attendees so you can plan an even more successful webcast in the future.
Offer your attendees a single, persistent URL throughout the webcast lifecycle. The same URL should lead to the event landing page before the broadcast begins, the video broadcast during the event, and the recording after the webcast concludes. No need to send follow-up emails with a link to the video on demand after the event!
A unified video platform can help integrate your live events with VOD and pre-recorded material across the organization. This makes both managing and discovering your wealth of content easier. A centralized location for event management in your video portal will make your life easier.
Choosing a platform that’s right for you, getting familiar with its capabilities, and carefully planning your broadcast will go a long way towards ensuring a smooth, successful webcast. Webcasts are becoming easier to set up than ever before. Take advantage of the power of video to make your presenters—and everyone else—look great at a mass scale with today’s cutting edge webcasting tools!
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