Virtual Conferences? What has changed with Live Conference Streaming since First Lockdown?
Ben Hull points out that whilst Bright Vision Events has been Live Streaming Virtual Conferences for a while, demand has now Sky-Rocketed. So, what has changed?
At Bright Vision Events we have been streaming live conferences for several years and have always had a virtual option available for clients. Uptake was steady as businesses slowly adapted to the platform, but the first lockdown from March 2020 changed all that. It was a pivotal moment. A game changer. And now we are delivering far more virtual conferences than traditional ones, which means we have had to adapt and change to meet demand.
In this article, our Managing Director Ben Hull answers some of the key questions about what has changed with virtual conferences since lockdown. He also has some words of advice for anyone aspiring to deliver their next event virtually.
What is the biggest difference between Virtual Conferences now and pre-lockdown?
“Actually, it’s time! Historically, we have had over three months to plan a conference with a live streaming element. Our lead time now as we start 2021 is under 4 weeks! Just think about that for a second…..under 4 weeks! It is staggering to think that in such a short space of time all the elements needed for a successful virtual conference can be pulled together and delivered.
Live streaming is now the new normal for us, this is the world we are operating in. A world where digital capabilities allow us to have everything we need instantly and a world where virtual conference providers must combine meeting clients’ needs for instant answers with an understanding that planning is crucial to the success of any online event. “
What is the most important question that clients should be asking their online production company?
“This is actually really easy and it’s an area that is a real point of annoyance for me when I hear about some of the solutions out there. The answer is ‘contingency planning’ and more to the point, for many I have seen and heard of, the lack of it!
We aren’t talking about a face-to-face event here. This is not simply about changing to a backup projector or about having a spare laptop on site. Your whole virtual conference and the success of the show is how you plan to mitigate all the challenges that the internet can throw at you.
So, always ask the tough questions of your provider. For example, ‘what happens if there is a power cut, or what happens if the internet falls over’? If they cannot give you assurances at this stage, trust me, that is an instant red flag.
In our studio we have a significant UPS battery back-up presence to cover any power cuts or shortages. We have 2 x gigabit internet lines into the studio from different providers where one effectively lays dormant. So, if one goes down, we can bring the other one on-line instantly. We also have 5G back up routers to call on should the internet be lost totally.
This contingency planning means that we could deliver your streamed conference with no power and no internet to our studio. It’s kind of crazy when you put it like that, but if your show depends on these things – and all virtual conferences do – you really do need to have all contingencies covered.”
Since the first lockdown way back in March 2020 what changes have you noticed in terms of client expectations?
“Back in March clients were scrambling around looking for any solution to allow their event to continue. Almost overnight conference streaming, which had to some degree been relatively niche product, suddenly had demand that was so unexpected the market wasn’t prepared. Take us for example, the volume of events that had a virtual element went up from under 10% of our events to 100% of our events in a matter of weeks. We were lucky, we already had experience in the field, but it was still a huge period of adaptation for us as well.
The word ‘pivot’ has been over-used recently, but it really does explain what we and so many other production companies went through. We did pivot from traditional to virtual almost instantly, and the range of options/solutions now available to clients
now is staggering.
Initially, the market was flooded with some poor offerings
out there and, to be honest, inexperience and lack of knowledge amongst some clients meant that incorrect choices were made when selecting a supplier. My conversations with clients today are vastly different to 10 months ago. 10 months ago, I was trying to educate clients as to how the virtual thing worked. Now I am getting straight into the detail of what our Bright Vision Events platform can offer and how it will integrate with the clients’ event and concepts. Clients are now much more clued up about what is available, and they know what they want”.
So ok then, you mentioned Bright Vision Events has had to adapt. Take me through some of these changes.
“As I mentioned at the start, we have always offered live streaming as an option for our conferences, but the streaming was hosted on external platforms. In March 2020 we took the decision to launch our own in-house streaming platform ‘Bright Vision Events Live’, a dedicated platform for hosting our clients’ events in a secure and bespoke way.
To date we have delivered over 100 live shows on the platform and it has been really fantastic to see the variety and calibre of events delivered to date. We are extremely pleased with how professional it looks and how well it has been received by our clients.
We decided early on that our reputation had been built on high production standards and we wanted the platform to reflect that. So, unlike some competitors offerings, we concentrated on delivering the best show content possible.
We are one of the only companies out there that can guarantee:
- HD resolution of show content,
- A dedicated production team,
- Full audience support via VOIP helplines and email support, and
- Full presenter support via our dedicated virtual green room.
Our focus remains on the show and its content backed up by market leading virtual delivery and this philosophy is what our client base has been buying in to.”
Finally, then, what are your thoughts on the future?
“Ha ha! If I knew that I would be a rich man!
We are seeing more and more events go from purely remote webinar style events where everyone is at home, to more of a studio style solution where we get all key presenters to one studio location – socially distanced of course – with the audience/delegates at home.
That massively improves the production values of the event and the quality of experience for the audience, because we can use our own equipment from 4k cameras, studio lighting and a digital sound solution. We don’t have to rely on the presenter’s in-built camera and microphone, which if it is a laptop often isn’t good enough. Our order book tells us remote events are still very popular and we are seeing the studio style of event grow in popularity. I anticipate more of the same for the first 6 months of 2021.
As and when lockdowns and restrictions ease, there has already been a huge amount of talk and noise surrounding hybrid events – a blend of studio audiences and audiences at home – and many of us in the industry predicted this back at the start of the pandemic.
I wish I knew exactly when, but we know the future of events will be hybrid, because people like face-to-face. Business travel will never be the same again of course, there will be an expectation for clients to have a hybrid option for their attendees. I can see the core teams attending the face-to-face event, with the remainder watching the stream live online.
Production companies who cannot offer both I think will suffer. I am just so pleased we ‘pivoted’ when we did.”