Temporary Site and Email Down Time
Due to central technical difficulties at our company website and email hosting company, our (along with many other businesses’) marketing websites and email were down for the majority of the business day today, Friday, August 2nd.
Please rest assured that the platform was not affected in any way during this outage, and the app remains in working order, but if you have tried to email or otherwise contact the members of our company and have not yet heard back, please re-send your email.
We apologize for any difficulties this outage may have caused, but the services have all been restored as of 8:00pm on Friday August 2nd.
We would like to thank WebAssign and NC State for a very successful WebAssign User’s Group Conference (WAUG 2013) webcast! The facilities were beautiful (check out the computerized and motorized library book retrieval system, aka nerd heaven, above). Even better than the beautiful campus were the fantastic presenter teams and production teams. Check back soon for the archived version of the webcast.
Interested in EdTech? Check out WebAssign’s website www.webassign.net, or consider video recording and archiving your lessons with Laudeo Media. Or you could get brave and go live!
University of Maryland BioPark
Laudeo Media is an approved vendor for the University of Maryland BioPark. They have an awesome facility that is perfect for live streaming events, with built-in robotic cameras, free guest wireless Internet, and an array of fully loaded lecture and conference rooms. If you’re in the DMV area and are looking for a place to hold your next event, we highly recommend the BioPark!
See you in Raleigh
Laudeo will be in Raleigh, NC later this month to live webcast WebAssign’s 2013 customer conference alongside with World Stream Partners. Looking forward to the event and working with the teams involved!
Preparing for your live webcast
On the day of the webcast event, follow this simple process to ensure quality for your viewers and that all systems are functioning properly. There are specific references to the Laudeo Live webcasting platform but the general process and concept can be applied universally.
Check your Settings
- Are all information and data accurate and spelled properly?
- Is the correct slide deck loaded?
- Did you assign the correct stream destination?
- If you want to know for sure who attended, have their names on questions submitted etc, is registration enabled?
These can be the same or different people.
- Lead Producer - oversee the entire production. Be the bridge between the presenters and production team.
- Technical Director - coordinate all technical operations of the event - run interactive tests with the rest of the team, monitor live webcast throughout the event
- Technical Support - monitor QA section for tech questions. Be ready to address issues that are raised by Lead Producer and/or Technical Director
- A/V / Encoder Operator - operate live encoder, monitor signal(s), make sure conference call bridge is properly connected to encoder, make sure audio levels are acceptable, make a local recording of the live event on the encoder itself (in addition to the server copy)
Determine who will be responsible for changing slides, pushing polls, etc. Assign backup members such as a “backup slide flipper” in case the primary loses Internet connectivity to the Live Event Manager (LEM).
- Create a team chat room. This is a great way to communicate in real-time with various sized production teams. Plus it makes for a great event log that can be saved for future viewing or just for your records in general.
- Create a technical team conference bridge for the tech support team, Technical Director, and Encoder Operator. This will help address technical issues quickly by being on the phone for immediate communication that chat rooms generally lack.
Between 1.5 - 2 hours prior to event start, run private tests with the production team.
Distribute the “bypass” preview URL to the production team. This will provide interface access to the actual event and bypass the Waiting Room. Do not Validate Streams yet, but go through the general operations within the Live Event Manager - changing slides, asking questions, etc.
Have the enoder operator start the stream. Preview the stream in the Live Event Manager to ensure that it is running.
Assign testers to launch the bypass URL to confirm core webcast interactive functionality.
- Audio / Video
Is the audio audible?
Make sure it’s not distorted
How is the video quality?
Is the bitrate a good balance between quality and performance?
Flip a few slides and have testers confirm in the chat room that they are changing.
Push a test poll - have testers confirm visibility and response tallies are coming through.
Have the testers submit test questions
Confirm receipt through the LEM
- Interface Control
Change the interface to slides only, video only, video + slides and confirm these work.
Once all core functionality features are confirmed, have the team take a break if there is enough time but make sure everyone is back 20 - 30 minutes prior to the event start.
Start the Event
It’s a good idea to start the event 10 - 15 minutes prior to event start to give users ample time to enter. Playing background music might be a good idea at this point.
Continue to monitor the live webcast on your end as it progresses and keep an eye on the Questions section for any technical questions that might come in.
When changing slides, make sure you are listening on the real-time conference call or that you are on-site with the presenters and video production crew. This is crucial so that everyone, including any remote presenters see their slides at the right moment and that there are no delays.
Ending the Event
Once the event is over, fade to music and wait 45 - 60 seconds before actually ending the event in the Live Event Editor. This will give any viewers who are on a bit of a delay a chance to catch up and prevent an abrupt ending for them.
For additional tips, see below.
Tips and Tricks for a Well-Executed Webcast
Producing a live webcast is both a science and an art. On one hand, you are making sure all technicalities like encoders, slides, and other interactive features are functioning properly. On the other, you are constantly coming up with clever ways to keep the audience engaged and making sure the presenters are keeping pace. There is a lot involved, and depending on your setup, can become quite complex with many moving parts that require a cohesive production team. Here are some tips and tricks to help you balance both the science and the art of live webcast production.
Before we begin
It’s important to understand the difference between a webcast and a web conference because their production requirements are quite different. A web conference is a virtual meeting meant for a small group of people where two-way conversation is more fitting (think WebEx / GoToMeeting). A webcast is a large, online broadcast where audience sizes can scale into the (hundreds of) thousands. Both have different levels of interactive features, which are mainly aligned to the size of the audience. Webcasts have bigger technical impact on networks due to the large audience sizes and video content and typically require more personnel to produce.
When you’re live, you’re live!
Make sure your presenters have their cell phones turned off and laptops muted. Keep an eye (or ear) on the audio sources to make sure that only the proper microphones are turned on. You don’t want the cringe-worthy “Am I live? Is this thing on?” to leak its way into your live stream.
Greet your audience, and provide instructions
Always greet your audience. It makes them feel like they’re in the room with you. Give them brief instructions on how to submit questions and where to get help if they experience technical difficulties. It’s also a good idea to create boilerplate slides with screenshots to go with your brief instructions.
Be smart about the presentation design and flow
A common mistake is to try and stuff as many bullet points into a single slide. It’s about quality, not quantity. If your audience wanted to read a Word document or an article, they would have gone somewhere else. I’ve seen webcasts with 100+ slides covering a multitude of topics that were more memorable and succinct than those with 10 slides stuffed with content that could have been spread out across more. Use larger font sizes. You don’t really need your logo on every slide and take it easy on the clip art!
Have a conversation
If you can avoid lecturing, please do. Have your presenters engage in a conversation about the topic(s) at hand – like a talk show or TV interview. It is much more engaging and often entices audience members to ask questions. Presenters are less likely to follow a script and the flow of the discussion will feel more natural. You’ll appear more genuine to the audience as well.
Before the live webcast as audience members start tuning in, make sure you’ve got some great music playing in the background on the stream. Be tasteful but don’t bore them to death either. Think something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXpIDh2TfHk
When the live webcast is about to end, fade in to the music and let it play out a bit more before you end the event. If you have a live audience on-site in the auditorium or studio, a shot of people walking around and leaving is usually good. You might also want to add a thank you slide or some other general instructions for event follow-up as the music plays. If you have event sponsors, this would be a good time to highlight them again.
The last thing you want is to have little to no questions when it’s time for Q&A. It usually results in an awkward silence and really interrupts the pace and flow of the webcast. Sometimes, the audience might be shy or they are just hesitant to post a question under their name (even though there might a “keep me anonymous” option.) To overcome this possibility, plan a few key questions that align with the presentation and stage them in advance. The general audience won’t know where the questions came from, and it usually helps break the ice.
Delegate tasks, keep open team communication
If your webcast is expecting a large audience, delegate specific roles to your production team members. One can be the Q&A moderator, another the slide flipper. Open a team chat and communicate there. It’s also a great way to keep log of the production in case there are any technical difficulties during the event.
Have backup ready
If you have the resources to execute fully redundant fail-over, do it. Have a backup or secondary encoder running streaming to redundant streaming servers. Also have backup personnel ready to fill-in in case of technical difficulties that a particular producer might be experiencing. Two seconds of black on a live event is a big deal – especially for large, high profile events.
Come up with a pre-event test plan
Always test the core functionalities of the webcast in advance of every live event – video/audio, slides, polling, Q&A, etc. Have your production team verify functionality as you go through your list. Think of this as a dress rehearsal. While that is happening, ensure that the presenters’ microphones are all working and that they’re looking good for the camera.
Follow up after the webcast
Chances are, the presenters won’t be able to answer every question that comes in during the live event. Try to provide responses to any unanswered questions even if by e-mail after the fact. Also, give your audience members a channel or method for submitting follow up questions – an e-mail address or a website form is a good idea.
Get audience feedback
How else will you know if your content is hitting home and if you are providing value? Don’t be afraid of any negative feedback – use them to improve the next go around. Use a survey or feedback form as the webcast is about to conclude or right after the webcast ends.
Don’t spam your registered audience
Keep the e-mail correspondence to a minimum. Provide a way for audience members to sign up / opt out of mailing lists and upcoming event reminders.
What makes enterprise video different from consumer video?
There was a time when enterprises were the first to create the next new trend that consumers subsequently adopted into mainstream. These days, it’s the complete opposite - enterprises want to adopt technologies that are popular in maintstream society. Social networking, wikis, now streaming video are among the chosen.
What enterprise decision makers need to know, however, is that there are critical factors to consider when adopting these technologies. For this post, I’ll focus on streaming video. Here are the top three key factors to consider when implementing video in your organization.
Securing video - a medium that is inherently social, something that is meant to be distributed and seen by many people, is kind of counter-intuitive. If a piece of information was absolutely confidential or sensitive, only a few people would know about it and enterprises surely would not broadcast this type of information out on video — right? The fact of the matter though is that enterprises expect to deliver confidential, sensitive information across the wire to a group of people that they trust. Workers are more and more geographically dispersed than ever and getting them information quickly and securely is just as crucial as if they were in the same room together. Live webcasting is now a critical part of business communications and making sure everything is secure is of the utmost importance - from the content all the way down the bits and bytes of the video itself.
Streaming video is a heavy strain on the network. Consumers have it easy in that sites like YouTube, Livestream, and Vimeo all take advantage of their own or a top tier Content Delivery Network provider to optimize the delivery of streams. It’s also much easier because the end users are more likely to be on high-speed Internet. In a private network within an enterprise, it’s much more complex:
- Global team distributed across hundreds of offices
- Limited bandwidth at global offices / sites
- Multiple service providers
- Congested VPN networks
- Firewall restrictions
- Streaming traffic coming from the Internet (unicast)
The above list highlights some of the main issues when delivering bandwidth-intensive video streams across an enterprise’s private network.
The biggest mistake enterprises make when implementing popular consumer features is forgetting to cultivate culture. For example, you cannot deploy a new social media application unless your organization has within it a culture of sharing and collaboration. If this doesn’t exist, the application will just sit there and rot. For streaming video, a culture of communication and openness is crucial. Presenters must display a level of comfort and casual demeanor on camera. Employees must be encourages to provide feedback and ask questions. Are you allowing your employees to contribute their own videos? If so, a sharing and collaboration culture must also be vibrant and accepted.
Take these 3 key factors to heart when making decisions about streaming video in your organization and the chances of success will increase dramatically.