The Costs to Live Stream

At every conference I produce, I am asked “is it live streaming?” and generally get complaints when it is not.  I seem to be in the minority in feeling that live streaming is more a cost then a benefit to a conference and should generally be avoided, with a few exceptions.  That said, I would love to hear both attendees’ and organizers’ opinions on this, as I know many seem to disagree.

WHY NOT TO LIVE STREAM:

1)  It is NOT free to do. Attendees always tell me about UStream, LiveStream and Justin.tv and say “but it’s free!  Why not?”  It isn’t free.  To bring in the exclusive bandwidth a live stream can take at a massive show that already has 400+ attendees can cost up to $1k.  Then people complain if quality is low, because it’s being shot from a webcam, so it’s another $5oo+ to get a videographer and all the equipment to do it well.

2)  People complain more. If I say I’m planning to live stream the show, and then the stream goes down, or the quality isn’t great, all people do is complain on twitter.  I’ve noticed SIGNIFICANTLY less complains at shows that flat out don’t have a stream than at shows that are supposed to and it’s low quality or going down.

3)  It can devalue ticket prices. Sure, I am producing my shows for the community: to increase communication between groups and facilitate deals and problem-solving.  But I also produce conferences to make money.  If you know you can sit at work and watch my conference for free and ask questions via twitter, are you going to buy a pass?  Okay, you might, but your neighbor won’t.  I think it makes the conference feel less exclusive and a lower value.

I don’t generally live stream my shows, and discourage my clients from it as well, and now you know why.  However, there are a few exceptions for shows and situations that SHOULD live stream.

WHEN TO LIVE STREAM:

1)  Eyes mean more than cash. You’re a company trying to raise brand awareness in the industry, or an individual using the event to promote your services.  You are not worried about making money but instead getting eyeballs.  Then DEFINITELY live stream.  For example, I will live stream my FailChats.  The very goal of these is to promote FailCon: to get people excited about the topic and raise awareness for the show.  I want as many people watching them as possible.  AND the venue I am using can live stream for free.  So yes, I will live stream.  This is also why I think it makes sense that TechCrunch streams their shows.

2)  You have a significant sponsor. Someone is branding your live stream and paying you to have it done.  Great, then I do agree, why not?  But do NOT take a low sponsorship for this.  Once you have a sponsor, you pretty much MUST get paid videographers and good bandwidth to insure a good product, or risk losing that relationship.

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Comments

Totally agree. In most cases, it’s enough to have a hashtag so people can follow along on Twitter — in fact, that’s often much better than a livestream, since everyone can join in.

Great timing, I’m dealing with this very issue right now after a big snafu at our last event (non-moderated chat room that went along with the stream went haywire, to put it nicely). I totally agree with you not streaming, specifically because of your point #3: cuts into actual event attendance and devalues the experience. Yes, I believe in supporting the social media community with free and valuable content, that’s why we keep our event costs extremely low and no one is turned away for lack of funds. But even with videographers who volunteer their time and equipment, we constantly deal with quality issues… yes, nothing’s for free. Great point about streaming in order to get more eyeballs and/or promote other events, guess there could be cases for streaming.
Thanks for a great post!
@alyce

Hey Mujer… I don’t think your conferences/events should be streamed live over the internet.
The whole point of the event is to bring certain people together, right?
On the other hand, like other people mentioned, there could be that one company or group of people who can’t attend in person, but are willing to pay a premium for the opportunity to be a part (remotely) of the event. In those cases, you could make it work and transfer the costs directly to the interested party.

I found an interesting blog about this matter.
Perhaps, you’ve read it already. If not, it could shed some light on your predicament… hopefully. (it’s old, though)

http://wingolog.org/archives/2006/07/07/so-you-want-to-stream-a-conference

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