At Marketri, we make it a point to consistently re-evaluate how we serve our clients. We start with a proactive plan, of course, but it’s also important to stay nimble, flexible and stay connected with clients’ needs as they are today — which may be a bit different from six months ago. In keeping up with this process of staying connected with clients and identifying new needs, we’ve found that many clients struggled with the same sort of issues. In an effort to address our clients’ common needs in a cost effective way, we’ve begun offering monthly webinar training sessions that walk clients through how to deal with each challenge.

We are also great fans of video marketing, especially for making a personal connection with an audience you might not know so well. Video production can range from very quick and inexpensive to a much larger production (and everywhere in between). Typically, videos need some sprucing up in the way of editing, b-roll, and possibly even a musical score.

Well, what if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? Be able to conduct training sessions live over the web, but also be able to connect visually, rather than just a voice-over without a lot of editing and production? There is!

My colleague, Debbie Andrews, was recently invited by Environmental Data Resources, Inc. (EDR) to present In-Bound Marketing: The New “In” Thing for Environmental Professionals to an audience of environmental engineering professionals. It wasn’t simply a webinar — where the audience sees just the slides. Rather, they were able to see Debbie,her motions, and her expressions, as well as a split screen view of which showed the slide material.

Live Video webinars Break Down Geographic Boundaries and Create More Engaging Presentations.

We were intrigued by this whole process since it seemed so simple yet effective and more engaging than:

A) a webinar where the audience doesn’t actually get a chance to “meet” the speaker.

B) a pre-taped video where the audience gets to “meet”  the speaker only in a one-sided way.

I spoke to Joe Pitkin, EDR’s eContent & eMarketing Manager to get some more insight on the technology and his overall experience with using it.

Stay on the cutting edge– and have fun! Joe told me that EDR decided to try live video webinars because it’s important to try out new technologies and new ways to connect with people, and simply stand out from the crowd — but also, it’s a fun way to do that!

Build a personal connection. Joe noted that the most important advantage of live video webinars is that the audience can put a face with a name and really get to know you. This is especially important for professional services professionals. Adding the video component allows the audience to not only learn something new, but connect with the presenter on a personal level. I can’t stress enough how important it is to remember that people are more likely to do business with those they know, like and trust. This is a definite way to build credibility in all of those areas.

Just how difficult is this? How do you get started?

Gear up (just a short list of fairly inexpensive technical equipment). Again, I got some insight from Joe on the overall technology. First, you will need a service that enables live video events. You can use a video channel platform such as Ustream (EDR uses this) or webex  to host streaming video for online events. A list of suggested equipment, with links to more ingormation about each, is bleow. As a small company, we already have many of these items, so obtaining the equipment listed here is definitely not unachievable even for smaller entities.

Familiarize with the technology. According to Joe, the setup is pretty straight forward, though it does require a bit of comfort with the technology and concepts of broadcast video. However, for those slightly tech-savvy, once you review the equipment instructions and test the equipment to get in the swing of things, it’s not that much harder than setting up a traditional webEx event. My suggestion for those less experienced with the equipment is to look at instructional  videos on YouTube for the pieces you don’t understand. Also, if you’d like to train someone in-house, we’ve had success with finding local freelance experts on LinkedIn to spend a few hours training a staff member. It’s really a small investment for equipment you will use over and over.

An experienced, tech-savvy professional may be able to handle both production and running the camera, but if you are still experimenting and still getting comfortable, it’s wise to have 2 people to run the show on the technology side.

Experiment with different builds/types of shots. Using the Wirecast software, you can set up different types of shots (or “builds”); one build might be a view of the slides themselves only; another would be a wider shot showing the instructor’s body language; a third type of build would be a split screen showing both the speaker and the slides. You can set these up in advance and then switch to the most applicable shot during the live event.

Familiarize with the presentation material.  It’s important to participate in practice sessions and become familiar with the presentation material, especially for those who are inexperienced with the technology and equipment. With practice, you can learn to anticipate at what points you may want to switch to different types of shots.

Edit the broadcast. There’s actually little to no post-production editing needed, since Wirecast software allows you to build the elements (zoom, split screen, other effects) during the broadcast, as you need them. But, what if there’s a mishap that you’d like to cut out?  Ustream (or other service) allows you to download an mp4 file that you can edit just like any other video.

Some Key Best Practices

Any other tips?  Of course!  Joe says one of the most important things he does is, “preach the 7 Ps almost daily: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!” In addition, he also noted the following key best practices:

  1. The best formula for success, as with any technology, is to test it extensively and become comfortable.
  2. Make sure you have a back up plan in place in case of any technical glitch.
  3. After the show, jot down a couple notes on things that went well or could have been improved, and review them before the next event.

Think you’re up to the challenge of trying out a new technology?  Would like to try it out but have some questions? Or maybe you’ve already had experience with live webinars and would like to add some tips! Either way, we’d love to hear your feedback!