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Live Streaming in the Time of Coronavirus

Thursday, March 19, 2020

By Tim Altbaum

In the wake of the current global health environment, businesses and individuals have been severely impacted. With trade slowing, cities experiencing lockdown and everybody on high alert, industries that rely on drawing massive crowds are struggling. Business conferences, concerts, lectures and more are being canceled or, ideally, rescheduled to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

As someone within the events industry, you’re tasked to come up with an out-of-the-box virtual solution to keep your event running. Thankfully, one technology in particular stands as a ring buoy in the turmoil tides of global health: live streaming.

Keeping Your Event Live With Live Streaming

While live streaming may have been on your radar only peripherally before, now it should take center stage. Live streaming allows attendees — speakers, businesses and guests — to tune in virtually and experience all that the event has to offer.

To provide the right amount of engagement, you can’t just stick a camera in the corner; attendees need to feel like they’re in the actual space! That means offering:

  • Freedom to virtually move around (change cameras, see different event spaces)
  • Ability to interact (chat, submit questions to speakers, etc.)
  • Watch and rewatch parts of the event (playback options)

With these goals in mind, you’ll need to prepare accordingly.

Setting Up Your Event Space and the Challenges of Live Streaming

To begin, there are two primary challenges that event planners need to be cognizant of:

  • How can a remote presenter conference in from their home or office instead of being live at the event?
  • If guests are unable to attend but have already paid for the conference, how can you allow them to remotely tune in and live stream the event?

Remote Presenter

With video platforms (like Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.), a remote presenter can connect to your general session room. To have the bandwidth for proper audio and video, this would require a hardline connection of 10Mb upload and download speeds minimum. 

Assuming your presenter has a webcam (on their laptop, for example), you can present their live video image on the bottom corner of the main presentation screen, with the majority of the screen showing the PowerPoint slide (which can be streamed through the in-house laptop). To do this:

  1. Set the primary show laptop to mirror a second laptop’s display and a duplicate of what’s going out to the main screens.
  2. Connect that second laptop to the Zoom/Hangouts meeting, so the presenter at home can see what the audience sees. 
  3. For this to work, the presenter will need to say “Next Slide” to help control the flow of slides in the room.

This option would require both software and hardware, including:

  • Zoom/Hangouts account, which is either free or up to $40/month
  • Two laptops, which event organizers like Vario can provide
  • A Perfect Cue wireless presenter, which has two USB outs to control two laptops at the same time
  • Miscellaneous adapters/devices
  • A moderator to manage the external connections. 
  • Network switch to allow two laptops to use one hardline connection

Remote Attendee

Depending on whether you want to go with a free live stream service or a paid option, you can use a video platform like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Vimeo Enterprise, UStream, etc. The goal is to have the end user experience the conference as if they were there, which means a multicamera feed is ideal.

Again, this would require a hardline connection (with 10Mb up/down minimum).

To have the best show possible, you will need to invest in:

  • Multiple cameras that feed into a video switcher
  • Broadcast video switcher
  • Live stream show laptop
  • Miscellaneous adapters/devices
  • Video broadcast technician

The video switcher would allow the technician to toggle between camera angles and the PowerPoint slides to offer picture-in-picture and full screen views to the remote viewer. They will also be able to view the stream of questions that remote attendees send in and can coordinate with the speaker for Q&A segments. This accessibility is what gives the virtual attendee a great experience at home. 

Be aware that the challenges you might experience will be specific to the platform selected. If you have never utilized these live streaming platforms before, it’s crucial you have someone experienced at the helm, handling all the potential problems: broadcasting issues, playback errors, connection issues — any of these can result in a poor viewing experience. 


Read the full article about the benefits of live streaming at Vario’s blog.

As the situation evolves, ILEA is sharing the most up-to-date collection of COVID-19 resources for ILEA members and all live events professionals. View the resources on the ILEA website. 

Tim Altbaum is CEO of Vario, a premiere event production and technology company servicing clients who are looking for a trusted and reliable resource to provide all pre-production planning, A/V and event technology needs. He is a former board member of NACE and MPI and was awarded Community Leader of the Year by MPI. He actively contributes to other professional organizations, as well as holds CSEP, CMP, HMCC and CMM designations. As a special event producer and technology junkie, he is constantly striving to bring new and innovative experiences to the meetings and events he manages. This includes staying ahead of the trends by utilizing state-of-the-art equipment, partnering with tech-forward companies that are the best in their fields, and taking proven techniques and applying them in new ways. His diverse knowledge set includes expertise in experiential marketing, projection mapping, holograms, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

This article was submitted by ILEA member Shayna Johnson, senior sales manager for Vario and ILEA San Diego President.

Tags: event planning , trade show , live events , events , conference