Conference Live Streaming

Posting pictures after an event can engage your attendees once they return home, but what about engaging a larger audience—both present and remote—during your event? Here are some sites/apps that make it easier than ever to broadcast events, like major announcements, keynotes, breakout sessions, and panel discussions.

Periscope (Twitter)

Periscope LogoIf you’re on Twitter then you might have seen or heard of Periscope, an app that connects with Twitter to broadcast live video from from a smartphone, GoPro, or even a drone. Named the Apple App Store’s Best App of 2015, Periscope reinvigorated social platforms to focus on live content and even classify it higher in their algorithms. According to their website, Periscope is “the closest thing to teleportation” available.

Audience feedback can be sent to the content creator in real time via comments and heart images, which disappear after a few moments after appearing in the lower, right-hand corner of the video. Moderation of chat spam and abuse is managed by the audience watching each broadcast. Videos can either be saved indefinitely (now the default) or automatically deleted 24 hours hours after broadcast.

How to use Periscope for a speaker session:

  • Send out a tweet letting people know that you are broadcasting live. (Be sure to use the conference/session topic or location in the title of your broadcast).
  • Respond to in-app audience questions as they are asked, or write them down and have the speaker answer them at the end of the session.

Facebook Live

facebook-live-logo-vector-download-400x400Leave it to Facebook to quickly adopt a social trend and work incredibly hard to outdo other platforms. With Facebook Live, you can broadcast from your phone and your friends can comment and react using Facebook Reactions that slide across your video. Once you go live on Facebook, the platform’s algorithm places your video at the top of your friends’ news feeds, which can be huge for your live content and page. Once you end your live streaming session the video will be available for playback on the profile page of the account you used to film. You can even “boost” the video after it has been posted to increase views, likes, and comments.

How to get the most out of Facebook Live:

  • Thank users as they join and try to answer as many comments as possible.
  • Include as many social-media influencers into your stream as possible (with interviews, Q&A with live viewers, networking session footage, etc.) and tag them.
  • Use your conference hashtag in the title of the broadcast.
  • Keep it shorter. Facebook prioritizes live video higher in their news-feed algorithm, so unlike Periscope, many of your viewers probably were not expecting to see your content when they signed on. Keep it short to keep their attention.

Youtube Connect (Google)

YouTubeYouTube has been the internet’s video giant for years. Owned by Google, it makes sense for them to get in on all the live-broadcasting action. Live broadcasting is definitely not new on YouTube (it’s been available to certain users since 2011), but Google has been working to build out increased live streaming functionality for its app to compete with Periscope and others. This app update has not yet been released, but many are counting on it to up the ante for other live streaming apps.

How to increase engagement using YouTube:

  • Classify your videos into public playlists per conference/event.
  • You can record for longer periods of time on YouTube and still maintain viewership (unlike Facebook).
  • Embed the video into your own website.

We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to live-streaming products, focusing on the ones we think will get you the highest engagement for your time and energy. There are plenty of other apps out there, though, many of which might be a better fit. Leave a comment and share with us if you use something else that has brought you great results or have additional questions about live streaming.

Making the Best of a PR Disaster

We all hope to avoid PR issues when planning a large conference or event. Although we hate to admit it, some things are out of our control and even the best-laid plans can go awry. We might find ourselves having worked on an event for years, only to get blindsided by a controversy, like union strikes or North Carolina’s recent HB2 legislation, which forbids LGBT anti-discrimination protections. Amid all the uproar, meeting organizers can suddenly find themselves having to choose between moving a meeting or taking a hit on attendance.

It is understandable that organizers are worried about attendance. In response to HB2, a handful of states and localities have announced bans on non-essential travel for employees to North Carolina. Such bans probably won’t affect most types of events, but for events that rely heavily on public-sector attendees, like the Bus & Paratransit Conference of the American Public Transit Association (APTA), the effects could be huge.

Official travel bans may not be an organizer’s only worry. High Point Market, the state’s largest annual economic event, stated in a press release that the law meant "hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April", causing "significant economic damage to High Point Market and the North Carolina economy."

Neither APTA nor High Point Market can relocate their meeting—APTA for contractual reasons and High Point Market for geographical reasons. Other groups, however, have decided to take that route. The Charlotte News & Observer reported that as of April 21, over 20 groups had dropped plans for holding meetings in the city. (One group, B Lab, has provided an insightful accounting of the process they used to come to their decision.)

Whether deciding to move your event or stay put, here are some Pro Tips to help you handle a PR disaster that threatens to affect attendance:

  • Acknowledge the issue. It is unprofessional to bury your head in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong. Make a public statement acknowledging the situation, apologizing when necessary, and explaining what actions have been and will be taken in response.
  • Clarify your position. If your business or organization has an official position on the issue—even if that position is neutrality—state it clearly. If the issue is important enough to your organization or attendees, consider taking a more active role supporting allied organizations and/or encouraging attendees to do the same.
  • Focus on what change you can control. If possible, work with the event venue to get around the controversy—for example, by making bathrooms gender-neutral—even if just for your event.
  • Support those who can’t attend. If the purpose of your event is information distribution or creative exchange, then consider how you can do so via the internet. Consider bolstering your online content by live streaming, live blogging, and live tweeting sessions and keynotes. Webinars and podcasts are also good options. (Note that podcasts can be offered for free or for a download fee.) All these options allow for information distribution to still occur even if your physical attendance is lower than originally anticipated. If membership is a focus, offer it and benefits at a promotional rate during the conference and for a short time before/after online to incentivize new memberships. You could also offer additional online content throughout the event in a “member only” section of your website for those who cannot participate in person.

We would love to hear from you about additional strategies for maintaining good face in light of a PR disaster. Has your association or business been affected by a controversy that was beyond its control? Share your experiences or ideas in the comments.

Using Emojis

If you’ve received a text message recently, chances are pretty high it included an emoji. Emojis, which evolved from the simple emoticon, have become so popular that the Oxford English Dictionary named the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji (?) its 2015 “word” of the year. (One of the main reasons they cited was a dramatic increase in the use of emojis.)

Facebook Reactions

The emoji has even taken over social-media platforms. Facebook has long had a “Like” button, allowing users to easily react to posts without having to type comments. However, users have long requested a “Dislike” button for content that they don’t feel comfortable liking. Rather than just add a “Dislike” option, Facebook chose to include the more expansive Facebook Reactions (right). Facebook has allowed stickers in their Messenger product for a long time, but the launch of Reactions has started a shift in the user experience.

On Twitter, branded hashtag emojis are gaining a lot of traction with both brands and users. (For those who don’t know, a branded emoji is added to a tweet by using a specific hashtag.) Twitter made these extremely popular when they automatically added #StarWarsEmojis to people’s tweets when “Starwars: The Force Awakens” was released. Twitter has also had success with branded emojis for the #AMAs. The platform saw an extreme increase in online engagement for both topics, all because they incorporated emojis.

So can emojis help an association better engage members? Absolutely! AssociationsNow has blogged about how emojis can help associations with advocacy work and having conversations about diversity. Emojis are also a perfect way to engage millennials.

Here are some tips for using emojis as part of your association’s social-media strategy:

  • Use emojis in Facebook posts and tweets, either to convey emotion (?) or to save space (like using ? instead of the word “calendar” or ❤️ in place of “love”).
  • Start associating an emoji with your organization. For example, ? could be used for the Financial Planning Association and ☕️ for the National Coffee Association.
  • Don’t overwhelm your readers with emojis. A good rule of thumb is to use three or fewer. Emojis are all about simplicity, so keep it short and sweet.
  • Sneak them into “real life” at your events—on stickers, keychains, or other “swag”, or by making them edible (think cookies, cakes, cupcakes, suckers, etc.).

One small note: Emojis can appear slightly different across platforms, so what you see on a Mac might not be exactly the same on an Android or Windows product.

Take a minute and share with us the emoji you think works best for your association. Remember to keep it short and sweet!

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Charts & Graphs

Charts are charts, right? Wrong.

You have a lot of decisions to make when creating a chart, most of which seem benign. But some of those decisions can make a critical difference between providing insight into the underlying data and causing the reader to draw the wrong conclusions.

To illustrate just three of the ways charts can be made to be misleading, check out Ravi Parikh post on How to Lie with Data Visualization over at Heap’s Data Blog.

New Merge Fields in Messaging Module

Three new merge fields are now available in the Messaging Module:

  • proposal.id, which displays the ID for each proposal.
  • proposal.datetime, which displays the date/time assigned to each proposal in the Scheduling Module. (If no date/time is assigned for a proposal, the system displays “N/A”.)
  • proposal.location, which displays the location assigned to each proposal in the Scheduling Module. (If no location is assigned to a proposal, the system displays “N/A”.)

Check out our help area for a list of all merge fields.

If you have any suggestions for other fields you would like to include in your messages, just let us know!

Think Like Your Attendees

Dave Lutz, over at the Midcourse Corrections blog, lays out six really good ways to improve your conference committee.

Here at ProposalSpace, we always try to see things through the eyes of our users, so we especially liked his recommendation to “Walk in the attendee’s shoes”:

Many conference committees evaluate potential sessions and speakers using more information than the attendees will see. Attendees make the decision to attend based on session title, session description, and learning objectives. Embrace a blind review process. It will help eliminate personal agendas and challenge the committee to evaluate the program as a paying attendee would.

Crowdsource, Curate, or Combo?

The most common model for selecting presenters for educational conferences is pretty straightforward:

  1. Announce a call for proposals (or call for papers, call for abstracts, call for speakers, etc.)
  2. Collect proposals
  3. Have a committee of volunteers review the proposals
  4. Select presentations based on the reviews
  5. Build a session program that accommodates the selections

Although the process works for the vast majority of meetings, it’s hard to argue that it can’t be improved.

One suggestion we’ve noticed recently is to open the process up to crowdsourcing. Basically, the idea is to leverage the power of social media by turning over the selection (and possibly scheduling) tasks to attendees. For a more detailed explanation, see Michelle Bruno’s post at TSNN.

Another suggestion, seemingly at odds with crowdsourcing, is to have a curator manage the selection and scheduling tasks. The idea here is that conferences, like museum exhibits or other curated collections, are far more effective if the content is carefully selected and organized to “tell a story” to attendees. For more information, see Jeff Hurt’s post on Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections blog.

So which is it? Crowdsourcing obviously works for larger conferences, like SXSW, but does it also work for smaller meetings with more focused content? And how about curating? Does it work for every type of conference or only for those that can be organized around a clear theme? How about a hybrid? Is it possible (or even desirable) to combine the two into a single model?

Strategies for New & Return Attendees

Jeff Hurt recently posted something on Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Correction blog that caught our attention. Basically, he points out how past attendees and prospective attendees employ different criteria when deciding whether to attend your conference and recommends unique marketing strategies for the two groups.

Past attendees are already biased in your favor (assuming they found your event valuable). They know what your conference is all about. You just need to remind them of the experience and demonstrate how the next conference can build on it.

Prospective attendees, on the other hand, are typically biased against you. They need to know why your event is different from other conferences competing for their time and money. Your challenge with them is trust. And who better to build trust than past attendees? Make your previous attendees your “salespeople” by giving them the tools they need to promote your event and ways for prospective attendees to connect with them.

Something similar could be said of presenters. You have two audiences—past presenters and prospective presenters—with distinct sets of needs. Your communications strategy should reflect those needs.

Past presenters already understand the value of presenting at your conference. You don’t need to sell them on the benefits. They are more concerned with the process. Make it clear to them that the process will be as easy—or easier—than the last time.

Prospective presenters don’t care so much about the process. They don’t have a point of reference, so it’s all new to them. For them, your focus should be on the benefits of presenting.

You already understand that attendees and presenters have different needs and tailor your marketing and communications strategies accordingly. So why not do the same for loyal and prospective participants? Their needs may overlap, but they are not identical. As Jeff puts it, “Segmented marketing strategies work.”

New Feature: Session Publishing  

Our new Publishing Module lets you publish your conference’s session information—including supporting materials—on any website.

Conference organizers can:

  • Assign dates, times and locations to sessions.
  • Select which information gets displayed for each session and for each person in the session.
  • Embed the session information in any website with a single line of code.

Authors can:

  • Attach documents to their sessions for attendees to download.

Attendees can:

  • Search for sessions by keyword.
  • Sort sessions by title, date/time, and location.

The best part? Any change you make in ProposalSpace shows up immediately on your website.