Help! I’ve been asked to explore doing a webcast of our upcoming manager’s retreat and I don’t know anything about the technology. Can you shed some light on what a webcast is and how to do one?
Let’s answer the question of what a webcast is by turning to our good friends at Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, “A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially webcasting is ‘broadcasting audio, video and images over the Internet.’”
While some larger companies may elect to purchase a turnkey system that allows them to produce their own webcasts, for most companies, there is no need to go out and buy a television studio or audio, video or encoding equipment to do a webcast. Economically, it usually makes more sense to work with a webcast supplier, who can help you with everything you need.
There are three main components to any webcast.
Component 1 is determining what type of viewer experience you want to provide your audience. There are four types of viewer experiences: audio only; video only; audio with synchronized slides; and video with synchronized slides. Each offers its own price points, pluses, minuses and overall experience. You must factor in your budget, your message and the goals of your management team in determining which format to choose.
Component 2 is the audio, visual and staging elements common to all live events. Whether you are broadcasting from the executive suite or the largest ballroom in North America, you need to determine the type of microphones, mixers, cameras, lighting, etc., you will need to make your event look and sound great. We suggest you work with your local audio-visual or webcasting supplier to select the equipment that will best meet your needs.
Component 3 involves encoding the audio and/or video and sending the signal out over the internet. In order to broadcast your signal via the internet, the audio and video feeds must be connected to an encoding computer, which will be outfitted with encoding software, such as Microsoft’s Windows Media Encoder or Adobe’s Flash Encoder. The encoding computer will then convert the signals and send them over the internet.
At minimum, you will need a hard-wired internet connection, but depending on the format and complexity of your webcast, you may need multiple high-speed connections, with static IP addresses, etc. Because of this, when selecting a site, if there is any chance you may do a webcast, be sure to ask the facility about connectivity.
Because technology is complex and changes rapidly, working with a qualified provider can facilitate tremendous savings of both time and money, while still allowing an organization the ability to effectively deliver important messages.