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Job Title: Webcasting Event Manager

By Julius Solaris
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Few weeks ago, someone at the Social Media Club, of which I am a proud member, informed me that one of my favorites, Seth Godin, would have participated to a webcast the following week. I checked out the website and I was impressed.
I noticed that this was some form of digital conference, delivered via Real Player with no fees, which gave you access to a discounted copy of his latest great book. I registered and enjoyed the event. It was great.

I was so satisfied that I decided to interview the guys who organized it.

This is definitely a trend in event planning and management. I can see a lot of us in the near future setting up servers instead of buffets.Our profession is changing fast, maybe more rapidly than you think...

You guys know that I do not host any advertisement on this blog, on this instance I allowed ON24 to link back as much as they wanted to their website because they served me a great opportunity to hear Seth live and for free. Moreover, I am convinced you'll find great information in the following answers.

Sourabh Kothari is Principal Strategist, Webcasting and Rich Media, for ON24. Sourabh is responsible for overseeing ON24's client services support group and providing counsel to clients regarding their webcasting programs.

- Tell us the difference between a webcast and a web conference.

That's a good question. Many people confuse webcasting with web conferencing. The main difference is the technology.

Web conferencing is a presentation that requires the use of a phone line or conference bridge for the audio. This is great for a small meeting when you want more collaboration. The challenge is when you start having larger audiences because you can experience a disconnect with the audio you hear and what you see on the computer screen.

With webcasting, the audio and video are encoded and streamed over the Internet. A phone line or conference bridge can be used to augment the audio stream. The advantage of webcasting is when you're planning an online event. The technology can scale from a few people to thousands without impacting audio and/or video quality. You are also able to sync the audio with what you see on the computer.

We have more information on our website about differences between a webcast and web conference .

- What is the role of event managers in both?

In both web conferencing and webcasting an event manager is tasked with coordinating, communicating, and facilitating the execution of a successful event. However, due to the added capabilities available in webcasting the role of an event manager can be much more involved than that in web conferencing.

Over the years, ON24 has developed many best practices and exceptional capabilities that clients can use to maximize their value from webcasting. Our event managers work closely with our clients to incorporate these tools into the client's overall marketing strategy.

Examples include assisting clients set up lead generation in their registration and showing clients how our platform can score each registrant's responses so the client can effectively follow up on these leads after the webcast. We also assist clients in the logistics of complex webcast set ups where we may be delivering live audio to certain audience members but live video to others. Alternatively, our event managers may need to arrange for a webcast to be delivered real-time in multiple languages, with the ability to translate live questions and answers. Or our event managers may need to work with our clients to incorporate their media from other platforms that can be used during a live webcast (i.e. a television advertisement).

In effect, ON24's event managers are involved in every aspect of our client's marketing strategy surrounding their webcast. In webcasting, an event manager's commitment to a webcast begins well before the live event date and continues as long as the archived presentation is made available.

- What are the benefits of choosing the webcast format for our next event?

There are a number of benefits for choosing a webcast format for your next event.

First of all, a well-planned registration process will help you drive qualified, interested audience members to your webcast. This will not only generate greater ROI from your webcast, but it will also enrich the live webcast itself as questions from the audience will be more specific about your company and/or the topic being presented.

Secondly, the ability to scale to thousands of simultaneous audience members on a webcast does not translate to a loss of personal interaction. You can respond to each individual audience member's questions, and even engage him or her in a dialogue by responding to follow-up questions individually or using their questions to engage the entire audience.

Thirdly, registrants that were unable to attend the live webcast can experience the presentation with all its interactive components for themselves at a later date through your archived presentation. ON24 offers multiple formats for archived presentations, including audio and video podcasts. You can effectively communicate your message (and generate new leads) long after your live presentation has ended.

This is why we launched our Insight24 last year. Insight24 is a B2B directory of webcasts, videos and podcasts in over 32 business and technology categories. Companies can post their archived content for free, which increases impression marketing. If they want to generate leads, then the companies would partner with Insight24 for a lead generation program.

And finally, one unique benefit available through webcasting is the ability to do "live" presentations when your key speakers are unavailable. Much like network television, a webcast can be recorded, edited, and prepared to be presented to an audience on a specific "live" date. This allows our clients to present to audiences across the world without having to make themselves available. Many clients have local representatives answer questions real-time to complete the live experience for the audience.

- How do you ensure interactivity?

There are two key factors that can really help increase interactivity with audience members.

The first is to incorporate interactive tools right into your presentation. An easy way to do this is by using real-time polls. With ON24 webcasts, you can tally real-time results for your polls and share them with your audience to present specifically about their responses. We find that the number of respondents that answer poll questions increases significantly after results from the first poll are shared with the audience.

The second is to incorporate a reward for the audience's interactivity. Most audiences respond extremely well to rewards. This can be something as simple as a free iPod given away by lottery to those who respond to your survey. We have found that even a simple reward increases the amount of interactivity from audience members dramatically.

Ultimately, most webcast participants want to interact with your presentation. It's important to take an active lead in incorporating them into the presentation, instead of just pushing elements out to them hoping they will respond. Much like a teacher in a college classroom, lecturing for 45 minutes will not invite as many questions as an interactive discussion with opportunities for the audience to get involved.

- How would you use webcasts to generate leads?

Webcasting is a natural fit for lead generation. Most of our clients use our tools for precisely this purpose. Lead generation with webcasting begins well before the live event and continues well after the last live participant has logged off from your presentation. Let's look at the individual tools available to help our customers generate better leads.

It all begins with registration. ON24 allows its customers the ability to use any registration elements as a mechanism to sort the quality of their leads. For example, if a certain registration question exposes greater interest in our client's products or services, our clients can rank responses to that question in order of importance.

The second part of lead generation is the tracking of actions taken by a participant during the live webcast. Scores can be assigned to each action that demonstrates greater interest in our client's message. ON24 provides tools that can score every individual question on a survey or poll, or assign an overall score for simply responding. This allows our customers to plant loaded questions in their surveys that clearly demonstrate demand for their services/products. Favorable responses to such questions can boost a participant's "lead score" significantly, putting them in the top-tier of leads to be contacted.

One of ON24's most powerful lead generation tools is the ability to amalgamate leads from multiple webcasts into one report so our clients can determine if their lead generation efforts are producing better leads over time, or if they need to adjust their marketing strategy. Over time, this can build a very comprehensive list of leads whose scores are standardized across all their webcasts.

And as I mentioned earlier, Insight24 completes the circle by extending the shelf-life of existing webcasts, videos and podcast for impression marketing and lead generation.

- What is your webcast toolkit made of? Any particular technology or infrastructure?

ON24 has a full suite of webcasting and rich media marketing solutions for planning, scheduling and holding online video and audio events.

First, all of our solutions are based on our robust webcasting platform, which enable us to deliver webcasting as a service. This means no software downloads or plug-ins are needed to use our webcasting platform. This is easier for audience members and easier for event managers.

Second, our vision is to provide 99.999% uptime for all online events. To achieve this, we deployed a second data center in September 2007. This enables us to scale events from hundreds to thousands of attendees quickly while providing reliable quality.

Third, our platform has a robust reporting backend, which is key for event managers. You can see how many people registered, attended, how long they stayed, and the questions they ask. Another component is our media tracker capability. You can assign a code to specific marketing programs and evaluate how well they did in driving people to your event. If one campaign is doing better, you can make real-time decisions to change your marketing spend.

And finally, we have a great professional services team. Our team assists companies with their events from training, managing and troubleshooting.

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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