Webcasting Approaches Maturity

We're now squarely standing on the stepping stones of a new era of corporate communications.

Not that long ago, if a business wanted to communicate to a large group of people who were geographically dispersed, the only choice was pre-ordered, expensive, operator-assisted call services that were complicated to set up. It was possible to send data or decks by a separate method, but only at the cost of security and synchronization. More subtly, the nonverbal cues that scientists estimate make up over 50 percent of communication were lost.

With globalization and the rise in telecommuting, webcasting has stepped in to better fill these needs. The ability to deliver not just audio but also slides, screencasts, and related documents revolutionize the way information is conveyed by the modern enterprise. A second revolution came from the capability to add HD video. The ability to read body language makes it possible to engage with corporate communications on a personal level not seen before. Live video is increasingly seen as elemental and expected.

But the Internet video revolution has only begun. A new generation of technologies is opening up new opportunities across the board for businesses looking to make their communications more personal and more effective. What are some of the big use cases that are emerging for live video and webcasting?

Internal Communications
Now that so many team members are working internationally and remotely, talking to the team is no longer a matter of rounding up the office. Webcasting is being increasingly used for townhalls and CEO chats, uniting far-flung teams.

External Corporate Communications
Perhaps one of the big turning points that proved the value of live video was Marissa Meyers' 2013 investors briefing. Instead of the traditional mass conference, Yahoo! chose to broadcast a live video stream of their earnings report. The report itself was unremarkable; the format was in the eyes of the press, ground-breaking. This show of power created enormous buzz in the community. Many have since opted to copy-cat Marissa, and not hide behind their desk phones. It's not just investor relations, of course. Externally, it can add power and personality to everything from product launches to press announcements.

Virtual Events

One particularly interesting use case is the virtual conference. Instead of attending conferences in person--an expensive endeavor both in terms of travel costs and lost time to organizers and participants--conference-goers are increasingly joining virtual conferences. Attendees can easily
tune in for just the sessions they're most interested in, from the convenience of their desks. If they missed a session, they can go back to the recording. Virtual events can provide a great experience for a fraction of the cost, and as research shows, can allow for more than a 100 percent increase in the audience size. Recent examples include Blizzard's gaming conference that was broadcast live, and Apple's WWDC.

But in the future, we won't be limited to just one-to-many communications through webcasting platforms. Webcasting won't just be for CEOs making announcements to the company at large, but for division managers and general managers and further through the ranks. Eventually, the few-to-few communication of web conferencing (like Webex or GoToMeeting) will converge with the one-to-many mode of webcasting that can engage an audience of hundreds of thousands of people. Corporate communications will increasingly be characterized by two-way live interactions with global audiences.

But we're not there yet. Right now, when managers want to talk to 500 people or even 100 people at once, video conferencing is unwieldy. Meanwhile, the latency built into webcasting means that webcasting for smaller groups is not a great fit, because it does not provide video feedback from the audience to the speaker. Until now, webcasting has been best suited for big, one-off events.

Fortunately, a number of advances have recently been made.

Easier production: Until recently, webcasts required complicated production efforts. However, the latest webcasting technology streamlines production. Expect to see webcasting technology that encourages the use of mobile devices and webcams, allows integration of multiple streams, and focuses on self-service, making it far more user-friendly to the global IT teams.

More speaker support: Better presenter tools are making it easier for the speaker to ensure fluid delivery, for both in-person and virtual audiences simultaneously. Real-time analytics make it easier to monitor engagement.

More appealing viewer experiences: At the same time, webcasting is making the viewer experience more appealing. Interactive tools have been clunky and difficult for participants to use. The best webcast platforms now stream to any device. Immediate live-to-DVR functionality enables viewers to pause, rewind, and catch up with the presenter. Viewers are also be able to switch between video and slides for greater interactivity, and use slides and chapters to navigate the VOD, as well as searching for keywords.

Better workflow integration: The practice of standalone webcasting systems no longer makes sense. As enterprises formalize their video strategies, webcasting needs to be seamlessly integrated into the rest of the organization's video strategy, so webcasting is part of the everyday workflow. For secure events, integrating webcasting with an existing video portal allows pre-set permissions and access control. At the end of the presentation, the live streams should automatically convert to become Video On Demand (VOD), published at the same URL as the live event.

As video continues to become mission critical in the business world, the latest generation of webcasting technology is easier and more appealing. It can become part of the corporate culture instead of the occasional one-off event.

As webcasting becomes easy and convenient to use on a regular basis, it's time to look at your 2016 plans and ask how adding live video could bring a more engaging, human touch to your communications, both internal and external. Could webcasting help you create a more exciting product launch? More interactive customer training? A better way to get your team on the same page and cement their bonds? As the technology becomes less cumbersome, the only limit will be your imagination.