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Engaging Your Global Audience with Real-Time Campus Event Coverage #heweb11

October 26, 2011

Seth Odell wants you to know that real-time campus event coverage is a beautiful thing. He also wants you to know that you have absolutely no excuse not to be doing it.

“But it’s too expensive!” you say. Nope, it can be done for free.

“But we don’t have the resources!” Nonsense. All you need is a person, a camera, and a laptop. Can you manage that? Who couldn’t manage that?

Stripped of all your defenses and fearing that you too could be BOOM ROASTED, you have no choice but to listen and and learn. Here is just a sampling of the knowledge that got dropped on the social media track at HighEdWeb 2011 this morning:

Why Real-Time Campus Event Coverage Matters

A University of Texas College of Music prospect was able to chat with a current student about how awesome one of their concerts was – while it was happening. A family of ten got together around the living room to watch their daughter and niece perform in the same concert – from 2,000 miles away. A mother raced home from her night shift at her second job, logged into her home computer, began watching the concert, and then, using a conversation stream on the same page,  asked if she could get a close up of her son. Message received, the live video crew obliged, zooming in to capture the young man so his mom could beam proudly from across the globe. This isn’t America’s Got Talent, folks, this is two web people at a university who cared about engaging their audience. Everyone in their audience. This is real, it is possible, and it is, indeed, a beautiful thing.

Real-time campus video gives your audience geographical freedom. They no longer have to be there to participate. This dramatically increases the reach that your campus events can have for almost no additional cost. You can now reach everyone. You can turn an event that can only seat 200 people into one where 50,000 can participate. Every famous speaker you have on campus can now take questions from your entire alumni, staff, faculty, and student body. Every great performance can now be shared and discussed as it is happening.

 

Elements of Real time event coverage

In order to provide real time coverage, you need three things. First, you need streaming video. Next comes a chat dialogue tool such as Facebook or Twitter, pulled right onto the page with the video stream, side by side. And lastly, you need real time photography. That means photographers take a picture, and BOOM, there it is on the Flickr feed, immediately. You don’t even need to go back to a laptop thanks to WiFi capable SD memory cards that are now available such as Eye-Fi. Odell argues that this convergence can actually be more interactive and engaging than sitting in the room in person.

Streaming Platforms

One of the biggest questions that comes up about live event streaming is where to host. If you need to accommodate tens of thousands of concurrent users, you are going to need some serious bandwidth, right? In house it would have cost a large state university $100,000. The range in cost for outsourcing to a third party can run anywhere from $500 – 700 to $20,000. Wait, wasn’t this was supposed to be free? Enter web-based platforms such as Ustream, Livestream, and Justin.tv. None of these costs any money to use, they have a track record of being extremely reliable and the only downside is that they have ads. Odell doesn’t let that stop him, though. His argument? People would rather see an event with ads than not see it all. Hard to argue with that, and research he has done shows that nobody is complaining.

Real World Comparison

Seth shared several examples of successful real-time initiatives:

UCLA Panel Discussion
UCLA had a high profile panel discussion on UStream where people could ask questions of the panelists. 200 seats in the room, 51,000 viewers, 1000+ concurrent viewers, 100s of twitter comments, and the bottom line: They engaged their audience.

Commencement at Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU has a lot of online students. How do you provide that experience for someone far away, say, in a warzone in Afghanistan? Answer: real time photo / live video streaming / live chat mashup on one page. The president even opened his commencement comments by acknowledging all the people who were participating remotely.

Foriegn Policy Discussion
SNHU went directly to a politician’s campaign communications people and asked if they could promote the stream of a talk being given on campus – this led the campaign manager to reach out to all the politician’s followers on social media, and BOOM, SNHU became the channel of choice over CSPAN and other news outlets. The event coverage ended up being written about in The New York Times and Politico. Damn.

The Future of Real-Time event sharing online

Why aren’t universities embracing this? Odell gives a couple reasons:

  • It falls into a black hole. No obvious department owns and champions it.
  • We haven’t had to. Industry hasn’t demanded it, bosses haven’t demanded it, and we haven’t demanded it of ourselves.

Well, we no longer have an excuse. Live stream viewership is up 600%. Mobile broadcasting and viewership is growing, and Ustream is now on TV with tie-ins to major networks.

As Odell says, we need to treat everyone in our community equally. If you aren’t livestreaming your events you don’t care about your community. You are basically saying that you aren’t important if you aren’t physically here. Odell uses a Thanksgiving analogy: Campus events are like Thanksgiving. They are about bringing people together to share an experience and a conversation. What we’re doing now is letting them eat the Thanksgiving leftovers, by themselves, with no one to talk to. Nobody wants that, but that is what we are giving them.

Odell wants to know why we spend 99% of our resources on the 1% that can physically come to campus.

Can you answer that question?

Or maybe just this one:

What do you want your audience to be – Passive observers or active participants?

View Session Details and Presenter’s Bio.

Photo by Arjan Richter, Flickr.

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