Earlier this year, I ran a workshop at the “Creating Connections” conference in Huddersfield called “How to Amplify Your Event”. It’s taken a while, but I have now pulled together the notes I made for that workshop into this blog post. Sorry this makes for rather a long post, but I hope it will be of use if you are looking for ways of promoting an event. I don’t claim this to be a definitive list of the available tools, your favourite tool may not be on it, but it describes a good number of the tools I have used or seen being used.
The age of widespread digital literacy, internet use, and the rising tide of Social Media means that small organisations, if they get their message right, can have a much wider impact than they might ever have thought possible in the past. Pictures and videos tell much more powerful stories than text, and the Internet means that content can reach much wider audiences than printed material ever did.
Similarly, the digital age means that there is no longer any excuse for only talking to the people in the room at any event. Free and easy-to-use tools means that it is a relatively straightforward process to open your event up to the world, via live streamed video and audio, live blogging, instant feedback via Twitter and otherwise. Social Media means even the smallest event can become a global phenomenon.
The first step in amplifying an event is to create a hashtag for it. A hashtag is a short code which can be used as an identifier for the event, and make content from it easily searchable on a range of social media platforms. Example hashtags include #NDI10 (for the National Digital Inclusion Conference 2010) #d2020 (for Digital 20/20), or #cconns for the Creating Connections event. The presence of the # at the start of the code creates a clickable search term within many social media clients (e.g. Tweetdeck & Twhirl for Twitter) and separates the code from other, similar terms. As well as allowing for collation of content from the event. The hashtag also facilitates remote participation. For example, it allows Twitter users to see everyone’s comments on the event, whether those comments come from people they follow or not.
Many events organisers encourage live blogging, which effectively allows real-time, detailed, commentary on the events in a form that is accessible outside the conference room. There are tools which are specifically designed to facilitate live blogging – including CoveritLive.com. Such tools can pull in comments made via other platforms such as Twitter, as well as allowing posting of material such as photographs, and even live video streams.
Connecting to the Outside world
There are still conference and event venues which fail to take into account the need for good wifi. If you want to Amplify your event, decent wifi connections to the outside world are essential. And, it is important to realise that standard domestic, or small office, wifi systems are no longer adequate for events. Most small wifi systems have low limits to the number of connections allowed, and they can suffer from limited bandwidth. If there are a lot of people with different wifi-enabled devices at your event, you need to allow for many connections, and, live streaming of video and audio needs a fair amount of bandwidth.
Live Video Stream
The ultimate way of broadcasting your event to the world is by effectively turning yourself into a TV channel and sending live video and audio out to the world. I am always surprised by how many people still think that this is an expensive and difficult process. In the age of social media, live video broadcasts can be done for free and using relatively cheap kit, or at least kit that you might already have in your possession for other purposes.
are all services which allow you to stream live video and audio directly from a webcam. The easiest way of using these services is to utilise the built in webcam and microphone from a laptop computer, point them at the speakers at your event, and stream live to the world. All of them have facilities to collect input and feedback from participants in the room and remotely. http://twitcam.com is a version of the livestream service which is integrated with Twitter, and makes it very straightforward to promote the live stream via Twitter and collect feedback the same way.
http://qik.com and http://bambuser.com/ are services which allow live video and audio streaming from a video-enabled mobile phone. http://ustream.tv also has a service which allows live streaming from an iPhone (3GS & 4 only). If broadcasting from a phone, remember to ensure that you are using a wifi connection, or that, if using the mobile phone network, you have a contract with a generous data allowance. Failure to check this could result in a big addition to your mobile phone bill.
It IS possible to broadcast live audio from an event. http://www.iPadio.com is a service which broadcasts and archives the content of a telephone call on the web. The live facility of iPadio suffers in my opinion, however, from being of telephone call quality, which can be difficult to listen to. There are other, more techy ways of broadcasting live audio, and, if you know a community radio station, you might be able to get them involved. Personally, I think there is a gap in the market for a user-friendly application which delivers high quality, live broadcast audio on the web, as audio can often be very useful if you are trying to follow an event on the move, and are not sat at a screen.
A popular way of amplifying an event is to record “Vox Pops”, i.e. short interviews with participants or speakers, and upload them to the web.
There are some really good, cheap video cameras on the market now, such as the Flip range, which not only record excellent quality video, but are quite cheap (upwards of £70) and easy to use. Many of them have “one button operation” and plug easily into the usb port of a computer to upload content. But, you don’t even need to buy dedicated equipment for this purpose. Many modern mobile phones will record video of sufficient quality for these purposes.
There are lots of sites which will host video on the web for free, including:
The obvious place to put such videos is Youtube, as this has the highest number of users, and you will have access to their vast audience. But Youtube has a 10 minute limit on videos, so, if you are looking to host longer film, then one of the other sites is recommended.
Audio interviews are also a popular tool. As already mentioned, iPadio is one such tool which can be used for this, and, as well as the live, telephone call-quality option, there is also the facility to upload better quality sound in the form of mp3 files to the iPadio site. Another option, which currently only works on iPhones and Google-powered (Android) phones, is http://www.audioboo.fm At the moment, there is a five-minute limit on audioboo files, but this is likely to change in the future. Audioboo works by recording high-quality audio and automatically uploading it to its own site. So, it is not live, but integrates with services such as Twitter and Facebook to promote your audio widely.
Here’s an example of an interview using audioboo http://audioboo.fm/boos/97212-all-the-way-from-the-isle-of-wight-for-the-smtrain
Collating it all
So, there are a variety of options to Amplify your event, but, at the end of the day, you may think you will be left with content in a lot of different places, and it could be difficult to keep tabs on it all. This is where the hashtag comes into its own again.
Services such as:
can be used to collate your content in one place. By enter the hashtag in the boxes of these services, you can present all your event content in one place on the web.