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The spread of the coronavirus and the ensuing crisis put the brakes on many industries, including both the film industry and the events industry included. Live events were postponed or cancelled one after the other, as companies and festival organisers grappled with government lockdown measures all over the globe. The health crisis put many companies in a bind concerning their events, expositions, and trade shows. Do you postpone it? Cancel it entirely? What about virtual options? Like in many sectors, events professionals were left reeling, having to adapt to this new situation. These adaptations gave rise to new trends – some of which might be here to stay.

One such shift that marks a major change for both filmmakers and event organisers has been the rise of live streaming conferences. Webinars and live stream events aren’t exactly new, they were slowly gaining in popularity before the coronavirus crisis hit. Widespread lockdown, however, has caused a spike in live stream events. With work going remote across many industries, events, meetings, presentations, and conversations have all become virtual. At Purple Patch Group, an event agency in London that’s started offering virtual event services, we predict that this new live streaming trend is here to stay. Furthermore, the long-term impacts will affect both the event planning and film industries.

Live Stream and Hybrid Events – The Basics

When I talk about “live stream events” I should be clear on what exactly that involves. Let’s start with the basics, for those who might be unfamiliar. Live streaming is transmitting live video or audio at one location to viewers or listeners via the Internet. You can film or record anything in real-time and broadcast it to others via live streaming platforms. You can live stream directly from the camera on your smartphone or with professional-grade cameras.

A live stream event is an event, conference or exposition carried out whilst being filmed, uploaded, and simultaneously viewed on the web. Although there are a variety of formats for live stream events, a typical one is having speakers give their presentation while audience members tune in online. Some events will allow for dialogue between the hosts and the virtual attendees if the hosting platform has the capability.

A hybrid event is an in-person event that incorporates live streaming. It’s held at a venue with guests and is carried out like a traditional event. The hybrid part comes in when the conference organisers decide to film and stream part or all of the event to an online audience. Conferences with panel speakers targeting an international audience will often choose this hybrid format.

Why Conference Live Streaming is Becoming More Popular

Before COVID-19 forced us to hold off on large public events, live streaming was already in use for many conferences, trade shows, and expositions. Event hosts would live stream portions of the event while still holding it in-person, making it hybrid. Many organisers saw the benefit of filming and uploading events. It allows people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend to access the conference.

Live streaming also became popular on an individual basis, thanks to the capability’s introduction on social media platforms. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all have live streaming functions now, allowing users to start rolling wherever they are, whatever they’re doing. Their followers can tune in to these live streams.

Conference hosts noticed the popularity of live streaming via social media channels, so they applied the principle to their large events. With the accessibility of live streaming, event planners who before didn’t have the tech or the access to live streaming can now easily broadcast their conference. And the results have been impactful. Thirty percent of people who watched a live stream event attended the in-person event the following year. Plus, 50 percent of those tuning in to a live stream hadn’t heard of the company’s brand before doing so.

Live streaming was making inroads in the event industry before. But now, we expect it to be huge.

The Benefits of Virtual Events

Live streaming has clear marketing potential. Wider reach with more visibility is only one perk of virtual events, though. Live streaming is also more cost-effective since companies don’t have to rent a venue, pay for catering, or hire as much event staff. Filming an event also provides archive footage, which organisations can release in small chunks on their social media channels throughout the year.

By going virtual, companies also have different sponsorship opportunities. Depending on the platform, organisers can offer advertising space on the conference webcast, or during particular presentations. This advertising revenue – plus the money saved on a venue and staff – can be put toward the live streaming equipment and tech needed to make the event virtual.

The Future of the Events Industry

Live stream and hybrid events were common before, but not extensively so. For the immediate future, companies have no real choice but to make their events virtual, if they don’t want to outright cancel. At some point, large public gatherings will be allowed again, letting event professionals plan their conferences and letting filmmakers get back to their shoots. But with the convenience, flexibility, and cost-reduction offered by virtual events, we here at Purple Patch can’t help but wonder if live streaming events are here to stay.

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About 

Co-Founder and Director at Purple Patch Group / Presentation Experts
Holly Faulkner is the co-founder and director of the Purple Patch Group, a business that started life as a London events agency over 10 years ago. Through years of live events experience on both sides of the fence, managing them, and sitting front row, Holly and Paul launched the Presentation Experts. A specialist presentation design agency focussing on creating outstanding presentations for live events, speakers, and other events visuals.