Tools for Live Online Coverage of your Conference

June 17, 2009

in Documentation, How to, Software, Tools

Attendees blogging during an event

Attendees blogging during an event

There are plenty of online tools to make the live coverage of your conference over the internet. In this article I have summarized the most useful, powerful and easier to use ones.

The global availability of broadband and a bunch of web 2.0 services have made the live transmission of an event a low cost (if not free) and rather easy activity. In particular the power balance has changed: in the past, only the organizer could broadcast what was going on during the conference but nowadays almost anyone with a mobile phone or laptop+internet connection can do so.

The best way to proceed is for the organizer to produce its own flux of information plus encouraging the attendees to do the same on their own, providing them with free wi-fi internet access. The only risk is that if you produce a poor event, the world will know it immediately from the activity produced by your attendees… anyway you cannot hide, so the best thing is to give free access and try to do your best to organize a remarkable event.

Define your tag

Independently of which tools you or your audience will be using, it is very important that you define the official tag (also known as hashtag) of the event and that you communicate it to everyone, prior, during and after the conference. This will allow you to easily track the conversations that talk about you.

A tag is a short keyword that should represent the name of your conference. I also advice you to include in the tag the year the event is taking place in. Try to keep the tag as short  as possible (but still representative) to save characters in services like Twitter, that only allows a limited number of characters (140) for each message.

Example: if your event is called “Green Business 2009” your tag could be something like “greenbiz09”, often represented as #greenbiz09, or “gbiz09”. The “#” tells programs like Twitter that this is your tag and makes it easier to track the conversation through a search engine.

Micro-blogging

Micro-blogging services are amongst the most popular ones today. The content consists of several short messages that describe what is going on at the conference, usually in real time.

Cover it Live (www.coveritlive.com)

Cover-it-live is a very powerful online application which is being used by big and small companies to transmit live events like conferences, sports matches, political announcements, etc.

Advantages

  • Cover-it-live works as a widget you can embed in your website or blog and does not require to download an application.
  • It allows multiple users to input information which can consist of text, images, videos and files to download.
  • The information is displayed as a chronological feed that updates itself without needing to refresh the browser.
  • The system allows comments by followers, which can be moderated by the owners of the feed.
  • Once the live coverage is finished, Cover-it-live saves all the content and allows you to display it so that users can still watch it as a documentation of what happened.

Cost: free for now . In the future it will offer a premium version will allow some interface personalization, etc.

Scribble Live (www.scribblelive.com)

Similar in function to Cover it Live, it offers some advantages. I haven’t personally tried it yet but have seen it in use by big players like TechCrunch and others.

Advantages (apart from the ones shared with Cover it live)

  • Website integration which means that  you can cross-post to your WordPress Blog, or embed an iFrame into any web page, create a customized html at the end of your event and paste it into your site. Their system is optimized so that  the content lives on your website and it can be indexed by all search engines, which means more traffic for you.
  • Direct integration to several services like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc
  • Translation tool to automatically translate your content into many other languages.

Cost: it is free but also offers an Enterprise solution.

Twitter (www.twitter.com)

Probably one of the most talked about services, Twitter allows you to produce short messages of 140 characters, or “Twits”.

Advantages

Twitter logo

Twitter logo

  • Inputs can be written through Twitter’s web interface or through dozens of third party applications from your computer (like Twhirl or Seesmic Desktop) or internet enabled mobile phone.
  • Your followers on Twitter automatically get updates from your messages and can reply or send direct messages to you.
  • Twitter is rather ubiquitous right now and you will find that during events the most of the content published through this service comes from the audience, so it is very useful to see in real time what they are saying and take that as feedback to improve or change things on the go.
  • Connecting your Twitter account to your Facebook or FriendFeed accounts (or others too) is very easy and it allows you to reach your followers on those services too.
  • Links to images can also be published on Twitter through third party services like Twitpic and many others.
  • Powerful search tool.

Cost: Twitter is free!

FriendFeed (www.friendfeed.com)

FriendFeed produces a real time feed of information directly through its web interface by aggregating your other social networking sources (like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, del.icio.us, etc).

Advantages

  • FriendFeed creates a unique information feed from most of your online sources, acting as an aggregator. It allows you to follow what goes online in many different social networks through a central web interface.
  • This service, opposed to Twitter, fosters the creation of conversations by allowing comments under each source of information. It empowers your direct contacts and their contacts to participate, extending the reach of your inputs.
  • Groups: you can create a group (previously know as “rooms”) and invite all your contacts and other people (for example by promoting your FriendFeed group on the conference’s website) to concentrate all the talks and inputs related to your event. This allows you and other people to follow a dedicate feed that aggregates the information produced by different sources/people in just one place.

Cost: FriendFeed is free too!

Video Streaming

Video online streaming allows you (but not only) to broadcast what’s going on during your conference with quality that ranges from mediocre to high definition, depending on the service used and your broadband internet quality.

There are many services to broadcast live and I selected three of the most popular and powerful ones.

Livestream (www.livestream.com)

Probably one of the most powerful streaming services, the recently renamed Livestream (previously known as Mogulus) is a very versatile tool that may not only allows live video broadcasting but also offers professional editing and live commenting & interaction instruments.

Advantages

  • Livestream is easy to setup and has a huge array of options to personalize your transmission. It’s up to you to decide which features to use.
  • You can control more than one source of video, which allows you to use different cameras and other sources to create a single video stream.
  • You can create your own TV like channel with a defined url (like “www.livestream.com/my-event-name”) to transmit all your events so that you don’t need to create a different web address each time.
  • You can embed a widget with your video streaming in your own website.
  • Livestream provides a chat window where watchers can comment and interact with the vide producer and between themselves.
  • You can use the Livestream website to promote your videos.
  • The quality of the service is related to the quality of your internet connection but you can obtain decent enough quality with a normal internet service.

Cost: the basic service is free but you can also pay to activate professional features and have more options to personalize your channel.

UStream (www.ustream.tv)

Basically it is similar to Livestream but IMHO a bit less powerful. Used to broadcast many different kinds of events.

Cost: the service is free to use.

Qik (www.qik.com)

The main characteristic of Qik is that you can use it through your mobile phone, which means that anyone with an internet enabled phone with a camera can become a video source. Quality varies depending on the internet service used but in general Qik is very easy to use and comes as a default application with many mobiles (like the new Nokia N97) or as a downloadable application (for iPhone and others).

Advantages: simple and easy to set up and use, you can start video broadcasting wherever you are using your mobile phone.

Cost: free.

Do you use any other online tools to cover your conference? Please share them with us!

  • http://twitter.com/gsnap gsnap

    Hello there, I just wanted to take a moment to say that I enjoyed your article on tools for conferences. I'd also like to let you know of a service by my company, G-SNAP! (http://www.gsnap.com) that is also an excellent fit for live blogging. We also like to say G-SNAP! excels at enabling a community discussion around any type of live event.

    Finally, in the spirit of your article, here are some additional advantages of G-SNAP! as it pertains to conferences.

    1. We offer a mobile product that works on over 90% of all phones. You can create, moderate, and upload media all from your phone.
    2. Our “embed” product is Flash based so it works well in sites like MySpace that do not support iframes.
    3. We have a unique media viewer so you don't have to scour the live blog to find all the relevant pics. They're all there in one nice little place.
    4. Real time searching across all of our live blogs
    5. If you host on G-SNAP!, you can customize the theme of your live blog (we call them Snapcasts)
    6. …and a few others as well.

    If anyone would like a demo, please use my contact information below and let us know how we can help. Looking forward to helping you Snapcast your conference!

    Regards,

    Ramsey

    Ramsey Ksar
    G-SNAP!, Inc
    Sr. Director of Product Management
    Phone: 408.390.7660
    Email: ramseyk@gsnap.com
    Web: http://www.gsnap.com
    Twitter: @gsnap

    On Demand Communities for Your Live Events!

  • http://citreae.com citreæ

    Highly interesting post.

    While in pre-preparing for an event in October, was have searched for the same tools. Highly influenced by WordPress, I also searched for best compatible plugin solutions.

    Came across this plugin: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/live-blogging/

    Live Blogging is a plugin developed to support blogs that are doing live micro blogging of running events, such as major sport events or tech conferences.

    When all settings optimized, it can even “push” new content to a blog post… (!)

    Have not yet implemented this plugin, but so far it seems to cover all needs AND omits any third-party branding…

  • andylock

    One aspect of a comprehensive http://www.vsworld.com/?loadSwf=swf/seo_sem.swf search engine optimization implementation is the use of http://www.vsworld.com/?loadSwf=swf/streaming.swf optimized video content. Google having come up with new algorithms alongwith universal search features, now one will do best to optimize not only the said website but also all available digital assets, such as videos. Additionally one can, for example, embed on one’s site the videos placed on You Tube. (Google seems to give them most relevance!)

  • andylock

    One aspect of a comprehensive http://www.vsworld.com/?loadSwf=swf/seo_sem.swf search engine optimization implementation is the use of http://www.vsworld.com/?loadSwf=swf/streaming.swf optimized video content. Google having come up with new algorithms alongwith universal search features, now one will do best to optimize not only the said website but also all available digital assets, such as videos. Additionally one can, for example, embed on one’s site the videos placed on You Tube. (Google seems to give them most relevance!)

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