Looking for a good way to get a product or service out in the market fast? How about reaching a large audience to educate, conduct training, and communicate with customers and employees at a reduced cost? Well, guess what? You can do all this with webcasting. Webcasts are broadcasts over the Internet that work much like a television or radio broadcast. Depending on the technology used, a webcast can reach anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of viewers online.
'Webinar' and 'webcast' are two words that are used interchangeably and are often confused with one another. Webinars and Webcasts are both live or on demand online events. They are both accessible through a particular URL on any device. Actually, webcasting is a technology and webinars are nothing more than a type of webcasting. For example, if a webcast is broadcast online using webinar software, then all the features associated with webinars that allow interaction between presenter and audience become available on that webcast. Features of webinars and webcasts include:
- Online meeting between small groups of two or more people, OR a large audience
- Involves two-way communication (all parties interact), OR one to many forms of communication (viewers do not interact with presenter)
- Invitation-only events closed off to the public, OR open to anyone with the link
- Interactive features such as polls, surveys, and live chat
- Expensive and sophisticated equipment may be used, but not required
We’ll focus more on webcasts and go over the technology and equipment behind them.
A webcast in its simplest form, only requires the following:
- Internet connection
- microphone (preferably not the built-in kind)
- streaming software
Of course, the size of the budget is a big factor in determining the final product, but the most important aspect of webcasting is having access to reliable outbound Internet connection. This is vital if the webcast broadcasts live with no editing. Choices regarding camera, lighting, and sound make a big difference in the final quality of the webcast. Let’s review each of these key aspects of webcasting.
If possible, you should avoid using a computer’s built in webcam. Instead, use an external webcam, especially if this is going to be a low budget webcast with no live audience present with the speaker. Another factor for determining what type of camera to use is whether your webcast will stream live or on demand. If the streaming service has HD or 4K capability, the camera needs to have that capability as well. If the camera doesn’t have HD or 4K capability, then you'll need a video converter with the ability to convert to HD.
For “talking head” style webcasts, where one or more speakers will be close to the camera for headshots, external webcams and even high-end smartphones with HD cameras can do the trick. For any webcast involving multiple angles, live audiences, or in situations where there will be a lot of movement, a traditional camcorder is the best option.
Webcams are beneficial when the webcast includes a single speaker sitting or standing in a static position, close to the camera, rather than in rapidly changing situations. This is where a camcorder with controls for everything from zoom, focus, to white-balance come in handy.
When discussing what cameras to use in a webcast, you cannot ignore lighting. Avoid open windows or any sort of bright light behind the presenter. Bright lights in the background darken the face of the speaker or any object that is the focus of the shoot. Another thing to avoid is the mixing of lights of different “color” temperatures.
For example, mixing indoor lighting such as fluorescent lights with natural outdoor light from a window, and mixing fluorescent with incandescent lighting can cause white-balance issues. In other words, the resulting image may have a colorcast with a washed-out appearance.
Another smart practice in regards to lighting, especially when there is a single subject, is to use the three-point lighting technique. As mentioned previously, avoid using lights or any other distraction in the background. As the name suggests, three-point lighting consists of three lights: key light, fill light, and the backlight.
The key light is the main and brightest light, and is usually set up at a 45-degree angle facing the main subject. The fill light cleans up any remaining shadows; therefore it is placed at a 45-degree angle at the opposite end of the key light. If there are any remaining shadows, a backlight, also placed at a 45-degree angle from the subject, is positioned right behind the speaker or main subject (Bolkan).
Good quality video means nothing if the audio quality is poor. Many viewers find webcasts with poor audio to be a turn off, even if the video quality is excellent. Similar to built in cameras built in microphones do not produce the best results. It’s a good idea to invest in a separate microphone when investing in a webcam. Admittedly, a microphone built into a webcam is better than one built in to a computer, but often a camera may be positioned too far away from the speaker, which can lead to unwanted outside noise being picked up.
A Few Other Best Practices
- Knowing how and when to use visual aids. If the webcast is a voiceover, it is best to keep visual changes occurring at two to three second intervals. This way viewers do not lose interest.
- Good communication skills and practice. Having a presenter with good communication skills keeps the audience engaged. Even the best communicators need to practice to produce a professional result.
- If the webcast will be used for training where the script is too long to memorize, investing in a teleprompter may also be a good idea.
- On the day of the shoot, make sure to check everything more than once.
It deserves repeating, that the most important tool for webcasting is to have a good outbound Internet connection. Whether it’s for training employees across long distances, meeting face-to-face with clients, or giving your brand more recognition, webcasts offer a cost effective and scalable solution to meet your communication, education, and training needs.
How have you applied webcasting in your marketing plan?
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Bolkan, Joshua. “How To Set up Three-Point Lighting for a Single Subject.”
Thejournal.com. 28 May 2014. Web. 12 May 2016.