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Live streaming at exhibitions and congresses: free content or a payment model?

Published on 3/15/2016 by Christoph Spangenberg

When the press conference on the day prior to the opening of Baselworld reported on the trends in the watch and jewellery industry, thousands of journalists followed the live stream online (86'000 accesses). An increasing number of organisers are discovering live streaming for their events. As with all communication measures, clear aims have to be pursued here. The live content also holds potential for new business models.

MCH Group Baselworld Press Conference 

Whether via Facebook, YouTube or Periscope: never has it been so easy to stream content live into the internet, at a comparatively low cost. Organisers of exhibitions and congresses use live streaming to make presentations and discussions available to those who cannot attend in person. The live content increases the reach and visibility of their event and conveys knowledge and discourse to the world outside. It can also act as a teaser to entice people to come to the event.

Live streams also form part of communication at the MCH Group. Hence, Baselworld, the globally leading show for the watch and jewellery industry was streaming its opening press conference in March 2017 live into the internet. The Swiss building fair, Swissbau, streamed selected presentations and discussions, both by and with industry leaders, from its "Swissbau Focus" event format.

Live videos as part of the communication concept

Despite simple technology and low costs: the use of live streams at exhibitions and congresses has to be planned and carefully considered. "Streaming content simply so that something is streamed", does not make sense, says Stephan Peyer, Chief Development Officer (CDO) at the MCH Group. "Live streams should be part of a communication concept and pursue clear aims."

Live streaming: no substitute for the event

One thing that live streams cannot be is a substitute for the live event. "Everything that we do in this respect is aimed at reinforcing the live event and not at making it obsolete", explains Peyer. The focus is then also on maximising the benefit of live information for visitors to exhibitions and congresses. This similarly involves going into the information obtained in greater depth on-the-spot with those who have provided it, discussing it and possibly even further developing it in a particular individual context. Networking is thus of huge importance when it comes to imparting knowledge.

Live streams at events as a business model

How then should live streams be successfully deployed at exhibitions and congresses? There are many different possibilities here. Live streams could be used as a teaser, enticing people to come to the event, says Peyer. And new business models can also be derived from the live content: keynote speeches, for example could be free of charge, while any further content had to be paid for. In this way, either individual lectures or discussion contributions could be purchased, or a digital day ticket could be bought, giving access to all the live content. The videos could also be sold after the actual event.

"A specific business case is ultimately necessary, in order to ensure that the expenditure and yield for live streams is at least in a balanced ratio", says Peyer. This also means: establishing KPIs and monitoring them. Since it ultimately all boils down to one simple question: whether it's worthwhile or not.

(The text was updated in March 2017 with the latest access data of the live stream of Baselworld 2017)
Christoph Spangenberg

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