What is a webcast? Everything you need to know

What is a webcast over picture of Will.i.am

Everyone who books a webcast for their event the first time has that feeling – the confusion, and slight panic about what it all is. What is a webcast? How does it work? And what do I need to know?

In truth, webcasting and live streaming are simple. They require only a basic amount of knowledge to commission. Here we’ve tried to capture the really important facts about a what a webcast is, how it works and what makes it work or not. This isn’t exhaustive – there’s plenty more to learn but we hope this serves as a good introduction to webcasting.

1. What is a webcast?

It is video of an event that is broadcast first live and then available in recording on the internet. We often also use the expression ‘live stream’, too, to mean much the same thing. Webcasts are mostly publicly available – and can be watched on a video player on a website. That doesn’t mean you can’t require people to fill in a password or pay money to watch a webcast. It just means that a webcast can be served to an unlimited audience online.

2. It’s quite different to a webinar

Webinars are closed, invite-only events where only those who have joined can watch. Unlike live streams and webcasts, webinars require you to invite specific people to watch. They often offer two-way services so delegates can ask questions and take part. You can do this with webcasts, but it’s not usually part of the basic service.

3. How does a webcast work?

We film your event and encode the video and audio into a live stream that can then be served to a webcast player. We create a microsite player, or an embed player that can sit on your website or somewhere else so people can watch. You can choose how that’s done and where the webcast is watched.

4. You can serve a webcast to more than one place

You can have multiple streams on a webcast, so you can serve it to a service like Facebook Live as well as to your website, or to YouTube. This is increasingly simple to do – and allows you to reach different, specific, audiences.

5. Webcast quality is about internet upload speed

It’s pretty easy now to create sparkly, high-definition live streams. The biggest problem is the quality of the internet connection. What’s critical is the ‘upload speed’ and the fact that the internet connection isn’t interrupted. If you want to webcast, make sure you ask the venue that you’re booking to tell you what kind of internet connection they can provide and check with us before booking. We can give you a quick check-list of what to ask for and, if necessary, speak to the venue and carry out a site test where required.

6. Quality of video is about lighting and setting

You need to make sure that you’ve checked with an expert how you want your live stream to look. Lighting, backdrop and camera angles all can make a difference that is often very significant to how your webcast will look.

7. And, most importantly, sound

While the quality of the picture is really important, you absolutely don’t want your viewers to go without good sound. Investing in microphones and sound technicians is therefore absolutely essential. The single biggest point is that if anyone is going to talk on a webcast they need to have a microphone. For this reason, we often advise clients to consider the type of venue they use – and to include a sound technician for more complicated webcasts.

8. There are different ways to capture slides

Slides can be captured by filming them as part of the presentation. But you can also choose to insert the slides digitally into the broadcast (called picture in picture) or you can instead have them served alongside your webcast. (This is sometimes called ‘just in time’.) How you choose to present slides might depend on what kind of webcast you’re doing and how you intend to display the webcast later. (Webcasts within the webcast obviously allow you to stream on third-party sites like YouTube.)

9. Webcasts often attract bigger audiences ‘on demand’ – but not always

While live webcasts have their place, the move to ‘on demand’ content – which really just means recorded and available when you want to watch – means some webcasts will attract far bigger audiences after the event than live. But that’s not always the case. Live webcasts can be ‘events’ that will be much less interesting once they are finished.

10. Webcasting should be made accessible

As a technology, webcasting is all about making a meeting, event or other piece of ‘content’ available to a much larger audience. That makes it a great tool for increasing access to public events and other information to people. This value can be increased hugely if the webcast is also made accessible to people who have additional accessibility needs. We work with MyClearText, a specialist in providing speech-to-text reporting that helps to do this by providing live captioning for deaf and people who have hearing difficulties. It is also hugely valuable to anyone whose second language is English – and needs help following complex conversations in a foreign language. You can find out more about our work with MyClearText and accessibility here.

Interested in webcasting?

If you’re interested in putting on a webcast or want to know more, please contact us. We’d be happy to help. Please contact us for more information and a quote.