This is part one of a series called Livestreaming Your Event by guest columnist Timothy Mercer, Senior Content Marketer at Cvent.

Whether you’re trying to reach a broader audience, cut costs, raise revenue or repurpose event content, incorporating livestreams as part of your event strategy is the newest thing for 2017.

In this series, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started livestreaming your next event – from deciding which parts of your event to stream to choosing the right platform and equipment to suit your needs to what to do with your livestreamed content once your event is over.

But first – the basics. Here are 3 basic things about livestreams that you need to know, but were afraid to ask.

Question #1: So what is a livestream, anyway?

“Livestream” is a blanket term for a group of technologies and techniques that transmit live video over the internet. Livestreamed content comes in many forms – from a short clip captured and shared with a mobile device, to a complex, highly-produced event.

Some types of livestreaming content are pretty easy to grasp – like when a local TV station broadcasts its 5 o’clock news program on its website. Another example is the startup, BroadwayHD.com, which is working to bring live theater performances to a wider audience over the internet. In these cases, livestreams are simply another way to consume content that was made for another medium – in these cases, television or live performance.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 2.32.58 PMOther types of livestreaming fall much more firmly into the realm of the internet. For example, the Smithsonian National Zoo livestreams a 24/7 video feed of the panda enclosure. While there are certainly a lot of people who want to watch Mei and Bei Bei blithely chew bamboo all day, it’s not the sort of thing that earns its own cable channel. So on the internet it goes.

Another thing that makes livestreaming unique: audience participation.

Sure, there are plenty of livestreamed events that maintain the classic speaker/spectator relationship. But most streaming platforms allow at least some audience feedback, and a few even let the audience become part of the show. Popular livestream apps like Periscope, for instance, are as much a part of social media as a livestream. That means viewers can communicate fluidly with the presenter and other viewers in real time.

What all these livestreams have in common is that they use mobile and/or internet technologies to transmit live video content – which allows for far more flexibility (and a far lower “cost-of-entry”) than traditional broadcasting. That means that anyone savvy enough to make a Skype call can broadcast live content over the internet with little to no cost.

Put another way – livestreaming is the democratization of live broadcasting.

Question #2: Should I livestream my event?

Whether or not you choose to stream parts (or all) of your events depends on what your goals are. Do you have a potential audience for your event that, for one reason or another, can’t make it to your event? Do you have engaging and/or informative content that you want to make available to a larger audience? Or are you just hoping to show off what a tech-savvy planner you are?

If you’re only interested in the latter, then perhaps livestreaming isn’t right for you. There are plenty of showier ways to incorporate technology into your event. And an event livestream – like any technology – is only effective if there’s a strategy built around it.

But with the right strategy, your event livestream can be a relatively low-cost and an easy way to reach a larger audience, repurpose the great content that comes out of your event and even increase your event revenue.

Question #3: Is livestreaming hard? What about cost?

Yeah, I know that’s two questions. But the answer is the same: It depends.

Like most things in life, setting up a livestream for your event is only as hard (or as expensive) as you make it. And how hard you make it really depends on what you’re streaming, why, and who you audience is – which in turn depends on type of event you’re planning and what your event’s objectives are.

That said, setting up a livestream is easier and less expensive that you might imagine, so long as your goals and strategy are realistically set from the beginning.

To start, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of my event (e.g. education, member engagement, fundraising, lead generation, event revenue)?
  • Am I trying to expand my audience or re-engage a dormant one?
  • How much time, effort and cash am I willing to devote to livestreaming?
  • What kind of content is created at my event, and why would people be interested in it?
  • How much audience participation do I want to allow?
  • Do I want to control access to my livestream or allow anyone to access it?
  • Do I want to charge money for my streaming event?
  • What’s more important: increasing revenue in the short term or the long term?
  • What do I want to do with my streamed content after the event?

Check back on Monday for part two of my series, "Will It Stream? Finding Streamable Content."

Timothy Mercer is Senior Content Marketer at Cvent.