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Beating Cannibals with Text Messages and Twitter
November 16, 2010 @ 08:00 AM | By Andrew Parker

When we first approached event producers to try webcasting, they called us cannibals.

Fearing that us ‘streamers’ would eat up their live attendance figures, marketing folks and trade show planners kept us at arm’s length and asked, “Why would our audience show up to the physical event if they can just watch it from home?” But then along came the recession, bringing with it budget cuts and travel restrictions, and we suddenly got along famously.

Now at the end of 2010, it’s difficult to find any live conference or corporate gathering that isn’t streamed as well.

But when you have two audiences—one in the room and one that’s separated by thousands of miles watching on a 17” monitor—how can you possibly keep them both involved? How can a live presenter encourage interaction between the virtual and physical worlds?

Working with our sister company, Televox, the InterCall streaming development team took advantage of a tool that is already in everyone’s pocket to truly pioneer some new “hybrid” technology: By using regular cell phones to send text message questions and respond to live polls, physical attendees and virtual attendees can both weigh in, seamlessly taking part in the presentation together. The presenters, the physical audience and the virtual attendees all work together, blurring the technological divide.

This past Wednesday, we hosted a hybrid event for a major pharmaceutical client. We streamed a live presentation from a studio in San Francisco to approximately 3000 live viewers gathered together at over 160 restaurants across the country. Interspersing the presentation with several viewer polls, all attendees were able to vote with their cell phones and respond directly to the presenters, making for an unparalleled level of engagement in the event.

Since we also integrated Twitter with the InterCall Streaming platform only a few months ago, we’re seeing those truly connected folks taking advantage of webcasting like never before! During our own Unified Communications panel in September, we saw conversations starting on Twitter and then rolling into our live panel discussion, while users texted questions and voted on live polls directly on their screens. Clients have recently been requesting the SMS and Twitter integration for events as varied as corporate updates, product launches, promotional trade shows and even a financial webcast! Creativity in marketing (and growing trust in the virtual audience) is really changing the business of meeting planners.

So what’s our next step? What else are you doing to merge the physical meeting and the virtual event?

Andrew Parker is a senior marketing manager for Streaming and Event Services at InterCall. Working between the product, promotional and production teams, Andrew has experienced every facet of the webcasting and virtual event industry as it has grown into a must-have business technology. Outside of InterCall, Andrew likes live music, good food and exploring New York City by bicycle.

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