Originally published at Newtek.com
You’ve spent months planning your organization’s yearly benefit. Your message is honed, your tables are sold, your honoree is excited and your entertainment is booked. Countless man hours and dollars have gone into marketing your event, and it’s looking like this year is sizing up to be your best event ever.
So why limit all your planning and expense to the capacity of your venue?
With just a little extra thought and a modest budget increase you can turn this year’s benefit into an interactive nationwide event.
I fell in love with live-streaming way back in 2007 when I discovered how effectively it can bring live theater, dance and music into homes and schools all over the world . (When it is done right, and that is, of course, crucial).
Last spring however we were put in touch with Broadway sound designers Lindsay Jones and John Gromada who wanted us to live-stream The Collaborator Party, not a play, but a 300 person party created in support of reinstating the Tony Award for sound design. The event was held at Houston Hall in NYC, but supporters all over the country wanted to join in. USITT quickly stepped in as the The Collaborator Party live-stream sponsor, and we were off…
Well, this was different! And… it turns out the very things I love about the power of interactive live streaming are the same things that made our live-stream of The Collaborator Party such an online success
The ability to expand your event far beyond four walls
The ability to interact with your online audience
The ability to make your online viewers feel as if they are at the event
The excitement that live-streaming generates for those at the actual venue
The desire for your online and in house audiences alike to become a part of the event by spreading your message across social media platforms
The ability to make your far flung supporters feel recognized and special
So, on Tony Night, 2015, 300 theater collaborators, from sound designers, to stage managers, to scenic artists to prop masters, walked their own “Red Carpet” courtesy of the inimitable interviewing efforts of Lindsay Jones, and were greeted by an online audience who Tweeted, Facebooked, and Instagrammed their support for all the theater artists who make it possible for the curtain to rise at 8pm every night. Hashtags were flying! Instagrams were popping up everywhere. A fantastic time was had by all, virtual and physical, and the message of support for all theater collaborators spread across the internet.
Planning your own live-stream for your organization adds some man hours, and a modest budget increase, but the potential to spread your message and build your donor base are more than worth it.
Here’s what you have to do:
- Launch your social media campaign. Give yourself enough lead-up to establish your hashtag, then give your supporters a creative way to use social media to become a part of the event. Identify supporters who will lead the charge to get those messages uploading!
- Program your event. A live-stream is a lot like a TV show, so you are going to want to program the night, but chances are you already are doing some programming already, right? Speeches… performances..videos… auctions… Think about what elements you can add to excite your online audience. A red carpet? Skype interviews with supporters? Interviews with experts? A Q&A with your honoree? A tour of the venue? You’ll want to identify an on air host to be the face of the event. Most importantly, include your online audience whenever you can. Insert their tweets and Instagrams into the stream, call them out by name. Make your online audience, literally, a part of the event.
- Market! Engage your digital media strategy just as you would for any other initiative and stress that you are inviting all your fans to literally become a part of the event via their social media uploads.
- Create a multi-camera production flow. Online viewers are used to visually sophisticated content, so keep those cameras moving. Switch quickly from red carpet to interviews, to tours to verbal call outs. If the stream keeps moving your online audience will stay with you and tweet their support all night long. (Yes, Periscope is cool… for a few minutes, but if you want to keep your online audience engaged you have to invest in a more dynamic online video experience)
- Finally, embed the stream anywhere and everywhere you can: Facebook, your website, supporters sites. Your mother’s site…. get that live-stream seen!
That’s it! If you hire a great production team and harness your creativity you will have exponentially expanded the reach of your event, grown your supporter base, and deepened your connection to your online community.
And bonus, at the end of the night not only do you have video of the whole event to replay wherever you wish, you also have all the HD footage from each of your cameras to repurpose into more media for your cause.
Fundraisers and concerts and casino nights are still great ways to get your supporters to celebrate your mission. Happily in our wired world, we also now have the tools to take that mission to an impassioned global audience.
Kathryn Jones is the CEO of VirtualArtsTV, the leader in live-streamed theater, dance and music since 2007.