Why Your Next Virtual Event Should Mix Live and Pre-Recorded Content

Once upon a time, all virtual events were live. But today, we have choices — and the range of options keeps growing. So, before you even get your virtual (or hybrid) event project started, you need to ask yourself: should this experience be fully live, include some pre-recorded elements, or be fully pre-recorded?

The answer is … yes! According to EventMB’s Virtual Event Tech Guide 2021, 79% of virtual event platforms offer the ability to facilitate both live and pre-recorded sessions. So — from a production execution standpoint — any of the three options is practical. Rapid innovation in streaming tools is making in-house event production more comprehensive, intuitive, and easier to manage every day.

With all options on the table, you should be free to choose the type of event that’s right for you, your audience, your goals, and your content — so make sure you ask any potential partner upfront if they can support a mix of production options.

Which will it be? Each type of virtual event has its own unique characteristics, so consider the following as you and your team make this decision.

The B-Word opted for a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions for their day-long virtual event. Pictured: Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Cathie Wood, Steve Lee

Fully live.

Several nonprofits that took their decades-old annual galas virtual in the past year advocate going fully live, saying it helps promote audience participation and fundraising. Event planners across industries tout the value of the live virtual experience, saying it has an energy that can’t be recreated. Even when a presenter makes a mistake or is thrown a curveball, audiences appreciate seeing how that person reacts live, which is entertainment in and of itself.

Benefits

  • Allows for audience participation/interaction
  • Creates a sense of energy
  • Enables greater spontaneity
  • Allows for late changes/additions

Considerations:

  • Adds a degree of unpredictability
  • May be more vulnerable to error
  • Requires all participants to be available at the same time
  • May require additional crew to coordinate
  • Runs the risk of disruption if a livestream goes down or a speaker fails to appear

Fully pre-recorded.

If your goal is not to stray at all from your messaging — or if you have presenters who are uncomfortable about delivering their content live — consider a largely pre-recorded run of show. If desired, the content can be shot before a live audience to incorporate feedback and make it feel less “canned.”

Benefits:

  • Allows all content to be honed
  • Enables presentations to be edited/reshot for best results
  • Makes the event easier to manage for the production team
  • Enables appearances by presenters with schedule conflicts
  • Avoids the risk of a speaker issue or livestream malfunction

Considerations:

  • Requires time in advance to produce pre-recorded content
  • May feel too “canned”
  • Opens the possibility of content becoming outdated if something changes

Mix of live and pre-recorded.

If you’d like to add some polish to your storytelling, a mix of live and pre-recorded is the way to go. It also helps to add variety to your run of show and keeps things dynamic.

Benefits:

  • Adds variety and new dimensions to the program
  • Provides breaks for live presenters
  • Makes the event easier to manage for the production team
  • Enables appearances by presenters with schedule conflicts
  • Offers lower security risk from livestream or speaker issues

Considerations:

  • Requires time in advance to produce pre-recorded content
  • Runs risk of “canned” content becoming outdated if something changes

When it all comes together

In July of 2021, ARK Investment Management LLC co-hosted “The B Word,” a 10-hour Brandlive event that shared how institutions can embrace Bitcoin. The team wanted to ensure a flawless event but also include live content to make the event newsworthy and timely. Much of the conference was pre-recorded. However, a key session — a one-hour discussion of cryptocurrencies featuring Cathie Wood of ARK Invest, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, and Jack Dorsey of Square, Inc. — was delivered live. In addition to being streamed live on the Brandlive platform, the highly anticipated discussion was live-streamed across a variety of channels across the internet (several partner YouTube channels, several Twitter channels, and more) as well as getting coverage on CNBC, suggesting an estimated reach of 5 million viewers worldwide.

If “The B Word” is any guide, a mix of live and pre-recorded content may offer event producers the best of both worlds. But every event is unique, and, ultimately, the choice is yours.

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