What’s Behind a Successful Interactive Video Event?

I’ve had a blast over the past year putting together the CredibilityLIVE events with our team at DandB team. We’ve been able to bring some great guests to our small business community including:

As I prepare for this Thursday’s event with Brian Tracy (How to Overcome Professional Obstacles and Grow your Business), I’ve been thinking (and documenting) the different pieces that go into creating a successful interactive video event…  and thought it might be interesting to share some marketing and production tips that go into making a successful event. .

 

Marketing/Promotion

Of course, getting people to show up for an event is not as easy as you might think, even for free events with great guests.  So what have we been doing that works? 

With each event, we always look for our strengths.  Does the guests bring a natural audience?   Is it something that would appeal to the DandB email database?  Is this something we can get people excited about through social outreach and/or social ads?   Is there anything unique we can bring to the marketing?

For example, for this upcoming event, Brain Tracy recorded an intro video.  Because he has a great studio at his offices, this was a no-brainer for his team to create and I think makes a great case for joining us:

This was a great “extra” piece of marketing we did for this last event and something I know we’ll do more of in the future!   Of course, developing the marketing/promotion plan is not all that hard… It’s all about executing to get people to show up and that’s something that should never be discounted!

Productions

The production behind these events isn’t trivial either… especially as our events have grown we’ve increased the quality of each event as we’ve progressed.   While early events were recorded over Skype, our last round have all been done in studios… most done with multiple cameras, teleprompters, green screens and often streamed on location!

The real trick with the production of a live-streaming event is to test, test and test some more. Test (and retest) the upload speed of the internet connection.  If you’re running multiple cameras, test that your “hub” can handle it during event settings.  If there’s natural lighting involved, make sure to test the lighting at the time when you’ll be streaming. If you’re in running a green screen, test what everyone is going to be wearing. During a live event, you can’t always know what’s going to go wrong, but at least you can minimize the chances of technical problems if you test, test and test some more!

While running a live video event isn’t trivial, it also isn’t nearly as complex as you might expect.  I’ve got some great software (Wirecast) that runs on my Macbook Pro and can create quality video shots (including shots from multiple cameras, screen grabs and more) and push them directly to our streaming service providers (some popular ones are LiveStream, uStream and Justin.tv).   Throw in a tool like Facebook’s Live Stream that lets people chat in real time while watching the video and you’ve got yourself a very compelling set up!

The best part of these events really is the interaction with prominent educators, thought leaders and business executives.   It’s always fun to see where the audience is going to take a conversation!

Hope that gives just a taste of some of the marketing and production work that goes into creating our events.   If you haven’t seen one of our live events, then definitely sign up to attend our next event with Brian Tracy.  He’s a great speaker and we’ll be running it out of his studios near San Diego, so there’s sure to be tons  of great value (and did I mention it’s free?)…

Photos from my CredLIVE trip to DC

I’m just finishing up a great trip to Washington DC where I came out to manage the production of a CredibiltyLIVE event with the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

Since I mentioned how much I enjoy taking and editing photos with my iPhone 4S in my last blog post, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from this trip.

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
"In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever"
Lincoln's Stare
Lincoln
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Behind the Scenes with the AP Video Production team
Behind the Scenes with the AP Video Production team
Hutch Hutchison & Steve Cox on CredLIVE
Hutch Hutchison & Steve Cox on CredLIVE
Washington Monument
Washington Monument #1
Washington Monument #2
Washington Monument #2
Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle
White House
White House

Windows Phone Left Me Underexposed

Thanks to Microsoft, I recently had a chance to test out a Windows Phone (Samsung Focus) for about a month… and the timing couldn’t have been better since it arrived on the day I returned from a vacation to Paris where my iPhone 4s was stolen.

The Sumsung Focus with Windows Mobile is a tight phone and 4 years ago when I was still using a BlackBerry, this would have been one hell of a great upgrade.

The interface was easy to figure out and I really like how the interface emphasized the people who were important to me.  Most of the apps worked well enough and I was pleasantly surprised how many of my favorite iphone apps were represented in their windows app store (evernote, yammer, foursquare, etc.).

However, even with Microsoft paying all the bills, after a month of using the Windows Phone, I couldn’t continue without the 4s any more. Yesterday, I broke down and bought a new iPhone 4s.

Interestingly, the thing I missed the most about the 4s was the camera… and all the photography apps that make an iPhone so slick.

Despite the fact that my mother is a brilliant photographer, not much of that brilliance has ever rubbed off on me.  And yet with a iPhone 4s, I started to feel like I could take some great shots. Going back to the Windows Phone where the camera was (only) decent, and the good photography apps were almost non-existant (no instagram, snapseed, diptic, photoshop express) was just too hard.

Whereas I probably took over 2000 photos in the month before my iphone was stolen, I think I took about 35 photos with the Windows Phone.  The quality wasn’t there… and while I know that wasn’t all Microsoft’s fault (it was Samsung’s hardware afterall), it was part of the overall smart phone experience that made the windows phone unworkable for me.

______________

Curious aside.  

What’s the proper etiquette for dealing with a phone that was given to me for free that I’m no longer going to use.   Do I send it back?  Is it okay to sell it?  Is it okay to give it away?   The phone works great (as a phone) including minutes/apps paid for by Microsoft, but it came with no instructions, so not sure how long it will last that way.

What to do BEFORE you make your Facebook Timeline Public

Earlier today, I gave a talk to DandB employees where I shared what they should know about Facebook Timeline.

I got some great questions (and feedback) from the folks who showed up and the talk inspired my latest blog post on the Credibility Insights:  5 Things to Check Before Making Your Facebook Timeline Public.

(and thanks to Jess for taking the photo!)

Can you safely jump off a moving freight train?

In college I had a friend who was very much into hopping freight trains. So much so that he wrote his thesis for his Cultural Anthropology major on the hobo lifestyle… (and if I remember it right, he was the editor of a popular ‘zine for hobos.)

I learned one really valuable lesson from this friend on my first “ride” down the California coast: He showed me how to get off a moving train. You have to wait until it slows down to about 20 mph or slower and then slowly navigate down one of the ladders on the side of a grainer (or any or freight car) until you can “run” along the ground flintstone-style. If you try to just jump off a moving freight train, bad things can happen! But if you first run along the train, then you can get some grip on the ground and run along the train until you can safely let go of the ladder.

I start my 2012 blogging off with this story because for much of 2011, I felt like I was on one hell of a fast moving freight train and there was no chance to safely jump off. Now that 2012 is here, I’m thinking it’s time to take a deep breath, climb down that ladder, get some grip on the ground and welcome in a new year.

With that said, some great things happened in 2011… I traveled more than any other time in my life, starting dating an amazing woman, moved into a new place only blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, started a full-time gig with the most interesting startup in Southern California, and created some crazy good memories with my kids.

Suffice to say 2011 will not be forgotten any time soon.

[Also, thanks to thecoug for the great creative commons photo. It brought back some great memories of catching the trains up to Davenport!]

What does it mean to be influential online?

No doubt I’ve got all kinds of theories on how to measure online influence, and even went so far as to outline them a bit in this comment, but for now, I just thought I’d just share my excitement that Sarah Needleman of the Wall Street Journal wrote a great article about one of the theories I’ve been working on with the D&B Credibility team and the resulting list of the most influential twitter people in the small business community.
(and if you’re interested in lots of details from an earlier iteration of this concept, check out this post: 50 Most Influential Real Estate People on Twitter)

Update:
Just noticed the WSJ published an interview that the journalist, Sarah Needleman, did for the show “Digits” about the list:

The making of a Q&A video series: CredibilityLIVE

I may have been a bad blogger here at 4realz over the past few months, but have been working away on some projects with the Dun & Bradstreet Credibility team that are just now coming to fruition… and so I thought I’d share some of what’s been keeping me so busy.    While working with D&B Credibility, I’ve hired a social media outreach team, created and updated numerous social media profiles (such as our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and WordPress accounts), helped develop strategies with the business development team, played numerous ping-pong games, and spearheaded a project that’s near and dear to me: CredibilityLIVE.

Built based on my experience running Spinnio events, we designed CredibilityLIVE to be a series of monthly events where business owners will get a chance to learn from experts on issues around credit and credibility.  I’ve had the chance to have extended discussions with our first three speakers: John Assaraf, Robert Berkman and Paul Chaney, and can positively say that they’re all fascinating people who will be sure to host informative and interesting conversations!

To take part in the first event with John Assaraf, you need only show up at CredibilityLIVE at 11am PST and use the Facebook chat widget to ask questions!

Interestingly, organizing this series has been a lot more time consuming than any Spinnio endeavor to date… and included rebuilding the platform from the ground up.   The new platform has all the stuff you’d expect from a company like D&B Credibility, with an integrated registration system, white labeled video streaming, well thought out watermark design, and a top-notch marketing/PR campaign… (plus lots of testing!).

There are already over 600 people registered for the first (FREE) event with John Assaraf where he’s going to be talking about how business owners can use the latest in brain research to help reach their potential!  Please, please consider joining us and if you know someone who would be interested, don’t hesitate to invite them!  (It’s free, remember!)

By the way, for some interesting insight into what’s got me so excited to be working with the Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp team, check out this interview with CEO Jeff Stibel by Ben Kuo of SoCal Tech.  In the interview, Jeff gives a nice overview of the process of raising $200M to buy and grow the small business unit of D&B and the crazy hiring going on out of our Malibu office.