Coronavirus stunned the events industry. And when the events industry gets stunned, it has a knock on effect for the marketing industry. And when the marketing industry suffers, businesses everywhere get impacted.
And we were one of those.
doopoll generally comes under a marketing, events or some combination of the two budgets.
Up until March 2020, about 9.2% of our revenue came from live events. Since March 2020, about 0% of our revenue has come from that area.
Which is wild. But we’re also not alone. This is an industry wide phenomenon.
In this post, we'll talk about how we responded to that and used it as an opportunity to grow. But first. CONTENTS!
The proliferation of Zoom
What happened next was… not great.
People started to substitute their upcoming physical conferences for Zoom calls. And then their breakout sessions all moved to Zoom calls too.
And oh my gosh: could I be more bored of seeing people with virtual backdrops in dimly lit rooms?
doopoll has been a remote company since 2019 and so we’re no stranger to video calls. They’re our main form of visual communication (we meet up about once a month in normal circumstances).
But having to sit in 3-5 Zoom calls a day just to get normal work done was punishing for everyone, no matter what industry they were in.
And then suddenly, marketers and events people wanted them to attend lockdown webinars on Zoom.
This is totally uninspiring. And it takes away all the magic of live events. It’s just another teleconference.
Why we switched to live streaming versus Zoom
And look, I get it: if you’re a marketer who has their budget slashed, you’re probably panicking.
Prior to Covid-19, we had used paid advertising as our main channel for growth spending about 10% of our monthly revenue on Google Ads.
Now, we spend $0 a month on that.
Instead, we spend a huge amount of time creating great writing and also we spend about $100 a month creating high quality video content through livestreaming.
Event technology can be crazy expensive and it can be difficult to produce really high quality digital events unless you’re a video pro who can multitask like a superhuman and also interview beautifully while you do it all.
For most marketers, myself included, it just felt like it wasn’t going to be easy.
But I thought that there’s probably a way to tell great stories and interview fantastic people, in a relevant, engaging way and also not spend thousands and thousands on it.
And hey, it turns out: I was right.
I’m going to show you how I did it for doopoll, and how you can create engaging events for your brand online without spending an arm and a leg.
What we did
Before I give you the exact recipe for what we did and how you can replicate it too, I’m going to show you the format we created.
Earlier in lockdown, I surveyed our customers to find out how their attitudes towards sending out surveys had changed as a result of the challenging times we’re living in. The findings of that survey are reported in this post, and expressed my personal frustration at brands who were getting their marketing message totally wrong and doing so in my inbox loudly. Here’s a snippet of a post by Rand Fishkin (formerly of Moz) which totally encouraged me:
But there are also numerous thoughtful, smart brands who recognize that marketing doesn’t mean exploitation. When it’s done right, marketing is about recognizing and serving a real need.
We decided that we’d align ourselves more closely to the general interest of our audience (with posts like this one on using survey results to generate new business and the one you’re reading now) on topics that we’re genuinely knowledgable about outside of creating and running surveys.
I like this approach and here’s a great extract from Wistia’s Brand Affinity Marketing Playbook that explains why it works so well:
Focusing brand-building activities on awareness rarely leads to an audience of advocates or super fans. Think about it this way—awareness means someone knows of your brand, and affinity means someone likes your brand. Our perceptions of companies are not based on how many times we've interacted with them in passing, but rather the depth of our personal experiences, and the experiences of those we trust.
We wanted to create a feeling of deep ‘like’ in doopoll beyond just realising that it’s a great way to build surveys that vastly outperform competitors online.
That’s why we decided to start running livestreams.
Because, frankly, they’re so easy to digest, require nothing of you as a viewer and allow us to produce genuinely engaging content.
Rather than a simple back and forth conversation, we found we were able to build different scenes, provide visual interest and also to integrate doopoll into the conversations with an element of live audience voting – wherever you are in the world.
So we decided we’d interview experts on topics that are interesting to our customers and relevant to people who aren’t our customers yet too. Here’s what we’ve had so far:
- Owen Williams on the recipe for viral social media success
- Lauren Harvey on steering your business through tough financial straits
- The Welsh Rugby regions on engaging their shared fan base online
- Adam Parry on how the events industry is responding to Covid-19
The format isn’t groundbreaking other than the fact it’s executed about a million times better than most of the webinars you’ve been to since lockdown started. We’ll show you how we did this in a bit.
We chose a regular lunchtime spot for these to happen in (Thursdays at 1:30pm GMT), kept the conversations to 30 minutes and also used doopoll from registration to collecting questions for the guests and also to vote live during the call.
The results were really great. And I’m going to give you some insights into the specifics at the end of this post.
Here’s an example if you want some context:
How to do this yourself
Live streaming is really fun but there’s a little bit of a learning curve to actually getting up and running.
In theory, you could just download the YouTube app onto your phone and go wild with the camera. You’ll be a YouTuber in minutes.
But that didn’t feel like a solution for what I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to add overlays (graphics), and also to share my screen so I could look at things online with my guests (like the live vote results for example).
And I’m happy to say, I found a solution that worked beautifully for us – even if it did take a bit of getting used to.
Because there’s a whole bunch of moving parts to this, I’m going to walk you through the tech setup we used.
The key bit in combining all of the different video, visual and audio sources I wanted to include together is what is called an ‘encoder’.
An encoder converts all of your content into a digital format and allows you to stream directly to YouTube as well as Facebook, Twitter (Periscope) and to save your broadcasts (service permitting).
If this already sounds technical to you, I promise: I didn’t know what the heck I was doing either until late-March 2020.
Having briefly reviewed a couple of options, I decided to go for Stage Ten because it would allow me to stream to many of the social accounts we already had as well as providing us with a super slick ‘studio’ to produce content in live.
I really like how they’ve predefined a number of styles of split screen for you. You just drag and drop whatever you want into the correct pane.
I also tried out OBS which is free to use and although I can see how it would be really powerful, I personally found it a little hard to use. I think I might go back to it and give it another go at some point though.
A couple of things that I found frustrating about getting started with Stage Ten:
Firstly, I couldn’t work out how to get audio onto the feed. There may be a more obvious way to do this, but I found that the only thing that worked was having the participants I wanted to hear on screen, be audio only feeds as well as video feeds.
Here’s a screenshot of me looking stern as I try to work out what the heck I’m doing.
Secondly, it took me ages to work out that I could upload custom overlays. These really lift the livestream out of Zoom territory, allowing you to add brand character and visual interest to your content. We used Canva to design a bunch of overlays(more on that later in the article)
However, I won’t say it’s all rosy. I had a couple of significant problems with Stage Ten while live which I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
For example, while I was running this livestream with Adam Parry on, ironically, the benefits of moving events online, the feed broke down on Adam’s end and the audio dropped out.
I had to react by typing my questions into the chat box so that we didn’t end up with a dumpster fire of a livestream.
That’s an example of what can go wrong. But I want to say in Stage Ten’s defence here, these problems have been the minority of situations for me. And although I don’t really have sufficient evidence to back this claim up, I guess that most platforms where there’s a lot of demand on bandwidth would struggle sometimes.
Stage Ten feels exciting to me because once I had learnt how to use it and overcome a couple of the basic learning curves, I was actually able to produce things with good speed and ease.
Free download: Event Organisers Live Streaming Checklist
If you're thinking about running a live stream, I've created a step by step checklist from 'just thinking about it' through to 'running it live' and everything that comes in between. This thing is extensive and if you follow it in order, it should lead you from 'cool idea, Marc' all the way to WOW THAT WAS GREAT and my audience loved it.
To download it, just answer this simple question and then pop in your email address 👇
I used to do quite a bit of work for magazines in creating video and audio content to go online. Because of that, I had to level up my sound game.
News flash: the in built microphone on pretty much any device you’re using is probably… not great.
That’s why I use the Blue Yeti. Which is, besides a great name, a frankly fantastic microphone.
Here’s a demo of why this matters. The first phrase you’re going to hear is me reciting a short haiku through the built in Mac microphone. The second is the same phrase through the Blue Yeti.
Again, because I like to research stuff, I tried a whole variety of microphones for recording sound for video content and for this setting (i.e. sat by my desk), I wouldn’t recommend a better starting microphone than the Blue Yeti.
Here’s a picture of me and my handsome friend showing a phone to the Blue Yeti. Jokes. That’s not me. That’s from the Blue Designs website… I just wanted to show you how impressive the microphone looks.
The microphone is pretty cheap to be honest. It’s $129 and is available on Amazon. It plugs into your computer via USB and you don’t need to install any extra software to use it.
I think what I love about it is that it’s super functional with a whole bunch of different settings to help you when you need different kinds of sound, but it also just works.
Also, unlike a lot of other mics I’ve used, the Blue Yeti is super sturdy. And while that doesn’t mean you should drop it on the floor (that wouldn’t be good for the parts inside), if you bash it slightly, it won’t fall over.
One more thing here while I extol the virtues of this weirdly named microphone: it just looks great. And so I leave mine on my desk set up all the time, ready for my next call, livestream or audio recording (whatever that might be.)
Totally optional here but if you want to look nice on a call, unless you’re sitting in a bay window in Californian sunshine, it’s probably going to require a bit of work.
When I first started recording video content, I used to position Ikea desk lamps around the room and pump light from all directions onto my face. Then a videographer told me that I was overdoing it and that I could just use a little LED light panel from Amazon.
And that’s when I discovered there’s a lot of those guys out there. Just google LED Light Panel for Live Streaming and you’ll find one that works for your price range. It doesn’t need to be wildly expensive or filled with features.
Heads up though: buying one that has mains power as an option will save you a lot of hassle. Here’s the one that I bought.
I also use a smaller, battery powered one that I had left over from a previous project positioned just out of sight behind my chair. That’s a trick I learned from a videographer who said that it creates the impression of depth.
And he wasn’t wrong.
But if you’re not into buying an extra light for your video broadcasts, at least consider your light:
- Make the room as light as you can do with what you have available – your eyes are better than cameras at picking up light and while it might seem light to you, it probably could be better for a camera. Consider the lamp trick I used above.
- Position yourself with your face towards the main light source – never put the main light source in the room behind you. The reason for that is that it makes you look like a dark, shadowy figure. Don’t believe me? Turn on the selfie camera on your phone and then stand with your back to the window. DARK. Turn around and suddenly you can see the gorgeous you in gorgeous light. My my. You do look fantastic.
For making sure that I’m putting across a polished livestream, I use Canva to help me create simple graphics like overlays.
For years I used like Illustrator or Photoshop to do stuff like this and then I discovered that Canva cost a crumb of what Adobe does and also was just so easy to use. So I cancelled my Creative Cloud account and switched to making simple graphics online.
And it’s great. I love that for the same price, I can use all the stock images, music, symbols, and everything that Canva has to offer.
Also, I get heaps of ideas for social media content from their template library.
Of course, I use doopoll to engage my audience in real time.
What I love about this is that it brings genuine delight to both the audience (who can see that they’re influencing the discussion) and also to my guests who feel honoured that a whole new group of people are listening to their message.
Besides that, adding live voting to your live stream provides great insights for you to generate more content for your content lifecycle. We wrote about how you can kill it with survey results here.
doopoll is easy to set up and manage and as you can do it with your phone too, it makes managing the live poll while multitasking on the live stream a dream.
Bish bash bosh: two questions and a bit of encouragement to participate and you’re rolling with a genuinely engaging livestream.
What have the results been?
Before I end this blog post, I just want to talk about what some of the results of live streaming have been for us.
We separate our blog and app subscriber list. These lists live in ActiveCampaign so that we can effectively send out the right message at the right time to the right person via email.
A key focus for us has been growing the mailing list. We do this through a number of routes – mostly using surveys (43% of people who take part in a doopoll embedded on a website leave an email address to join a mailing list).
But with this one, we wanted to prioritise using doopoll to sign up to the livestream. So we asked people to fill out two short questions and then leave their email address to get emailed the links. I set up an automation in Zapier and ActiveCampaign to send the links for the livestream to anyone who did this.
Our blog subscriber list is still quite small in comparison to the app subscriber list because we’ve primarily focused on getting people on the doopoll blog to signup to trial doopoll rather than adding them to our mailing list. However, four weeks into this livestream project and we have doubled the size of blog subscriber list.
Benefit of that is that we have also reached audiences who we wouldn’t have engaged with before until they had decided that they wanted to trial doopoll. And more than that, we have their continued attention now.
Another result of this work is that we’ve got a fantastic case study to show our customers about how you can continue to run live events using doopoll if you bring a bit of creativity and innovation to the table.
When someone asks me if they can run live polls over a webinar, I’m just going to direct them to this blog from now on.
And additionally, we have picked up a big number of app signups (conversions) from this work. Because we invite great guests to take part in the livestreams, we expose doopoll to their audiences and that is a new channel for us too.
It’s not what we intended but we’ve seen a whole load of signups to trial doopoll from the livestreams and publicity.
Have a scream with livestreaming
Livestreaming is brilliant fun if nothing else. I have had a blast with organising, promoting and running these livestreams.
If you try this out for only one reason: let it be that you’re getting to talk to subject experts about their area of expertise – and that’s always fun.
If you try it out for another reason let it be this: events are changing and organising an event is now pretty accessible and can be done for significantly less money than pre-lockdown.
There’s really no excuse not to try out livestreaming as a marketing channel. It provides great value for your viewers and also because of the list building and audience building opportunities it provides great value for you.