dwed Not all Webcasts are created equal.

After more than five years of helping clients produce high-impact  Webcasts, we believe that, if you're ready to go beyond the Webcam or the PowerPoint, there are five keys to your success:

1. Event management. You need a project manager or producer who  takes responsibility for the Webcasting event and has the support of others inside or outside your organization with certain key skills.

2. Content and production. You need outstanding content and the highest production values to bring that content to life.

3. Web development and hosting. You need a great Web interface to carry your production to your audience.

4. Technical support. You need to make sure your audience can connect on the day of your Webcast.

5. A good partner. Producing a spectacular Webcast is especially challenging because it requires so many diverse skills. If you don't have all of these skills in house, you'll need to go out and find a partner who does.

Event management
Very likely the person in charge of your Webcast will be a department head with a crucial message to deliver, whether in sales, training, recruiting or perhaps an educational discipline. That person will take charge of the content and must take responsibility for the overall success of the project.
Yet one person can't do everything. You'll need someone with IT skills, someone with video and PowerPoint production skills, and someone with marketing skills able to get the word out about the Webcast to potential clients, students or staff.

Content and production
The best Webcasts tell a compelling story, and to tell a good story takes time. The rule of thumb is that at least three quarters of your production time will be spent in planning, including creating scripts, interview questions or other written materials.  

Think about who in your organization can do the best job in front of a camera. That may be a sales rep or a professional trainer, or you may want to bring in outside talent.

It's crucial to find the right place to stage your Webcast. You may be adding Webcasting to an event with a live audience, or the Webcast may stand alone. Either way, you need a good-looking set in a room with a high ceiling and extra space to position lights, cameras and microphones. Think about renting a studio or setting up in an auditorium, multi-purpose room or even your warehouse.

Consider shooting some or all of a "live" event in advance. It's really hard to make a good presentation in one take. Instead, let your presenters make several tries and edit the results, then bring them back to the same set in the same clothing to react live to audience feedback you gather during the Webcast.

Web development and hosting
Our experience is that most organizations should not attempt to host a Webcast on their own server.

A good hosting service will provide not only the necessary bandwidth but the redundancy, security and monitoring to ensure that your event is a success. They will also be able to archive your Webcast, handle registration, help you with test Webcasts and provide a reporting package with a list of attendees, contact information plus a record of the questions and feedback submitted via chat or email.

Whether you outsource or not, you'll want to develop an HTML interface that seamlessly links into your current website, consistent with your brand identity and public image.

Consider online testing to help attendees pay more attention. You can use online surveys to gather feedback and interest in buying from potential clients.

Technical support
Because things can go wrong, be sure to provide telephone support, at minimum on the day of your Webcast.

No matter how carefully you prepare and test your systems, some audience members will have trouble registering or connecting and need help. Your tech support people should also be ready to help you should some unexpected glitch develop.

If you don't have all of these skills in house -- and few organizations do -- go out and find the correct partner. A professionally-produced Webcast can reach a widely-dispersed audience very cost effectively, and it can provide immediate feedback for effective follow-up with your audience. For those reasons, it can be enormously beneficial to your organization. It's well worth the investment to bring the right people in to help.

Your finished Webcast can take many forms. I invite you to view several that Conference Technologies has produced, and I hope they'll give you some ideas for your next event. To view these samples, visit conferencetech.com/webcast/demo.

John Laughlin, CTS, is President and CEO of Conference Technologies, Inc., a provider of audio visual design, integration, video conferencing, rental solutions, and technical service support, with nine offices throughout the United States.