WebRTC Expert Feature

December 11, 2013

Can WebRTC Change the Conference Business?

“There is nothing like face-to-face conferences” has been the adage for the conference business for years, keeping many in business even as with each passing year the Internet makes communication ever more virtual. Through those years I have seen instant messaging used at conferences as a kind of sarcastic backchannel, managed to video conference speakers iced into Dallas into a Miami event, and used LiveStream to broadcast show happenings.  And our friends at IMTC have used Skype and Twitter to take questions from the audience. 

All of these use examples demonstrate how close we are on the technology side of things, however, there are some remaining business issues to explore.


Message Boards

First on my agenda is keeping the dialogue active.  Whenever I do a webinar, I am always aware that I may have to field questions from competitors who are trying to embarrass the presenter, inappropriate questions (for a paid-for webinar) like, “Isn’t it true that our Brand X scales better than your Brand Y?” and, “What other companies offer these essential features that you lack?” On the other hand, though, in a virtual conference featuring several presenters on-stage, such questions are allowable and even entertaining.  The comments on a messaging platform, however, can be cruel…“Does this guy ever give up the microphone?”….“He looks nervous…can someone get him a Valium?”  

Solution: A messaging moderator is needed in the chat rooms.


Next, I will address capture.  Recently I was delighted to hear of the addition of archival functions to TokBox, because while we are all glad to talk about real-time, the trend is for people to do their viewing in an asynchronous manner.

These days my daughters like to tell me that they don’t watch TV, however what they are really saying is that they watch the programs they like without commercials using their PVR or they watch in “binge” mode via Netflix or the cable operator.

Solution:  Archives should be connected to show Web pages, and relinked appropriately.

Remote Speakers and Viewers

WebRTC solves a lot of things; scaling simultaneous streaming, however, is not one of them. As such, the use of a streaming system with WebRTC should be a requirement.  Of course, you may wish to elevate certain speakers – for example, if Linus Torvalds is in the audience and wants to make a comment, you want to be able to adapt to include him – but the for the majority of the audience interaction you don’t want to clog the real-time stream with faces and questions. If you want to augment with their video comments, though, that should be a part of the capability set.  

Solution:  A social network for the archives, and valuing via meritocracy. 

Business Model

The business model is the hardest thing to change, with conferences like carnivals in that they come in and leave. Often I hear people who I know started off with a large set of qualified leads complain about the lack of business they had as a result of a show.  Our friend Glenn Gaudet would say, though, that it is about the touch points.  If the sponsorship model was better connected to an advertising strategy, I believe that would be a great experience, however all too often brand marketing and sales strategy barely connect.

Solution:  A continual marketing campaign associated with the events.

Message boards, archives, remote speakers and viewers, the business model…these are just some of the aspects of what I would like to see adopted by the conference business.  Of course, if you have seen some great implementations, or if you have other potential solutions you would like to share on how WebRTC can improve the business, I would be very curious to know your thoughts, observations and suggestions.

Image via Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock.com

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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