One of the best bits of working on the digital team at the Department of Health is the chance to do new things. I don’t mean just trying out the latest technology for the sake of it – it’s about finding different and better ways of achieving our aims. And it’s also about changing people’s expectations, both inside and outside the department.
There was quite a lot of internal discussion about the decision to live stream the G8 dementia summit on 11 December 2013, which was essentially a debate about just how open the summit should be. And the digital team and other communications colleagues had to employ a fair amount of persuasion before it was agreed that we would live stream all of the sessions.
We were convinced that it was the right thing to do to make it a digital summit, to make it an open summit where everyone who couldn’t be there in person could see and hear the discussions of the delegates. But we didn’t really have much of a precedent to draw on. We didn’t have any handy evidence in our back pockets to demonstrate the importance of live digital coverage of an event like this because we had never done anything comparable. And as for predicting how many people would view the coverage, we could only make a rough guess.
After the event, it’s much clearer to see that we made the right call on what live coverage to provide. The numbers of people accessing the streaming and the live blog far surpassed our expectations, with 5,290 views of the live stream and 8,121 views of the live blog on the day. The stream was also used by a number of broadcasters in the UK and abroad, including BBC and Sky, extending the reach of the coverage still further.
On the day, the digital coverage included:
- summit page including live video streaming, live blog and photographs from the event
- short films of people with dementia and carers played out on the video stream as delegates watched them and available to watch on demand
- declaration and communiqué published on GOV.UK
- live twitter commentary
- photo sets on flickr
The dementia challenge site, which was home to the live coverage, received 20.9k pageviews on the day of the summit, compared with 3.8k on an average Wednesday. There were also 20 to 30 times more visitors than usual from outside the UK, including hundreds in Japan, Germany, US, Canada, Italy and Denmark. The biggest peaks in traffic were during the press conference and the PM’s speech.
The hashtag #G8dementia trended on twitter during the summit. There were 14,923 tweets relating to the summit on 11 December, with a sustained peak between 10am and 1pm relating to speeches from Margaret Chan and Yves Leterme and a second peak between 2 and 3pm triggered by the PM's speech. There were also tweets from people as far away as Canada and Australia commenting on the coverage, including this tweet from Jo (@HTCdementia):
#G8dementia Summit: Great job on the coverage and tweet stream! I'm glad that I can actually watch the coverage all the way from Tasmania
Now we are planning the digital coverage of the Global Action Against Dementia event in London in June, one of the legacy events continuing the work of the summit. And it’s clear that the work we did on the G8 dementia summit has changed expectations within the department. No persuasion is necessary this time – it is taken as read that the event will be open, that we will provide live streaming, blogging and tweeting of the whole event. Though of course we’ll still be finding ways to do things differently and better.