A hot topic in the Department of Health Digital team is how digital tools can be used to deliver and support live events. We’ve piloted a few different methods recently, with different results. I thought I’d share some of what we’ve found.
Following on from the success of our digital coverage at the G8 Dementia Summit in December last year, it’s been all hands on deck for the Global Dementia Legacy Event on Finance and Social Investment as we live blogged, live tweeted, live streamed (in 7 languages), shared photos, and shared videos throughout the day. With an agenda that included speakers from the World Dementia Council, world leaders in health, finance and research, Alzheimer’s charities and the Prime Minister, we anticipated a high level of interest over the course of the 7 hour event.
The Dementia Challenge homepage was taken over for the day by our coverage of the event and received a total of 2009 hits to the live video stream run by Fly on the Wall digital broadcasting. We also had 32 people listen in French, 24 in Spanish, 27 in Italian, 42 in German, 55 in Japanese and 207 in Mandarin Chinese; stats we’re really pleased about as it’s the first time we’ve done live interpreting, and the figures demonstrate we were meeting a clear need. We worked with Glasgows event management to run this huge event, the scale of which was obviously much greater than most of our other projects, but despite that there are many learnings we can take to inform our approach for smaller live events.
National Information Board committee meeting
I’ve recently supported the National Information Board secretariat (formerly the ISCG) who were tasked with live streaming their first committee meeting on the 10th of June. There was some precedent as the ISCG had done this before, and it was felt that it met a transparency commitment. As always we started by looking for evidence of user need, but soon discovered we didn’t have access to the stats from previous live streamed meetings. Without knowing how many people had tuned in, it was very difficult to measure how successful this was, so we decided to pilot live streaming the first NIB meeting with all the analytics in place as a test of cost vs impact.
We procured the services of live streaming experts Public-i who do lots of work with local and central government, and St Thomas’s Hospital kindly agreed to host us in their Governor’s Hall. Learning from Anna Hepburn’s previous experience with live streaming I knew there was a lot of prep work to do in advance of any live coverage, to promote your event ‘early enough to make sure that people know it’s happening and where they can access it’.
So for the NIB event the link was shared on Twitter via @DHgovuk and attendees Jon Rouse @RouseJonDGDH, Tim Kelsey @tkelsey1 and Ryan Callahan @ryanp2callahan also spread the word, employing the hashtag #NIBmeetings to group our tweets under a common search term.
The footage of the committee meeting will be available to watch back for 6 months and you can navigate to specific sections by clicking on the relevant speaker’s name on the agenda. Website visits peaked during the Secretary of State’s introduction, with the final total for the day reaching 84 unique pageviews on the live stream page and an average time of 3 and half minutes spent watching. With this data we were able to make the informed recommendation to explore alternative options for future NIB meetings.
DCLG Local Digital Discovery Day
In another example, back in May I supported the Department of Communities and Local Government with coverage of their Care Bill event; part of the DCLG’s Local Digital Campaign to showcase the best of government service digital innovation and to drive learning and development across the sector.
The DCLG and UK Authority teams are well practised at these events and their digital coverage reflects that - whilst I was tweeting from our @DHgovuk account we also had great engagement from attendees such as Karen Dooley @KarenDooley1, Nick Roberts @NickDRoberts and Julie Oxley @infoantech using the #LocalDigital hashtag. DCLG’s Linda O’Halloran @LindaSasta did a great job pulling together the highlights on Storify. Check out the GDS blog for more tips on live tweeting.
The event was filmed and by UK Authority managing editor Helen Olsen (@HelenOlsen) – and we’ll share the link to this via our DH Twitter shortly. Creating video content this way, rather than live streaming, is something we’re considering for future NIB meetings so people can easily watch specific speakers they’re interested in at a time that’s convenient to them. It also mitigates some of the technical risks of broadcasting live. You can follow the #LocalDigital Campaign activity on Twitter @LocalDigitalGov and a there’s full calendar of past and future events on the campaign website.
Live Streaming knowledge sharing
Following on from this flurry of live events, I met with colleagues from across government for an informal knowledge sharing session to find out what other teams have been doing and to talk about my recent experiences. A common challenge we face is how to deliver live events at little or no cost. Fortunately there are some free digital tools available, and the one that’s been most widely tested is Google Hangouts.
Alex Schillemore from the Digital Engagement team at HMRC talked about a Google Hangout they ran with the graduate recruitment scheme. Graduates often weren’t able to attend university career fairs but still wanted to get advice from the team, so hosting a webchat seemed like a good solution. In advance of the event the team encouraged graduates to send in questions via the HMRC Facebook page, Twitter or on the Hangout’s Q&A function to gather plenty of material for their experts to respond to in the live panel-style show. It’s worth noting the webchat was broadcast using Hangout on Air rather than Google+ Hangouts, which are better for smaller, private groups. Hangouts on Air stream through YouTube and are videos are automatically saved to your YouTube channel once complete, with the option to edit them if you wish.
We’ve been running webchats at DH for a few years and published some guidance about running effective webchats on our blog.
My top lessons learnt
There are three key things that will contribute to the success of any live event:
- Engagement - use existing online presence to build and encourage participation before the event
- Preparation - do a full test run to check your tech (cameras, sound, internet connection, website platforms etc)
- Iteration - stats are essential for measuring and analysing the success of your event, and help you to improve for the future