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Live or Pre-recorded Sessions? Here's What You Need to Know

Live or pre-recorded sessions- which is better? Here are some key points to consider.
Live or pre-recorded sessions- which is better? Here are some key points to consider. Image by

As companies and event profs everywhere transition to virtual, content has become more important than ever. Our experiential market is currently facing one of its biggest challenges to date: delivering high-quality, immersive experiences that keep audiences connected remotely. In a world where we are all essentially isolated due to a pandemic, virtual events have become the major point of connection. Naturally, one of the biggest questions that arises is this: What’s better, live or pre-recorded sessions? The answer depends largely on your unique attendees.

Obviously, there are significant pros and cons to both options. Before making a decision, consider your consumers’ demographic and psychographics, as well as your goals and theirs. (We’ll go in-depth about the difference between demographics and psychographics shortly). Once you’ve got these four key points of knowledge under your belt, you can then figure out how to deliver the highest value to your attendees within the means of your budget. Of course, part of that determination means deciding to go with live or pre-recorded sessions (or a combo of both).

As we’ve emphasized before, the new hyperfocus on virtual events represents an exciting opportunity to reach broader audiences. For many, it’s an opportunity to connect with target audiences that may have been out of reach before, ultimately transforming their brand. A central part of the online event experience is impacted by speaker sessions, and whether they’re live or pre-recorded.

Demographics and Psychographics: Why Your Decision Should Be Informed by Both

It’s a fact: Demographics and psychographics influence people’s  relationships with technology and virtual events.
It’s a fact: Demographics and psychographics influence people’s relationships with technology and virtual events. Image by

We’ll explain the difference between the two- and why both are integral to modern marketing- in detail in an upcoming post. For the purposes of deciding whether to hold live or pre-recorded sessions, let’s focus on the main differences between demographics and psychographics. Demographics constitute the most basic statistical data you can gather about who your audience is. Demographics include information such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, marital status, education, employment, and income. Basically, these stats help you understand where your individual consumers fit into the general population. In order to market successfully to your consumers over time, this information is pertinent; different groups have different needs, desires, priorities, and money to spend.

Psychographics is the study of people’s interests and attitudes. In other words, it helps you learn more personal information about your consumers’ beliefs, attitudes, values, and aspirations. Getting to know your attendees beyond what’s on the surface enables you to build stronger relationships and deliver more personalized experiences. Psychographics works in tandem with demographics to give you a more complete profile of your audience and helps you target new audiences in innovative ways. That’s more important than ever as connecting with remote audiences rises to the top of everyone’s priority list.

So how does all of this pertain to deciding whether to go live or pre-recorded? For one thing, demographics and psychographics impact people’s relationship with technology. Let’s talk age demographics first. Millennials and younger people stand out for their technology use and proficiency. According to research conducted by Pew Research Center in early 2019, more than nine-in-ten people between the ages of 23 and 30 own smartphones; 90 % of Gen Xers (those between 39 and 54) own smartphones. According to this research, a comparatively low 68% of Baby Boomers own smartphones, while just 40% of the Silent Generation (74 to 91) do.

Many people who live stream events do so from their smartphones, which obviously gives millennials and younger people an advantage. However, these statistics don’t tell even close to the entire story. Ofcom’s annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report shows that older adults are using smartphones and tablets in record numbers. A whopping half of senior internet users aged 65-74 have at least one social media profile. This is significant because it means you can connect with your older audience and build relationships on social media. Even more impressive (and we believe impressive is the right word to use here), a quarter of internet users 75 and over use tablets.

Not sure where to connect with your older audience? Pre-event and post-event surveys can tell you which social media platforms they are using. Worth noting is the fact that, according to Pew Research Center, Boomers and Silents have increased their Facebook use by the double digits since 2015. And about three fourths of millennials and Gen Xers report using Facebook.

The long and short of it? We all win when live stream technology is easy to access and navigate. If you want to reach an age-diverse audience by live streaming, keep your setup relatively simple. If you have a smartphone or a laptop with a built-in camera and mic, you’ve got the equipment you need. Detachable cameras and mics can be hooked up to laptops for easy use as well. Just make sure your internet connection is high-speed and do several test runs before your event goes live.

How Do Psychographics Inform Technology and Consumerism?

The relationship between psychographics and the event industry is still developing, and thus is often underestimated. Here’s how psychographics can inform your choice between live and pre-recorded
The relationship between psychographics and the event industry is still developing, and thus is often underestimated. Here’s how psychographics can inform your choice between live and pre-recorded. Image by

Psychographics reveal the cognitive factors that drive consumer behaviors, such as emotional responses and motivations.They also reveal inherent, subconscious attitudes and biases that inform the content people consume. For example, research consistently shows that Millennials care more about experiential value than material possessions. Essentially, they want to be engaged emotionally and feel that their personal needs and desires are being fulfilled. Taking that into consideration, interactive live sessions cater heavily to this need for high engagement.

As with in-person events, catering to Millennials means building long-term relationships with them on social media. It also means pre-event and post-event surveys take on new meaning in the wake of a pandemic. More than any other group, Millennials are driven by the need for experiential value, much of which has been compromised by the lack of in-person events in society. Immersive tech, high engagement, and live polling all work to make attendees feel like an active part of the online event experience. Mobile event apps that have these features are optimal choices for virtual events that target Millennials as their audience.

This is not to say that Gen Xers and seniors aren’t driven by the need for connectivity during the pandemic and in general. As we discussed above, recent statistics show that quite the opposite is true. However, psychographics reveal that the ways in which people relate to the technology and virtual content differ among diverse age groups.

For example, previous research conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that seniors face unique challenges to using new technologies. What are these barriers? Well, some are simply not confident in their ability to properly use electronic devices. This can be chalked up to the fact that, unlike Millennials and members of Gen Z, they weren’t raised on technology- it’s new to them. In addition, some older adults may also face physical challenges to using electronic devices.

Furthermore, older internet users may be less likely to view the internet as having a positive impact on society. Unsurprisingly, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey revealed that 73% of Millennials said that they think the internet has mostly been a good thing for society. A significantly lower 63% of Silent Generation users reported that they view the internet as positive.

Would Your Speakers Perform Better Live?

The personality and abilities of your speaker panel should inform your choice between live and pre-recorded sessions.
The personality and abilities of your speaker panel should inform your choice between live and pre-recorded sessions. Image by

When choosing between live and pre-recorded sessions, consider your speakers as well. Speakers tend to thrive off of spontaneity and make their biggest impression from direct interactions with attendees. Obviously, in-person interactions tend to create the biggest feeling of connection, but live interactions online can produce the same high. Personal connection is most powerfully and easily forged in real time. And because the event market is highly experiential, many speakers want to make as intimate an impression as possible. As we know, emotional connections drive an experiential market.

Also, some information presented by speakers is time-sensitive. For example, statistics on some topics can change very quickly and lose relevance by the time you present a pre-recorded session. So take that into account as well.

If you do go with pre-recorded sessions, make sure that your speakers can be engaging without the energy of live interaction to feed off. Ideally, they should have actor-like skills that allow them to imagine they are actually speaking to their audience, creating a similar feeling of connection. The more passion behind their words, the more of an emotional impression they leave on viewers.

Now let’s talk a bit about presentation. Visually engaging, immersive graphics are obviously more memorable. The more interactive your content is, the better. For example, if you’re introducing a new product, try to make the product available for consumers to demo on your website. There are plenty of affordable webinar software designed to allow consumers to interact with your product. During a pre-recorded session, feature pop-up links to product demos and speaker’s contact information for attendees who want to learn more.

Storytelling accompanied by powerful visuals helps bring pre-recorded sessions to life. Encourage your speakers to let their audience know who they are, what their mission is, and what inspired it. Have them show rather than simply explain how they uniquely fulfill a common need. Memory tends to be photographic; illustrating concepts while bringing them to life with vivid storytelling goes a long way.

It’s best to break up lectures and instructional videos into several short videos; packing too much information into one long video loses viewers’ attention. Since pre-recorded sessions can make it more challenging for participants to stay focused, give them brief breaks between videos. This way, they have time to process what they learned, refresh, and refocus.

Last but certainly not least, you’ll want to make sure you give viewers a way to connect with you ASAP with questions or comments. Insert a lively, prominent pop-up link to your contact information- and that of any exhibitors featured at your event.

Benefits to Pre-recorded Sessions

Here are some reasons why pre-recording your sessions might be your ticket to online success- at least for now.
Here are some reasons why pre-recording your sessions might be your ticket to online success- at least for now. Image by

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about how to drive engagement through pre-recorded sessions, let’s discuss the benefits. What are some reasons that event creators choose pre-recorded over live? For one thing, converting to virtual events is a process and a learning experience. A lot of us are new to it, and live sessions don’t leave a lot of room for mistakes. There are no do-overs. Thus, a lot of event creators dip their feet into the virtual pool by beginning with pre-recorded sessions. Pre-recording sessions leave room for trial and error, which can be a good thing until you know what works for you. If you or your staff are novices at using specific technology, pre-recorded sessions give you the opportunity to perfect your proficiency before viewers tune in.

You may not think so at a glance, but in some ways, pre-recorded sessions allow for more flexibility and creativity. Although live sessions let you be more interactive with attendees, pre-recorded sessions allow for more interactive content. Let me explain. Animation is a tool that really brings sessions to life. When you pre-record your session, you can actually record yourself interacting with an animation.

As always, consider your content. If it’s musical or relies heavily on auditory content, pre-recorded sessions often deliver better quality. That’s because you’ll have the opportunity to edit the audio to peak quality before presenting your content.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when making this decision. But the main takeaway is to prioritize your goals and those of your attendees. Ask yourself: Which method would best help me meet my goals and exceed my audience’s expectations? If you’re overwhelmed, go through the sections of this post one-by-one. Consider each point individually, and then weigh the possible pros and cons. It can be helpful to write them down. Once you have a clear idea of which option is best for you, just go for it! Yes, you’ve got to be prepared, but no one’s first time is their best. The transition to online events is a learning experience for most event creators. So be creative, have fun, and practice, practice, practice!


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