More than 400 TechRepublic members took time out of their busy work lives to participate in the TechRepublic Streaming Video Survey, and I extend my gratitude to each and every one of you. Thanks to your participation, the survey results provided valuable insights into streaming video and its appropriate uses. I won’t bore you with all of the survey data, but in this week’s column, I will look at some practical, Webcast-planning advice I gleaned from the survey results. Just think of these three pointers as some helpful advice from 400 of your closest friends at TechRepublic.
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Some things to keep in mind
Although the number of survey participants was large enough to lend validity to our results, keep in mind that participants were specifically TechRepublic members, meaning that their opinions and content usage habits may not necessarily reflect those of Web users in general or the specific audience your company may target with a video Webcast.

That said, the fact that these respondents are busy professionals does align them with your likely target audience, and because these members are probably more familiar with streaming media, their insights should provide more specific and useful information.

Seminars need to be short, speeches shorter
Among the streaming video content types we discussed in the survey, the two that most companies are likely to work with are online seminars and speeches. According to the survey results, most of the seminars and speeches currently delivered on the Web are simply too long.

Many online seminars approach an hour in length, and speeches regularly run 15 to 30 minutes. However, when asked to define the optimum length for online seminars and speeches, members said that seminars should not run longer than 20 minutes, and speeches should run no longer than 10 minutes.

The optimum length for seminars was “greater than 10 minutes but less than 20 minutes,” the choice of more than one-quarter of respondents. However, the total for all optimum length ranges of less than 20 minutes (including “less than two minutes,” “greater than two but less than five,” and “greater than five but less than 10”) added up to 76 percent.

For speeches, the optimum length was “greater than five minutes but less than 10 minutes,” which was selected by about one-third of respondents. The total for all optimum length ranges of less that 10 minutes was 74 percent.

Keep these data points in mind the next time your CEO wants to Webcast a 30-minute address to employees worldwide or your marketing team wants to run a 45-minute product-education seminar followed by a 20-minute Q&A session.

Click here to read the other two streaming video tips based on the TechRepublic Streaming Video Survey.

Interaction adds real value to Webcasts
If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth the effort to add real-time interactive components, such as simultaneous chats or Q&A sessions, to Webcasts, survey participants answered with a resounding “yes.” Better than nine out of 10 survey participants said that real-time interaction adds value to online seminars, and nearly half of those said that such elements add significant value. For speeches, the results were only slightly less positive. Three quarters of respondents said that real-time interaction adds value to speeches, but only one-third of those said it added significant value.

The response was also positive when we asked members how they felt about enhancing video with ongoing interactive opportunities, such as a moderated discussion in an online forum. Consistent with opinions on real-time interaction, nine out of 10 survey participants said that ongoing interaction adds value to online seminars, but only one-third of those said it adds significant value. For speeches, eight out of 10 said that real-time interaction added value to speeches, but only one-fifth of those said it added significant value.

Based on these numbers, my conclusion is that you should add an interactive component to your Webcast if possible. Real-time interaction seems to be the best option if you can accommodate it technologically and logistically, but attaching a BBS-style, ongoing discussion to an archived seminar or other type of available-on-demand video is also worthwhile. Either way, you’d better be ready to stimulate and maintain discussion with prepared questions if your audience doesn’t jump right in.

If you build it (and let them know), they will come
I will admit that my last tidbit of advice requires the most subjective interpretation of the survey data on my part, but that interpretation is based on more than 12 years of experience as an online publisher and consumer. Simply put, even if you create an awesome Webcast and identify a prime audience for its consumption, your project will fail unless you take steps to bring the two together.

I say this because the number of survey participants that expressed a willingness to view Web video of all types over the next six months is significantly greater than the frequencies with which they reported viewing Web video over the past six months. For example, 39 percent said they had not viewed a single video seminar over the last six months, but 92 percent said that if given the chance to view seminars, they would view more than one in the coming six months. And almost half of those who said they would view seminars also said they would view more than five.

While the percentages varied among different video content types, the pattern was consistent. It looks like most folks’ interest in viewing useful streaming video currently outreaches their access to such content. Though it’s not your job as the technological-enabler of Webcasts to make sure the audience shows up, you should make sure your marketing department takes care of that chore to ensure the overall success of the project.

Want more details on the survey results?
I promised I wouldn’t bore you with all of the data we gathered in the Streaming Video Survey, but for those who want a closer look at the numbers, I’ll provide additional survey results details in next week’s Roundtable TechMail. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up now to make sure you get a closer look at our survey results.

TechRepublic cofounder and Executive Contributing Editor Jeff Yocom is on a mission to help IT executives and managers leverage new media in all its forms: streaming audio, digital video, wireless—you name it. Yocom searches the virtual and real worlds for new media developments and engages TechRepublic members in illuminating discussions to keep you up to date on real-world applications of new media technologies.

Have you had any experiences with streaming video projects that support or contradict our survey results? Do you agree with Jeff’s advice based on the results? Post a comment below to let other community members know.