Should Virtual Event Sessions Be Live or Pre-Recorded? Find Out.

In terms of event content, one of the most important decisions to be made is live vs. prerecorded. There are great reasons to pick live content, but you might be surprised by some of the reasons behind prerecord your sessions.

Pros and Cons of Live Sessions

Pro: Live Video Feels More Authentic

When you need your content to feel relatable and authentic, it’s generally better to go for live over prerecorded. Live video means you don’t get to choose the best of multiple takes; you just go with what you get. It means a brief pause while a speaker takes a sip of water or a wave of spontaneous laughter at an off-the-cuff joke. It makes the presenter, the content, and the brand feel more relatable and more human.

Pro: Live Video Is More Engaging

One of the biggest advantages of live video is something that’s crucial in the world of virtual events: It’s vastly more engaging than prerecorded video.

The statistics on Facebook Live are a testament to this simple fact. For instance, people watch Facebook Live videos for three times longer than they watch prerecorded video. And they don’t just watch. Facebook Live videos generate six times more interactions than prerecorded videos.

People love watching events unfold in real time, much more than they do watching something that’s already happened. When they react and comment, they feel like they’re part of the event—part of the larger conversation. Simply put, if you want to drive high engagement figures, live video is the way to go.

Pro: It’s Less Strain on the Budget

Live video is generally cheaper to produce than prerecorded content. Part of the difference here is that recording video ahead of time allows you to increase the production value. This naturally makes the video more expensive to produce.

But the price difference is also because the nature of live video is such that you can often do it with less equipment and personnel. A speaker on a livestream or live chat generally just needs a computer and a microphone.

Con: Live Video Can Be Unpredictable

The flipside of authentic and relatable is unpredictable and potentially unprofessional. When you’re beaming content live to virtual eventgoers, anything can happen, from unplanned noise like a barking dog to a presenter’s coughing fit. Depending on the image you’re trying to portray, these kinds of problems can be disastrous. Because you can’t control everything about your environment, it’s always important to prepare for anything with pre-launch testing.

Con: Technical Issues May Lead to Audience Dissatisfaction

The potential for technical issues is another problem that can hinder your live content. If one of your speakers has a spotty connection or a piece of equipment malfunctions, the resulting drop in video quality may leave your audience frustrated enough to leave the event. It’s important to make sure all your speakers are well prepared. Do this to help!

Pros and Cons of Prerecording Virtual Event Content

Pro: Edit Out Mistakes

Live content is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get situation, but with prerecorded content, you don’t have to live with mistakes; you can just edit them out. If there’s an equipment malfunction, fix it, and then resume recording. If your speaker has problems getting a certain word out, do as many takes as they need to get it right.

Pro: For Speakers, There’s More Flexibility and Less Pressure

Because live content is unpredictable—and potentially messy—it can be a high-pressure situation. This is especially so for inexperienced speakers. Pre-recording their presentations takes the heat off and gives them every chance of delivering a great result.

It also gives them more flexibility in terms of when they record their content. With a live presentation, it has to be done at a particular day and time, potentially making it harder to coordinate the speakers you want. Pre-recording means that’s not an issue.

Pro: Achieve Higher Production Value

The big advantage of prerecording event content is that you can generally achieve a higher quality level than with live content. Pre-recording doesn’t just mean you can edit out mistakes and problems. It also means you can add things. Better-quality lighting and audio and additional cameras, for instance, make content immediately look more professional.

It also means you have time for post-production processing and editing to further elevate the content. You can add closed captions, subtitles, and other accessibility modifications. And you can further enhance content with graphics and editing techniques to provide a professional polish.

Pro tip: When you work with a 3D immersive virtual event platform, worries about the professionalism[p2]  of live content disappear. At BeyondLive, we’re able to customize the setting for presentations and demonstrations and also provide live video production expertise to produce truly professional results.

Con: There Are Higher Tech Requirements (and More Expensive)

If you’re producing content with higher production values, that invariably means you need more equipment and more personnel to do it. And that, in turn means more money and, often, less flexibility in terms of where content is produced.

Con: There Can Be Low Audience Interaction

While high production values are a definite plus, where prerecorded video is most lacking is in audience interaction and engagement. With live video, there’s the potential for a true back-and-forth conversation between a speaker or presenter and their audience. When the video is pre-recorded, it becomes more work to replicate that, though it’s not impossible; interactive polls and surveys can help keep viewers engaged while they watch prerecorded content.

When to Choose a Live or Prerecorded Session

Making the decision between live video and pre-recorded sessions for your virtual event doesn’t have to be difficult. When it’s an either-or situation, your decision mostly comes down to the kind of feeling or atmosphere you’re trying to create. Each type of content evokes a different vibe. Live content is more organic, off-the-cuff, and spontaneous, which gives it a casual, relatable, and authentic feel. Pre-recorded content gives you the chance to add some polish, creating a more formal or professional feel.

This basic difference can inform your choice for each piece of content, and for your content schedule as a whole. If you’re aiming to hold an event that feels highly polished and professional, a schedule with lots of prerecorded, high-production content can help achieve that. If you’d like a virtual event that feels a little more like an in-person one, add more live content, with some behind-the-scenes clips in the mix.

In some cases, you may not have to decide at all. Depending on the nature of the event, both prerecorded and live content may be appropriate for different purposes. Some kinds of content work well in both formats, so you can choose a combination that fits best in your particular event and the content you’re showing.

Choose live content for:

  • Q&A sessions
  • Behind-the-scenes or floor-reporting content
  • Education sessions

Prerecorded content is great for:

  • Promotional messaging
  • Panel discussions
  • Speakers/presenters

Depending on your equipment and platform setup, you may even be able to enhance your prerecorded content with live segments. For instance, if you run a pre-recorded speaker, they might follow that up with a live Q&A session. They get to deliver a polished, professional presentation and also interact with the audience afterwards.

Live Versus Prerecorded Sessions: Which Will You Choose?

Which is better, live content, or pre-recorded? The answer is: neither. Livestreamed content and prerecorded sessions both have pros and cons, and both can be worthwhile additions to a virtual event content schedule. The kind that best fits your purpose depends on the nature of your event and associated brands, as well as the format of the content itself. Let those dictate your choice, and you’ll make the right one.

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