10 Things You Need to Know When Selecting A Virtual Program

For the first time, Libraries are considering offering virtual, online, live streaming programs through Facebook and YouTube as a viable programming option.

Here are the ten things you should consider when purchasing a streaming program.

1.  Know what you’re buying, live vs. pre-recorded, or a mix of both. Professional sporting events are just that, a live event. All mistakes, interactions, and uniqueness happen in real-time.  The Tonight Show is pre-recorded and can be edited, and all imperfections can be edited out, thus a perfect show, both video, audio, and content.  Saturday Night Live mixes audience interaction and presentation that might not be possible during a live performance.

2. Video quality – A good video production is easy to watch; it doesn’t have to be 4k, but a good clear HD video.  Ask to see a sample of both video and audio capabilities.

3. Audio –  Bad audio will have any audience switching off the program after minutes of watching.  If you and your staff find it difficult, hard to hear, or sounds like an echo chamber, pass on the show.  Audio is the #1 reason people stop watching.

Online Streaming Ballloon Show for Kids
Virtual Library Show with Magical Balloon-dude Dale

4. Show content – An excellent library activity once might not work without an audience. Audience interaction is now replaced with entertainment.  It is typical to have a 20 to 30-second lag time using social media chats, which throw off the show’s rhythm.  Seek live entertainment vs. live interaction when selecting a show.

5. Music – Facebook and Youtube have artificial intelligence bots that monitor video posts. All music must be original or copyright-free. Uploading content to Facebook or Youtube with copyright music will mute the music, and now you, the library,  and the entertainer look bad for using copyrighted material.

6. Image – Any animation or pictures used during the show must be original and copyright-free.  As you know, it’s easy to copy and paste from the web. Double-check to make sure you’re not stealing somebody else’s intellectual property.

7. Show duration – Unlike a library show where families come to the library,  kids can be distracted by any toy, sibling, or video game in the house.  Consider kids watching Youtube videos that are between 15 and 20-minutes in length.

8. Marketing Material – Every good library entertainer provides marketing material to help promote their show.  Images, videos, and live appearances can help draw an audience to your event page.

9. Cost – Expect to buy a show based on minutes.  Virtual shows run in 10, 15, 20, and 30-minute segments.  Yes, travel fees are waived, but considering the entertainer adds more value to the show by a virtual presentation.  Equipment needed to stream,  the studio created, show reconfigure, and customized to meet your needs doesn’t translate into a cheaper cost.

10. No recording of minors – Many streaming platforms allow the video to be recorded.  If you consider using Zoom or Go To Meeting, a video conference and enable the meeting to be recorded – DO NOT RECORD.  The  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of April 2000 prohibits children’s recording without consent.  If using these platforms, I recommend addressing this issue when hiring the act.

reading a book is the final goal of every library program

My final thoughts –  Audio is the most important. If your audience cannot hear the show, they will leave.  The video should be clear, it doesn’t require 4K resolution, but a well-lit show that is not blurred is acceptable.  I like the mixed show between live and pre-record material as it allows for a customized requires more skill, both technically and showmanship. If you go with a pre-recorded show, request a prescreening of the entire show.  Audio, video, and content should be of the highest quality. After all, you are buying a movie.

Look for a 20-30 minute show, and many shows can be downsized, giving more quality for your money.  It’s easier for an entertainer to add filler to make a 45 to 60-minute show by adding audience participation.  Scaling down your show time improves your show quality.  Look at America’s Got Talent – you only see 2 to 5-minutes of a routine, which is impressive.

If the entertainer is a professional, then music, images, and props should be copyright-free, and any marketing material you request should be given freely without hesitation.

Lastly, be upfront with the entertainer. Customization is the keyword.  A tight budget might negotiate a very high-quality,  15-minute show segment, while those with a larger budget can acquire a 30-minute show.  I’ve learned the best library shows are when neither party has to compromise and work together to develop an extraordinary event.

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