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Your Virtual Event- Should You Go Live or Pre-Record it?

02/08/2021Category : How To
Your Virtual Event- Should You Go Live or Pre-Record it?

When to Go Live or When to Pre-Record it

What will provide the best experience for your event’s attendees?


Dear Collaborators, Business Leaders, and Those Who Bring Us Together Online,

In a conversation with a client last week about how to do a big, high stakes annual awards ceremony, she said “Let’s just pre-record the whole thing so we don’t make any mistakes.” It’s hard to argue with this thinking. However, if her “live event” is all pre-recorded material, is it still a live event?

What does she lose by not going live? What does she gain?
Let’s look at some of our previous and upcoming events to learn what others are doing.


Fireside Chats at the Library


House of 8 Media has been busy! Our fourth live event for the Carmel Public Library Foundation was a “Read-In for Social Justice.” We chose Zoom because we all know that platform, and we wanted an app where we could see everyone in the room. Members of the audience took turns recommending books, so it had to be live. I suppose the alternative would be just publishing the results of a survey – which wouldn’t be much of an event at all.


Photo of Deborah Allen


We filmed a webinar with Deborah Allen last week as a pre-recorded presentation. She will gather her audience live in real time, and then play the video. This will allow her to teach with the aid of music, graphics, animations, and overall greater impact. Our collaboration on the script, in the studio, and in our video review cycle will result in a more engaging presentation than a traditional talking-head, slide-deck presentation. So her webinar will have a live opening, a pre-recorded lecture, and a live close-out. Eventually, the presentation will live as an “evergreen” video at the top of her website’s landing page, subsequently driving sales to her live group program. The webinar-format allows her to get critical feedback to shape her video to live on for years to come.


monterey meseum of art


We produced a virtual symposium for the Monterey Museum of Art on Jan 9th, 2021. The question of when to pre-record and when to go live was very real with this one. We chose to pre-record one of the panel discussions because of complex scheduling issues. However, to keep the live component strong, after each slide-deck presentation, there were live Q & As.




With restrictions on in-person gatherings, providing an option for board members to attend from home is critical. However, without proper audio, it can be frustrating to attend by Zoom when the speaker is speaking 6ft away from everyone – including the computer. At the Annual Board Retreat for the Carmel Chamber of Commerce, pre-recording wasn’t an option. Committee development meetings, an experiential “putting 2020 behind us” painting exercise, and a superstar keynote presentation made for a full day of online/in person interaction which couldn’t be replaced with pre-recorded videos.




We volunteered at the Bennett Sculpture Gallery for our Carmel Sunset Rotary Club’s fundraiser “Paint & Sip.” Limited to 10 in attendance, everyone else picked up their paint kits & wine ahead of time to Zoom from home under the supervision of Ashley Bennett Stoddard. Obviously, if we had asked everyone to show up to an event to watch an instructional video, we wouldn’t have had the same impact. With multiple cameras and a party atmosphere, watching everyone paint live on the big screen was pretty cool.



Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County

On December 9th, 2020, we once again worked with the Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County for Increase Your Impact 2021 — Pathways and Strategies for Monterey County Nonprofits Expert Panel; Q/A and Hosted Discussion.  This one also had us pre-record presentations but with live Q & As but we infused pre-recorded performances between each segment to add an entertaining approach to educational material. The emcee took stage in front of the camera here at the Carmel Maker Space studio for a theatrically-collaborative production with staff – and reliable entrances and exists.



Image of two historic women

Also on December 9th was “How the Bach Festival Began” presented by the Carmel Public Library Foundation. As is custom with Alexandra Fallon’s approach, this was a fully-live program. There was a slide deck presentation and talking head, but Alexandra was able to maintain the momentum of the show by pulling in comments from the audience chat. You can’t do that in a completely pre-recorded program.



The new Shows Only Virtual Theatre

We’re in development of a one-day virtual event for potentially thousands of attendees. Traditionally an in-person conference with only hundreds, we believe a virtual version this year might have thousands of viewers because of the sheer accessibility advantage. This could mean more sponsorship dollars while lowering the overall budget of the conference. If we add an attractive in-person option for VIPs, we have a recipe for a smart hybrid event. We’re currently in talks with a restaurant nearby that could provide a location for the broadcast to be recorded while offering catered outdoor dining for the in-person attendees watching the show on various HD screens throughout the outdoor dining areas. Fingers crossed for good weather!



During the pre-recorded segments of the Nonprofit Alliance and Monterey Museum events, or during entire pre-recorded programs (such as last month’s MBCS’s Festival of Courage) we interacted with attendees live through the chat and brought them on camera (by request) to ask questions.  Our true virtual theatre software was an expensive investment for our company but it allows us to control every aspect of what our audience sees and hears.



Just like theatre, when we plan ahead, rehearse, and think through our attendee experience, we’re doing all we can to prevent mistakes. When I hit the Go Live button and the curtain goes up, there’s no comparison to a real-time performance. Even playing pre-recorded videos can still be considered a live show (see MBCS 2020 Graduation). But if you can compensate with chat interaction, live Q & As with the presenters, or even an invite-only private watch party option, you can make the most out of our COVID-creative limitations.



I delivered a production treatment bid which outlines a show that is a combination of pre-recorded, live content, and a polished About US film to open the program. I’ve offered the use of my studio for them to introduce each segment live but I’ve offered the restaurant if they would like to do the broadcast there instead. They may choose to create valuable sponsorship packages by selling tables – just like a traditional awards ceremony, fundraising gala. It will be up to them to determine if its worth it to make a hybrid virtual event work. There’s always the chance that outdoor dining might not be allowed so there’s that. If they want a hybrid in-person/virtual event, with catered meals…all at a fraction of the cost of an in person conference with potentially way more more eyeballs – we’re ready.

See you at the shows!

Your Director of Photography turned Remote Producer,
Mike Buffo

About Your Producer

Mike Buffo

Mike is an alternative-education pioneer, visual & performing arts curriculum-author, successful motion picture producer with 10+ years in arts, entertainment, and education, is a mission-driven member of the Mankind Project, Rotary International, and a vital Carmel community contributor. Proud husband to Brittney Buffo and father of three boys.