Virtual Communication With a Global Workforce

Streaming live to a 60,000-person worldwide staff presents unique challenges and requires creative solutions from an audio-visual production perspective. Satellites, roving cameras, thorough testing, and a nimble, experienced team of AV professionals helps Becton Dickinson to uniformly reach their global workforce during their quarterly, all-employee, town hall events. Read on to learn how Gravity Productions’ team has partnered with this Fortune 500 company to help them communicate broadly, seamlessly, and in real time.

The event usually originates at BD’s New Jersey Campus, but in order to recognize and spotlight their diverse workforce locations, the executive leadership often chooses to host segments of this broadcast from one or more of their regional or international facilities. A nimble production setup with satellite broadcasting and remote web encoding is the proven method for executing this event.

Successfully broadcasting during a snow storm in 2018

Approximately half of the events consist of a main site and a secondary site, both with live audiences of up to 200 people. That second site could be a regional location where executives will alternate presenters between sites, or other times will showcase a manufacturing site by utilizing roving cameras to capture behind-the-scenes processes for all employees to see. Gravity has utilized this approach with events in England, Poland, and Brazil, as well as an Integration Meeting in the US that had seven sites simultaneously participating in the town hall meeting.

Communicating live across multiple locations with a high definition broadcast empowers leadership to address all staff directly and course-correct their messaging on the fly. The ever-popular Q&A sessions that follow enable employees to engage with executives via the phone, text, or through the web stream window.

Attendee View

Using time-tested and current technologies to solve complex communications

Several factors have led to usage of Satellite transmission between sites

  1. Rapid technological change. The facilities used to host these events have been built at various times throughout the company’s long history. Auditoriums and multi-function meeting rooms are renovated on different timetables and are at various stages of current technological standards. Often by the time a design and install are completed the equipment may have 2 years or less before it is outdated. Installs are typically designed for internal events rather than full-scale production with remote connectivity. There are video conferencing devices at some locations, but not all. These serve their purpose for communicating day to day, but when the CEO is taking the stage to address a large staff, HD cameras, quality lighting, and professional grade audio ensure the messaging shines.
  2. Robust, time-tested technology – Satellite transmission has been the mainstay in the broadcast industry for some time now for a few reasons. It works 99.9% of the time with HD quality and near zero latency. There has recently been a rise in cellular based products that come close to the same level of quality and transmission and, with time, we may supplement our events with those technologies. For now, we know what works.
  3. Low Latency HD communication – When communicating across a platform, its important that there be minimal delay so leaders can comfortably discuss back and forth. Latency happens with the processing of the signal in the webcast encoding. It also depends on the network bandwidth of the host site and the home network of the person watching the stream. If there is latency between two locations that are engaged in a discussion, when there is a hand-off, there could be a long delay making for an awkward transition.
  4. Nimble enough to move to nearly anywhere in the world without much notice – It might not be the cheapest solution, but it’s important to be flexible. Top executives have extremely busy schedules and might be required to visit a site in a different part of the country or the world. In this case we can send a camera crew and Satellite truck with them so they can maximize their time and efforts on the business while maintaining the allure of being available to each of the 60,000 employees in the business.
  5. Security – These events are broadcasted using encrypted Satellite transmission. Encoding onsite might not be an option if the company intranet is highly secure, as it is in this case. In a situation where an event moves last minute to a new location, getting the IT department involved can be a difficult task. Some smaller locations outsource the IT to an outside vendor. Security changes to the network take a lot of planning, approval, and vetting.

Where is the Webcast encoding in this process? It depends on the location

Some of the newer buildings have a robust IT infrastructure that will allow for stable uplink bandwidth. For regional town hall events, it may be possible to use a webcasting encoder onsite. If it’s a single site event, latency isn’t as much of a concern. From the production video switcher, a video feed is sent to the encoder and hosted on the platform of the clients choosing.

For high profile event productions with this client, it’s been decided to have the broadcast downlinked by a third party. They take the transmission downlink at a remote location and add it as a PIP (Picture in Picture) on the webcast. Once we are given a final PowerPoint deck, we upload that into the second PIP on the web stream platform. As a presenter changes slides in the room with a live audience, we simultaneously change the slide in the player, so people watching at home get high quality cameras, audio, pre-recorded videos and real time slides.

A GP Broadcasting Engineer, Matt Clifford, performing several critical tasks at once!

There are many solutions

With all of the options and talk of “virtual” these days, it can be hard to navigate and figure out which solution suits your company best. It could be a simple zoom or skype meeting for day to day business, but how do you elevate to the next level? You can create a web stream to YouTube or Facebook live, but how do you secure it? How do you host it? How can you use multiple cameras, with video playback, and customized content? Will it be a recurring event, or will it move from site to site showcasing the company’s diverse workforce as in this case study outlined above?

No matter where in the world you choose to do events, you can count on satellite transmission to be rock solid, low latency, and a time-tested method. Gravity Productions will gladly consult with you on choosing where to encode the webcast stream, which hosting platform to use, and can help you with technical staff and equipment to produce your event. Customized graphics packages and micro sites with landing pages and registration specific to your needs are also available. Gravity has a team of highly skilled producers, technicians, and content developers at our disposal to ensure that your leaders will be shown in their best light, their message will resonate with the entire global team, and anyone, anywhere can participate and collaborate.