Skype at the Republican National Convention

This week’s 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay is billed as a “Convention Without Walls.”
William Harris, the event’s CEO, describes the goal as “to use every available communications platform and technology to create a nationwide discussion.” He continues, “Wherever you live, whatever device you use, we want you to engage as an active participant in this convention.”
And Skype plays a central role in getting rid of the walls. According to Andrew Polesovsky on the Convention Communications team, “We’re expecting nearly 50,000 people to make the trip to Tampa. But, for those who can’t make it in person, we’re using Skype to go beyond regular media and have delegates and politicians interact directly with those at home.”
The convention’s web site encourages people to “watch live streaming video from the convention floor, organize your own local watch parties, connect with delegates and attendees in Tampa Bay and receive exclusive access and content from events in and around Tampa Bay.”
The Republican Convention partnered with Skype and Microsoft to build out the technological infrastructure that was necessary to turn their vision into a reality, which includes Skype video stations in the convention’s main venues. Skype’s Senior Technical Account Manager for Broadcast & Film, Matthew Jordan, is liaising with the convention team. He explains, “We have two Skype kiosks here: backstage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and at the Tampa Convention Center on Radio Row. CNN has even brought in a Skype setup for use in their broadcast space.”
One of the main elements of the Convention without Walls is “Conversation Rooms,” which were envisioned as “digital green rooms.” In these high-tech lounges, convention participants can “shoot videos and Skype into broadcast interviews before or after they go on stage.” But you need not be prepping for primetime to use the technology. Delegates like Erin Smith of Virginia took advantage of the Skype media kiosk to talk with Virginia Public Radio today.
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In the end, one of the main attractions of using Skype at the convention is its simplicity. Caroline Gonzmart, also on the Convention Communications team, says, “Skype’s so easy to use. All you need is a webcam and a laptop. In the weeks leading up to the convention, we’ve done a number of interviews back into regional markets and battleground states. It’s worked really well for a convention of this size and would be ideal for other events – large and small.”
While conventions are one of the more colorful and dynamic expressions of our democratic process, TV coverage doesn’t venture too far beyond the main speeches. By integrating Skype into the event, it gives many more people a window into what is really happening both on the convention floor and behind the scenes.