In Maya Angelou’s classic I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she wrote, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” If you’ve ever tried live streaming, you can definitely relate.
Putting on a successful live stream requires patience, practice, and planning. While that might sound easy, there are many moving parts to a live stream that you need to be prepared for. If even one thing gets off-track, your entire event could suffer.
Being faced with the shutdown of all in-person events, many have considered shifting to virtual events and live streaming, and tips and advice is in high demand – especially for those who’ve never tried it before. Our list brings together nine tips beginners and experts can use to know what to do at all stages of the virtual event and to make your live stream a success.
Before the event: Getting prepared for a winning live stream
1. Decide on the amount of bandwidth you’ll need
You may not have realized it, but you’ve probably already seen live streaming on social media. It’s usually fine for an individual to live stream over WiFi or 4G, but a business’ live stream will probably require more.
Two things to take into consideration:
Do I have access to a dedicated Ethernet connection? This is crucial. You want to make sure you have a hardwired connection. Ethernet cables are easy to use as long as you have an ethernet port on the device you’ll be streaming from (usually a laptop). If you don’t have an ethernet port, there are USB adapters available.
How fast is my upload speed? So many people focus on download speeds, but when it comes to live streaming, it’s all about the upload speed. Having a slow upload speed will result in a low resolution stream. Vimeo has a nice graph explaining upload speeds and resolutions.
2. Think about how large your audience will be and where they’ll be located
Do you know how many people will be watching? Streaming from just one site is not recommended. You’ll want to broadcast your virtual event on as many channels as possible to have a better chance at capturing a larger audience. Once you have an idea of the number of people who will be watching, you’ll want to think of how you’ll respond to feedback and answer questions from those watchers.
Will it be public or private? This is another key factor in determining audience size. There are options to make the live stream private, then share it publicily on social media or your website later.
Is your network up to the challenge? Hosting a live stream with a large audience will put extra stress on your servers which will create a poor viewing experience. An enterprise content delivery network (eCDN) is way to help keep things running smoothly during your virtual event.
3. Practice, test, and be ready with a backup plan
Make sure your speakers take the time to practice their lines. Like most difficult things, once you practice it, it gets easier. Your speakers should do a dry run of the entire event close to actual day. It will help you figure out timing, find any gaps you may have missed in the material, and to get them comfortable with the information they’ll be sharing.
Test the moving parts. Your production crew needs to test all the equipment and make sure it’s working, including the cameras, microphones, and lights.
Have that Plan B ready at a moment’s notice? To really ensure a successful live stream, you should make sure you have a backup plan in case your first stream has issues. It’s possible to have backup streams ready and waiting in case your network fails or you have issues with your hardware.
During the event: Making sure it all goes smoothly
4. Have the right gear and a rock-solid team
You don’t need to newest and fanciest equipment to have a great looking live stream, but there are definitely things you have to have, like cameras, microphones, switchers, and encoders.
You’ll also need enough room behind the scenes for your team to manage the production. Those cameras and all that other gear will need people working them.
This is where Magnum can help. We have a team of specialists ready to help you figure out the gear you’ll need and the people you’ll need to make your virtual event a success.
5. Monitor the performance of your stream
You’ll want to have eyes on all aspects of your live stream – both on-screen and off. You’ll be better prepared to adjust things as needed if you track the performance of your event the moment you go live.
Watch for things like fram rate and bitrate. If you see a drop of 15% or more, you know it’s time to react by checking your network performance, your encoder, or any of the other things that can pop up unexpectedly.
6. Start a dialogue with your participants
This is where it gets fun. In order to have a successful live stream, you’ll need your audience to be engaged. Though you’re not face-to-face with your watchers, it doesn’t mean you can’t have great conversation with them. We will cover some of the ways to do this using social tools and built-in tools in your streaming software, but keeping your audience engaged during the event is crucial to its success.
Not sure how to get them engaged? Q&As are always a good place to start, or post polls and track the feedback to guide the conversation.
After the event: Take time to reflect
7. Review how it went
Reviewing your event is hugely important. Did you get the number of guests you were hoping for? Did they stay tuned-in for the entire event? Metrics for success with vary per company, so set some goals beforehand and see how close you came to hitting them.
Figuring out the specific details of your audience and they’re behavior during the live stream will help you make changes for your next event and teach you more about how to reach out to your watchers before the event. Make sure your streaming platform has detailed analytics to help you learn about your audience.
8. Celebrate the wins and think of ways to improve
You can put every ounce of energy into preparing for your virtual event and things are bound to still go differently than planned. No fear, though! Unexpected events are perfect learning tools to help you perfect your NEXT event.
Monitoring your stream during the event will allow you to make notes of things that can be improved upon. You should meet with your team soon after the event to have discussions on how everyone though the event went and suggestions for future events.
9. Set a plan for your next virtual event
Now that you have notes and feedback from the event, start setting a plan for the next one using everything you’ve learned. Are there ways to improve your “Plan B” next time? You should let your team know the changes you’re making so you’re all on the same page, then put your changes into action.
While all of this might feel overwhelming, we are here to help. Just remember to take baby-steps and tackle one task at a time. If your list of improvements is a huge list, you should probably try just implementing a small percentage of the list and see how it goes. The ultimate goal is to make sure you’re giving your participants what they want.
Remember, this is just a beginner’s guide to live streaming. We’ll go deeper into content creation, strategies, and all the other facets of virtual events, but we hope that these tips give you a good jumping off point.