Live streaming is easy. Plug in your camera, hit record and send it to the Internet.
Done and dusted…right?
If only it were so simple.
The reality is much more complex. While it is true you can stream video without much thought and effort, most likely the amount of viewers you attract will be related to how much time you spend on setting up your broadcast. Little input = little audience.
To help boost viewing numbers and broadcast quality, we have compiled a list of good practices that, when carefully considered, can turn a boring camera feed into an engaging broadcast.
While not strictly associated with live streaming, making sure you promote your show is worthy of our first tip. Take advantage of the multiple free social media networks by joining groups, posting useful content and of course, updating your followers and friends on your upcoming shows A bit of shameless self promotion goes a long way!
2. Know Your Venue
Whether streaming from home or in a new location, understanding your surroundings is critical. One misplaced camera, or a blinding reflection from a window can ruin an entire shoot. Show up early, or the day before, and scout out potential problem areas. With this knowledge you can easily avoid interruptions and accidents, and instead focus on the moment-to-moment action of your broadcast.
3. Test, Test, then Test Again
Going live with a stream without testing it first is like jumping off a bridge without checking how deep the water is. It could go swimmingly, or you might just bounce off some sharp rocks. Set up a test stream where you run through a mock broadcast with all the bells and whistles. Check your lights, cameras and microphones all while watching the stream on a separate computer. To see your broadcast as a viewer will see it can give you valuable insight into what must be changed, and what is working well.
The nature of live streaming means that any number of things can go wrong at any moment, but by troubleshooting your problems before the stream starts, you can be sure that there will be less instances of trouble.
4. Don’t Get Caught Short Handed
It’s nice to be able to do everything on your own. There is no one to micromanage, no one talking back or showing up late, no one to misinterpret your precise instructions, and no one to man your third camera…uh oh.
As enticing as it is to go it alone, having an extra person or two to take care of things while you focus on more pressing matters is extremely valuable. No one wants to be a body short when the show starts, so make sure that you have a resource of contacts to draw from. You never know when you might need a little help.
5. Backup Everything
It is always smart to have duplicate files of all your important documents, and it is a safe bet that most people are recording their live broadcasts to be referenced at a later time. This is a fantastic idea (Definitely do this!!),but I am talking about a different sort of back up. Backup equipment.
When a mic cable fails ten minutes into your broadcast or your tripods start acting all screwy, having a backup or two can save your stream from impending doom. Backup cameras can be quite expensive but pale in comparison to the backlash of viewers from a 45 minute long black screen.
Make sure to have a backup of all your hardware so in the case of an emergency you have a way to save the day!
6. Know Your Bandwidth
Bandwidth is king in the live streaming world. With it you have a broadcast, and insufficient levels will tank your whole operation. Make sure the network you are streaming on has at least a 700Kbps upload speed. If you are streaming in HD, make sure to clock in at 3000Kbps consistently. You can check your upload speed at SpeedTest.net (it measures in Mbps, so just multiply by 1000).
7. Don’t Neglect Your Lighting
Spending a bit of time researching and rehearsing with solid lighting techniques can turn your flat, visually boring subjects into bright and engaging people. Even just two well-placed lights can easily brighten up any broadcast
Don’t forget that incorporating natural light into your broadcasts can be visually appealing as well, but with longer broadcasts the light will shift. The first 20 minutes for your stream may be bathed in an ethereal sunlight, but the rest could be in shadow.
8. Interact with Your Viewers
Boosting your viewing audience is sometimes hard, but there are some great ways to help your numbers. The easiest? Interact with them. Not many people want to sit through a long broadcast if they can’t ask a question or offer their input. Having a live chat window or hosting a Q&A at the end of your session allows for an educational environment where you and the viewers can crate a meaningful connection. This will bring them back for another broadcast, and maybe they’ll bring their friends!
9. Don’t be Late
Setting up your stream at the last minute has far reaching consequences. First off, any small thing that goes wrong will push your start time later than you’d like and will cause you to lose viewers. This displays a low level of professionalism as well as a lack of respect for your audience. They are there waiting, but you haven’t shown up yet.
Secondly, if you don’t start your stream 15 or more minutes before the scheduled start time, you might lose a few viewers who have tuned in early but leave when there is nothing to see. I can’t count how many times I have bailed on a stream because there is nothing keeping me there as little as 5 minutes before the broadcast is set to start.
Set up early to retain viewers, and to forgo any unforeseen delays.
10. Have Fun!
I can’t avoid using this worn out cliché. It is overused, devalued and sometimes just plain annoying. But it also couldn’t be truer. If you approach your broadcast with optimism and excitement, whether in front of or behind the camera, your audience will see the difference. No one wants to watch a boring broadcast. If you can have fun and convey your excitement across the live streaming divide, your audience will pay you back in full!
Have any tips we didn’t mention here? Let us know, we would be grateful, and so would your peers!
One thing you don’t touch on is SOUND GREAT. It’s amazing how forgiving viewers will be of visual anomalies, but if audio is off, you instantly lose VIEWERS. A compressor is something I would never compromize in my audio chain. And an exciter takes your audio to the next level. Close proximity mics (we use headsets) work great. Lapels can do a fabulous job too if you don’t have much ambient noise.
I’d also add to #9 (Don’t Be Late) that not only is that true, but also, be CONSISTENT. When it comes to recurring broadcasts (which most of us are), set a time, and stick to it. Don’t confuse your potential audience by broadcasting at 7pm on a Wednesday one week, and 4pm the following Tuesday. They just won’t keep up with your ever changing schedule. Set a day and time, or multiple days and times if applicable, and stick to them, consistently.
We’re at an interesting time in broadcasting where viewers expect to be able to interact with the hosts of a show (as per #8). We do our best at Category5 (although it’s sometimes a challenge with such a popular show) to accommodate many different mediums. We raise comments as posted to our YouTube channel… we read emails, and we interact with a live chat room and even take phone calls from viewers around the world on occasion. If your viewers feel like they’re not just “watching a show” but participating in a great community, they’ll keep coming back.
Keep up the great work, Telestream.
Robbie Ferguson, Host
Category5 Technology TV
Thanks for the input, Robbie!
Sometimes it feels like there are an infinite amount of things to remember when going live. It can seem daunting!
You guys know how to do it though! Keep up the good work and thanks for the advice.
Excellent article. I’m dealing with many of these issues as well..