Traditionally, the use of live streaming events has been limited to online seminars (known as webinars), but today, many organizations are beginning to see the value of producing their own shows ranging from brand-oriented talk shows to public gatherings with online audience participation.
Live streaming your event is a crucial option for anyone trying to reach a large audience, speak on a public forum, or promote a product or service to a small group of attendees. Live streaming allows you to create an intimate, feedback-driven environment with your audience, regardless of their geographic location.
In many ways, the process of producing a successful digital event is similar to organizing a physical event. Still, there are a few important differences that should not be overlooked. The steps in this blog give you the knowledge you need to organize your first online event.
1. Define your goals and target audience.
If you’re reading this blog now, you probably already know “what” you want to stream. But this step should not be obscured, as it will form the basis for all your future decisions. Explicitly defining your goals shifts all your actions to achieving that goal, and defining your audience ensures that you don’t fall into the trap of unnecessarily broadening your reach. An example of the wrong approach is a company that makes a broadcast to sell a product. The right approach would be a company that produces a broadcast to inspire eager viewers to click on a CTA. This would ensure that the content remains focused on informed viewers, and it is designed to get clicks, rather than just to educate or entertain.
2. Choose a topic and develop content.
If you’re struggling to come up with engaging content, look at the existing knowledge pool in your region and find a gap to fill. Ask yourself: what does my audience need? You can also follow trending topics and see how they relate to your field. Once you realize that, you can start writing content. Depending on your style, you might want an overview, notes, or a full script. Now is also the time to think about what other resources your broadcast needs to maximize the delivery of your content. Things like images, images, and datasets all need to be generated in advance.
Plus, try to figure out how to use the size of a live stream to enhance your audience’s experience. For example, with many live streams, viewers can vote for segments they want to see. You can also organize a contest where users submit photos online and display them on the screen. Unleash your creativity! Finding ways to connect with viewers is what sets a live stream apart from a video.
3. Assemble a team and employees.
Some events are organized by one person. Others relate to a handful of cohorts that require the coordination of an entire staff. Your needs may differ, but in all cases you need to make sure that everyone involved knows what their role is and how to perform it. It is also wise to establish and confirm the necessary communication channels, such as text and voice messages, in advance in your live stream. This way your team can communicate discreetly during the broadcast. Many services can achieve this goal, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Discord. In addition, everyone who will be on site for the broadcast must be informed of the location well before the broadcast.
Now is also the time to contact the guests of your stream. Personal guests should be familiarized with the location and their part in the production. Online guests should be familiar with the meeting software you’re going to use to talk to them, and your stream operator should make sure they have the right expertise to display the guest correctly on the screen (IMPORTANTly, this process shouldn’t be overlooked, as displaying on- guest screen differs , depending on the software you are using and can be a confusing process for beginners.)
4. Choose a streaming configuration.
You already have everything you need to produce a basic broadcast in your pocket. But in general, the better your equipment, the better the quality of your stream. How much quality you need probably depends on your goals and the expectations of your viewers. In most cases, you want cameras, lights, microphones, and video switching/broadcasting software. The hardware and software lists below provide a basic overview of the components present in most broadcasts. These are suggestions and ultimately it’s up to you to decide what you need and what you don’t.
- Cameras: Webcams are easily compatible with all broadcast switching software. You want at least 720p quality. Most mobile phones and some digital cameras are NOT compatible with live video switching software.
- Lights: Each good broadcast contains at least 3 light sources, but these can be windows and lamps. Only good lighting can greatly improve the quality of your stream.
- Microphones: Microphones vary greatly in quality, mounting methods and usage scenarios. You need to do some research to see what works best for your environment.
- Set: A set doesn’t have to be a special physical space (although it’s preferable), it’s just everywhere you film. Make sure your set is demarcated, insulated and quiet.
- Broadcast Software: Basic broadcast software (example: OBS) is free and includes the basic functionality you need to switch video feed and add images. Paid software (example: Wirecast) is more advanced and includes professional features.
- Graphics software: every good stream has images. They can be created by a graphic designer using programs like Photoshop and Canva that have been exported for use in your broadcast software. Alternatively, software like Titler Live 4 can be used to generate custom images of templates in real time and then display them directly in your broadcast software.
- Conference software: If you plan to have guests at your event remotely, you want to have the required workflow and software ready in advance. Zoom, Slack, and Skype can all be used for this, but some professional broadcast software comes with built-in meeting functionality.
- Communication software: If your staff/stream operators need to communicate, programs like Discord, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and even Facebook Messenger must be prepared in advance. Text communication is useful for on-camera hosts to communicate, and voice communication is good for staff to communicate quickly.
In addition to your production setup, consider which online platform you want to stream to. They all have their pros and cons, but in many cases, you want to choose the platform that is closest to your existing online presence. For example, hosting a digital PTA meeting would likely be hosted on Facebook, as that’s where most viewers will be. If you host a live game show and normally host your brand on YouTube, Then YouTube Live is your most natural choice. Regardless of the streaming service you choose, you should always run a “top to bottom” test stream to a pre-created dummy account to make sure everything is set up correctly. Many people also choose to build redundancy into their setup with multiple cameras, operators and streaming computers in case something goes wrong.
5. Plan and promote your event.
Once your broadcast is scheduled, arranged and initiated, you’re ready to choose a time and tell the world! Choose a time that works best for your audience and promote your event through social media, email, and word of mouth. You should also contact your guests and staff to encourage them to advertise the event. With regard to invitations, you can use services that automatically generate a website, invitations, and VOD archive. Otherwise, if you decide to do it yourself, you probably want to create a web page where viewers can see an overview of your content, a link to sign in, and a schedule of upcoming streams. Furthermore, you want to pre-write your emails and social messages to notify your audience of your upcoming broadcasts, as well as post-stream emails to get follow-ups and feedback. The first follow-up email should always be sent immediately after the end of the stream, thanking the participants for their presence. These emails must contain content relevant to your goals, such as links to buy products or sign up for future events.
Extra Live Stream tips!
If you’re still reading this, you’ve just scored hidden tips for live streams… If you’ve followed the above 5 steps to produce your live event, you’ll have the perfect framework for a successful broadcast. But of course, even if you’ve hosted hundreds of events in the past, there’s always room for improvement. Be sure to watch your broadcast after it ends to see how it felt from a viewer’s perspective. Use your streaming service’s analytics tools to see how viewers responded to different segments. Show it to others for suggestions and listen to feedback from the audience. You will soon learn that each broadcast offers a new opportunity for improvement. No matter how much you prepare, something almost always goes wrong. Adaptation and improvisation are some of the most important skills you need to have as an event coordinator. Don’t forget to do your best and have fun!