A lot of planning goes into making an event memorable. The same should apply to live streaming that event. Whether it’s sport, entertainment, business or education, careful planning will ensure that your live stream enhances your brand and you capture some fabulous highlights to use again and again.
Nothing annoys a viewer more than a live stream falling over or being poorly produced. This can leave viewers feeling bored, annoyed even angry. In some cases, it can cause extensive damage to your brand.
Whether it’s a free stream or an exclusive Pay Per View event, disgruntled viewers will make you pay for a bad live stream. Here’s a list of things that will make your live stream a success.
The number one reason for a live stream failing, particularly in Australia, is slow upload speeds. Across the nation, our upload speeds are notoriously slow. You need to test your upload speeds from your venue in advance of your event. Try and simulate the time and day of your event.
If you’re relying on a pipe connection within a venue, make sure that pipe isn’t going to be throttled by somebody downloading a 4K version of every episode of Game of Thrones. On the flipside, make sure your live stream isn’t going to stop the CEO using the internet to close a major deal.
If you’re relying on a mobile connection, it’s ideal to have the ability to switch from one provider to another. You might find that one network is being overused at various points and this usually happens at the most important time of an event. The time when you least want to lose your stream. The time when audience members are jumping onto their phones and social media to tell the world what they’re watching. A good streaming provider will be able to switch seamlessly from one mobile network to another without losing a second of your live stream.
If you’re streaming out a tall building in the CBD and you’re relying on a mobile network, you need to test the network from the floor that you will be streaming from. Internet speeds can vary quite dramatically from different floors of the same building. It’s Newton’s fourth law of physics. Apparently.
Sometimes having one camera at an event or using your laptop’s camera is entirely appropriate. If it’s a short event with one speaker, you can get away with one camera. For longer events with multiple speakers or fast-moving action, it’s preferable to have multiple cameras with a director regularly choosing the best view. This keeps your audience engaged and shows that you’re serious about their viewing experience. A live stream should reflect your brand and values.
Too often a live stream fails because sufficient time hasn’t been allocated in advance of the stream itself to get all the gear in position and tested. You can’t expect multiple camera operators to plug into a streaming box and go. You need to make sure enough time is allocated to checking equipment onsite before you go live. There will be plenty of equipment and you want this to be unobtrusive.
Make sure you have notified the venue in advance of your live stream. If you have to lug heavy equipment into the venue, you need to know the easiest way to access the building and where you can park. Some venues will have restrictions on how you bring that equipment into a venue and this might slow you down. If your live streaming provider has worked with the venue, then that should make things a bit smoother. Some venues will allocate a representative to shadow you whilst things are being set up and they may charge you for the privilege. Be prepared.
Buffering occurs when a video pauses whilst more data is downloaded. If the viewer has a download speed that can’t handle the amount of data your live stream is generating, they’ll have an ordinary viewing experience. Once a live stream starts buffering, it’s likely to keep doing it so it’s best to minimise this possibility.
Some live streaming providers will pick a bit rate that reduces the amount of data that is sent out. This becomes a trade-off between the quality of video being sent out and minimising the buffering that viewers experience. The downside is that viewers with great internet speeds often feel that they’re watching a stream of lower quality than their internet connection can handle.
Another solution is to stream at a multi bit or adaptive bit rate. This works by detecting a viewer’s internet speed in real time and adjusting the quality of the live stream accordingly. Ideal if you can get it, but you might have to pay a little more.
Consider the venue you’re using and whether you will need any extra equipment such as lights, microphones and digital screens. Some venues will provide those items free of charge, whilst others will charge. You should compare the prices charged by the venue versus the streaming provider.
Most live streaming providers will prefer to work solely with their own equipment to ensure compatibility. Even if you have to pay a little extra, it can be worth it. If your live stream fails because equipment is incompatible, trying to trouble shoot when you’re live streaming is less than ideal.
Check the lighting in the venue to determine whether it’s adequate. Run that test at the same time as you will be live streaming. If you’re in a venue with large windows, check the lighting with the blinds both open and closed. If they’re electric blinds, make sure you’ll have access to the controls to operate them on the day.
Microphones can also be tricky. If presenters are speaking from a lectern with a microphone it should be straightforward for the streaming provider to plug into. Some presenters might prefer a hand-held microphone whilst others will prefer a lapel microphone.
Depending on the size of your venue and the number of people within that venue, you may want to have some appropriately sized digital screens so the audience within the venue gets the best possible view, particularly if there are slides or video as part of a presentation.
A double-edged sword. The good thing about running a live chat is that your audience has a voice and you receive instant feedback. The bad thing about running a live chat is that your audience participates and you receive feedback.
If your live stream goes well, a live chat really adds to the event. You can take questions and presenters can respond to those questions in real time.
If your live stream or event doesn’t go so well, negative comments tend to come thick and fast. Viewers can feed off each other making things worse.
Ask yourself who is likely to be watching and will viewers know each other. For smaller more intimate events where viewers are likely to know each other, comments are likely to be more reserved.
Sometimes social media platforms are perfect for a live chat. We’ve run events in the past where a screen at the event has been dedicated to a Twitter fall. Using social media for live comments can encourage more viewers to log in and watch when they might not otherwise have been aware of the live stream.
Build it and they will come? Nope. Just because you’re putting on a live stream doesn’t mean people will watch. You need to get the message out to your audience across all the relevant social channels. Don’t push your messages out too early and don’t leave it to the last minute either. Think Goldilocks. Remind people as the event draw nears. Make sure you get the time and date right for your event, making sure that viewers understand what time zone you are in. Sounds simple, right? You’ll be amazed how many people get this wrong.
Most people have multiple options when it comes to hosting a live stream. Spondo allows you to embed a live streaming player on your own website or to set up a dedicated landing page. Some people will use a network of affiliates who will sell the live stream from their own site to their audience in return for a clip of the ticket. You can also run your live stream through Facebook or even YouTube. Pick the medium that will work best for your audience and don’t forget to push them to the right location.
Some live streaming services provide a display that tells you how many viewers are watching. This can be great and can generate lots of momentum. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. On the flipside, if viewer numbers are lower than you expected, this can reflect poorly on your brand. Think carefully about whether displaying viewer numbers will help or hinder.
Make sure your presenters or event participants know in advance that you are live streaming. It’s not something you can spring on them at the last minute. Presenters may tailor their content if they know it’s being beamed to a wider audience or being recorded for future playback. On the flipside, some of your presenters may want a copy of the presentation and will be willing to pay you for that. This could be another lucrative revenue stream for you.
The best events are bold and designed to engage and entertain an audience. Do the same with your live stream!