“How do I get started with a livestream?” It’s a question we’ve been asked more and more at Tagboard, especially as events, teams, and organizations shift to a virtual model and try to engage audiences at home. Streaming consumption was already on the rise before the global pandemic; however, stay at home orders proved a catalyst to speed up the popularity of streaming.
- Streaming viewership is up 57% in Q1 year over year
- 19% increase in viewers streaming live video
- 79% increase in viewers streaming on-demand video
As viewing habits shift, this opens up potential new touch points with your audience and new revenue-driving opportunities that will certainly outlast the pandemic we are in today.
Whether you are an experienced producer who’s used to working in a multi-million dollar control room, or you’ve never even thought about livestreaming before, this guide will walk you through best practices to get started and produce an engaging program.
CHOOSE WHERE YOU WANT TO GO LIVE
The first decision you’ll need to make is where to publish your livestream. There are a number of free and paid options, including Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitter/Periscope, YouTube, Twitch, or natively on your owned & operated platforms. To choose, consider your audience and what features are important to have. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Where do you already engage with your audience most?
- Do you want to embed the live video on your website or home page?
- Will your content be optimized in a horizontal or vertical view?
- Do you need the ability to monetize or password-protect your livestream?
The most important factor to consider when choosing your livestream platform(s) is your audience. For most, going live on a social platform makes the most sense because you already have an engaged following there. Other benefits of using a social platform include:
- Notifications to your followers that you are going live
- Direct interaction through comments, posts, or tweets
- The live video is archived automatically for on-demand viewing
- Basic analytics around viewership and engagement
- It can be made public to generate a wider reach and drive an increase in followers
Once you’ve narrowed down where you want to go live, it’s time to pick out the right equipment.
GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Encoder, switcher, & live-streaming software: Straight out of a camera, your video isn’t ready for live streaming. You’ll need some software or hardware to encode your video into a format for livestreaming. There are many options that Tagboard integrates directly into as an HTML layer with no equipment needed including free software such as OBS Studio or Streamlabs, or cloud-based solutions such as Lightstream, Grabyo, and Kiswe. Once you select your encoder & switcher, contact your dedicated Client Success Manager to get the specific steps on how to integrate Tagboard.
Internet connection: A reliable, high-speed connection is the #1 most essential component for a successful livestream. We recommend using a dedicated hardline Internet connection for the computer running your stream. If WiFi is your only option, the closer you can get to the router, the better, to ensure a clear signal. Close any unnecessary tabs, browsers, and applications to free up bandwidth. If you are streaming in standard 720p, we recommend an upload speed of at least 6Mbps. You can run a test of your upload/download speeds at speedtest.net or measurementlab.net.
Camera & microphone: If this is your first time streaming, your webcam & built-in microphone are a great place to start, and external mics/cameras will enhance quality from there. Most streaming software provide video conferencing solutions directly within the platform, but you can also bring in guests via Skype as an NDI source, or through Zoom as a screen capture. If you are using your phone to stream, we recommend using a tripod or gimbal for a stable stream.
Lighting: You don’t need to buy lighting equipment to make your shot look great. Capitalize on natural lighting and sit facing the light, so you avoid being backlit with a blown out shot. If you are investing in lights, LED lights are bright, low on power, and easy to position. If you have only one light, place it in front & to the side of the subject. If you have a second light, place it on the opposite side to fill the shadows. If you have a third light, use it as a backlight behind the subject to create a three-dimensional look.
Graphics and Real-Time Content: The final piece of the puzzle is the visual content itself. Livestreaming gives you the unique ability to have a two-way conversation with your virtual audience in real time, by leveraging social content and graphics on your stream. With Tagboard, you unlock instant access to billions of pieces of content from every major social network, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and YouTube. Layer that real-time content with professional graphics you can build on the fly, in an intuitive builder. New to Tagboard? Check it out.
TEST, TEST, & TEST AGAIN
We can’t stress this step enough. Test your equipment before every single stream. Try to create the same environment you will be streaming in live, including the same equipment and lighting. Double-check the settings on your encoder. The standard settings are:
- Video resolution: 720p or 1080p
- Frame rate: 30fps
- Keyframe interval: 2 seconds
- Codec: H.264
During the test, make sure video and audio is streaming everywhere your viewers could be tuning in: on a desktop computer, phone, iPad, etc. If possible, test your video as a viewer on both slow and fast connections, to assess if buffering is minimal. Live streaming is a heavy drain on batteries, so be sure to use fully charged devices and keep chargers nearby.
BEFORE YOU GO LIVE
Promote your livestream in advance on social media, on your website, or in emails to your potential viewers. Give specific, clear instructions on how to watch and participate live. Keep in mind the local time zones you are marketing to.
Start your livestream early! This gives you plenty of time to troubleshoot any last-minute issues, and allows you to build viewership before your programming really begins. We recommend starting your stream between 3–10 minutes before your planned start of the show.
Use a Tagboard countdown clock or graphic to let viewers know they are in the right place and when the action will begin. We recommend also engaging your audience with a poll or call-to-action to get viewers involved from the start.
GRAPHICS AND VISUALS
Use graphics and visuals that are consistent with your brand and manage them all through Tagboard Producer to simplify your workflow. Keep in mind that a majority of livestream viewers are watching on a smaller screen, such as a phone or tablet, and may be watching with the sound off. When designing your graphic templates, be sure graphics are clear and legible.
Depending on where you are streaming to, be mindful of other live bugs, reaction graphics, or comment scrolls that could interfere with your graphic placement. If you are live streaming directly to a social platform, consider using the @handles or usernames of your hosts and on-air guests.
The format of the show is entirely up to you and dependent on the resources at your disposal, but we’ve found an L-Bar layout provides a high amount of flexibility. The sidebar serves as optimal space for social content, polls, or bulleted graphics while the lower third section allows you to set the topic of conversation. Many of our partners have also included a constant ticker of social and non-social text for information throughout the show. Meanwhile, this L-Bar format creates a standard 16x9 area for video content and interviews.
GET YOUR AUDIENCE INVOLVED
Instead of just talking at your viewers, make your livestream a 2-way conversation to keep viewers engaged. Leverage social content and real-time polling to engage your audience. If you have the bandwidth on your team, dedicate someone to be an active moderator of the chat on your livestream to help fuel productive conversation.
On-air hosts and commentators should prioritize calling out comments/poll results and respond to questions to help encourage engagement. Use your audience to help fuel the conversation on air organically.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING
Instead of fading to black at the end of the stream, use a Tagboard Graphic to give your viewers a call to action or way to contact you. Some streaming providers, including YouTube, will allow you to replay the live stream as soon as the stream ends. Post the full stream so viewers can watch on-demand, or repurpose edited highlights to keep the momentum going!
Ready to get started? The Tagboard team is standing by! Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.