Where most recent blog posts about virtual events and live streaming fall short are in sharing some actual technical tips live streaming an event.
The coronavirus and COVID-19 have forced thousands of businesses, nonprofits and others to pivot their marketing event for fundraiser into a virtual event (and some have gotten out of the business altogether). As a response, seems like everyone wants to share the same two cents over and over on how to do remote work, or how to hold a virtual event.
I’ve coordinated several live stream events, and all on a modest budget. Here are my technical tips for live streaming an event, whether for B2B companies and nonprofits.
If you are Salesforce and you’re creating a backup live stream plan for Dreamforce, these tips are not for you, although the concepts hold true. Go hire a live stream production company.
Technical tips for live streaming can be put in four buckets
I put my technical tips for live streaming production into these four chapters:
- Event planning
- Camera & equipment
- Streaming platform
What I am not covering in this post are tips for the actual presentations for your live stream or virtual event, such as how to title a presentation or how long a session should last. You can get those tips over at Convince and Convert, where Jay Baer recently wrote a post on the topic.
What do you need to plan for your live stream event?
Live streaming your event increases your audience reach, better engages that audience once they are there, and generates a sense of urgency for your conversions, whether that is internal moral, closed/won sales, or fundraising
OK, you’ve made the difficult decision to cancel your event and shift it into a live stream event. What you need to do now is think about your goals for the virtual event, and what you want included in the event. Why this is important is that it will help determine the equipment, production standards, live streaming platforms you’ll choose.
Is this just an awareness event? Are you charging admission to attend? Is it a fundraiser? These are key questions to get answered as they will direct what kind of streaming video platform you choose, as well as any payment tools or other add-ons you’ll use.
The other question to answer in this planning session is what is the show plan for the event?
Some questions to consider:
- How many locations will be included in the live stream?
- Will any remote speakers also be on the live stream?
- Will it just be one live camera feed for the whole event?
- Will you also be including slide deck presentations?
- Will you feature previously recorded videos?
- From the main broadcast venue, how many cameras will you be using?
What camera and other equipment do you need for a live stream virtual event?
You will need at least one video camera for your live stream event. That is a no brainer, right? But there is a range of options you can choose from, and it really comes down to how you answered some of the questions above.
And what other equipment will you need? Besides a camera, you will need:
- Computer, tablet or smartphone
- Correct data cables for your setup
Let’s begin with the camera. You could go very simple and just use your smartphone and the Facebook or YouTube live video features and call it good. But I am guessing you need or want something more. So when considering cameras, you have three choices:
- Do you already have a camera?
- Are you going to buy a camera?
- Are you going to rent a camera?
Due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, most brick and mortar retail businesses and rental shops are closed, and online shipping has slowed for everything but essential items. So the second and third options may not fit with your schedule (if you’re reading this in 2021, how did we turn out? Are these options back on the table?).
So, ask your team what they have available. Basically, any DSLR or video camcorder will work so long as it has an HDMI output. You’ll need that to get the video signal into the computer.
Something to keep in mind is that most live streams are going to broadcast in 720p HD resolution, so you won’t need a camera that shoots in 1080p or 4K.
Speaking of which, you will also need to convert or encode that output so that your computer can accept it. There are several options for this, but I have used a blackmagic converter (make sure you pick the converter that works for your laptop, Apple or PC).
So, it looks like this:
Camera -> mini hdmi to full hdmi -> blackmagic -> USB -> Computer
As for your computer, you will want to make sure you’re using a laptop that is up to the task otherwise your stream can experience dropouts, low quality or simply won’t work at all. Likewise, you don’t want to use dial-up internet (if that is still a thing).
For the computer, you want to have at least 16 gigs of RAM, and a better than average graphics card. Make sure your power source is plugged in, and use an ethernet connection to your router. Don’t try to multitask and have a lot of other programs running at once.
For your event, you’ll also want to invest in decent lighting to ensure folks can see your subject. This could be as simple as setting the camera between you and a window so that you use the natural light. If you want more tips, just Google “three-point lighting set up.”
Producing your live stream event
Then you need a production platform that allows you to switch from live stream to slide decks to other inputs. I love, love, love the vMix platform. And I believe you can download a full trial for 60 days.
There is also an open source platform called Open Broadcaster Software that you can download, but requires more learning curve.
What vMix allows you to do is take several different inputs from multiple cameras, slide decks, pre-recorded videos, web pages and more and produce them into one output for your livestream event.
It is that master output that you will send to your live streaming platform (Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or something else). Watch the 1-minute tutorial below to get a better idea of what I am talking about. And speaking of which, vMix has a ton of tutorials to help you. And it costs like $60, simply a no-brainer.
OK, now you’re a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time producer. Here is what your set up should be looking like by now:
Camera -> mini hdmi to full hdmi -> blackmagic -> USB -> Computer -> video input into vMix (possibly one of many) -> output feed to live streaming platform -> URL where your audience watches.
Live streaming platforms for your virtual event
You knew we’d get here eventually, right? It is time to select your live streaming platform.
You have some options here. You’ll need to evaluate the pros and cons and decide what works best for your particular event.
Free options for your live streaming platform
Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter live stream options are attractive for three reasons. They are quasi-free. People are familiar with them. And 3,000 computer engineers have made them relatively easy to use.
The downside is that you’re broadcasting to their channel, you have limited control over the quality of streaming and recording, and you really can’t totally control who watches your event.
Facebook: don’t know enough about it. But it looks like you can add a donate button to a live stream, which is great if you are having a fundraiser. Also, it looks like Facebook is making some updates to its live stream capabilities that should be considered.
YouTube: Is the nonprofit already registered with Google? That used to be an option that allowed a donation button on a YouTube page. If not, maybe you have the donations in another channel.
Check out the Dan Patrick Show’s channel. They just started broadcasting live streaming their weekday radio show and you can see how you could blend different inputs (different cameras, slides, graphics, etc.) into one feed. Stay tuned during the commer break as they often will pan to the production room and you can sense what you’ll be doing for your event (although maybe at a smaller scale).
LinkedIn is not the obvious choice for your live stream event, but it could be perfect depending on your audience. The only but is that you have to apply for it. One of the requirements is that you have at least 500 followers to your company page.
A paid platform may be the way to go for many brands. At least one has short-term purchases that you could get for a few hundred bucks or so. And you should be able to add in a donation mechanism to the landing page.
Other options for live streaming your next event?
Many tech companies have generously stepped up in response to the COVID-10 pandemic and offered their products for free for the next few months. Here are some of those options:
As I said earlier, I don’t know everything and these technical tips for live streaming are drawn from my experiences producing a live stream virtual event. If you have something to add, please send me an email. If you have some other question about live streaming your next event, reach out and see if I can help.