No doubt about it: Broadcasting anything live has its challenges. There’s no stopping and no do-overs, which makes multitasking mandatory and quick thinking critical. You also never know exactly where your content might take you.
But the more you do it, the better you’ll get, as thousands of experienced live streamers out there can attest to. We picked the brains of some of those people to create this article chock-full of live streaming tips, which we hope will be of use to anyone—new to live streaming or not—who wants to make their process smoother and their product better.
Keep in mind, though, that there’s always an element of the unexpected with live streaming—that’s part of what makes it so interesting! As Jeffrey Harper of Adrenaline Garage Productions puts it: Once everything is in motion, sometimes you just have to hang on for the ride.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
40 Live Streaming Tips
Equipment & Setup
1. If you have two, you have one; if you have one, you have none. Always have a backup of everything—a computer, cords, cameras, etc. Audio cables and connectors, in particular, are cheap but usually not easy to get locally when you need a replacement. Anytime you’re buying a cable or connector, buy at least one extra.
2. Keep your devices charged and ready at all times. Always have a backup battery. (Livestreaming is a heavy drain on batteries.)
3. Keep your cables and connectors organized in such a way that you can easily tell someone else where to find something. Separate and label your storage: audio, video, USB cables, microphones, tools, etc.
4. A $75 webcam, a $75 USB microphone, and a $200 investment in lighting is all you need to produce a high-quality look and sound.
5. Check the specifications on your equipment—newer isn’t always better. Even the latest technical equipment might not be optimal for live streaming.
6. Use Wi-Fi network connectivity if possible. If you’re relying on cellular service, it’s nice to have a hot spot from a different cellular provider as a backup in case one service is better in that area than another.
7. Check your internet upload speed at a site like speedtest.net before broadcasting. Disable or pause any Dropbox/Google Drive apps you might be running in the background. Know your quality options if your speed drops lower than expected.
8. If you’re working outside on a hot day, keep your computer cool to prevent overheating. Put an umbrella over it or use a cooling fan.
9. Run a test before you go live to make sure everything’s working well and that you understand the controls and mechanics of the live stream app you’re using. Ask for feedback from a friend or colleague on that live test run to know what will require your attention for the real thing.
10. If something worked yesterday but doesn’t work today, swap out as many things as you can – only change one thing at a time, though, so you can isolate variables. Start with the cables, and work your way through the setup, using all of your backup components.
11. Set things up early. Test everything, and don’t be afraid to call your streaming provider to confirm that the broadcast is coming through properly, including audio.
12. Before going live, check the location lighting ahead of time to be sure it’s ideal, and avoid backlighting your subject.
13. If you’re filming outside, be mindful of the sun. Sun glare can prevent your video from being seen at all, and if you’re filming from inside a press box, the sun’s reflection on the glass has the same negative effect.
14. If you plan on talking, minimize the background noise. A lapel mic or even the typical headphone-mic combo can achieve this. If it’s windy, find some sort of cover to block the wind. A foam wind cover on the lapel mic helps.
15. If you’re standing near a microphone that’s capturing the natural sounds of an event, remember—it will pick up your voice as well! Don’t have a private conversation near an active microphone.
16. For those who plan to be on camera, wear a single color shirt—no stripes or squares!
17. For live streaming with your phone: Match your framing, lighting, sound, and surroundings to your intended effect. For raw, “spur of the moment” broadcasts, hold your phone with your hand, use the built-in mic (or wear your headphones with a mic), and find an out-of-the-way spot where you can still capture the context. For a prepared presentation, use a tripod for your phone and a lapel mic if the environment is not quiet and ensure that the lighting highlights you or what you are trying to show.
18. Spend some time with your camera operator(s) and let them know exactly what you want to see out of the camera (from zooming to being mindful of the score graphic).
19. Give your camera operator a monitor if possible. They’ll do better camera work if they understand what it looks like on a monitor (with a score bug or lower third graphic).
20. Incorporating more than one camera makes a big difference from a viewer’s perspective. If that’s not possible, be sure your single camera has a camera operator who can follow the action and zoom in for tight shots.
21. If you’ll be stationing a camera and leaving it somewhere for the duration of an event, be sure it’s placed well away from heavy foot traffic.
Preparation & Process
22. Use checklists—setup checklists, rehearsal checklists, and show rundowns. Too much is happening too quickly in a live environment; you can think more clearly about what needs to be done days in advance.
23. To alleviate some of the stress of going live, preparation is key. Know what your potential audience is interested in and do your best to provide it. Grab a Post-it note and jot down three points you want to cover in your livestream. When you feel nervous, refer back to your notes.
24. Meet with your crew and broadcasters before every event. Review the timeline of the broadcast, emphasizing the most important elements to the crew so everyone can prioritize their assignments. Go over specific terminology the director will be using so there is less confusion when directions are given in the heat of the moment. If you have a new crew, show clips of previous events to help them learn their position.
25. Consider your platform. If you’re just trying to reach as broad of an audience as possible, YouTube or Facebook works. When you need more control over your live stream, choose a platform that looks professional and has options like permissions and password protection.
26. Market your live stream ahead of time. Advertise it starting two weeks before it begins, then again the week before, then one day before, and finally one hour before you go live. Record your live show so anyone who misses it can catch up later.
27. To build a following and engagement when live streaming, regular broadcasts are key.
28. For live streaming on social media, announce that you are going live at time “X,” and give prospective viewers a hint about the content. Write a compelling description to accompany the stream.
29. If possible, rehearse the entire show. You’d be surprised how often you discover an incorrect setting on your gear or a misunderstood direction with your crew or talent.
30. Keeping it simple can actually make your broadcast look more professional. People don’t notice what you leave out (i.e., graphics/videos created ahead of time, replays you wanted to fit into a break, a camera you wanted to cut to but was out of focus, etc.).
31. Use graphics, bugs, or lower thirds to add context to your broadcast—for example, a clock on sporting event to indicate time remaining, or the occasional lower-third graphic to identify a speaker.
32. Plan to have one crew member who isn’t specifically assigned to a task. When the unexpected happens (and it will!) the available crew member can handle the problem while the broadcast continues.
33. For sporting events, using student commentators or recording the natural sounds of the game are much preferable to dead silence.
34. Prepare offline screen graphics for your live stream, like a picture with the event schedule, the event name, a logo, or text saying you will be live in 30 minutes. Show them during breaks or before the stream begins.
35. Don’t be scared off by the idea of incorporating graphics or scoreboards. They’re so easy and they make such a big difference (imagine watching a game on ESPN without knowing the score!).
36. Interacting with your audience—whether through chat, on-stream, or before and after the broadcast itself—is a great way to build relationships with your viewers.
37. Your live audience is more interested in information and discussion than your personality. Give guests ample room to share their perspectives, promote other people or brands, and if appropriate, bring the audience into the broadcast by reading and answering comments.
38. Don’t strive to be perfect. Perfection will kill any broadcast (not to mention morale). Provide constant feedback to your crew without demanding perfection to reinforce positive habits and give crew members ownership over their position.
39. Be creative and don’t be scared to go big. Your broadcast can look good without much more effort than plugging in and going. Pay attention to what others are doing and copy the heck out of the good ones!
40. Have fun! This is real-time video, so mistakes and mishaps are bound to happen. This is an opportunity for you to share something you’re excited about with the world.
A huge thanks to everyone who helped us out with these live streaming tips, including:
Josh Lifton, Boston Red Sox
David Toelle, Kansas Wesleyan University
Christopher Sabato, Willamette University
Steve Wilson, Park University NG Media
The Social Media Hat
Savvy Solutions Consulting