Before 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, most marketers didn’t give a second thought to virtual events. But unprecedented circumstances made everyone more interested in live streaming, and now, live-streamed events are one of the most useful tools in any marketer’s arsenal. By the end of 2020, 93% of marketers said they planned to invest in virtual events moving forward. It’s clear that live-streamed events are here to stay.
If you haven’t started live streaming your events yet, now is the time. After the pandemic ends and in-person events resume, marketers will still broadcast those events online for larger audiences to participate. Live streaming an event drastically increases its impact and helps your brand connect with people you couldn’t have reached before.
Why do live-streamed events give your brand such a boost, and what’s the best way to approach live streaming an event?
🤔 Why learn how to live stream an event?
Live streaming an event makes the most of two awesome marketing channels — live events and content. Here’s what live streaming brings to the table:
- A bigger reach — You can put your event in front of many more people on social media than you could pack in a venue. Plus, the ability to stream on multiple websites simultaneously ramps up your audience count further.
- Real-time engagement — On Facebook, viewers watch live video three times as much as on-demand video. They have more time to engage and, thanks to features like live chat, useful tools to interact with each other and your business.
- A sense of urgency — With live-streamed content, viewers have a short window to watch and engage with the video. This sense of urgency creates FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and entices more viewers to tune in during your live stream event.
- Cost-effectiveness — Your event live stream can be as advanced and expensive as a television broadcast. But it can also be as affordable and authentic as a stream from a smartphone camera. Live streaming is flexible enough to fit any budget.
👀 Live event streaming use cases
Live streaming delivers higher engagement without distorting the original purpose of the event. On the contrary, live streaming contributes to your overall event goals. Let’s look at some use cases to give you an idea of how you can leverage the power of live streaming:
- Conferences — Conferences featuring interviews, panels, or anything happening on a fixed stage work well for a live stream. Plus, they give you an opportunity to take questions from the viewers at home, which boosts engagement.
- Product launches — Live streaming can be an effective sales tool. The immediacy of live streaming a product launch is a great boost to first-week sales. Customers can ask you questions about your product or request demonstrations in real time as well.
- Earnings call — An earnings call is a public teleconference or webcast that lets the executives of a company summarize their financial results to investors and analysts. It sounds dry, but some businesses are getting creative with these calls. Companies such as Tesla and Alphabet live stream earnings calls, and they’re using them for everything from investor relations and transparency to (personal) branding and hosting Q&As.
- Trade shows — Trade shows and exhibitions seem non-transferable to an online format, with hundreds of vendors setting up booths in the same venue. But it’s possible to let vendors go virtual and host online booths in addition to physical ones, so online guests can interact with their products and services as well.
- Concerts and festivals — Imagine how many more fans can enjoy their favorite artists if you live stream a concert or music festival online! You can also sell discounted tickets to the live stream to generate more revenue and cover the costs of the filming and live streaming equipment.
- Internal events — Successful live-streamed events don’t always have to be public. If you’re a large corporation, you can stream staff meetings, training sessions, and team-building events to your employees. This solution is ideal for international companies with employees all over the world.
You can live stream anything from a team meeting to a Q&A session and make it into an engaging event that gets you closer to your business goals. All it takes is some creativity and knowing how to live stream an event.
Read later: Fun things to do on a live stream 📍
⚙️ How to set up a live stream of your event
A very basic live streaming setup consists of several components, including video and audio sources, encoders, and platforms for output. You can choose between multiple options for each of these components, and they change depending on the type of the event, your budget, and the venue. We’ll start with the most important — the internet connection.
1. Check the upload speed and reliability
The internet connection you use will play a crucial role in the success of your live stream. An unreliable connection or a low upload speed can make your live stream unwatchable.
The first thing you need to do is check the internet speed at the venue.
You’re looking for the real upload speed of the venue’s internet connection, not the declared bandwidth. You want the speed to be 35% to 40% above the bitrate you need, and at least 5 Mbps. Every platform recommends a certain bitrate for the different video resolutions they support.
If it turns out that your venue doesn’t have the upload speed you need, there are two things you can do:
- Downgrade the quality of your stream.
- Set up your own network.
If you chose the latter, the options you have for bringing your own internet connection are cellular bonding and remote Wi-Fi.
2. Choose the video sources
For a small, behind-the-scenes event in your company, a smartphone might be all you need to stream. If you can cover the whole event in a single shot, feel free to use only one static camera. Your event will look better, however, if you have a second operated camera for an on-the-ground shot as well.
Even small venues and events that have a single person speaking at a time need more than one camera.
Generally, live events require more sophisticated video equipment to create live-streamed content. Still, there are plenty of affordable cameras, and you can always rent your gear. Don’t forget to rent a good capture card, too, because you’ll need it.
3. Choose the audio sources
For audio, you’ll have a couple of options. Absolutely avoid streaming the audio from your camera’s built-in microphone. Internal mics do not have the same quality as external ones — and your audience expects good audio quality.
Audiences are more forgiving of bad video quality than they are of bad audio quality.
If the venue has a sound system, the sound technician should be able to give you access to the master audio. If the venue hosts speakers or bands often, then it shouldn’t be a problem.
If there’s no master sound system, you’ll need to bring external microphones. A shotgun microphone is a better option than the built-in microphone. But if you’re not connecting the microphones to the cameras, you will need an audio capture card.
4. Get the right encoder
When it comes to encoders, you have two options: hardware and software. Hardware encoders tend to be more expensive, but you don’t have to use a computer with them. Software encoders will cost less, but you’ll need a powerful computer to run them on.
The good thing about software encoders is that their starting price is free.
OBS Studio, arguably the most popular encoder among live streamers, is free and supports several camera inputs.
A more advanced — and expensive — solution would be Wirecast Pro. With it, you can use multiple cameras. Wirecast will double as a switcher, and you can easily integrate it with cloud multistreaming solutions, saving you money on more expensive multistreaming setups.
5. Pick your streaming platform
In 2021, you can live stream to pretty much any social network you want. If your business already has a social media presence, you can leverage it by streaming to that platform.
Live streaming platforms are each suited for different types of content and audiences:
- Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are catch-all platforms that host both general and niche audiences.
- Instagram is great for audiences who like to follow and build relationships with brands and influencers, especially creatives.
- LinkedIn is the go-to social network for businesses and professionals, so content related to your industry works well.
- Twitch is a streaming platform most popular in gaming culture, although Twitch has become a home for general topics as well in the last year.
You also have an option to live stream to your own website. You can use one of these platforms to create an embed code for the website, which is the most affordable. A costlier option would be to use paid live-streaming platforms to host your stream.
6. Get an even bigger reach with multistreaming
Businesses don’t have to stick to a single social network. It’s common to invest in your presence on a couple of these networks to reach a bigger audience or different segments of your audience.
Streaming to a single social network would make some followers on other platforms feel neglected. Luckily, you don’t have to choose only one platform. You can multistream with Restream.
Restream is a cloud-based live streaming service that lets you stream to multiple platforms at the same time without any additional bandwidth or hardware requirements. With Restream you have:
- Support for over 30 platforms
- The option to manually add platforms that aren’t natively supported
- Easy setup and an easy-to-navigate interface
- Affordability, with free services and paid plans
- A browser-based live streaming option
- Insightful analytics to help you gauge your stream’s performance
- A hub that centralizes live chat from across platforms into one dashboard
- The ability to upload pre-recorded videos and stream them live
- Options to schedule and create live-stream events to share with your followers on social media
- Video and audio recordings of your live streams saved and available for download
- Tons of customization options, including layout, screen sharing, graphics, and more
Restream goes the extra mile to make multistreaming easy for you. Read our guide to learn how to get started with Restream!
7. Set everything up
For your cameras, you should mount them on tripods or assign them to camera operators. Connect them to the capture card, which should be connected to your computer. Connect all the microphones, too.
Set up live streaming on the platforms or services you want to use by connecting them to your multistreaming service (such as Restream). Then, connect the service to your encoding software. If you use Restream, this step only takes a few minutes.
You’ll want to create a couple of layouts, or scenes, for the stream. You create a layout by combining audio and video sources with graphics and saving them in your encoding software. Creating and saving scenes allows you to switch between different layouts quickly throughout your stream.
Once you’re done connecting everything, do a test run in private mode. Then do a couple more. You won’t have a lot of room for ad-hoc adjustments during the stream, so you have to go into it well prepared.
🤩 Tips for running a smooth live stream
Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for and set up the live stream of your event:
- Keep it simple. The fewer elements your setup has, the fewer chances something will go wrong. Use only the cameras and microphones you need, and don’t overdo it.
- Don’t forget to promote it. You don’t have to promote the stream separately from the event. Mention the live stream and include a link to it in the event’s regular promotional content.
- Practice the event, if possible. If you can, go through a test run or dress rehearsal of the event with camera operators and the people who’ll be in front of the camera. Also, make sure your speakers and performers know how to operate their tech.
- Check audio/video sync. Ensure audio and video are in sync during your tests. Pay special attention to the quality of the audio — audiences notice it more than you’d think.
- Reduce the CPU’s workload. If your computer’s CPU has to work too much it will cause issues with the stream. Pair cameras with portable hardware encoders to lighten the workload.
- Engage the audience. Let the people watching your event online ask questions. Using Restream Chat, you can let them chat across different platforms, too.
- Use lower thirds. The lower third of the screen is the perfect place for graphics. Use it for anything from countdown timers to information about speakers.
The most important tip to remember is that you should give yourself enough time to figure things out and run tests. Live streaming doesn’t have to be complicated, and it allows you to exercise your creativity. So start small and simple, and leave yourself time to learn as you go.
Let’s wrap up
Thanks to its reach-expanding capabilities, audience engagement, and a low barrier to entry, live streaming has become a marketer’s go-to tool. The benefits of live streaming are immense, but you have to pull it off correctly. If you’re preparing to live stream an event for the first time, don’t leave anything to chance. Go into it armed with checklists, heavy-duty hardware, and reliable software — you want it to go well. Restream will help you reach your audiences on any social network so you can make those viewers feel as if they were at your event in person. That’s the best reason for why you should learn how to live stream an event, after all.