For years, even as video streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch took off, businesses shied away from using video to their advantage. But it didn't take long for it to become obvious that video was an essential component of a modern marketing strategy. As a result, approximately 86% of businesses now use video as a marketing tool.
But it's important to note that the vast majority of those businesses only produce and publish pre-recorded videos. Not many businesses have gotten into the habit of using live streaming – only around 35% in all. And that's a massive missed opportunity.
Live streaming offers businesses the chance to build a real connection with their customers through interactivity and shared experiences. And that's the kind of thing that can catapult a brand from relative obscurity into immediate relevance. With that said, did you ever wonder why more businesses haven't jumped on the live streaming bandwagon?
Well, I know the answer – or at least one of them at any rate. It's that most businesses don't have the faintest idea of how to put a live event together. They don't understand the technology involved. They don't understand the production process. And because of that, they fear putting on a live event that will become an embarrassing mess.
But that's nonsense. After all, there are 13-year-olds live streaming their gameplay on Twitch. It's not a hard thing to do. So, to help businesses get over their unfounded fears, here's a simple list of the tech they need to host a live event and some quick tips on setting up for their first event.
The first thing a business has to do before it can put on a live streaming event is to gather the technology required to capture its broadcast. And believe it or not, it's astoundingly easy – and inexpensive – to do that. A basic streaming kit must include:
A single-camera event is obviously the easiest thing to prepare for. For a camera, most small businesses can get away with something as simple as a VIXIA HF R800. It's cheap, basic, and will more than do the job. And there are also countless video capture cards that will work with it.
Between the camera, capture card, and their related equipment, you can expect to spend less than $700 (assuming you already have a suitable PC to use). And one of the big reasons that price is so low is that the software that pulls all of that gear together into a professional-looking broadcast is free. It's called Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), and it can turn any PC into a broadcasting station that just about anyone can operate.
And for the more ambitious businesses that opt to set up for a multi-camera event, the only significant cost multiplier will be the extra cameras. That's because it's possible to find inexpensive multi-input capture cards, and OBS can handle up to eight simultaneous inputs right out of the box.
Gathering the right equipment is a necessary first step. But how that equipment gets used is just as important. And in general, there are a few basic live stream setup tips that will help make a business's first live stream a success.
The first is that location matters. Hosting a live event in a bland white conference room is a great way to guarantee that viewers tune out. It's a much better idea to use a warmer and more inviting location. A well-decorated break room can work. Or the office or the quirkiest employee in the building (as long as their decorations won't embarrass the brand). The ideal location is one that viewers will identify with, and that has the following three qualities:
The next tip is to go through YouTube and Twitch (or your streaming platform of choice) and find a recording of a live stream that's similar to what you're trying to do. Chances are, someone's already streamed something you can emulate. And for businesses with no live streaming experience, it's fine to emulate others at first. If necessary, use a service like Loader.To to copy the video for offline viewing and distribution to the stream participants. If it doesn't work for you, you can also try alternatives like:
And once you have someone else's live stream to use as a reference point, review it as many times as necessary to figure out what the streamer did well, and where you might improve on their performance.
The third and final tip is to set everything up well in advance of the event and conduct a run-through to make sure everyone's comfortable with their role. It's also worth practicing how everyone will respond to problems, such as if your audio or video feed fails, or if the presenter forgets a line. The idea is to get everyone ready for the unexpected. And the better everyone gets, the better chance they'll have to turn a live-stream speedbump into a chance to bond with the audience.
In a perfect world, every business that's well-prepared for its first live event would see immediate success. But we don't live in a perfect world. In reality, most businesses struggle to pull in a significant audience for their first few events. And the quality of their production will always need some tweaks here and there. It can take some time for a business to find its stride, and that's normal. What's most important is for them to stick with their live streaming strategy and work continuously to improve it.
That can come in the form of devoting more resources to promoting the events. Or investing in additional cameras and better lighting. It might even be a good idea to try going on location outside the office for a live event. No matter the approach, the audience will come. And when they do, the power of live streaming as a marketing tool will become self-evident. Most businesses will end up wondering what they were so afraid of in the first place.