Live Streaming…what works and doesn’t

Live Streaming production and eventWith the recent developments of things like Facebook Live and live video on Twitter, there’s a new interest in live streaming. It’s never been easier to access your own audience anytime, anywhere. As a video production company, we have to stay on top of the latest trends in communicating. We’ve been offering live streaming services for over seven years and in that time, like all great adventures, we’ve garnered enough experience to know what it takes to make a live stream successful…

…and we’ve received our hard knocks. Hopefully you can learn from our experience before you plunge into the waters of live streaming.

“I don’t think that means what you think it means”

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Often when clients ask us to stream their event, they’re actually asking us for TWO DIFFERENT services: 1) the production of the content that they want to send to the world and 2) the technical end of streaming the event. Most people think the two are very similar if not synonymous, which creates the perfect conditions for confusion about what you’re actually hiring a production company to deliver.

Sending the content to the world can be as simple as a camera and microphone hooked up to a computer and sent over Facebook.  It can also be a multi-camera production with presentations, feeds or guests from other sites, videos, and graphics sent to a video server that captures viewer data, allows chat and interaction, is set up with passwords protecting company secrets, playing on devices ranging from someone with a “Tandy computer” (true story) with Internet Explorer version 5 (another true story) to the same content made available where thousands sit in a theater.

Big or small, there are nuances to both sides of “live streaming” – what it looks like and equally as important how it gets there.

“Anybody can stream”

…and anybody can go out and buy the tools and call themselves a plumber. Just because it’s easy to stream doesn’t mean everyone does it well.  Internet speeds, streaming platforms, bit rates, receiving devices, hotel firewalls and having your stream available for those who couldn’t watch it live: there are a lot of details that can make or break your live stream event. You need to find someone who’s experienced it all and can provide you with reliable service or can at least consult with you before your event. If you decide to do it yourself, even a good consultant will help you have success. Because…

“The internet is down”

Live Streaming event and Video ProductionWhat do you do when the line goes dead? Or you start getting phone calls from viewers who say it’s jumpy, or they can’t hear the audio, or etc., etc., etc? The beauty of streaming is you are a live broadcaster–for a fraction of the costs of satellite transmission and receivers–on something we all count on that’s free: the internet.

And the internet is our connection to the world––when it works.  But what’s the backup plan? An affordable plan b that will work RIGHT NOW? Just having the internet may not be enough without, for example, checking the speed if you’re streaming from a hotel or conference center, which often limits upload speeds or have firewalls in place.  The firewalls, while protecting a hotel from the bad guys, also can prevent your stream from being successful–AT RANDOM TIMES!  Different devices need different bit rates, etc., and if your stream provider isn’t asking these questions, you might want to RUN! Having a streaming expert knowing what to ask for and who to ask may be a better choice than having your company A/V department, which does a lot of things well, take on a responsibility with little experience.

“We just want to keep it simple”

Everybody does. It should be––and chances are, it will be. Live streaming is an incredible tool when used properly. It reaches everyone you want, can stretch communication and event budgets around the world, and gives you control of your message. Deciding to live stream can help you advertise, promote or make a company announcement convenient to satellite offices. Consider, though, that it might not be as simple as it appears. Find someone who you can trust, who has broad experience, and who does both event production and live streaming well. Your viewers are counting on it.

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