Are you ready to tune in to the power of live video?
Connecting and growing an audience are musts in business, and with the right strategy live video can be one of the most important tools you have at your disposal. It can create relationships, develop trust, and turn strangers into customers.
“Have you gone live before?”
After a brief introduction, Nick asked this question to the people online and in the room. He explained that it was an important question, for several reasons, including that it would enable him to tailor his talk to the needs of the audience.
He looked at the hands raised, and read some of the comments from the Facebook Live feed, and then got meta: he pointed out that in hybrid events like this one, “There is always going to be a slight delay.” By asking the question first, then giving time for the online viewers to type in their answers, hit send, etc, he was creating a more seamless experience. “A great practice is to get used to asking questions right away, then answering yourself…and giving the audience time to respond.”
This practical tip, aptly demonstrated, set the tone for the rest of the presentation. Nick showed the five-part roadmap for his talk:
- Why Streaming?
- The Basics
- Designing for Engagement
- Content Strategy
- When It Goes Wrong (which Josh had already modeled for us by tripping over, and then quickly re-connecting, the TV cable during the introduction)
Why? Community, that’s why
Nick pointed out that live video was a powerful way to make sure your community got engaging, relevant, and most of all dynamic content. “They are able to experience something right along with you.”
It also could become the foundation for your over-arching content strategy, providing instantly re-usable content (more on that later). “Livestreaming can be the hub that everything else grows from.” There’s also a huge variety of use cases such as weekly shows, special events, or on-the-spot updates, to name a few.
Having the capacity for live video also had transferable benefits beyond content. Once you have the setup for a good live shoot, that makes zoom meetings look better, video recording sped up, giving presentations easier, and more. It’s worth it to “smooth out the process” by investing in a permanent setup in your space if possible. This kind of presence builds your authority and trust with your community.
It starts with picking a platform
Nick talked about how it can be confusing choosing from the many platforms available for live video: instagram, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, etc. He recommended making the choice based on one simple criteria: what fits best with your content strategy?. It’s a question to think about “holistically, where it makes the most sense” as it applies to your audience as well.
His own preference was for YouTube, especially for people who are just getting started. Among other reasons, content lasts longer. Facebook videos get lost in the algorithm after only a few days, and Instagram stories only last 24 hours, but his YouTube livestreams “…constantly have the ability to generate views, generate an audience..”
Whatever platform you choose, the next step is to build in consistency. “I’m going to recommend you create some sort of weekly show” That way people know when to show up, and can find your content more easily.
Nick took a moment to have the audience talk with each other about what platforms they either used or were considering, and again modeled the “ask-pause” technique by checking the Facebook Live comments.
“It sounds like it’s been a mix,” he said, based on what he heard in the room and read online. “Can you simulcast? Yes, but that’s going to be a more advanced strategy,” highlighting the difficulty in being engaged in the video content and the comments at the same time.
Start with the phone
Starting to talk about equipment, Nick suggests your first live streams should just be using your cel phone. Rather than worry about being perfect the first time, he suggests that you “focus on getting 1% better with each shoot…look for little ways to improve your lighting, or increase the comments…have that mindset of continuous improvement.”
As for the rest of the equipment, he cautions against falling for the new shiny thing and instead being “smart and strategic.” Certainly have an idea of what you’d like your show to eventually be, but “start where you are.”
With the overall strategy laid out and the first step (“Use your phone!”) explained, Nick went on to talk specifically about the rest of the equipment, in order of importance:
Software: For Mac users, Nick suggested Ecamm, and for Windows, the software he uses at CUNA called Vmix. “It’s going to basically let you do anything you want to do.” While both have learning curves, you can “start out basic, and upgrade from there.
There are also browser-based options such as StreamYard, which used to be unreliable but now are pretty good.
The “native” option is what SMBMad uses with Facebook — browser-based, but provided by the platform itself. “Youtube, all the major platforms, have some kind of native integration.” He explained that any apps (phone, tablet, computer) would have the option to go live, if the stream didn’t need the advanced capability of Ecamm or Vmix.
The question came up: how do you connect those software apps to the platforms? Nick explained that it’s very easy, a simple built-in switch or easily pasteable “RTMP code” to configure the app.
He reiterated that the reason he liked YouTube was because the content tended to last longer or resurface more easily. And when asked again how much does consistency really matter?” Nick reiterated “It will help…the more actual live viewers you will get. It’s the short-range effect. They will show up, on time, to be a part of that experience.”
Sound: “Audio is going to be the linchpin — you gotta have audio, or you’re going to lose your audience.” Nick stresses the importance of moving away from the internal mic on your computer and also doing what you can to keep the space where you are from echoing.
“It can be as simple as moving the mic closer (to your mouth)”. That’s the simplest thing, but also having more soft things in the room (blankets, cushions, etc). “A simple moving blanket will do a nice job of improving sound quality.”
In terms of microphones, Nick is a big fan of Rode, which has many different high quality and “relatively” easy cost products for sound. El Gato is also a reputable company (also making the popular StreamDeck accessory).
Lighting is third in the list for a reason. Simply put, “…there are amazing cameras that can look crappy if they’re lit wrong, and your iPhone can look amazing if you have good lighting.” It can be as basic as a ring light, but Nick is a fan of the Aperture line of products for some nice little lights that can set at a 45 degree angle when going live. Lighting can be a really complex subject, but there are many YouTube tutorials that can teach you how to improve your setup. “Lighting makes everything better.”
A later question came up on how to light a panel discussion, and Nick explained that a big light bouncing off the ceiling can help, but the only really effective answer is “more lights.”
Video cameras again should likely start with your cell phone — most of which can connect to your laptop with things like Apple’s “Continuity Camera” which is going to be better than your laptops built-in camera. There are also companies like Logitech that have upgraded USB webcams with good quality at a fairly affordable price.
All the big camera companies now – Canon, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic – with the newer models, you can use them as a webcam. “However, you have to have a capture card — something that takes the video signal and sends it into your computer.” Nick explained that while you may have an HDMI port on your laptop, it was only for sending video, not receiving it. A capture card is essential if you’re going with a DSLR camera.
Nick also acknowledged that there are also built-in robotic cameras like the ones mounted in the DreamBank space, but those far outside the scope of “basics.” Those are for big events filmed usually by professionals.
Production value means looking intentional. It means things like the background of the video, graphics, countdown timers, and creating “b-roll.”
B-roll is any short clip that can be played during things like introductions, product descriptions, or other transitions. Adding a second camera angle can also add to the production value.
Designing for engagement with “show flow”
“If you think about the way you’re structuring your show flow, that’s going to ultimately improve your engagement.” Nick explained that even at the beginning, when there may not be a lot of audience, you should build in the tools of engagement by using an outline while also remembering that the whole point of being live is to be able to talk to the audience in real time.
Nick proceeded to walk us through a “show flow” outline:
Pre-show countdown consists of talking with the audience, getting them engaged and talking, “recognizing who is saying hi, who is appearing in the chat.”
His opening question (“Where’s everybody from?”) was an example of that. These questions should be “…easy one word answers: yes, no, where are you watching from…You can get into more involved answers as the stream goes on.” You can also “seed engagement” through trivia questions using software plugins. Don’t forget to pause to give time for engagement to happen.
The Hook: “When the countdown timer ends, then you jump into content creation mode.” This is when you bring out the “hook” — the subject of the video and a short intro, followed by another short-answer question.
First content point: from this point on, Nick explains, you’re going to deliver the planned content — for example, “…if you’re going to be talking about the top three microphones, start talking about microphone number one.” This is a time when you are not looking at the chat (or very minimally). This is where you want your best content.
Pause for engagement: when that first section is done, then you can go back to the chat, answer a few questions, etc. “You’re providing great engagement, you’re providing great content,” Nick explains. One pro tip is to make sure, in a live event, to repeat the questions from the in-person audience just as you’d read them from the chat.
The “content point-pause” cycle continues throughout the livestream, until it’s time to wrap things up.
General Q&A: This is where you go back to make sure there aren’t unaddressed comments or questions and making sure that the content you delivered was clear to the audience.
Clear call-to-action: the final part of the outline should be some kind of next step for the audience. “It could be ‘tune in next week’, it could be any sort of thing, but make sure you end on some kind of outro call-to-action type piece,” Nick explains. For YouTube, that’s often a link to watch another related video. It can be tailored to whatever is best for your content and audience.
Foundation for Your Content Strategy
There are many ways to repurpose a livestream. Nick uses the prime example of turning it into a video podcast, since YouTube is leaning heavily into that kind of content. He explained that it’s fairly straightforward to edit a livestream down to podcastable content, either with video or without.
- Take out the intro piece.
- Take out the engagement pieces (unless they are relevant to the content).
- Take out the pre-show chatter
A question came up: If you have multiple podcasts, should you put them under a single “umbrella channel” or separate pages for each? The concern was the amount of upkeep individual pages and podcasts would have.
“It’s dependent on the audience,” Nick answered. “They basically would be a couple of separate playlists. But if they are for totally different audiences, then they should be on separate channels.”
The follow up question was “how quickly should I upload all my current content if I’m making it a podcast?” While you could just upload all of it at once, Nick suggested putting one up every two or three days to give the algorithm and the audience time to react.
The next question was whether you needed a media waiver for your guests if you were going to use their content in a podcast (or on the channel). “I’m not a lawyer in any capacity,” Nick emphasized. “You should check with your legal department, especially if you’re making money.”
Other ways to repurpose include:
- clipping out shorts (that link back to your main video).
- transcribe elements for an email newsletter (Nick recommends services such as Rev.com for transcription).
- use the phone for a second channel, or for another platform, to send content to your main channel.
If (When) Things Go Wrong
As Nick neared the end of the presentation, he gave several practical guidelines for what to do when things go wrong. “And they will go wrong, because it’s livestreaming.” The key guiding principle was simply to “Stay calm. Remember your job is to deliver the content.”
He pointed out that oftentimes there are small issues that come up that aren’t even noticed by most of the audience, and in those situations you should just keep going.
If there are bigger issues that are noticeable by everyone though, don’t try to hide them.
- Call it out.
- Assess the situation.
- Keep moving forward (remember your job).
- Fix it during breaks or with the help of a teammate.
Some problems are only fixable by the old I.T. standby: turn everything off and on again. “Restart the stream. Fixes a lot of issues.”
There are also several preventative measures you can take to reduce the chance of issues during the stream:
- Restart your computer before the day begins.
- Shut down all extra programs.
- Temporarily shut off any backups to the cloud or syncing (to save on bandwidth).
- If possible, have your machine hardwired to the internet, and boost the speed. For a reliable livestream, you should have an upload speed of at least 5 mbps (you can test the upload speed here). Under five, Nick suggests you simply use your phone.
- Use a checklist – this will help you make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Nick provided his own version of a livestream checklist at http://nickpalkowski.com/checklist.
Finally, Nick suggests the practice of premeditatio malorum – a stoic idea of “premeditating evil.” Spend some time with your team trying to think of everything that might go wrong, what might be the hiccups and how you might prevent or fix it. “Prepare yourself, and you’ll be ready for the unexpected.”
Just get started
Nick ended by modeling the same “call to action” he’d mentioned before. He encouraged everyone to not only add live-streaming to their social media portfolio but also to contact him and let him know about it. “Go live, give it a chance, and just keep moving forward.”
After the conclusion of his talk, Nick answered a few extra questions:
- “How do you get guests for your show?” Nick’s own job at CUNA doesn’t have issues finding speakers, but outside of that it’s just about “reaching out and connecting…building the relationships with people and talking to them.” He mentioned that often people are nervous about coming on, and the more simple and transparent you can make the process the more likely they are to be comfortable appearing on your livestream.
- “What are the best ways to get captions and transcripts?” Most editing software such as Adobe will have it built in, but higher quality can come from sites like Rev and Otter.
- “How do you create the countdown timers for pre-shows?” Again, many editing apps will have them built in, and there are sites like SonduckFilm.com which have templates available. “Honestly, for all of mine, I’ve built my own,” Nick confessed.
- “Can you talk about going live on multiple platforms at the same time, specifically on things like TikTok or Instagram?” For this kind of “simulcasting” it depends on the software you’re using: Ecamm will send the signal to the cloud and then on to separate platforms, whereas Vmix sends out three separate streams (which means more bandwidth necessary).
Instagram is difficult to simulcast to, and “…you’re better off just setting up a separate phone.” Broadcasting to LinkedIn is a relatively new thing, but “…if that’s where your audience is, it’s worth it.”
About the Speaker
Nick Palkowski is the Virtual Event Production Manager for Credit Union National Association and a freelance videographer dedicated to helping you get your message heard. He runs NickPalkowski.com with the goal to produce quality live stream events and presentations for clients, increasing their impact and their income.
Nick brings his passion and dedication to a wide range of businesses including Lands’ End, Real Men Real Style, Purina, Menfluential conference, CultureCon, and also Social Media Breakfast Madison. In the words of Josh, “He helped us move forward during a really dark time…a big old SMBmad thank you to Nick! His expertise and vision was essential to our continued presence during the pandemic.”
Contact Nick at: