Allen Blair emailed me over the weekend asking if there was a one-sheeter or set of tips for live-streaming somewhere. Allen is one of my mother’s fellow communications directors for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s districts (mom is District 12, Allen is District 9. They handle communications for road closing, weather-related road conditions, bridge naming ceremonies, construction information and such.

Frankly, it’s easier for me to spit out a few tips for live-streaming rather than search for and find a trustworthy source for them, so I responded to his email with the below. I thought I’d share here, too.

First, know that live streaming an event using cell phone or tablet presents inherent technical issues that confine the possibilities and make it different than producing a video or a television broadcast. Some of the tips below help you overcome some of that, but streaming is ideally done when a person is looking into the camera/phone and talking to the audience. You can live stream press conferences, sporting events and so on and so on, but lighting and audio issues are going to render the video rather disappointing in quality.

Think of live streaming as more of a TV stand-up than a full-on television production. But know you can use it for anything if you think through the challenges inherent in the larger subjects.

That said, some tips for live streaming:

1. Know where the mic is.

If you’re holding the phone with your hand vs. some device/tripod, selfie stick, etc., you’ll eventually put your thumb or finger over the mic on the phone. Then your audio goes away.

2. Know how the audio is going to get to the phone or device.

If you’re streaming something more than you right in front of the camera/phone, think about what you want the audience to hear. If it’s ambient room noise, you’re fine, though the audio won’t come through really well on a simple phone mic. If it’s a press conference or other subject speaking, you may think about investing in a wireless or lavaliere microphone. So long as an external mic has the three-band stereo mini plug (looks like the plug on a set of iPhone headphones), the mic will overtake your phone’s audio for the stream. If you use iPhone headsets (or any headsets with the built-in microphone), be aware of the mic rubbing against your face or clothing. Hold it out from your mouth.

3. Know where the light is.

Never shoot with the sun behind the subject. Try to ensure the light in the room is either behind you (not the subject) or to the side and points on the subject as best as possible. If you can see their eyes easily in the video (for single person or small groups), you’re good. if their eyes look like they’re in the shadows, you’ve got some lighting issues. If you do a lot of shooting at night or in dark spaces, think about getting a small camera light you can attach to a phone, tripod or even hold along with the phone to light you better.

4. Use a tripod.

Hand held video, especially for longer than a few seconds, is taxing on the person holding the camera, especially if that person is you. Just holding the phone up in the right position and stable for more than a minute or two is hard. Get a tripod, a selfie stick or some other extension to help you keep the video stable/level. Your audience, and their stomachs, will thank you.

5. Remind people what they’re watching

Just like a baseball announcer should say the score frequently, if you’re streaming something for more than a minute or so, be sure to revisit what they’re seeing. People will come in and out of the stream and you’ll need to turn into a broadcaster and re-set the scene every couple of minutes so people know where you are, what they’re seeing and why they should care. Alternatively, you should also title or label the stream to communicate this clearly.

6. Be careful of the comments

With platforms like Periscope, the default use is to have anyone who logs on to watch also have the opportunity to comment live in the stream. While the only people who generally see these are the others watching live at that point, you don’t want some jack wagon F-bombing all over your big video. So depending on the size and scope of your stream, you may want to control or even turn off commenting.

7. Plan ahead

Sure, this tip should probably go first, but all the above are really technical recommendations. From a bigger picture, you need to make sure people are going to watch your stream or none of the other stuff matters. Get the technical plan in place, but don’t forget to promote the fact the stream will happen to your audiences. Live streams are much more effective if people watch them, after all.

What experiences have you had doing live streaming to share? As always, the comments are yours.

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