5 tips for executing live video

Are you looking to take advantage of the eye-popping engagement delivered by live video broadcasts on social media? Here are some tips to avoid sharing a fiasco.

Picture it: A room set for a festive holiday gathering.

The empty room contains long industrial-style tables adorned with beautiful place settings and colorful fall-themed centerpieces. For the first eight minutes, we see only this static image, offset by ambient noise from people talking off-camera. A stream of hipsters then starts to slowly file into the room and take their seats. This goes on for another eight minutes—a full 16 minutes—before biscuits begin to hit the table.

Is this a scene setter for a new Richard Linklater film? A modern-day adaptation of “My Dinner with Andre?”

It’s the first 16 minutes of a Facebook Live Video for Taco Bell’s fourth annual “Friendsgiving,” a live broadcast from a couple years ago that exemplifies some of the worst traits of poor live videos. The broadcast features bland speeches with poor A/V, elevator music (which drowns out the aforementioned speakers), and play-by-play commentary from a “guest” who sits next to an empty chair meant to represent the viewer.

In a nutshell, it offers all the worst parts of a corporate gathering without any of the upsides—the food and drink—although in this case, with the main item on the menu being a Quesalupa (deep fried taco shell filled with turkey, Doritos® Locos stuffing and cranberry), it’s probably a good thing Facebook hasn’t invented a food-tasting feature.

As a live event, “Friendsgiving” left a lot to be desired, generating negative comments like: “Taco Bell has how many followers and only 350 people are watching this…” Had Taco Bell simply gone with a few short videos, it might have been a different story.

If you’re considering live video—and you should—follow these tips to make sure you’re doing it right:

1. Consider the event.

Facebook users watch live video three times longer than on-demand video, and live video generates 10 times the number of comments. However, not every format should be broadcast live. You wouldn’t want to shoot a 90-minute live video of a person painting a bedroom, even though that would certainly work as a short how-to video available on demand.

What works best as a live video? Action and suspense are essential, like what happens in sporting event or competitive contest. It’s also great for providing a behind-the-scenes look at events or bonus features (like interviews). For conferences, live video is effective so long as the subject matter and stagecraft are interesting enough. Shoot each speech individually so you’re not leaving your audience looking at dead air.

2. Technical elements matter.

Want to know the surest way to get people to tune out? Shoot a video with bad lighting and poor sound quality.

Technical elements are important for all videos, but especially so when it’s live, since you’re expecting your audience to tune in for longer than a minute or two.

Consider using a selfie-stick or a tripod to reduce shakiness. If you’re conducting interviews at an event, you might want to invest in a microphone to improve sound quality.

Pay attention to lighting. If you’re indoors, make sure there isn’t a glare in front of your subject. When shooting outdoors, don’t stand in front of the sun or cross back and forth between sun and shade.

3. Be descriptive.

Write a detailed and compelling description to accompany your video. This lets your audience know what the video is about or why they should keep watching, so you’ll want to make it as descriptive as possible. Once you’ve finished the live broadcast, you can update it to include key points made during the shoot.

4. Stagecraft is important.

Are you shooting a one-off that’s part of a larger event? To create anticipation, start filming shortly before, placing a title card in front of the camera. Throughout the broadcast, make sure to welcome new audience members who’ve joined and provide a brief recap. You can also answer live questions as they come in. If a mistake happens, keep going. It’s how well you recover that counts!

5. Promote and optimize.

Use your social media channels to promote your broadcast, before, during and after. In advance, let your audience know what they can expect if they tune in. During the shoot, post links to your live broadcasts on your other channels. After, make your post searchable, adding thumbnails and updating descriptions to reflect keywords. Keep the promotion going through social channels and off-line activities like email campaigns.

Live video adds excitement to an otherwise polished medium. Make sure your concept serves up a TV-worthy dose of suspense before going live.

Bonnie Clark is the communications director for JConnelly, a full-service communications firm. A version of this article originally appeared on the JConnelly blog.

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