How to live stream your nonprofit’s event for broader reach
No matter what your budget is or where your event is being held, your face-to-face events will always have geographical and physical restrictions. However, this does not mean your event reach has to be restricted as well.
Live video streaming (aka. live streaming) enables you to broadcast your events over the Internet. Unlike webinars and webcasts, viewers can join a live stream without registering as long as they have the URL to the event channel. Due to its ease of access, live streams can be embedded directly on your website, whereas webinars cannot.
Why should I live stream my events?
Live stream increases the number of people who will experience your event. Supporters who could not attend otherwise will be able to join the event regardless of their location. Live stream can also help you to reach those who may not have planned on attending, but chose to because your live stream channel persuaded them to attend your next event or conference. According to Digitell’s research on their clientele, up to 30% of people who attended a live streamed event proceeded to attend the live physical event the following year.
By live streaming, you can make your content accessible to a worldwide audience that can surpass any capacity limitations of a physical event venue.
Would live stream cannibalize my in-person attendance?
Short answer, no.
The long answer is that your event attendees and your live stream viewers are different cuts of the same meat: both are supporters of your organization, but prefer different ways of engaging with you. Donors, volunteers and supporters who attend events in-person are not there just for the content — they’re there to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the event. On the other spectrum, your livestream audience wants to be part of the event but doesn’t mind missing the full “in-person” experience.
While there will always be a few people who may opt for live stream due to laziness, the vast majority of your in-person attendees will still attend, regardless of whether you have live stream or not.
How to get started with live stream
Step 1: Equip yourself!
So you’ve decided to live stream your events — great! Your first step is put together a live stream kit which will come in handy when you need to live stream your events:
- USB microphone
- Web cam
- Computer (laptops recommended)
- Ethernet cable (to ensure your Internet connection is stable)
- Headphones (to check and troubleshoot audio if need be)
- Second laptop to manage live stream chat
If you’re working with a tight budget, make sure you invest in a quality microphone as good audio always trumps good visuals! Live stream viewers are quick to forgive a low-quality video feed, but are less forgiving when it comes to poor audio. Make sure you test your equipment with the computer you plan on using for live stream, to ensure everything is in working condition.
Step 2: Choose a live video stream platform
There are a lot of video platforms you can use to live stream your events, however nonprofits should strive to choose a few dependable platforms as options for consideration. Since technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, many “up-and-coming” platforms are sadly discontinued a few years after launch. For this reason, it is highly recommended for nonprofits to start with the following options:
- Google Hangouts on Air (free)
- Step-by-step tutorial on how to host a Google Hangout on Air
- Livestream (free and paid plans available)
- Step-by-step tutorial on how to get started with Livestream
- Ustream (free and paid plans available)
- Step-by-step tutorial on how to use an external camera with Ustream
Step 3: Create your channel
Live steam platforms allow you to create channels that viewers can visit to see your broadcasted events. For example, TechSoup Canada’s live stream channel is www.livestream.com/techsoupcanada, so anytime we broadcast an event, our live video feed will appear on that channel. When we are not live streaming, it’s set to play our “teaser video” on loop. The only other live stream platform that does not have the standard channel functionality is Google Hangouts on Air. Instead, Hangouts on Air connects and streams to the user’s designated YouTube channel.
Step 4: Promote your live stream channel
Depending on the platform and the plan you are on, you can embed your live stream channel directly on your website for easy promotion. This way, supporters can join your events remotely by visiting your website instead of memorizing your live stream channel URL. To see an example of an embedded live stream feed, check out Christ’s Commission Fellowship. They’ve embedded their live stream channel so folks at home can tune into their events by visiting their website.
I have live stream! Now what?
It’s time for the event planner in you to emerge! Simply having a live stream channel does not mean you’ll get instant engagement and reach, just as renting out an event venue does not automatically attract a high event attendance. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How will people know about my live stream channel?
- Why should they join my live stream?
- What kind of follow up would my live stream viewers receive from me?
To help you effectively manage your live streams, consider creating a live stream facilitation guide that your organization can use to standardize procedures and engage viewers. Want to go the extra mile? Come up with creative ways to implement your live stream content, or if you’re not sure where to start, participate in other relevant live stream channels to get inspiration (take a look at Animal Planet L!VE).
The concept of live streaming has seen massive popularity in the entertainment industry, and is now gaining momentum in the nonprofit sector. If you want to broaden the reach of your events and content, consider investing time in live stream – you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!