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How to Livestream Your Next Event

You’ve looked at live video meetings for years. Make the leap to broadcasting one yourself

woman livestreaming
GETTY IMAGES

In the past few years, the world has become familiar with attending events from home.

So when you’re at a meeting in person, you might be asked to help out.

Maybe you’re attending a book club meeting and are asked to livestream the event for folks unable to attend. Sure, you can turn on your laptop camera to face the speaker and sign in to Zoom. But why not take it up a notch with a separate camera and better audio?

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The key to better livestreaming is to be prepared — with your equipment, your internet connection and your delivery. Doing a private test broadcast, like practicing a speech in advance, can give you confidence that your setup will work when the event is happening.

Share your get-together in real time

Livestreaming is easier than you might think. All you need to do is connect a camera and a few other accessories to a laptop. This way you can capture multiple people speaking, record a school play or make a live presentation in a banquet hall available to a larger audience. Additional software allows you to livestream video directly to Facebook and YouTube simultaneously and skip Zoom’s invite codes.

“It has become so stupid easy to livestream,” says Steve Brazzil, who hosts the podcast Behind the Shot from Riverside, California, and has been streaming video online for years. “Any non-tech-savvy person could grab a camera and a laptop, connect it to software and start streaming very quickly.”

Chris Warner-Carey livestreams every Sunday from Community United Methodist Church in Half Moon Bay, California, where he lives. He broadcasts using two iPhones and a Samsung Galaxy phone that church members donated.

His process with multiple smartphone cameras is more complicated than using just one. He started with one camera during the pandemic, when he photographed the church’s pastor, his wife, with an iPhone and laptop linked directly to Facebook Live.

When the church started welcoming attendees back into the pews, he experimented with multiple cameras during services to capture the musicians and the Rev. Lisa Warner-Carey.

Make sure the internet doesn’t drop you

Chris Warner-Carey’s biggest piece of advice: “Start with really good, reliable internet service. If you can connect the laptop with an Ethernet cable to the local router, definitely do that. Nowadays, when you have 50 people in a building that are all using the local Wi-Fi, that can really slow down the signal and cause the livestream to go offline.”

An Ethernet cable looks like the telephone cord used to plug a landline phone into a wall jack but has bigger plastic connectors. A router is part of the equipment — the other part is a modem, sometimes combined with a router — that brings the internet into a home or other building and allows you to safely connect multiple computers, gaming consoles, smartphones and smart TVs.

Most of the time your device connects to a router through wireless Wi-Fi. But using a wired Ethernet cable can give you faster speeds, higher data quality and better security.

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Equipment that’s good to have

Beyond a good connection to the internet, to effectively livestream you’ll need:

1. Camera. A smartphone or a webcam separate from your laptop is fine if you don’t need to move the camera or zoom in and out. But if you want to change your focus, say, to get closer to a single speaker or farther away to include a group, you’ll need a larger digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or mirrorless camera with a cord connection.

If you have a smartphone, you can stream directly from the device. Hold it horizontally — also called landscape mode — unless you’re going live on a primarily mobile platform such as Instagram or TikTok, where vertical video is recommended to take up the whole screen. If you plan on holding the smartphone without any support for more than a minute or two, you’ll likely find that no matter how steady you think you are, some camera shake will blur your efforts.

2. Tripod. A steady base, such as a small tripod, can keep the video smooth and steady. You don’t need a full-size tripod to mount the camera if you can get the same view from a tabletop. If you use a tabletop tripod, make sure it includes an adapter, so the phone, webcam or full-fledged camera will be able to sit on top of it.

3. Laptop. A portable computer is a good bridge to connect a camera to the internet using streaming software. Most current cameras plug into a laptop with a USB-C cable, but check yours to be sure.

4. Other cables, dongles. You may need additional cables or adapters for cables you already own to get everything connected to your laptop. For instance, if your computer has no Ethernet port, you’ll need an adapter, also called a dongle, to plug in the Ethernet cable. As laptops have gotten thinner in recent years, they’ve lost their Ethernet ports.

5. Audio. To make sure viewers at home can hear speakers clearly, attach a separate microphone to your laptop. Or you can connect a cable from your laptop to the room’s sound system. It’s a good idea to confirm the setup in advance to avoid not having a vital cable or buying something you won’t need.

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6. Streaming software. Some options are free, which is good for people or organizations on a budget. You can go live on Facebook or YouTube directly from your phone or computer webcam and from other social media platforms, such as the microblogging site Twitter and the livestream gaming site Twitch.

Facebook will let you connect a camera directly through its app to go live. On Facebook's mobile app, tap the Live button underneath where you post content. Hit Go live and you’ll see a countdown prompt from 3, 2, 1 — and you’re on the web. Click the X when you’re done.

From a computer, make sure you’re signed into your Facebook group’s page or your own and select Live video. You’ll be walked through the steps to Go live immediately or to Create a live video event that you can schedule and make public later.

YouTube, unlike Facebook, has no membership requirements or registration to watch a video. However, the platform has restrictions on those who post, so livestreaming on your channel could be turned off. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all of YouTube’s rules before you begin.

• To livestream from a smartphone, you’ll need at least 50 subscribers to your channel. On the YouTube app, go to the bottom and tap Create | Go live. To stream your phone’s screen, tap Create channel | Share screen | Go live. Hit Finish when you’re done.

• To livestream from a laptop, open YouTube, click Create | Go live and eventually Finish.

• If this is the first time you and your group have made livestreaming video available either through mobile or a laptop, YouTube requires that a channel be verified in a two-step process, which the company says could take up to 24 hours. You’ll need to do this only once.

If you’re connecting an extra camera or a microphone, you might need to use an encoder — software that companies have developed in cooperation with YouTube. Be sure to test everything before the big event, which is always a good idea no matter what, when and where you decide to livestream.

A host of streaming apps, including ECAMM Live, Restream.io and StreamYard, can help you connect to multiple platforms at once. The programs also let you conduct remote interviews during a broadcast and bring in multiple guests. Pricing starts at $16 a month for ECAMM and Restream.io and $20 a month for StreamYard.

One final tip: Make sure your computer cord is long enough to connect to your camera easily with some lag. At a recent local school board candidate debate that I covered, my 6-foot cord wasn’t long enough to link the laptop and camera. At one point, the cord got knocked out — and the livestream feed along with it.