The live stream video begins, and the carefully prepared speaker begins addressing an audience of thousands of viewers. The presentation is going smoothly until, just a few minutes into the opening keynote, the video freezes. Some viewers sound the alert in the chat window, others try checking their own connection. But many viewers have left: On average, one in five viewers will immediately stop watching a stream with poor video quality and never return.
Most of the time, common live streaming video mistakes—poor sound quality and a broken (or unattended) chat function, among others—are easily avoided with careful advance work. Organizations new to streaming video should heed this advice from Jeff Irwin, customer success manager for IBM Cloud Video. In the process of helping customers implement and manage streaming video, Irwin has identified common mistakes that stand in the way of streaming events and their viewers.
Mistake No. 1: Forgetting to Confirm Adequate Bandwidth
Without enough bandwidth, streaming video may buffer continuously, causing viewers to drop off. Determining available bandwidth is a straightforward process if organizers control the venue, such as in-house meeting rooms. Ask the IT team if, given the expected audience and complexity of the stream, the network can handle the traffic.
If the event takes place at a venue organizers don’t control, such as a hotel, organizers will likely have to share the network, Irwin says. In that case, provide detailed requirements to the venue’s IT team to be assured of dedicated bandwidth at the precise time of the live stream. Also make sure that upload speed is focused on. For broadcasting, upload speed is the important factor for a successful stream. Many variables come into play here, such as wired versus wireless connections. That said, a good rule of thumb is to aim for having twice the upload speed that intend to have your combined video and audio quality set at. So a combined bitrate of 2 Mbps would ideally have at least a 4 Mbps upload speed to support it.
Mistake No. 2: Ignoring Audio Quality
“Audio is just as important as video when you’re broadcasting, and something people forget to take into consideration,” Irwin says. Attention tends to be focused on video quality, which is important—but if low-quality microphones are used, or speakers are too far away from mics, then the message is lost no matter how great the video looks.
“You can’t spend $5,000 on a video camera and then use a $20 microphone,” Irwin says.
If video is somewhat poor quality but people can hear the live stream, Irwin adds, viewers will still get the message. However, if video is high quality but audio is poor, viewers don’t get the takeaways. Irwin’s advice? Buy (and test) quality microphones, and make sure there are enough mics if the event has multiple speakers.
Mistake No. 3: Failing to Promote the Event
There’s no such thing as “If you build it, they will come” in streaming video. Events should be promoted early and often.
“If your event is on August 2, don’t start publicizing it on August 1,” he says. “Let people know well ahead of time, through email and social media, so you can build an audience.”
When promoting the event, the focus should be on making it easy for attendees to join. For example, social media posts and emails should include links to add the event to calendars. In addition, event organizers can explore embedding live event video into social feeds, since viewers are more likely to attend an event if it’s watchable within the social networks they frequent.
Mistake No. 4: Skipping the Chat Moderators
Streaming video software may include a chat or Q&A module so that viewers can ask questions or share comments. If so, don’t forget to assign moderators to view chat discussions and pass along questions to speakers.
“Viewers find it frustrating if they reach out and no one responds,” Irwin says. This is especially true if viewers are raising concerns about video or audio problems, and no one’s available to answer.
The value of troubleshooting potential streaming video mistakes, Irwin says, is that an organization can decide if it can handle the technical aspects on its own, or if it should bring in the experts to help.
“You can save huge headaches if you hire production talent,” Irwin says. “Or if you don’t have the budget to farm out production, start out with smaller broadcasts.” The process will allow teams to learn over time and test internal capabilities.
It may seem simple to set up a camera and press “record,” but a successful live stream means getting the details right. Ensuring adequate bandwidth and prioritizing audio will improve the quality of the live stream—and make a good impression on viewers. Building chat moderators will give audiences an opportunity to engage with the video. And make sure to promote the live stream beforehand so that the audience knows to attend in the first place.
Looking for some more tips? Check out these 5 Pro Tips for Live Video Production.