Thoughts and Lessons on Live Streaming Demonstrations

I’d not done a huge amount of Live Streaming before the Coronavirus visited our shores and the country went into lock-down, but it had been on the to-do list. At the time of writing this, I have now completed Four live demos on YouTube and one on Facebook. Here’s a bit of a brain dump on what I’ve learned and my thoughts going forward . . .

To be honest, I’m grateful that I am a quick learner and have a decent grasp on technology otherwise I fear I would be struggling to get the streaming thing sorted in my head, never mind set up in the workshop. For example, with YouTube and Facebook, setting up a single camera to live stream a show is a doddle. But setting up two or more cameras is a bit more complex, requiring additional software and of course, webcams other than the one built into the laptop.

Backtrack a few months to around Christmas 2019 when I was in the market for a new laptop. The one that had been the admin workhorse of Hampshire Sheen was beginning to drag its heels with age, so it was time for a new one. Thinking about what I would look for in a new machine, I thought about live streaming and the possibility of demonstrating via the internet to clubs abroad.

A couple of weeks research into streaming possibilities and methods, together with sourcing info on laptop spec and I was set to make a purchase. The laptops with the suggested minimum spec totaled over a thousand pounds so in the end, I took a punt on a refurbished HP machine with decent RAM and few other bits (not pertinent to this article) of suggested hardware.

I figured that if I was to do this, I would have to do it as properly and professionally as I could from the offset to give the viewers the best possible show for them to enjoy and want to see more. That meant multiple camera angles and decent audio. The purchase of two HD Logitech webcams later and the very basic set-up was almost ready. Thankfully, in my camera kit from my normal production videos, I had a wireless mic that worked with the laptop.

Together with the new hardware and a fantastic piece of software called OBS (which is essentially a ‘live’ editing studio for streaming), thoughts turned to how to actually do a demonstration live on the internet. The content had to be engaging, interesting and possibly above all else, entertaining. The skill level of the audience to my mind is secondary to the content. So long as I publish information about what the content of the demonstration is going to be, it would be an attractive viewing prospect to anyone of that skill level, or above or below it. I needed to remember that this, like all demonstrations is a performance, and how I conduct it will largely determine if it succeeds of fails. I believe it is as simple as that. So long as the content is good and the performance is entertaining, the demonstration will work.

In order to interact with viewers, respond to comments and questions and give back a bit of banter, I would need another screen I could keep an eye on the what was going on in the Chat on the stream page on YouTube. It was suggested that I use an ‘ear-worm’ by phone or similar feeding me the questions to answer. It is a good idea, but for me it would be too much for me to be turning something, conscious of the viewers taking note of every move I make and listening to what I say and concentrating on listening to my own ear-worm, so I let that one go.

Instead, I opted to employ my little used tablet to show the stream back to me, so I can monitor it, the quality, the delay and of course, the comments. This, for the time being at least, is the method I am most comfortable with.

Initially, it was a a bit daunting checking everything, switching camera angles, audio levels and responding to comments and questions.

All told though, it is a lot of fun.

As I write this, I’ve not long finished my fourth live demonstration on YouTube and have reached a staggering number of people. To me, the numbers are bonkers. Just for these four live shows (at the time of writing), they have been watched for a total of 369 days. Bonkers.

Now, I’m not one to sit still for too long (as anyone who has followed me for a year or two will know) and I’m rarely happy with things I produce. I need to continually move forward, improving what I do to a level where I can sit back at it and say to myself

“Yeah, I’m happy with that.”

I’m nearly there with this live streaming stuff now. I have learned so much in such a short space of time I can hardly believe it. The first two YouTube live streams were great (and the last two were also well attended), and the feedback I received afterwards was reassuringly positive. Essentially, I guess those two initial forays were trial runs to find out:

  • How I cope with essentially talking to myself for hours,
  • How smoothly I can operate the system,
  • How existing demo repertoire would work ‘live’,
  • How the internet connection would hold up,
  • How long I could keep viewers’ interest,
  • Where I could improve,
  • Whether the streaming could be expanded into the business more effectively,
  • How I could reach more people.
  • Ideas for ongoing projects.
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