Delivering a successful live stream to your audience requires a lot of moving parts (hardware, equipment, encoders, streaming platform, internet connection, etc.) working seamlessly together, in real time. This complexity is the reason that live streaming is notoriously difficult, whether you’re a professional broadcaster or just getting started, there’s a lot that can go wrong.
Here are the most common, yet fatal, live streaming mistakes that are easy to avoid if you take the time to plan ahead and consider all the variables that are within your control.
1 | Not testing prior to the event
The difference between a successful live stream and a complete disaster comes down to testing beforehand. You must account for any and all variables well before the live event because once you’re live, there is no going back. Take the time to test your equipment, connection and rehearse the timing of your live event. Unless you are live streaming every day, you’ll want to start testing days, or even weeks prior to any live event.
2 | Not anticipating required bandwidth
Don’t risk your stream buffering and viewers dropping like flies, confirm you have enough bandwidth for your live broadcast well beforehand.
This gets tricky when broadcasting from a remote location—whether that’s a sports field or stadium, a theatre, a hotel or any other venue—your only option may be using a public or open internet source. Whenever you have to use a shared network, it’s especially important to test your upload speed and make sure you’ll have the required bandwidth at the time of your live stream.
Pro Tip: As a rule of thumb, you’ll need an upload speed of 5 - 10 Mbps, depending on the aspect ratio you intend to stream in. Your aspect ratio is what drives your initial bitrate selection, here are typical bitrate ranges for live streaming:
720p: 2Mbps to 4 Mbps
1080p: 4Mbps to 6Mbps
Make sure that your stream’s bitrate won’t exceed your upload bandwidth - you always want extra bandwidth available. When in doubt, lowball your bandwidth to avoid any saturation or consistency problems. Also, you’ll also want to adjust your bitrate throughout the live broadcast, as conditions will change.
For example: If you are broadcasting from a high school softball field and your ONLY accessible internet connection is a 4G hotspot with a single carrier, you’ll probably want to limit your aspect ratio to 720p. If you have a consistent upload speed of 4mbps, you’d want to set your encoded bitrate to 2000-3000kbps, no more.
3 | Overloading local encoders
Just because your test stream quality looks great a few hours before you go live, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the same awesome result when your broadcast starts.
Are you broadcasting from a venue with a large public audience attending? If you don’t have a dedicated connection and 1000+ people show up to the event using their mobile phones, they’ll saturate the cell tower and you’ll wind up with a terrible stream. You aren’t likely to have consistent conditions, so map it out and plan accordingly beforehand.
Pro Tip: Always avoid using the house wifi. Ideally, you want a venue that can provide a dedicated ethernet connection. When you do rely on a cellular connection, consider using a multi-bonded cellular device that allows you to load balance and get a quality stream out to your viewers.
4 | Overlooking audio quality
It doesn’t matter how good your video quality is, if people can’t clearly hear or the audio is choppy, your message will be lost and you’ll immediately lose viewers. Although sound quality is often overlooked, it’s just as important to your viewer’s experience as the video quality. Invest in a separate microphone for the best audio quality.
Pro Tip : Have someone watching the broadcast to monitor and detect any issues with audio quality. Forgetting to unmute your audio once your broadcast is live is an easy, yet deadly, mistake to make.
5 | Going live without a plan or purpose
There is really no difference between live and on-demand content, other than how you deliver it. Live streaming is more than delivering an experience that looks good, in order to be successful it must also engage your target audience.
Before planning any live event, ask yourself two simple questions:
What are you live streaming?
Who are you live streaming to?
If your content is VOD, don’t go live just to check that box. It’s important to understand your unique market, your target audience and how they consume content. Then go live with a clear purpose and goal, whether it’s to increase viewership and retention with additional content, drive brand awareness, acquire new subscribers or increase engagement on social media.
The secret to live streaming is in the details. With some upfront planning, the right equipment and plenty of testing, you’ll be prepared to conquer any live streaming curveball that's thrown your way. You only get one chance to make a good impression with viewers once you’re live, so make the most of the opportunity to engage your audience.
Zype Live makes live streaming a piece of cake. It’s an easy-to-use platform that powers your entire live broadcast, from ingestion and transcoding to distribution and monetization, Zype helps you deliver your viewers a professional experience, live or VOD, anywhere they’re watching (including social media ��).