Small business owners are adopting live streaming video more and more, both for marketing purposes and in their services. I know: video is already intimidating. But now it's going to be you, front and center -- and live. Scary, right?
But the shift to live video is already happening. Case in point: This past October, the live stream of Redbull Stratos shattered YouTube records, drawing over 8 million viewers to watch Felix Baumgartner jump from space -- live. This online event wasn't just a gimmick from the viewers' standpoint; it was about being part of something. All of us watching, communicating, in real time together. We shared the experience in our Facebook Newsfeeds and on Twitter, inspiring others to tune in too, a pattern that repeated throughout the event to viral proportions.
Small business owners can incorporate live streaming into their companies as a social experience -- maybe in the form of a class, an online show, a flash sale or a launch. Even though you probably won't do a space jump, live video is still exciting and engaging for those who need what you do, sell, or teach. And it doesn't have to be scary if you prepare ahead.
After broadcasting live every week for the last year, and producing numerous other live events, I wanted to share a few pointers to prepare yourself (and your business) for your first live event:
1. Request to appear on the live streams of others.
Advances in products and technology are making live video possible for small business owners, though it may not make it feel any easier for you! Ease into video, and the idea of having it broadcast out live, by appearing on someone else’s live stream first. Partner with a friend or colleague who is hosting a class, request to be interviewed on someone’s show who has a similar audience as yours, or cross promote your product on another flash sale.
Pro Advice: Have an objective before you approach someone. Know what you want to accomplish from appearing live. For example, determine if you want more people to signup for your mailing list, purchase a particular product, contact you for an appointment or like your Facebook Page -- and then gear everything you do in going live around that specific goal.
2. Build up an audience that's excited to show up to your live event.
Part of the attraction of attending a live event is that you are around like-minded individuals. Understand what people in your target demographic have in common. What do they value, where do they live, what do they love to do? Take some time to analyze what they want before you prepare a live event for your community.
Pro Advice: Get to know your followers through Twitter and connect them with others they should know. And ask your email list to like you on Facebook so you can get instant feedback from them on what you share through your updates.
3. Prepare a media kit.
Truly epic live video streams incorporate multimedia, bringing in photos and videos. Any images, video or copy produced should enhance the experience for the viewer.
Product-based businesses are in luck -- you've already got plenty of imagery to work with. If you're a service based business, don't forget you can still show off pictures and videos that provide an inside look at your company. Include more than just a headshot by using pictures of you at events or working with clients.
Pro Advice: Have visual items prepared in advance to give your producer, preferably in a way that is easily transferrable -- e.g., creating a Dropbox folder.
4. Practice in front of the camera.
Remember that scene from Clueless, where Cher insists on polaroids instead of a mirror? Same idea here. Start to calm your nerves and work on perfecting your appearance by recording yourself on video for fun. Record yourself and watch it back. Make notes on what you would like to change -- and then practice over and over again until you nail it.
Pro Advice: Even better, have someone else watch your practice videos and give you honest pointers. It may be difficult, but the feedback is worth it!
5. Set up a “studio” for yourself.
Now that you're setting up live gigs, you’ve prepared your media in advance, and you're working on building up your community, start thinking about some of the logistics of being live on video. Since the video is not just being recorded, but being sent through your Internet connection to others, you want to make sure you’re at your best -- and so is your recording space!
Set aside a corner of a room in your home office, shop, or boardroom that is quiet and absent of any interruptions. Make sure a light is hitting your face and that your room is well lit. If video is something you’re serious about getting into regularly, consider purchasing a lighting kit or doing some research on how to DIY an affordable setup for yourself.
Pro Advice: Don’t let the lighting and quiet space go to waste; purchase a quality mic and webcam that will connect to your computer through USB, rather than using whatever equipment comes stock. Make sure you have connected and practiced with your setup well in advance of your live online video event. And, if possible, connect your computer to the Internet via Ethernet rather than Wi-Fi. Buffering and breakups are no fun for your viewers!
Before you know it, live streaming might become a core part of your communications or service offerings. If you prepare to "go live" ahead of time, you can grow your reach, save time, and improve production quality, all at the same time.
How do you plan to incorporate live video into your business?
Jennifer Donogh is an owner and President of Ovaleye.tv which offers live, online event production services using Ovaleye's streaming media engine, to businesses and organizations across the United States. She is also the host of the weekly live show, Young Female Entrepreneurs.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.