In our last post on Facebook Live, we discussed all of the technical details required to stream to the service from NewTek’s TriCaster. In this post, we want to change gears a bit and dig in to some ways to optimize the streaming event itself by taking advantage of what Facebook can offer - and also knowing some of its limitations.
While providing many of the same benefits as traditional CDN providers, Facebook is first and foremost a social network that’s focused on community. The Live Video experience within Facebook is based around all of the same community elements Facebook already has in place: News Feeds, Contacts, Pages, Groups, Comments, and Reactions. While hosting a successful live event on Facebook requires an appreciation of how best to leverage these social features, it also requires an understanding of best practices that apply to any live production.
Here are 7 tips that should help you down the path to a successful Facebook Live event:
1- Pick a killer topic that connects with your target audience…
When it comes to creating an event, there is a lot of noise in the market and it can be tough to find a way to stand out. To help generate interest in your event, you’ll need to find a fresh, current topic that you know your target audience will care about.
Start with your reason for holding the event. What do you want to accomplish and what do you want the people attending your event to walk away with? Use that as a start point, then look at different ways to approach it that will capture the attention of the people you want to attract. While inspiration is important in picking on a topic, it can be helped along by a bit of research:
- Go on to sites like Quora to see what questions people in your target demographic are asking. See how you could tie those kind of questions into your goals for the event.
- Go to the Groups section on LinkedIn to see what the hottest discussions are in your market. Also go to publishing/blogging sites like Medium for inspiration. Sometimes a great post or article can set off a lightbulb for you even if it isn't specifically related to your area.
- Ask trusted clients what their biggest needs are and where they see their business heading moving forward. The odds are good they'll also tell you what they are hearing from their peers in the market. This should give you more insight on what your audience is worried about, which can help you to position your message against that backdrop.
Distill what you’ve discovered from this research into a broader theme, then filter it through your own sense of what is most important to your target audience, and what they would really be interested in learning about.
As you decide on a topic, make sure its broad enough to attract a wider audience, while focused enough to offer the depth needed to be informative. Nothing is worse than attending an event that initially seemed interesting, only to find it's offering a lot more fluff than facts.
2- Create a Facebook Event Page for managing the event...
While you can have a spontaneous Facebook Live event that will show up in your news feed, Facebook actually provides a more effective tool for launching a Live event on the platform – Event Pages. Event Pages provide all the tools needed to invite people to your event and to share information and updates on speakers, topics, new contents, and other event-related happenings.
Make sure you set up the Facebook Event Page early enough to give you time to build interest and an audience. You going to want to promote the event both on and off Facebook, and this page will be a key part in translating the interest and awareness you generate into a successful event. This event page has a unique URL that you can use outside of Facebook, so include it in Tweets, mailings, other Facebook posts, and even in your email signature. Facebook also has a mechanism for sending out event invitations to people you are friends with, but that is limited to 500 invitations for any one event. However, you can allow the friends you've invited to forward invitations to their friends as well - giving you a wider reach. Your goal should be to help everyone that might be interested in your event to find it - but to avoid being 'spamy' about it.
Remember to use a compelling image for your event page. This image will automatically become part of any invitations or links posted about your event. A good image will help your event stand out when people see it on their news feeds. Keep text in the image to a minimum and focus more on having an evocative visual hook. Using images in your event posts and updates will help you maximize the value of the social tools Facebook provides.
Behind it's social front-end, Facebook is also a sophisticated search engine, so do everything you can to make your event discoverable. Pick an Event Name that is both descriptive and exciting, and add a well-crafted description for it. Be sure to include key terms that people looking for an event like yours would use in a search. You’ll also need to select a category and add tags to your Event Page. Don’t skimp with this part. You’ll want to do everything you can to connect with your potential audience, so put some thought into generating all of these descriptive tags.
3- Market the event over time – not in a single “Big Bang” push...
Taking a “Build it and they will come” approach to marketing your live event is usually a bad idea. People will need convincing and reminding to get them to show up for your event – and you'll need a well-planned rollout to make that happen.
Make sure you include all of the basic event information in your initial announcement – the date and time, topics being covered, and what people will gain/learn by attending. After that, you should keep posting incremental details about your event to this page, and pace the rollout of information to help build-up interest and generate some buzz.
Use teasers to give early hints of things that will be coming before describing them fully in later posts. If you have any planned speakers or presenters, try to do brief Facebook Live posts with them talking about what they will be doing at the event. (Facebook is heavily promoting video now - especially live video - so these posts can have a big impact on your event's visibility.) Consider creating incentives or contests that reward people for sharing the event with their friends or co-workers. Leverage your network!
Finally, try to save a surprise or two for right before the event – that can help attract some of the ‘stragglers’ you’d still like to reach, and also help to lock it those that are already interested and signed up. It can be a special guest, a giveaway from a sponsor, or even a free consulting work. It doesn't have to cost a lot, but it should offer value to your audience.
Remember - just because someone has signed up doesn’t mean they’ll show up. You’ll need to nudge and remind people to attend – in a nice way – right up until the event starts.
4- Have outside experts or industry pundits talk at your event…
Having experts from outside of your organization talk about a topic you want to cover at the event can help you in three key ways:
- They can lend an aura of authority to your event, along with credibility as an outside, independent voice.
- They can help you bring diverse opinions and perspective to any topic – something event attendees will appreciate.
- They have a network of their own that they can help bring to your event – people that might be a very good fit for what you plan to cover.
So where can you find these experts? Actually - lots of places!
- Get in touch with department heads or administrators at colleges and universities.
- Contact administrators in related online discussion groups.
- Connect with the PR departments of businesses in your field.
- Reach out to vendors that service your industry.
- Tap into your own network to find unique voices that might want to participate.
All of these groups have experts that can share a compelling story and provide real world insights into whatever it is you want to cover.
If you have the production tools in place to remotely add these experts to your event, it will simplify the logistics around getting quality speakers to participate.
It can also reduce production costs by helping you avoid extra travel-related expenses. Having recognized experts participate in your event can greatly expand your audience, so solutions that let you add remote speaker/guest capabilities to your productions can offer a significant payback to your investment in the event.
5- Engage and educate people, but don't give them a 'hard sell'…
Unless people signed up for your event specifically looking to get a product demo, avoid pitching one to them. Most people that attend these events are looking for insights on an industry, how-to's on a process, or diverse opinions on a topic. They want to come away from your event knowing something they didn’t know before, and motivated in some way to act on this new-found knowledge.
Even live events that are clearly commercial in nature should really focus on the kinds of opportunities people may be missing out on by not addressing some of the challenges they face - challenges that you can help them with. It’s completely fine to mention what your products are and what they do, but that should be as a footnote – not the focus – of your overall presentation.
Post-event, you should definitely reach out to everyone that attended (and those that signed up but didn't attend) to offer them some additional information and a chance to connect with you one-on-one. When you build a relationship with someone they are more likely to do business with you, but relationships take time to establish. An effective way to "sell" to someone is to share information with them that adds value to what they do. It demonstrates both your competence in the field and your ability to understand the things they need to accomplish.
People buy from people they trust, so invest the time and effort to earn their trust.
6- Plan and practice - and then plan and practice some more…
When it comes to running live events, you can’t be over prepared. There are so many elements in motion during a live production - on both the people and technology sides - that detailed planning is critical to success.
As you start to organize your event, make sure you have all of the basics covered. Put a sheet together with contact details for everyone involved. Set an unambiguous chain of command, with clear responsibilities assigned to everyone working on the production. Everyone involved should know exactly what they need to do, and who they should listen to if things need to change.
From there, create a comprehensive rundown for the event, detailing what will be going out live for every time slot in the production. This may be a fluid list, but it will inform everything else you need to have in place for this production.
Based on your rundown, make sure you have all of your packaged elements and pre-produced clips ready ahead of time, and that everything is in the correct format to play on the gear you are using. This includes any show and segment openers, special transitions, information segments, branding elements, and any audio-only assets you want to use during the event.
And when it comes to audio - avoid using any music or clips that could trigger copyright filters that might shutdown your live event - even if you have clearance for them. This has happened to people in the past. Unless a specific piece of copyrighted music is critical to your event, it just isn’t worth the risk to use it on Facebook Live (or on YouTube Live which has similar automatic filtering in place).
When you have a handle on the overall flow of the event, it’s time to get your planned on-air talent involved. They can help flesh out their specific segments, and work with you create the overall narrative arch you will want your event to follow. It’s important that the flow of the production make sense from the audience’s point of view, and that it feels like a single, cohesive event and not a set of disjointed elements.
As things start to tighten up, you should begin doing run-throughs of the various segments of your event – making sure all of the elements you’ve planned are working together, and that the timeline laid out in your rundown is workable. As this process moves forward, each of the individual segments will become more refined, and you can begin to lock in the flow of the overall event.
It also makes sense to have a few extra elements planned in case things need to change at the last minute. It’s always better to be prepared.
7- Plan on things going wrong, because they probably will…
Anyone that’s a part of the live production world understands that Murphy came up with his famous law from observing our industry.
Live is live. There are no retakes, and you can be sure that – big or small - something will always go wrong. What sets the live professionals apart from everyone else is how they handle these problems. They've thought through their entire production in advance, and are never at a loss for what to do in any situation. Even if it isn't optimal, they always have a Plan B at hand.
This doesn't mean that there aren't moments of controlled chaos that can go on behind the scene - thats a part of any live event. It just means that the audience never sees it.
Here are some thoughts on what to do to be prepared for the unforeseen:
- Have another presenter at the ready that can cover if for any reason someone can't go on when they are scheduled.
- Have a longer, informative video clip ready that can be played if you need time to fix something major in the background. This could be a talk or interview you've recorded ahead of time that your audience would find valuable.
- Have phone links and a still images ready as a backup for any remote video speakers/guests that you have scheduled. A phone hybrid device would be a useful tool to have on-hand.
- Plan for short video segues to play between speakers to give you a chance to get ready for the next presenter (and to dial things in if something isn't quite right.)
- Have segments that you know you can drop from the production if you’re running over to get your event back on schedule. (Remember that a Facebook Live event can only run 90 minutes. If you run out of time you're off the air.)
As stressful as a live production can be, having the ability to roll with the punches and keep moving forward is key to running a successful live event. And detailed planning is a big part of making that happen.
And remember - don’t do anything to help Murphy out. I've see my fair share of issues caused by some pretty small things that people just neglected:
- Never depend on batteries if something can be plugged in.
- Make sure cables are taped down and can't be easily pulled out.
- Make sure any power strips you’re using have their on-off switches capped or taped down.
- Have spare cables and power adapters labeled and in one place for everything piece of critical gear you’re working with.
The less you leave to chance the better thing will turn out. Detailed planning is critical to success.
While I hope these 7 tips will help with planning your next Facebook Live Event, they are far from an exhaustive list. We know there's a lot of collective wisdom and experience out there that would be great to share, and we'd love to do a follow-up to this post covering any thoughts, tips, and suggestions you may have for creating effective events on Facebook or other CDN's. Most best practices can be applied to any type of event.
Just send your best tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them in the comments below.
We look forward to hearing from you!
PS - We'd love to stay in touch with you, so please subscribe to our blog to receive updates and new posts from us. Thanks!