By Nick Avola, Content Manager, Visuals by Impulse
Two simple words; suddenly at the forefront of popular culture. Around the world, producers, PR execs and performers are left scrambling; each trying to learn the ins and outs of live streaming. For most, it comes down to one burning question: “How do I pivot my in-person event to the digital stage?”
But what if we told you most of them will fail?
Take our word for it. We’re Visuals by Impulse, the largest creative agency in the live streaming industry. We’ve seen it all. Our clients are the ‘traditional’ entertainers, whose worlds have been turned upside-down in 2020. The DJs, musicians, actors, comedians, artists and brands left stageless due to COVID-19. With our help, more and more are “going live” to interact with fans and make a living. Many have found a new home on the virtual stage.
But for every success story, there are many failures. Too often, performers rush into live streaming, unprepared and undergeared. Others, overwhelmed by the technical know-how, abandon it altogether. How can you avoid their mistakes? What makes for a successful virtual event?
Today, we’re going to give you the answers. We’ve identified the top challenges and pitfalls. And we’re going to arm you with the knowledge and tools to overcome. Consider this your live streaming blueprint, backed by five years in the industry and the 200,000+ creators we’ve worked with.
So what should you expect heading into your first virtual event? Here are the top challenges experienced by our clients:
Keeping Viewers Engaged
Ready for your first rule of live streaming? A quiet stream is a dead stream.
It may seem obvious, but virtual viewers have a far shorter attention span than in-person guests. From the comfort of their home, your audience has plenty of activities nearby - whether it’s scrolling through Instagram, playing with the kids or turning on Netflix. Fail to captivate their attention and your viewers will tune out.
Virtual audiences also feel a lot less connected. From behind a screen, viewers can feel isolated and insignificant. Without the in-person, human element, many feel like less of a participant - and more like a number in the crowd. Ignore your audience and you may be hearing crickets.
The most successful broadcasts find ways to engage and reward their viewers. They offer incentives to participate; recognizing their top fans and encouraging further interaction.
Sound difficult? We’ll show you how later.
But incentives ALONE aren’t enough. Even with the best rewards, you’ll still lose viewers if you can’t maintain enthusiasm.
The fact is, audiences in 2020 have a high bar for digital media. Decades of Hollywood production have conditioned their expectations. You’ll need to feed them adrenaline and visuals - and consistently. Take your pedal off the gas for a minute and you risk losing them forever.
The best live streamers know this, and counter by putting on a show of their own. Animation, 3D graphics, and sound design are just a few of their tools. Each designed to maintain energy levels - and keep viewers glued to the screen.
The days of dull, one-dimensional presentations are over. No longer will a good story alone hold your audience’s attention. In today’s industry, you either evolve or are quickly forgotten. Which will you be?
In an industry worth more than $10 billion, there's plenty of cash to go around. After all, millions are making a living by live streaming. Why can’t you get in on the action?
The reality is, most event managers are missing out on tons of income every time they go live. Too many fail to see (or understand) the revenue-building opportunities at their fingertips. Others are just barely scratching the surface, earning chump change when they could be reaping huge profits.
Wouldn’t you like to recoup some of your COVID-19 losses? Tools like donations, subscriptions, digital merch sales and even ad rolls can all generate side revenue from your virtual events. The options are endless; you just need to know where to look.
Now that you know what you’re up against, it’s time to take action. Here is our top advice for new clients:
Choose the Right Platform
There are plenty of live streaming platforms out there, each claiming to be the “best” for your business. But in our minds there is only the Big Three:
- Twitch: The largest live streaming platform in the world, powered by Amazon. Once the exclusive home to gamers, today it attracts a growing variety of performers - from DJs to artists to teachers, ministers and more.
- YouTube Live: The main competitor to Twitch, YouTube caters to an even wider crowd of creators and interests. It benefits from a familiar UI, an enormous audience and Google’s deep pockets.
- Facebook Live: A distant third in the Twitch-YouTube rivalry, but not to be underestimated. With 2.7 billion monthly active users, the audience is certainly there.
There’s a reason most of our clients select one of these platforms. All three offer unparalleled engagement and monetization tools. Their built-in chat systems allow instant, two-way communication with viewers. They offer reliable tech support and easily sync with most broadcasting software. Plus, all three are extremely stable (no unexpected crashes) - and free to use too!
In our minds you can’t go wrong with any of the three. Do your research and find out which is best for your unique audience. We’d recommend starting with YouTube or Twitch, but you may find Facebook is the better fit for your community.
Invest in Overlays
If you’re looking to put on a professional show, overlays are a must. And here’s why.
Overlays are specialized graphics that appear ‘over’ your video feed. They come in a huge variety of styles and colors, often displaying important stream information like chat messages, donor notifications and nameplates.
Overlays separate professional virtual shows from amateur ones. After all, you wouldn’t plan an in-person event in an abandoned warehouse, would you? No, you’d probably spend time picking out the perfect venue and background visuals. The same is true for live streams. Overlays capture your audience’s attention, inspire interaction and build epic atmosphere. Your viewers will feel like they have tickets to an exclusive gig, even if separated by thousands of miles.
We’ve created the ultimate guide to stream overlays here. Most premade designs can be acquired cheaply and easily - with full beginner sets costing around $30. If your team has a bigger budget (or a graphic designer handy), custom overlays allow you to build your own designs from scratch.
Which is more likely to get an audience’s attention? Moving, dynamic video or fixed, static graphics? In our experience, motion beats static design, every time. And it’s not even close.
Animation is a surefire way to build energy and forward momentum for your stream. In fact, few things are as effective at keeping an audience’s eyes glued to a screen. If you want to rope in viewers - and more importantly keep them sticking around - always choose animated over static graphics.
Some of the most popular ways to incorporate animation into your virtual event include:
- Overlays: Most professional overlays come with looping animation files. Things like webcam frames, lower-third templates and social media callouts all benefit from movement.
- Stinger Transitions: These are brief, specialized animations that guide your viewers into the next scene. If you’re frequently switching between cameras and guest speakers, stinger transitions are a must.
- Intros and Outros: Animated intros are a great way to build anticipation and energy prior to rolling cameras. Outros allow for a smooth, memorable exit that will keep your fans talking.
Animated designs may cost a bit extra, but the rewards are 100% worth the investment.
Monetize Your Stream
Ready to earn some extra cash while you stream? It’s easier than you think.
Of all your tools, donations are the most powerful. All three platforms allow fan donations, both natively (Bits, Super Chats, Stars) and via third-party apps. Donations give viewers a chance to chat directly with performers - and win a brief moment of internet fame as their name is up in the spotlight. You can even set up public donation goals for your broadcast, tracking progress towards custom milestones.
If you plan on streaming regularly, channel subscriptions are a great source of bonus income. These allow your top followers to unlock special incentives, in exchange for a monthly membership fee (usually $4.99). You’ll keep between 50-70% of subscription revenue, depending on your platform.
Maybe you’re selling event merchandise? Some stream widgets will integrate directly with your online shop - even shouting out new customers on-air! Attract enough viewers and you can roll advertisements (pre-rolls and ad breaks) and take home your cut.
Clearly, there’s money to be had in live streaming. All it takes is a bit of practice and preparation.
COVID-19 may have shut down your main stage, but it doesn’t mean the show has to end. Just by reading this, you have a major leg up over the competition. All that’s left is to put it all into action.
Need some help on the creative side? Our team at Visuals by Impulse is here to help. Share your stories with us on Twitter @VBI - we’d love to see how your virtual event turns out!
About Visuals by Impulse
Visuals by Impulse is the largest and most-acclaimed creative agency in the live streaming scene. They remain the gold standard in broadcast design and branding services, working with over 200,000 creators on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook. The team combines the expertise of 50+ artists from around the world, and is a finalist for the 2020 Esports Awards: Creative Team of the Year.
About Visuals by Impulse
Visuals by Impulse specializes in creative services for broadcasters on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. The studio has worked with over 70 thousand creators, and boasts a team of 50+ artists from around the world.