Restrictions on mass gatherings in Alberta are in place until at least the end of summer, but there are options for organizations that still want to engage with their audiences. Online events, which can include virtual tours, live music, speakers, performances, panel discussions, webinars and more, provide ways to engage with new and existing audiences. Below are four simple tools to help host your next online event.
Facebook Live and Instagram Live
Two of the simplest – and free – online event options may already be on your computer and smartphone and work well for more casual, DIY events that don’t require presentations or lots of supplementary material. Facebook Live and Instagram Live allow you to connect with your audience without having to sell tickets or do a great deal of set-up beforehand. Even though these are not ticketed events, it’s beneficial to promote your live session in advance to boost the number of people who will tune in. Both platforms also allow you to add guests to the video, which can be used if your event requires an interview or featured performer, for example.
Facebook Live is accessed by clicking the “Publish” icon and then choosing “Live Video.” You can then add a title and description for your video and start broadcasting live. During your broadcast, make use of the comments section to drive engagement and conduct Q&As. As the presenter, you have control over aspects of the comment section, such as how frequently viewers can comment or allowing only your followers to interact. Click “Finish” to end the recording. The recorded video can then be shared on your timeline to reach more viewers or promote your next Facebook Live. Tip: Encourage viewers to turn on their Live notifications so they don’t miss your next event.
Instagram Live is accessed by tapping the camera icon in the top-left corner of the app and then swiping left in the camera options to highlight the “Live” option. The app will alert your followers that you’re live, and you can keep track of how many people are watching as you go (Facebook provides this feature as well). Similar to Facebook, you can (and should) engage with your audience through the comments feature – Instagram Live is all about connecting with your audience in an authentic way. Enhance the look of your broadcast with visual templates to incorporate elements of your brand. When you’re finished your broadcast, you can save your video and share it to IGTV or your Instagram Story – just be aware that it will be broken into 15-second clips on your story and only available for 24 hours, unless saved to Story Highlights.
According to Hootsuite, more than 500 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Using the live feature is a way to stand out and add interactive and engaging elements that go beyond standard video. You’ll need to set up a channel before you can go live, and it can take up to 24 hours for your account to be activated for live streaming. You also need 1,000 or more subscribers to stream live from a mobile device. There are plenty of tutorials to help you get set up for live streaming, but be sure to have a title, description and thumbnail image ready before you get going.
YouTube Live works well for tutorials, performances, interviews and other similar events. It can also be used as an integration platform for webinars hosted through Zoom and BigMarker. Promote your live broadcast with a banner image on your YouTube channel page or your other social media platforms, especially if your channel is new. Don’t forget to provide a link to your channel as well as the specific date and time (including time zone).
View examples of current YouTube Live videos here.
Zoom offers a free version or paid version, depending on your needs. The free version can host meetings with up to 100 participants for a maximum of 40 minutes, but they can’t be recorded. The paid tiers offer a range of features, including increased attendees, branding options, recordings and so on. Zoom works well for hosting presentations since you have the option to share your screen with other participants. Like live streaming on social media, there’s a chat bar for participants to submit questions or comments.
Zoom also offers a webinar platform with a variety of payment tiers, which can support up to 100 live video panelists and up to 50,000 attendees. Hosts have full control of the platform for the duration of the webinar, and the Zoom team is available to support large-scale events with planning, rehearsal and live support. Webinars can be live-streamed across Facebook Live and YouTube Live, with options for on-demand viewing and transcript access. The Zoom webinar platform allows you to integrate your company’s branding into your registration forms and promo emails, and there’s even an option to monetize your webinars by selling tickets through PayPal and Eventbrite. When your webinar is over, you’ll have access to analytics to gauge performance and help improve future webinars.
This is a paid platform ideal for webinars, summits and virtual conferences, but the investment can mean creating ticketed online events that generate revenue for your business. BigMarker is browser-based, so it doesn’t require an app download to function. Plus, it works seamlessly on all devices, whether they’re Mac or PC, iOS or Android. Prior to your webinar, BigMarker provides landing page templates to drive registration and host content to promote the webinar, as well as email marketing services. During the webinar, utilize interactive features like polls, Q&As, offers and giveaways. You can use the whiteboard tool to mark up your presentation as you go, play high-definition video, integrate across Facebook Live and YouTube Live and embed the webinar into your website for live or on-demand access after the webinar is complete.
If you’re interested in creating a series or summit, BigMarker will create a dedicated microsite for your content, which can be conducted live or pre-recorded. The full-service registration tool can also be set up for free or paid access and help generate leads and data for your business.
Tips: Whichever platform you use to host your virtual events, there are some tips to help your broadcast a success.
Do a test run. Technology has a tendency to glitch, so do a test run prior to your event to make sure your camera, mic and any presentation materials work properly.
Check your angles and lighting. Put your best face forward and set up your computer in a well-lit area with a clean, simple background behind you. And test to see what your camera’s picture is like to ensure a flattering angle. Consider raising your computer up if it’s too low or you can’t easily make eye contact with the camera.
Check your connection. There’s nothing more distracting during a video stream than the picture freezing or lagging. Use a wired internet connection, if possible. Otherwise, ensure your WIFI is stable enough to last for the duration of your event.