The low-down on live streaming

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has started running live video stream events to colleagues across the country. Neall Garrad, the Internal Channels Manager responsible for the service, explains how to do it.

Not another online meeting

When I’m approached by a colleague wanting to learn more about live streaming I invariably say “Don’t think of it is as just another online meeting”. By this I mean to run a successful live streaming event you need to do just as much preparation as you would for a face-to-face event.

Live streaming is essentially a broadcast channel, with the audience able to ask questions by typing them into the system. In its simplest form, where one presenter is sharing information and inviting questions from the audience, you may not need any more than one other person to handle the production. They control what the audience sees and pass questions through to the presenter to answer during the event. The planning and preparation comes in when you consider your audience.

Live streaming is essentially a broadcast channel

Much of the strength of live streaming lies in the ability of the audience to interact with the presenter by posting questions. The larger the audience, the more questions you’re likely to receive. This may mean you need an additional person to handle the question feed, so knowing how many people you are expecting to join the live stream is a good start. But even then it can be hard to know in advance how many questions you may get.

It’s crucial to think beforehand how you are going to handle the questions. I would recommend you don’t promise you’ll answer all of them, either during or after the event. If you suddenly end up with 200 questions, when you expected around 30 or 40, you’re going to be tied up responding for quite some time.

My advice is to say you’ll answer as many as you can during the event, ask people to vote for questions they are most interested in, if the system you are using allows this, and then make sure you answer the most popular ones during the event.

I also recommend that you do read all of the questions afterwards, as they can be a great source of feedback and insight for future events.

But what if you want to run a more involved event, with multiple presenters, maybe in different locations, and additional content that you want to share as part of the event too? This is where your planning and preparation will make sure all runs smoothly and is a good experience for both the event team and the audience.

Similar to a face-to-face event

As you would with a face-to-face live event, get yourself a running order and outline script, and map out how any additional content is going to be displayed during the event. This will enable your producer to know what’s coming next and enable them to switch to the next presenter or piece of content at the right moment.

If part of the event will be a question-and-answer session, and you don’t know ahead of time which presenter will be answering each question, then designate one person to take the lead and invite others to answer questions, giving the producer time to switch the video feed to the right person.

The other consideration for a more complex event is the need for someone other than the producer to be dealing with the question feed, as they will be busy with running the live video feed. This could be handled by the presenters, when they are not presenting, or you could have a couple of people dedicated to reading, responding if needed, and publishing the questions as they come in.

It comes back to knowing your audience and having a feel for how many questions you may get. If you know the topic will generate a lot of interest and you anticipate a high number of questions, you may need three or four people to handle the question feed, particularly if you are going to moderate what you put through to avoid publishing duplicate questions.

In this situation you’ll want to respond to people to explain that you have not published their question because you have already published a similar one. If this happens, you could ask them to vote for the other question to improve the chance of it being answered.

At HMRC, we use Teams Live Event to livestream, which is part of our Office 365 package. Most of the events are produced and filmed using our Surface Pro devices and the in-built webcam. You may have a different platform and you’ll need to refine this process depending on the tools you have.

There may be other considerations before you get to the point of running your live event, such as satisfying any security concerns, but the effort will be worth it. Having the ability to talk to hundreds of colleagues in one session so they can all hear the same information at the same time, wherever they may be, will be a powerful addition to your comms arsenal.

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