🤔 Why start livestreaming?
Live streaming as a content format has taken off in recent years, as internet users have begun seeking ways to interact more intimately with their favorite creators. For that reason, all of the top social media companies including YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and more have invested heavily in adding livestreaming features to their platforms. And, in turn, we’ve seen a wave of new creators hosting their own live content as a way of expanding their reach and strengthening relationships with their audiences.
As a creator, one of the best investments you can make in 2023 is learning how to start streaming. In our ultimate guide, we’ll be breaking things down into four easy steps, to take you from zero to streaming in no time:
- Brainstorm your stream
- Getting set up
- Before going live
- During your livestream
- After your livestream has ended
💭 Brainstorm your livestream
Before worrying about any of the other requirements necessary to learn how to start streaming, like A/V equipment, software, graphics, and a promotional strategy, you should start with the basics. Take some time to brainstorm on the following topics before moving on to building your streaming setup.
Define your audience and find your niche
The first step to success as a creator, if you haven’t done it already, is to decide on your niche and your target audience. Who do you want to appeal to? What is different about you that you use to create your own unique voice? This could be based on your life experience, or a new passion you have recently found an obsession for. Whether you’re interested in badminton, gardening, or business, as long as there is a community of other like-minded individuals online with the same interest, it’s a niche and you can focus on it!
To take things a step further, you should also understand your audience within that niche. These niche subgroups typically behave differently online, for example, they may congregate on different platforms based on media type (for example, those who prefer Pinterest for its visual content, versus YouTube for its long video content). Understand what type of content your audience likes, and where on the internet they are likely to congregate as a result. Think deeply about what they like to consume - do they prefer calm, intellectual talk? Or a more energetic and engaging experience?
Decide on the right livestream type
Now that you’ve decided on your niche and have thought more about their content preferences, your next step is to decide on the right format for your livestream. Below, we have listed some of the most popular livestream formats from today’s top creators. Consider using one of these as a starting point, or come up with your own variation based on your niche!
1. Live shows
One of the most basic types of livestreams. Live shows are typically hosted on a regular interval, either daily, weekly or monthly, and follow a free-flowing schedule that often includes a combination of monologue, occasional interviews, commentary, and coverage of breaking news.
2. Live podcasts
As the name implies, live podcasts are simply podcasts broadcasted live at the time of recording. Typically interview-style and light on visual elements, live podcasts leverage the urgency of a livestream to help reach new listeners.
3. Commentary shows
Commentary shows are similar in format to live shows but typically focus solely on commentary around recent events. Oftentimes related to sports news, financial and political current events, and even celebrity drama - commentary shows are a great format for appealing to the most fanatical fans in a niche.
4. Q&A’s, coaching sessions, and more
These livestream formats focus on personalized information sharing between creators and their viewers. With these livestreams, audience engagement is the name of the game. Asking your viewers to ask questions not only makes content creation come naturally, but it also builds a stronger bond between you and your audience. If you’re a complete newcomer and are still unsure about how to start streaming, this format may be the best to start with.
5. Live tutorials
Similar to Q&A and coaching sessions, live tutorials emphasize the transfer of knowledge, but with a stricter and more precise subject. This format is great for attracting new audience members who were searching for educational resources related to the tutorial you are delivering. And here as well, encouraging audience engagement is of the utmost importance.
6. Gaming streams
Mostly found on Twitch, gaming livestreams are arguably the most entertaining livestream format. With an emphasis on features like chat and tipping, gaming streams are among the most engaging livestreams. So even if you aren’t planning on hosting gaming streams yourself, they are always a great source of inspiration for how to make your streams more enthralling for your viewers.
The last thing you will want to do as part of your livestream planning process is deciding on your goals. What made you want to learn how to start streaming in the first place? Do you simply want to introduce a different side of yourself to your existing audience? Or do you want to use live content to reach new people?
Understanding what will not only help you make decisions along the way, but will also help motivate you to continue streaming. Seeing yourself making progress towards your live streaming goals, however small or large, will put wind in your sails and make you excited to stream.
If you are looking for a goal-setting framework to use, we recommend setting SMART goals. As part of this model, any goals you come up with should be Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
⚙️ Getting set up
Now that you’ve decided on your niche, chosen a livestream style, and set your goals, it’s time to equip yourself with the right tools for livestreaming and choose the right platforms to go live on. While you can technically run a basic livestream with nothing more than a smartphone and a wifi signal, running a high-quality livestream requires a little bit more. Read on to learn about the hardware and tech you’ll want to consider, software options, and the best platforms to go live on.
Choose your hardware
Thankfully, you don’t need to be an A/V professional to run high-quality livestreams. You can create a killer livestreaming setup on any budget and with any level of hardware knowledge. Here are the main bases you will need to cover:
When choosing a camera, you’ll want to consider image quality, color grading, focus, and frames per second. To make sure your video quality is up to par with what livestream viewers have become used to, try finding a camera with an image quality of at least 1080p, multiple color grading options for you to choose from, smooth focusing, and at least 24 frames per second.
Based on your budget, you should explore the following 4 camera types:
- Smartphones - If you’re completely new to live content and want to learn how to start streaming as fast as possible, a smartphone might be the best camera option. You can use apps like Camo or Droidcam to connect it to your computer as a streaming camera. We recommend the iPhone 14 Pro or Google Pixel 7 Pro.
- Standard webcams - The second cheapest option, a standard webcam will always get the job done. And if you get a 4k webcam coupled with a decent lighting setup, your stream quality may even be on par with a DSLR camera. We recommend the Dell Ultrasharp 4k webcam.
- AI-powered webcams - A step above standard webcams, these webcams have built-in AI to automatically adjust your brightness, contrast, and color levels. Your stream will look professionally made without any extra effort on your part! Our top two recommendations are the Lumina 4k webcam and the OSBOT 4k webcam.
- DSLRs and mirrorless cameras - The camera equivalent of a sports car, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are both the highest price and highest quality you can get your hands on. With the best picture quality, color grading, and focus, these cameras are worth the money if you anticipate you will be livestreaming for a long time. We recommend looking into the Canon EOS Rebel and the Panasonic Lumix G7.
There is a vast array of microphones you can choose from when learning how to start streaming. Unless you are running a live podcast, however, where having world-class audio quality is paramount to your success, there is only one category of microphone that we believe you should consider: condenser microphones.
Condenser microphones, popular amongst YouTubers, podcasters, and even voice actors, are optimized to capture sound more crisply and delicately than other microphone types. Put a foam mic cover on it and attach it to a mounted microphone arm, and your audio needs should be all taken care of!
The unsung hero of any livestream setup is the lighting. We like to say that a bad camera with good lighting is going to produce better images than a good camera with bad lighting. So don’t cut corners here! You can go all out with your lighting setup by acquiring a key light, fill light, and backlight. But if you want to keep things simple (and cheap), we recommend picking up a basic ring light on Amazon. You will be amazed by how much better your stream looks with proper lighting.
4. Desk and background setup
Last but not least, we always recommend building your streaming setup at an actual desk. Don’t try running your livestream laying on the couch with your laptop. Sit at a desk with plenty of elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a fun background if possible.
Choose your software
With your hardware and livestreaming setup ready to go, you will need the right software to produce your stream with. Many creators wondering how to start streaming get stuck on this step, because they don’t know what to look for. Livestreaming software should make it easy to connect your audio and video sources, apply backgrounds and overlays, invite guests, and distribute your stream. Review our recommendations below to see which software is the right fit for you based on the livestream style you plan on hosting!
- Opus: $0 for the next year - Request beta access here
Opus Studio (that’s us!) is a browser-based livestream studio built just for creators.
Our studio includes a number of features that make it easy to host a livestream that will turn heads: like our AI-assisted visual production features, audience engagement features like polls and magic memes, and simulcasting (multistreaming) capability allowing you to distribute your stream to YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and more. With Opus, you can invite guests and co-hosts to your stream in just a few clicks, embed YouTube videos and other assets into your stream, and easily adapt your aspect ratio for landscape platforms like YouTube or vertical platforms like TikTok.
- StreamYard: From free to $49 per month
StreamYard, a subsidiary of online event software company Hopin, is a livestreaming tool worth exploring for professionals. While their free plan is limited, it does allow one to host a minimalist, reliable livestream. More advanced features like multistreaming, stream overlays, and recordings are unlockable through their “Basic” and “Professional” plans.
- Restream - Plans range from free to $49 per month
Restream, best known for its extensive multistreaming capabilities, is another good option for anyone looking to run a simple but reliable livestream. Users of Restream have over 30 different multistream destinations to distribute their stream to. To unlock advanced features like 1080p streaming, and the ability to multistream to more than 2 destinations at once, you will need to upgrade to Restream’s “Standard” or “Professional” plans.
- OBS - Always free
OBS is a free and open-source livestreaming studio that has gained popularity among Twitch streamers, especially new ones figuring out how to start streaming their gameplay. The software benefits from countless Github contributors and a large support community thanks to its 10-plus years on the market. Unfortunately, due to its old age, you may be let down by OBS’ lack of audience engagement features, inability to invite guests and co-hosts, and nonexistent AI-assistance features.
For more options, check out our list of The Best OBS Alternatives Free for Creators
Decide on your platforms
The last big decision to make before going live is choosing which platforms you will be streaming to. Hopefully, after deciding on your niche, you now have an idea of the right places to stream in order to reach your target audience. But in case you are still unsure, here are the most important platforms we think you should consider.
YouTube, the largest video platform by far, is an excellent place to establish yourself no matter your niche. On YouTube, you will find a great balance of pre-recorded and live content, ultimately making for a captivating user experience. Lastly, if the goal behind your livestream is to point your viewers to your other properties on the internet then YouTube is a great place to stream, as it has plenty of ways to add promotional text and external links in your video description, overlay cards, and more. Figuring out how to start streaming on YouTube couldn’t be any easier, as the “Go Live” option is just one click away right next to the standard option to upload a video!
- Instagram Live
With organic reach on Instagram declining over the past few years, with the exception of Stories and Reels, it’s difficult nowadays to reach your followers on a consistent basis. Thankfully, Instagram (and Meta at large) prioritizes displaying live content in the feed. So if you need a way to cut through the noise and reach your followers organically, going live on Instagram is a clever way to do so.
- Facebook Live
Facebook Live, similar to Instagram Live, is a necessity for standing out in the feed and reaching your Facebook followers organically. Q&A’s, coaching sessions, and other types of informational livestreams tend to do well on Facebook, as well as shoppable livestreams. So if you have products to sell as a creator, whether your own or as an affiliate, Facebook Live is a great platform to consider!
- LinkedIn Live
If you’re a professional or make career-related content, LinkedIn Live is a must. In career and professional niches, establishing your credibility is the most important factor for long-term success as a creator. And there’s no better way to do that than by going live to share your knowledge and answer questions! Go live on LinkedIn to get in front of new audience members in your industry or niche, and if you have a service to sell, LinkedIn’s social features provide a natural progression to do so.
The hottest platform in the world, period, is TikTok. And it’s a perfect place to start livestreaming, as TikTok users prefer fast-paced, timely, and relevant content. Run a high-quality livestream that’s engaging and informative, and if TikTok’s algorithm blesses you, your reach (and following) could skyrocket in the blink of an eye. No matter what niche you are in, we strongly recommend looking into how to start streaming on TikTok as well as how to acquire a TikTok stream key to stream from your computer.
Are you a gaming livestreamer, or plan on hosting a more laid-back, fun livestream? If so, you should consider streaming on Twitch, or at least include the platform as part of your larger simulcasting (multistreaming) strategy. Getting exposure and reaching new viewers on Twitch is a challenge when starting out. But if you are able to get past the initial hump and carve out a small audience, because of the platform’s high daily active usage, you are guaranteed to always have a consistent attendance at your livestreams.
Know your network/wifi requirements
Last, but most certainly not least, take a look at your internet speed before going live. Do some research to figure out the minimum upload and download speed that’s recommended, based on the image quality and frame rate you plan to livestream with. You can use free websites like https://www.speedtest.net/ to check that your speed is up to standard!
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✋ Before going live
At this point, you are probably itching to click “go live” and see how to start streaming for yourself. But before you do so, there are a few final considerations to make that will take your livestream from average to advanced.
Schedule your stream
One of the most important habits that separate successful live shows from unsuccessful ones is scheduling. Plan your livestream well in advance for a day and time that makes the most sense for your niche. If you run a business news livestream, consider going live in the middle of the day to catch your viewers when scrolling on their phones at lunch. Or, if you plan on hosting live chess tutorials, consider going live on weekday evenings when your viewers are most likely at home with nothing to do. Understand your audience, and schedule your livestreams accordingly.
To take your scheduling to the next level, you can start hosting your livestream on a repeatable interval. For example, if you plan on going live weekly, choose the same day of the week (and timeslot) every time, and stick to it. Your viewers will start getting used to joining your stream at that time every week, and will even start looking forward to it!
Promote your stream ahead of time
One of the real benefits of scheduling your livestream is that you have time to promote it! Thankfully, most social media platforms by default will notify your followers when you’ve started livestreaming. But, depending on your niche, sometimes that alone isn’t enough to get the word out to your audience. Especially if you are not simulcasting to social media, and are only hosting your stream on a custom website.
To promote your stream, we recommend sharing an announcement with your audience 24 hours before, a reminder 30 minutes before, and then another reminder 5 minutes before. If you have an email list, take advantage! Otherwise, the best channels for these reminder posts include social platforms like Twitter, and platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube where you can leverage story posts.
Simulcast to amplify your livestream’s reach
One newer livestreaming trend that you should strongly consider leveraging is simulcasting. Simulcasting, also known as multistreaming, is a method through which you create a single live content and stream it to many destinations at once such as YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, or your own website. The benefits are obvious: by streaming to multiple destinations at the same time, you are reaching more of your existing audience and increasing your chances of being discovered by new viewers. It’s a no-brainer, and if you’re already learning how to start streaming then it’s worth your time to learn how to simulcast as well.
Simulcasting used to require lots of advanced setup work and technical know-how. But nowadays it’s easy and straightforward thanks to livestream studios like Opus Studio and other livestreaming tools.
Invite a co-host to grow your reach
You know what they say: Two is better than one! The same goes for livestreams. When it makes sense, invite others to join your livestream, either as a co-host or a guest. Aside from your guest making your stream more entertaining (and giving you time to catch your breath), when done properly they can also help multiply your reach. If you invite a guest who has an audience of their own and ask them to share out your livestream link before it begins, you could see a stronger turnout than normal (as well as new followers). Best of all, modern livestreaming platforms like Opus don’t even require that your co-hosts know how to start streaming on their own - tools like Opus and others make it as easy for your co-host as joining a Google Meet or Zoom meeting.
Monetize your live streams
Lastly, while you’re figuring out how to start streaming, remember to decide if and how you plan on monetizing your stream. There are a number of ways to earn money from your livestream, including tips and donations, live selling, and more. Plenty of tools exist for receiving tips, like Streamyard, so make sure to assess the options available. And if you plan on incorporating live selling into your stream, you’ll want to decide on a platform like Whatnot and Popshop, which you can always simulcast to along with your choice of social media platforms.
🔴 During your livestream
It’s showtime! Now that you’re ready to go live, remember these final few things to make your stream run smoothly. Following these best practices can not only make your stream easier for you to run but will also create a better experience for your viewers. Let’s dive in!
Use an agenda for your livestream
Unless you’re a live podcast host and you intentionally go off-script by design, the best livestreams always follow some form of agenda. Even if you simply jot down a few bullet points before your stream begins, having an agenda of topics to follow can help you stay on track and keep your stream fast-paced and entertaining for your viewers. Not to mention, finished within a reasonable timeframe. Without having a schedule, you run the risk of getting distracted or rambling on about a single subject for far too long. Many streamers lose audience members for this exact reason… Don’t be one of them!
Use overlays for branding
We all know the importance of building your brand as a creator. But is your livestream helping with that? One of the best ways to reinforce your brand as a livestream host is through the use of stream overlays. A stream overlay is a graphic or visual element added to your livestream, and can include elements such as your logo, banners, chat boxes, calls to action, and more. These not only make your stream more visually engaging, but when done right, they build your brand in the process. If you don’t have your own stream overlays already, look into creating some now while you’re still learning how to start streaming.
Monitor your chats
As a livestream host, chats can be a blessing or a curse. When you have a good handle on things, your chat section can be the number one driver of engagement and audience connection for your livestream. But if improperly managed, chats can be a curse, allowing your audience to run wild and control the conversation. We have three main tips that will help you keep your chat section working for you and not against you:
1. Check on your chat regularly
If you want to build loyalty and likability with your audience, it’s important to prove that you care about what they have to say. Using your chat to listen and respond to your viewers in real-time is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Throughout your stream, ask questions of your viewers, and then read their responses intently in your chat area. Giving your viewers this direct line of communication will turn followers into fanatics, and leave your viewers with an unforgettable experience.
2. Use a livestreaming studio that’s designed to help manage your chat area
If you’re simulcasting to multiple platforms, it can be almost impossible to stay on top of each individual chat area at the same time. After all, you’re only one person. That’s why we always recommend learning how to start streaming using a livestream studio like Opus that centralizes all of the chats from all of your platforms into one view. With this functionality, you can see which platform each chat originated from, and send out a chat of your own to every platform at once. If you are simulcasting, this feature is a necessity!
3. Be ready to ban and mute bad actors
Unfortunately, in today’s world, you’re not a true content creator unless you’re attracting the attention of trolls! And due to their real-time nature, livestreams in particular can be a huge draw for bad actors who want to sabotage your stream by raiding your chat area. While this is always a possibility, make sure you know where the ‘Ban’ and ‘Mute’ chat functions are in the various platforms you are streaming to, and be prepared to use them at any time.
How to run an engaging livestream
At Opus, we like to say that if you’re figuring out how to start streaming in 2023, your first priority should be learning how to engage with your audience when live. Audience engagement is so important to emphasize because, thanks to the real-time interactive nature of livestreaming, you as the host are able to get your viewers involved in ways that other content formats simply cannot. This gives you a unique opportunity to build long-term relationships with your viewers, and foster a stronger community as a result.
There are a number of different ways to encourage audience engagement. Using a livestreaming tool like Opus Studio brings many of those methods directly to your fingertips, like polling and managed chat, as well as one-of-a-kind features like emoji rain, magic memes, and audience-submitted video questions.
🕓 After your livestream has ended
Don’t forget to repurpose your content!
You’re not finished yet just because your stream ended! In today’s content landscape, you need to be posting short-form video in order to reach new followers. Creating this video content from scratch can be a pain, and might feel like just another item you’ll never get around to on your to-do list as a creator. Thankfully, platforms like Opus are here to help. With Opus, you can automatically turn your livestreams into short-form clips ready for social media. Take full advantage of this, because short-form video could be the key to growing your following this year!
Look at the data and plan for next time
All of the main platforms, including YouTube Live, Instagram Live, and TikTok Live, provide some set of analytics to help you understand how to start streaming more effectively going forward. After every livestream you run, make it a habit to look at your metrics to see what went right and what went wrong. The more familiar you become with your performance, the better your streams will get over time! At the very least, we recommend tracking your peak concurrent viewers, average viewer duration, and chat activity.
📝 In summary
With the information we’ve outlined here, we hope you feel confident about how to start streaming in 2023! To summarize: Remember to be strategic about your niche and livestream type, get your hardware and software in order, plan ahead to make your stream stand out, and be sure to engage your audience when you go live! And, of course, put your livestream to work afterward by repurposing it as short-form content!
Are you looking for a livestreaming tool that’s designed for you as a creator? At Opus, we believe that we’ve only just brushed the surface of what it’s possible to create while live, and love working with creators who share our passion for advancing live streaming from both technological and creative standpoints. If you want to join us and gain access to our transformative livestream tools, please sign up for an onboarding session here.
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About the Author
Rebecca Xu is the Product Marketing Manager at Opus, and a professional simultaneous interpreter. She is a story teller, food lover, globe trotter, and sarcasm connoisseur. She loves learning new things through reading, traveling, and exploring. Most of the time, you can find her either in an ice-cream shop, or on her way to an ice-cream shop.