How to Ace Your First Live Stream on YouTube in 2020

The ultimate guide to live streaming (including the important things no one talks about)


The Why Girl

3 years ago | 6 min read

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

The 1st of October is officially making it into my 2020 highlights. It was on that Thursday that I decided to go live on YouTube for the first time.

Overall, I’m happy with how I did and proud of myself for jumping miles outside my comfort zone. However, I wouldn’t say I had a smooth run and that I aced my first time on the air — partly because I struggled to find answers to some basic questions (at least to me) on how to set up a successful live event on YouTube.

I’m here to share with you all the things that surprised me, freaked me out, and took me far too much time to figure out before I pushed the “Go Live” button.

My dear debutantes, I present to you the ultimate guide to your YouTube live streams in 2020. May my mistakes be your lessons.

Live Streaming Is Something You Need to Enable on Your Channel

Yep, it’s not a readily available option, and here’s more: enabling live streams may take up to 24 hours as you might have to go through channel verification first.

I only found out about this two days before my first stream and, I admit, I had to do some breathing exercises to calm down. So I suggest you get this out of the way as soon as you can (ideally right after reading this article) and leave your yoga for after the stream.

Schedule Your Live Stream a Few Days Before the Event

YouTube allows you to schedule your stream the same way you can schedule or premiere your videos. This is a great way of reminding your viewers you’ll be on the air.

Let’s imagine that on a Monday you schedule your live stream for the upcoming Friday. Your viewers will get a notification ahead of the time and, every time they will visit your channel during the week, they will see your upcoming stream and how much time is left until the event.

Add a Custom Thumbnail

If you schedule your event via the YouTube Studio, the system will take a shot of you (or anything that’s in front of your webcam) for the thumbnail. You don’t have to stick to that photo, though. If you hover over the shot, you can select to “upload a custom thumbnail” and replace it with a sleek-looking photo to attract more viewers.

Structure and Visualise the Event Before You Announce It

I wanted my live stream to be interactive so I decided to do writing sprints with my audience. This meant that everyone had to bring their own project to work on and I mentioned this in all my reminders and trailers. I wrote out a structure for the event too and walked myself through it to understand whether there would be anything else I needed to arrange or let my audience know about.

To be clear, you can give a great show without this too but it just means that you might have limited options as to what you can do.

Consider Using a Third-Party Streaming Tool

There are plenty of platforms and tools that help you manage your live stream. I used StreamYard (the free version) but I often hear OBS Studio, BeLive, and Zoom being mentioned too (check out this article for more information).

These tools allow you to do more with your stream, like invite guests and share your screen. They also help with managing the group chat making the interaction with viewers more interesting. My favourite feature was the ability to highlight live comments — something that will help your viewers follow the conversation.

Do a Test Run

I highly recommend that you imagine your audience and go over your script/agenda out loud before you go live. I did several tests to familiarise myself with the process and to see how I’d behave in front of the webcam. It felt strange but I did surprisingly well and that significantly dropped my stress level.

Remember to set your video visibility to private or unlisted so no one else can watch your test run.

Consider Using Lights if You’re Streaming in the Evening

I scheduled my first live session for 7 p.m. and it didn’t occur to me that it would be already dark. Luckily, I had a ring light and just enough time to set everything up. Think about your light conditions before you go live.

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Your live stream is your chance to connect with your audience so give them the chance to be there, even if it’s not a natural thing for you. I struggle with self-promotion and so marketing my live stream was probably one of the hardest things I had to do. To help with this, I kept reminding myself that the purpose of the live writing sprints was to offer something to my audience. That really made me feel a lot better about promoting the event. I advertised it in my videos, on my social media, and I even personally messaged friends to join me on the day.

If You Feel Nervous, Tell Your Audience and Ask for Support

In the beginning, I wanted to seem cool and professional as if going live wasn’t a big deal for me. Ironically, that only put more pressure on me to have to be that way. Only when I admitted to myself that I was nervous did I start to relax. I openly talked about it in a Facebook post which made me feel like I didn’t have to pretend anything when I turn the webcam on. I also knew that a few of my family and close friends would be there for me cheering me on.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable — that way you show to your viewers that you’re authentic and they will want to support you.

Give Yourself Enough Time Before the Event to Relax

Ground, meditate, connect. Do the things that put you in a good mood. I set everything up for my live stream a few hours beforehand and left myself a couple of hours to simply relax. I went for a walk, called my best friend, and made a nice meal for myself. I felt the stress but, overall, I was in a great mood and I couldn’t wait to go live. If you’re excited, your audience will be too.

When You Push the “Go Live” Button, Don’t Expect Fireworks

In fact, there might be nothing happening for a few moments! If you use the YouTube Studio to go live, the only thing that lets you know you’re on air is the 3–2–1 countdown and a message on the screen. When you use StreamYard you’ll briefly see a notification on your screen confirming that you are live and a red timer in the top left corner. You might not see any comments for a while because your audience might not be there yet, they might be silent, or it might take a moment for their comments to be visible.

This threw me off completely during my first live stream because I was expecting to see some activity in the group chat right away. I went silent for about 40 seconds trying to figure out whether I was actually live or not and that wasn’t the best thing.

My advice would be to start talking as soon as you know you’re live. Ask your viewers to let you know if they can see and hear you well, but don’t expect an immediate response, and keep on talking or entertaining them in some way, just in case they can see you.

The Stream Might Not Immediately Appear in Your Channel Videos

Don’t panic if your stream isn’t discoverable right away - the video is processing. The longer it is, the longer you might need to wait but, eventually, it’ll be available to play on catch-up. It took my stream a good 12 hours to become visible.

Tell Yourself That You’re Excited

Now that you’re armed with all the tips on live streaming, you won’t get stressed, right?

No. That’s not the point of this guide.

The purpose of it is to save you time, make you feel more confident and professional, but you will (hopefully) feel less stressed — and that is a good thing.

On a physiological level, anxiety and excitement are very similar. The trick lies in how we interpret these feelings and, according to Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School who has done research about this, it’s better to tell yourself that you’re excited rather than trying to calm yourself down. This can actually improve your performance.

So do expect the butterflies in your stomach and a bit of dry mouth but don’t fret — grab a glass of water and remind yourself that you are excited, not anxious. Happy live streaming!

This article was originally published on Medium.


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The Why Girl

Hopeless idealist who believes that we all can live our ultimate lives. Currently on a mission to design hers & sharing her journey on YouTube as The Why Girl:







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