7 tips for creating engaging live video

It’s pretty clear to most of us at this point that live video is something we need to be thinking about for our brands, but a big obstacle for many is how to create live video that is engaging and doesn’t just add to the noise of everyone testing out Facebook Live or Periscope for the first time by showing us a feed of their pets sleeping.

While that scenario could be a viral hit for the right personality or brand it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some tips that are universal for creating engaging live video, however.

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1. Get comfortable in front of the camera

Not to be confused with our second point, we mean to practice using your camera and equipment before you start broadcasting. Even if you have someone else set it all up, you want to make sure that the people in front of the camera are familiar enough with the setup that they can perform triage if something goes wrong in the middle of the broadcast. Do a few practice run-throughs prior to going live for the first time.

A smoother broadcast is a much more engaging broadcast; your audience is more likely to tune out if you have a never-ending series of technical problems.

2. Unless you’re an experienced extemporaneous speaker, practice with a script

Writing out a script helps you not only collect your ideas and practice fluently discussing the topic at hand, but will make you much more comfortable once the camera starts rolling since you’re not just opening your mouth and starting from scratch. Don’t just read from verbatim from the script when you broadcast, however. The idea is to get comfortable and familiar with the material while still presenting it with a less formal air.

3. Make eye contact with the camera

Live video is essentially a live conversation with your audience. That’s what makes it feel so much more intimate than pre-recorded video. So make eye contact with the camera much like you would when talking to someone in real life, occasionally glancing away so as not to scare them with an intense stare.

4. Keep a conversational but brand-appropriate tone

Just because live video is the hot new format in marketing doesn’t mean that you have to start speaking like your entire demographic is a bunch of Tumblr teens (unless it actually is, but then again depending on your brand you could still be seen as trying too hard). Find a tone that balances personality with professionalism and that accurately represents your brand voice and values.

Consider a spoken style guide for your brand that you share with everyone who will be spending time in front of a camera, live or otherwise.

5. Be aware of your background

Where do you plan to broadcast from? Will it be an indoor set that you can control? If so, design an engaging and brand-appropriate area to broadcast from. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just fitting and not too distracting. See something like the Mental Floss “salon” for an idea of how to design a regular background your audience can expect to see each time they tune in.

If you’re planning to broadcast out and about, be sure you have a location scout to find quieter areas so you don’t get drowned out by passing traffic or other competing sounds. That’s a good way to lose your audience fast!

6. Watch successful vloggers

While Mental Floss isn’t broadcast live, you can still watch it and other popular channels to get some ideas about what works and doesn’t work on camera. Be sure to also watch some live broadcast and take notes of what they do that you can emulate and what you can avoid doing. Learn from the mistakes of others to make your broadcast more engaging.

7. Write up a content calendar

One key to success in live video is to have a regular time and place for your audience to tune in so you can promote it beforehand and so they’ll know where to find you. After all, no one can watch if they don’t know it’s happening!

Be sure to still leave room in your calendar for flexibility in case something comes up in your industry or current events you want to cover, but always be wary of newsjacking. Pull from current events that are relevant to your brand but don’t try to make something that’s really not about your brand about your brand. That’s a quick and easy way to turn off your audience and possibly even cause as social media crisis.

Bonus: Have fun with it.

The joy of live video is that it feels more intimate because it’s more immediate. It’s a great way to connect with your customers on a real-time basis and show off the personality around your brand. Even B2B brands are still made of people, so be afraid to have some fun with your broadcasts. That’s definitely more engaging than someone dryly reading off a script about your latest product updates, even if you do schedule it every Friday at noon.