We had 1500 happy audience members tune in to our single live stream this month. Here are my thoughts on doing it right.
I am the guy that sits and watches an open mic night sober, then takes a walk for an hour thinking about every single performer and what they could do better or worse. I remember watching The Cosby Show with my family and trying to not laugh because I thought being funny was about not laughing. At age 11, I decided to wear fragrance-free soap because I thought it would distract from the magic tricks I was doing at a Boy Scout banquet. I am ridiculously analytical of entertainment.
My experiments and analysis are not always brilliant, but I do tend to have theories that can cut a lot of crap and solve entertainment problems fast. And, at least, my insights are maybe interesting to read in a blog post.
I covered the bigger topics of why people watch anything and what makes live shows great ; I stand behind those for this. People jump into producing live streaming shows and they forget all that important stuff. Beyond those core things, here’s some more…
Don’t throw this away. You can do incredible things for people with a live streaming show. You can connect with them in a way impossible in any other medium. Care, try, improve. Ask yourself “What can I do here that’s special?”
With any new innovation, pioneers look for what they can’t do anymore and what they could never do before and they embrace the reality of it.
Improve the A/V quality
You don’t have to be TV quality, but do better. Anyone can self publish a book dropshipped on paperback, but the reason the people who care still publish quality books is that it matters. Ask a photo / video pro what’s wrong with your setup. This is easy. 90% of the work is going for more clarity. 10% is making it more appealing to watch and listen. Both are important to giving the gift to your audience.
For most live IRL shows, I want the audience to feel safe enough to face forward, engage fully, and get in sheep mode. It’s highly rewarding as an audience member to have my hand held into a realm where the production is in control. In live theater, we lower the lights over the seats, raise the lights on stage, bring up the sound, lock the doors, face the chairs toward the stage, etc. On streaming, we don’t have this physical control of the people, so we don’t have the same breathing room to be shitty or complicated or control the pacing.
This is the opposite of the transition I made when I stopped doing street shows and started producing theater. The street is full of distractions, and if you wanna give the crowd a great 30 minute show, it’s gotta be full of instant rewards and prompts that get audience members to ( metaphorically ) setup their own seats & dim their own lights. Attention drifts, so we keep it moving, jar them, give them dopamine hits, make them question what’s happening next, keep giving them FOMO.
Inter / Intra / Inneractive
The main things audiences in live theater get to do is clap and laugh. These are great things that keep them engaged and make the experience interactive. People can be called out from stage, they get eye contact with performers, they can be asked to come up on stage to do stuff. Other than that, mostly they’re asked to sit still
Online, there’s chat which might seem initially like a distraction, but if chat is part of the point of the whole thing, it’s engagement! Get people talking to each other. You might not be interesting enough to keep their attention while they’re home, so wouldn’t it be cool if they’re talking about your show with other viewers instead of wandering off to other parts of their phones?
Your show can change based on what the viewers think or want, but you gotta do better than squinting at the screen and seeing what comments they’re making.
There are also other platforms to look at for interaction since people can possibly watch your stream while using different apps, you could watch a hashtag stream on instagram and have people interact with your show by posting photos there. There are so many online collaboration tools like trello, google docs, etc that could be used to make your stream fun in a new way
- Set up as part of the show prompts of the type of comments you want.
- If you’re the on-camera face of the show, maybe have someone moderate the comments and text you an important one because it’s no fun to watch someone do the filtering.
- Find other ways to get cues from the audience. Maybe you’re going to wear whatever color outfit gets the popular vote ( i don’t know who would watch this), so you have people vote for the color using different colored emojis in the comments
- Structure segments of the stream to be based on clear response from the viewers
- The interaction has to matter. Things have to change based on what the audience does. Hopefully major things.
- The interaction has to feel worth it. Each individual has to feel that their interaction has some importance or they won’t join in.
Talk shows suck. They’re popular because they have celebrities. Don’t do a talk show. That’s a bonus tip. The thing talkshows do well is bite-size segments. There’s no script for a lot of things, but we know what the goal of the next segment is ( this segment has jokes, this segment has a sketch, this segment has conversation, this segment has a demonstration). In your live stream, don’t script it out, but make chew-size segments that are tiny, defined, deliberate and rewarding to watch. Rules are what make games fun. Set up a super strong format and it will give you the freedom to create, improvise, and whatnot. It will give your audience the feeling of safety and the jarring confusion that they need.
Make it Complicated
What can you do with your show beyond a face talking to an iphone? Show things, do things. People like things.
Get people to help you
There are pros like Beyond Dreams who can run your video switching for you remotely, or you can try to get your friends to help out a little. Every single technical thing that is an issue will make it harder for you to serve the entertainment you want. If you live with noone, there are things that can be done remotely to help. Someone could comment on your behalf, help you promote, help you plan segments, moderate comments, give you prompts during the show, check your audio on the stream, etc.
Get people to watch
You have to get people to watch. It’s so sad when a stream has 3 viewers and it’s obviously supposed to have more. Get more people to watch. Do it. All of the things mentioned above will help you get more viewers, but also
- Make it a tantalizing show. “Oh man! I gotta see Scot Eats an Onion off Jon Hamm”
- Make it immediate. “I have to tune in live to be part of the experience of it”
- Promote it. Keep telling people about it over and over again.
- Make it happen at a time that people can remember.
- Remind people that it’s happening.
- Tell people to watch it
- Tell them
Chris Ruggiero interviewed me about this