YouTube, Periscope, StreamYard, and Google Meet are free or affordable options that let you live stream to your colleagues, customers, or the world.
During COVID-19 containment efforts, much has been made of video conferencing tools, such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. These systems make it possible for many people to see, talk, and share screens at a time when in-person meetings are limited. With a device, internet access, and an app, you can meet.
Live streaming relies on the same core infrastructure—a device, internet, and apps—but broadcasts your message to the world. With live streaming, your potential reach is no longer limited by the number of people in your meeting. Instead, people can view your video on the web, mobile devices, or in apps.
Live streaming can make a lot of sense for a businessperson, an educator, or a nonprofit leader. A live stream can convey your personality and let people know that you are open for business today. A restaurant owner might talk about and show video of daily take-out specials. An educator can share a lecture, tips, or reassuring words aimed at either students or parents and guardians. A musician or writer might share a performance or reading live.
Live streaming doesn't require complex equipment. In most cases, you can start a stream with nothing more than a laptop with a working webcam and microphone. Or, if you prefer, a smartphone or tablet will work too. Each of the four solutions below let you provide a live stream to anyone with internet access. Want to explore more devices, apps, and techniques? The Live-Streaming Handbook by Peter Stewart, published in 2017, offers helpful advice, as do videos from participants in the Mobile Creator Summit, held in April-May 2020.
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How to live stream to YouTube anywhere
For people who have a Google account, YouTube Live, part of YouTube Studio, offers the ability to live stream from the webcam on your laptop or desktop. Before you can live stream, your YouTube channel must be verified with a phone number and you'll need a current desktop version of either the Chrome or Firefox browsers. Additionally, your account must not have received any restrictions. As you might expect, people may view YouTube Live streams on any device that supports YouTube video access.
To start a live stream, go to https://studio.youtube.com and make sure you're signed in with the account you want to use to stream (Figure A).
Select the live stream icon, a red dot with four partial semi-circular lines in the upper-right portion of the screen. This takes you to the Live Control Room, where you may choose your webcam (from the left menu), then enter information, adjust settings, and start your stream.
To stream to YouTube on a mobile device, your YouTube channel must have at least 1,000 subscribers. YouTube also supports more complicated microphone and video configurations, and also works with a variety of third-party video tools.
How to live stream to the web, Twitter, and Periscope apps
Periscope, by Twitter, lets you live stream from an iOS or Android device for viewing on the web, Twitter, or in the Periscope mobile apps. Periscope works well for interviews, discussions, and podcasts, since it lets you add up to three guests to a broadcast and supports audio-only streams (Figure B).
You may sign in to Periscope with a Twitter, Google, Facebook account, or your phone number. Live streaming with Periscope is free.
As you start a live stream from Periscope, you may toggle several features on or off. These include allowing guests, sharing your precise location, posting to Twitter, and chat restrictions, among other options. Periscope Producer offers advanced features, such as the ability to use third-party software and encoding equipment.
How to live stream to multiple services with StreamYard
StreamYard lets you live stream from a laptop or desktop browser, such as Chrome. As a browser-based offering, there's no app to install. Sign in, allow microphone and camera access in your browser, then start your broadcast. You can select from a few display options to show two or more presenters, or to feature a presenter alongside a shared screen (e.g., featuring an application or Chrome browser tab).
The free plan supports up to six guests and lets you stream up to 20 hours a month. Optional paid upgrade plans let you remove StreamYard branding, add overlays, stream to multiple sites at once (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Periscope, and/or Twitch), and record your sessions (Figure C).
How to live stream to people in your organization with Google Meet
As part of COVID-19 containment efforts, many Google Meet Enterprise features have been made available, including recording and live streaming, available to all organizations that use G Suite (see How to record or live stream with Hangouts Meet for details) (Figure D).
With access to these features, people that use G Suite may choose to live stream Google Meet sessions to people within the organization. Those sessions also may be recorded and then shared for later viewing by other audiences. However, live access to the stream is limited to people signed in with an organizational account.
Other live streaming options
In addition to the above three services, there are many other options. Social media live streaming services, such as Facebook Live or LinkedIn Live, may make the most sense if your community and target audience use either of these platforms. Vimeo Premium offers unlimited live streaming for $75/month, along with tools and services aimed at the business and professional market. And, of course, Amazon-owned Twitch.tv remains popular for live streaming of gaming and music, among many other things.
What has your experience with any of the above live streaming tools been? Are there additional tips, techniques, or tools you would recommend to people who want to start live streaming? Let me know your thoughts and suggestions—either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).
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