The single biggest danger in starting a livestream with little-to-no budget is the risk of looking unprofessional. While it may not seem like a huge issue, it distracts the viewer and communicates the wrong things.
As more individuals and organizations go online in 2020, we have all (whether we realize it or not) recalibrated what we call “unprofessional” in the realm of live, online media. No one is expecting your livestream to look like the evening news of old. Instead, we are seeing talk show hosts stream from their living rooms and musicians skip the studio for a one-take approach in their kitchen. This has radically changed what looks good to our eyes.
When thinking along the lines of being more professional, your mind might immediately go to hiring experts or buying expensive equipment. But there are many things you can do for free that can add a ton of production value and help achieve that professional look.
What professional livestreams do really well is cut out everything that isn’t needed: the 10 seconds of transition time is cut to 2 seconds, they jump right into the content to keep audiences engaged instead of dragging out a welcome, they don’t over-complicate set design.
Watch out for distractions in your background like poorly hung backdrops, harsh lighting, or busy bookshelves (the senior pastor’s nemesis). Cut out the 2-minute motion graphic welcome video. Skip the “hey everyone, welcome to our livestream” phrases.
By their nature, online services have to fight for the attention of the viewer. Your viewers are already on their devices and must combat push notification and attention drift. You must help them maintain attention by constantly communication that what they are viewing is important, time sensitive, and valuable.
Utilizing consistent feedback and assessment is key to keeping your livestream focused, distraction free, and optimized for time.
Understand your equipment
No matter what you spend on your gear, you’re wasting your money if you don’t understand how to use it. This rings true with borrowed gear or gear that you already own. You’ll achieve a higher quality by understanding the limitations and best attributes of your iPhone 11 than dropping $5,000 on a professional camcorder.
(Example) An iPhone is best in closeup situations and they need really good lighting to look their best. An older camcorder will have the clearest picture when its zoom is widest. A single microphone setup will work much better with a single guitar/vocal as opposed to a group of musicians.
Setup your recording space during the week and give your team some lengthy time to test and make adjustments. Focus on dialing in your gear to get every ounce of quality. Always keep in mind that your equipment works together as a cohesive unit. So, getting more from your lighting setup will add value to your cameras. Clearer video can make audio easier to understand (this isn’t just a placebo effect).
Tip: Consider a 4:20 crop on your finalized video. It’s a small thing that can help hide the hardest areas of your stage design and focus your eyes while keeping the needed width of the video.
Translate your personality
During this pandemic, you should be just as focused on keeping your people engaged as you are going after new people. And here’s the deal, your people already know you. So, don’t waste your energy trying to look like the megachurch that comes to your mind when you think of livestream. Instead, try to show your church’s unique personality in as sharp and intentional of a manner as possible.
Some people lock up as soon as a camera is turned on. Take your time to coach these individuals so that they can be relaxed and more of themselves. This is especially true for teachers and pastors. Teaching to a camera is very different than a live room with feedback. Take time to practice and review to get rid of any robotic delivery or bland personalities.
Your goal should be to ensure that every person who engages with your livestream will have a clear understanding of your church’s personality and vision, even if they’ve never met you in person.
Failing to translate this will result in pushing away your current congregation while setting yourself up to lose your newly engaged digital congregation as soon they attend an in-person service.
Think of late-night talk shows and how the personality of the host guides the feel of the entire show. Embrace the personality of your church and your pastor!
Here’s the best part: Adding professionalism to the on-screen people, making them feel more comfortable, and becoming less robotic across the board, you can do all of these things for free!