Published: 6 April 2017

Broadcasting on Periscope: what we've learned about live streaming

Image: Periscope

In 2015, our membership network was rapidly growing. While we were excited to welcome new members, we had a problem.

How do we accommodate all the new people who want to attend our events, especially those who live outside of London, or those unable to physically attend. Event space is limited and people's time is precious. We wondered, was there a tech solution to our very analog dilemma?

After many experiments, including a failed test with GoToWebinar, we decided to try going live on Periscope, Twitter's free live streaming app. In January 2016, we successfully broadcast our digital trends seminar to 41 people.

There have been hiccups along the way which we're still working through, but generally, it's working for us. Crucially, we've learned a lot. So, for those thinking about live streaming, here's what we've learned about using Periscope to live stream events.

The good stuff

  • Setup can be really cheap and easy. All you need is a phone or tablet with a good quality camera (we use a Samsung Galaxy S6) and a tripod if you’re looking for a steady shot
  • You can film in portrait or landscape – just note that if you plan to share the recording afterwards, make sure to start the broadcast in the mode you want and keep it that way
  • The broadcasts can be available forever, or you can put a 24-hour limit on them. You can also delete them anytime you like, and you can download the footage to share on other channels

Things to consider

  • Sound is the most important element to get right. We always place our tripod next to a speaker to ensure the sound is picked up clearly. 
  • Test and experiment before you go live. We do this before each event as a private broadcast to another member of the team to check the visuals and audio.
  • Always have someone manning the phone and tripod. In our case, we’re filming presenters and their slides. Presenters often move around the stage so we don’t want to keep the phone static.
  • Have a second person watching the recording to check the sound and make note of and reply to any questions viewers have – questions about Periscope itself or questions they want to ask the speaker. We haven’t come up with a sophisticated way of noting them down yet. 
  • Sometimes things go wrong – the sound might not pick up and/or the broadcast might drop out. It’s good to be aware it’s not fail safe. 

When going private

Periscope allows you to create public and private broadcasts. Private broadcasts are for a select group, while public broadcasts can be seen by anyone with the link. We always go private, because we broadcast exclusively to our members. Here are some things worth knowing:

  • In order to allow someone to view your private broadcast, they need to follow you on Periscope, and you need to follow them back. If you're not following each other, they won’t be invited to the broadcast so make it very clear in your comms beforehand (this could involve a lot of chasing). It also means you cannot invite followers in the middle of a broadcast. 
  • If someone is unable to watch live but wants to watch the broadcast later, they still need to be invited to the private broadcast. The recordings will only be available to the people you’ve invited.
  • Private broadcasts can only be watched on a phone or tablet (no desktop yet) so bare that in mind when it comes to text in your broadcast. In our case, we film lots of presentations, so when there’s small text, viewers won’t be able to read this. We check slides before broadcasts and make a call on whether to enlarge the text.

The reasons to go public

  • Reach! Going public means you can reach a wider audience.  
  • Unlike private broadcasts, your followers can watch your broadcast via the web on their laptops/computers – no app needed, plus a bigger screen
  • No mutual following required. Anyone can watch and they can join in when they like. You can share your broadcast with your followers on Twitter. Bonus for iOS users – they can watch it in Twitter. Android users will need to link out to Periscope.

Got broadcast tips of your own? Share them in the comments below. 

Harriet Smith, events manager, CharityComms

Harri joined CharityComms as events co-ordinator in March 2014 to co-ordinate, manage and run our series of events before becoming events manager in 2016. Before this, Harri was the World Fellowship and events assistant at The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation.