How to live stream an event to Facebook or YouTube

4 min read
July 29, 2020

What do you need in order to go live on Facebook and YouTube? The short answer is, it depends.

Both Facebook and YouTube have ‘Go Live’ features that allow you to stream directly to them. In its simplest form, going live only takes a mobile phone that has a camera, and you can live stream an event directly to your YouTube channel or Facebook profile.

But, if you are trying to go for a more professional coverage of a live streaming event, then you may want to have a more professional setup than just a mobile phone.

You can have multiple cameras, multiple audio inputs, an audio engineer just for equalizing and managing audio input, you can have people call in. You can basically have your own radio show that streams live to social media platforms.

In most setups though, you will need the following basics:

  • a dedicated web camera
  • a dedicated microphone
  • good lighting
  • a background
  • either a laptop or desktop computer
  • some live streaming solution

There are virtually unlimited configurations you can have that can stream to Facebook and YouTube.

There are a few fundamentals that are helpful and true no matter what scale you are going for or how complicated of a setup you may have.

Where you are streaming to

A live stream requires viewers. These viewers come from a platform like Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch. The viewers are connected to these websites or apps, and that is what they will use to view your live streams.

You have to have a video encoder setup that captures live video and audio, and that has to be pointed at one of these platforms. 

Most social media sites let you share live video. Instagram has live video sharing called Instagram Live. You can stream from your Twitter account, Twitch, there’s Facebook Live and YouTube Live, and even other niche sites that support live streaming.

Live streaming videos to these sites requires the use of what’s called a stream key.

A stream key is a special "code" that your video capture software has, and the platform that you are streaming to also has.

Your video capture software needs to have the information of the platform you are streaming to in order to know where to stream, and the platform needs your stream key to know where to put the video data that you are sending it:

  • For YouTube Live, this unique stream key is what’s used for you to stream live videos to your channel.
  • With Facebook Live, you can stream to your profile, or a page, or a group. That has to be configured in Facebook, and may change a little over time.

For mobile devices you typically don’t handle stream keys, since your video capture software is the YouTube or Facebook app itself, and while there still is all that authentication stuff going on under the hood, you don’t have to touch it since you are using the designated app itself.

Be aware of the platform rules

Many platforms have their own specific terms of service when it comes to streaming to multiple platforms simultaneously. 

There used to be a service called restream which allowed you to effectively split your stream into multiple streams that can cover multiple platforms, but as of right now, most popular platforms require that it be an either-or kind of deal when streaming your content to them.

Facebook allows you to stream to multiple pages at once on Facebook but not to different platforms. Another thing you should be careful with are copyright rights. You have to avoid using copyrighted material in your content in order to be allowed to stream to major platforms.

Consult the terms of service for the platforms you are looking to stream to before you begin your stream.

Planning and scheduling a live stream

Regardless of your target audience, exactly zero people can view your live stream if nobody knows about it. Some streaming software like Samba Live has scheduling, marketing, and email reminders built into it. But one of the major benefits to streaming to major platforms such as YouTube or Facebook is the exposure to their user base.

This means that notifications will pop up for your followers on those platforms when you begin your stream, and they may join.

Regardless of that benefit though, you still will benefit massively from scheduling live events and promoting them beforehand.

This way you are not relying on spur-of-the-moment decisions made by users that just so happen to be on those platforms at the exact time that you happen to stream. Instead you’ll have the bulk of your users waiting to watch as soon as your stream starts.

Having material ready

Live events can be impromptu, but generally it helps to have at least a general direction for your content to go in during the stream. 

While it’s important to point out that live events almost always rely heavily on your ability to improvise, having a script can help you make sure you cover all of the topics that you intend to during your presentation. Even if it is just a post-it note of bullet points.

Dry run your setup

Technical difficulties are the bane of online live events. They’re massively inconvenient and invariably interrupt the whole flow of the streaming events that they show up in.

The best way to combat this is to dry run your setup and test your video stream. This means to actually have a live stream on YouTube or Facebook with all your software and hardware setup to make sure that you can show up on the site where people will be viewing with decent video quality in real time and without problems.

You can adjust your video quality by changing what’s called your bitrate in your stream settings, but that is reliant on how fast your internet connection is.

Instable internet connections are definitely a point that you can help yourself out with. Wifi can drop in and out as your device connects and reconnects to your wireless router. While this is a small nuisance that you may not even notice when browsing, it can spell disaster if it happens during your live stream. Therefore, use an ethernet cable if you can.


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