Party fans raised their hands — how are you engaging your audience?




8 Tips for Engaging Your Audience — Extra Live Streaming Advice

Audience attention is valuable. Viewer numbers are good, but high engagement is better. That’s because an engaged audience pays more attention. But, whether you have ten viewers or 10,000, how do you go about engaging your audience?

What would you rather, huge audience numbers or an audience that’s really engaged in your content? Both, obviously!

Q&A from Inner Ear’s live streaming workshops

But if you had to pick one, we think the smart choice is the latter. It’s a bit like the difference between turnover and profit. When it comes to digital content, an entertained, educated, energised audience can be enticed into taking action. And that’s where the value is.

As a digital media production company specialising in live programme making, we know — from our 23+ years of experience pioneering the use of the medium — that harnessing the power of live streaming can be a game-changer for your brand. In this blog post, we’ll give you a simple strategy and eight effective tips for maximising the impact of your live streams and keeping your audience engaged.

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital media, live streaming is a powerful way of engaging your audience and creating dynamic content. From breaking news broadcasts to live gaming sessions, competitions, entertainment and product launches, live streaming offers an immediate, interactive way to connect with your viewers in real-time.

Here is a progressive audience engagement strategy to follow. Consider these steps as you read through the eight tips we offer, below. We’ve used an alliterated frame-work (because we love alliteration, and it’s neat and concise):

white ceramic figurine on black table
Photo by Hassan Pasha on Unsplash
  1. Entertain
    “You learn a lot better when you’re having fun” (The Owl Goes On Holiday, look it up; seminal work). Make your live programme entertaining and your audience will be receptive.
  2. Educate
    We like to feel like we have learnt something. It makes us feel like better people. Share your passion for your subject with your audience by teaching them something new.
  3. Energise
    Engaging your audience happens more easily when they are excited. Include jeopardy or suspense; a shared “secret” or a big reveal. Involving the audience through gamification and interaction will energise them too.
  4. Entice
    Offer them something they really want: the solution to a problem, a prize, a must-have item or experience. Reward their participation and they will reciprocate by heeding your call to action.

8 Tips For Engaging Your Audience

With the above strategy in mind, here are eight tips for you to work through.

Successful live streaming starts with careful planning. Before going live, plan the creative elements of your programme and then use them when you devise a content schedule which includes dates, times, and topics. Share this information with your network. This gives your audience something to look forward to and helps you stay organised. Promote your upcoming live streams through your website, social media channels, and email newsletters to build anticipation and ensure a higher turnout.

Decide which platform you’re going to use. We can go into detail on how to choose your streaming platform another time, but as a rule, if you are using a social media platform then go with the one where you have most traction. Take your content to your audience, it’s much easier than getting your audience to come to you.

When you’ve selected your platform, schedule an event. Do this up to one week in advance. Create compelling metadata. The thumbnail image, title and description play a significant part in attracting the audience and setting the scene. (When I was studying audience behaviour and semiotics in Theatre Studies at university we called this the “horizon of expectations”.)

How your audience perceives the quality of your live stream is crucial. High production quality reflects positively on your brand and holds the viewer’s attention. You don’t have to spend a fortune on kit to enhance your production values. A good setting, well lit and framed can make a significant impact. But it is worth investing in some professional equipment to ensure clear audio and video. Then learn how to use it.

Consider using graphics, lower thirds, and overlays to make your show look more professional and enhance the visual appeal of your stream. Make the audio as good as it can be. Good audio can make up for simple video but bad video can ruin great cinematography.

Empty trainstation in Porto
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

When you stream something live, you create a shared experience. This is a major part of what distinguishes live programmes from on demand content. Interactivity is one of the core strengths of live streaming. When your audience engages in the live digital experience that you’ve created, they can interact with you, and each other, in real time; live in the moment.

You can encourage viewers to participate by callenging them, asking questions, responding to comments, and conducting Q&A sessions. Personalise your interactions to make your audience feel valued and heard. Address viewers by their names when possible, and acknowledge their contributions.

Live streaming platforms can facilitate audience interaction. Every platform has some form of chat room or commenting. Additionally:

  1. Polls and Surveys:
    • YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Twitch & Vimeo
  2. Q&A Sessions:
    • Zoom, Crowdcast & Vimeo
  3. Live Reactions and Emojis:
    • Facebook Live & Mixcloud
  4. Interactive Games and Challenges:
    • Twitch & Facebook Gaming
  5. Donations and Virtual Gifts:
    • Twitch, YouTube Live & Facebook Live
  6. Collaborative Tools:
    • Microsoft Teams & Google Meet

While maintaining a consistent theme (in terms of your brand, style and subject matter) for your live streams is essential for building a relationship with your audience, don’t be afraid to experiment with different programme formats and types of content. Consider hosting interviews, behind-the-scenes tours, interactive tutorials, and live events. A diverse content strategy can keep your audience engaged and eager to see what’s coming next.

Each time we’ve broadcast live from Fèis Ìle, the Islay Whisky Festival, we have varied the format. In 2023 we created a gameshow, “Peat or Treat”, and streamed it live via Instagram. It went down really well with the audience, who could win a one-of-a-kind piece of distillery memorabilia, or a lump of peat (for the runner up)!

Ewan, Peter and Jo playing Peat or Treat as part of Inner Ear's Instagram Live stream from Lagavulin Distillery as part of Fèis Ìle 2023 in Islay
The “Peat or Treat” Gameshow we created for Lagavulin, Photo by Dougal Perman

Pay attention to the timing of your live streams. Research your target audience to determine when they are most active online. Experiment with different times to run your live streams. Or record some content and stream it “as live” at different times and note what goes down best with your audience.

We talk more about live in the moment vs. as live in other blog posts, but if you’re looking for a platform that enables you to play pre-recorded content out as live and simulcast it to social platforms then Castr, Vimeo, ReStream and OneStream Live all do this well. (Our favourite, by far, is Castr, and believe us we have put it through its paces.) Additionally, consider the duration of your live streams. While some content may warrant longer broadcasts, others may benefit from shorter, more frequent sessions. Finding the right balance is key to keeping your audience engaged.

Foster a sense of community among your viewers. Encourage them to connect with each other by creating a dedicated chat space. Recognise and reward loyal viewers with shoutouts, exclusive content, or even merchandise. Building a loyal community around your live streams can lead to longterm engagement and support for your brand.

We love it when the audience becomes self moderating in the chat room. In some of the bigger niche events that we stream, with tens of thousands of viewers or more (like the World Pipe Band Championships and World Highland Dancing Championships), often audience members will jump in to answer each other’s questions in the chat room before we can. That tends to happen when you provide a great viewing experience and respond quickly and informatively to audience requests.

This is probably a good topic for a future blog post of its own, but having a checklist or FAQ for technical difficulties experienced by the audience is very useful. Here are a few of the “classics”:

  • “Is anyone else getting an echo?”
    • They have the stream open in 2 or more tabs.
  • “The audio and video are out of sync!” (When you know they aren’t.)
    • Reloading the page almost always sorts this one.
  • “My stream keeps buffering!”
    • Get them to click on the settings button on the player and choose a lower resolution. If your stream is fine then the problem is usually with the viewer’s internet connection.

If you do experience problems with your setup, don’t panic — trust us, it happens to everyone. The more information you provide when engaging your audience, the more accepting they will be of any situation, and appreciative when you sort out the problems. Make sure you have several backup recordings of the live programme so if all else fails you can get the recording online ASAP.

Concert TUYA. Inner Ear's specialist training can help you boost audience engagement
Photo by Jorge Gordo on Unsplash

The engagement doesn’t stop when the live stream ends. After each broadcast, repurpose the content by creating short video clips, highlights, or blog posts. Share these on your social media channels and website to reach a broader audience and remind your existing followers of the valuable content they can expect in future streams. Ideally you want your recorded content assets to showcase how good the live experience was in a “you really had to be there” kind of way so the audience makes a point of joining in next time.

Regularly assess the performance of your live streams. Pay attention to metrics like viewer count, engagement levels, and viewer demographics. Use this data to refine your content strategy and make improvements for future broadcasts. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

And, of course, if you need help, give us a shout. And if you want to improve your skills, our expert-led specialist live streaming training and consultancy can help you overcome obstacles, cure headaches and take your productions to the next level. We’re always finding useful links which we compile in an an online live streaming resources catalogue of hardware, software, trends and insights, how-to guides and inspiring examples.

How Are You Engaging Your Audience?

In conclusion, live streaming offers a dynamic opportunities for engaging your audience. As a digital media production company specialising in live programme making and live stream production management, embracing these tips can help you unlock the full potential of live streaming. By planning, producing high-quality content, engaging with your audience, and continuously refining your approach, you can build a loyal community of viewers and take your brand to new heights in the digital media landscape.

Have you got a project you want to live stream? Do you need some extra help engaging your audience? We’re very happy to help. Book a 15 minute consultation to discuss the best way forward for your project. (We’ll do whatever we can to help. It’s free, with no obligation to work with us unless you want to.)