Yesterday I took a small leap for my business and tried out the new Facebook Live. Well, I suppose this livestreaming feature isn’t so “new” anymore, but I feel like I haven’t seen a lot of people doing it yet and wanted to jump on board. I was intrigued by it and thought it would be fun because I actually do like making videos to use in my online teaching, and I do a lot of web conferencing work, so this didn’t seem like too much of a stretch. This is the story of my first attempt and some of the things that I experienced through the process as I was getting started. (Since there’s so much here, I’ll write a second post in a day or two about the things that I learned about doing the presentation itself.)

A week ago I attended my first Facebook Live event and decided that it looked pretty easy and that I could do this right away for my own business. Well, let me tell you that looks are deceiving! About an hour and a quarter before my live broadcast (that I’d been advertising for several days) I realized that there wasn’t some sort of “Go Live” button on my Facebook page after all (had I been dreaming that I had seen that!?) but that I was going to have to download a separate piece of software in order to be able to set up the streaming. If you’re going to try this yourself, my advice to you is to not Google “How do I set up Facebook Live” or something like that (a strategy I usually enlist quite often) because in my case it led me to some articles from mid-2016 that initially had me believing that I wasn’t going to be able to livestream from my iMac at all, that I’d have to be on mobile. Not true! I finally looked within Facebook itself for help and found this How do I go live on Facebook using streaming software page, which gave me most of what I needed to know to get started.

That post confirmed for me that I had to have extra software to be able to livestream through Facebook, and suggested three possibilities. I picked the free Open Broadcaster Software which would create the livestream that Facebook would then pick up and broadcast. I downloaded the OBS software for my Mac OS and tried to get over the hump – fast! the clock was ticking! – of figuring out how to use it and connect it up with Facebook. I must warn you that this piece of software does look daunting when you first open it up to try to figure it out, and their help section of their site is downright scary. Not for the faint of heart – and I’m very tech savvy and deal with new technologies all the time! It took me a little while to find the place to put Facebook’s Server URL and Stream Key settings into OBS places (this is Step 4 of the Facebook ‘how to’ page linked above). I was doing all this futzing around while glancing at the clock and worrying that I might actually have to cancel the session because I couldn’t get the technology set up!

Thankfully I was able to figure out how to set up and test the OBS software and its connection with Facebook but it was worrying because I started to hear a tiny echoing bounceback of my voice while testing. I knew there was a time delay on the stream because it would take up to four seconds or so for me to hear my voice coming back to me through Facebook, but there was an extra softer echo that was happening after that which I was quite concerned about. Was my voice going to echo to my audience throughout the whole session – argh! This took a while to figure out.

Backing up a little in this story, my original intention had been to use a lapel mic to capture my audio for the session. However, a trip to my local Source store the day before hadn’t turned up one so I had bought a cheap little stand mic that I plugged in and tested right before the session. It didn’t work at all (!) so next I tried using the built in audio input from my computer. With the echo problem happening though, I ended up plugging in my headset that I use all the time for web conferencing. This (and the fact that I played around with an OBS mic setting) helped mitigate the echo – or at least, no one mentioned it during the session. The delay in the livestream meant, though, that I had to make sure my own computer’s sound was turned off so that I wouldn’t hear my voice bouncing back to me in my computer speakers with a four second time delay.

You’ll notice on Step 6 of the ‘how to’ article that it just says to click “Go Live”. If only! I was early enough at that point still (about 10:20am or so for the 11:00am session) that I decided to schedule the livestream instead, which put an “about to go live” or some sort of similar wait-and-see message on my Facebook page for potential viewers as the time got nearer. It was this post that I went back to about 20 minutes ahead of the session. It changes about 20 minutes before (my view only) so that I can check and preview that the stream is working ahead of time. Again, I just kept talking to myself here and there to test whether the echo was still happening. The minutes ticked on!

Since I had scheduled the feed, it opened automatically at 11:00. You’ll see in the video that it took me a few seconds to realize that it was on, look at what I was seeing, and get going. I found this starting process awkward and disconcerting because I was trying to figure out what I was looking at – it was all new to me of course – and it became clear as I started introducing myself that I was talking to…absolutely zero people! 🙂

I’ll flash forward to let you know that it all went off pretty well, and viewers did actually arrive, and I learned a few more things about both the technology and how to enhance my own livestreaming presentation skills. But I’ll tell you more about that in the next post…