10 tips for live-streaming school events

If you're thinking about how to live-stream school events in the run-up to Christmas, here are some handy bits of advice

Niall Statham and Adam Whitty

Coronavirus: Ten tips for live-streaming school events

Since March, we have been involved in streaming almost 200 library sessions, more than 130 PE lessons, 56 assemblies, around 15 CPD sessions, a school graduation and a music concert.

Before March, the combined total was zero.

Thanks to technology, it is now possible to easily film an event in real time and share it online with an audience watching safely from home.

It's simple in theory, but, of course, where technology is involved, nothing can be taken for granted. We certainly had some hilarious mishaps, but, most importantly, some great successes.

If you make the brave move to start streaming some of your school events – perhaps your school nativity, as Christmas approaches – here are our top 10 tips to avoid frozen feeds and microphone mishaps we wished we knew in March.

Live-streaming events at school

1. Read the rules

Everyone will have different rules to follow, so it’s hard to make this section universal, but it’s the most important.

Make sure you have all the correct permissions in place, and you can control who sees what you are sharing when broadcasting a live-streamed event.

We used Microsoft Teams as it has options to authenticate users and ensures they sign in with a school account before they can view.

There’s also an option for a public event where anyone with the link can watch, giving you as much scope as you need.

2. The power of two

If it’s your idea, there’s a good chance you are planning on going it alone. We learned quickly that you need at least two people trained up to use the streaming software to make it go smoothly.

Schools that use Microsoft Office have the option to stream live events for free, others have used YouTube or websites like StreamYard with equal success.

Ideally, the other person won’t be part of the event, so they can focus entirely on making sure things are working as they should without the need to speak or present.

3. Write a script

Like any good performance, you are going to need a script – but this one is for the behind-the-scenes team.

We used a large whiteboard with a section by section guide for who was controlling each segment, where the camera was going and what came next.

The more challenging your event, the more essential this is.

4. Practice makes perfect

Leave absolutely nothing to chance on the day. Make sure you check the quality of every different device, camera and microphone before you go live, and any batteries are fully charged.

It sounds obvious, but things are much harder to fix during a live-stream than they might be in person.

You need to plan where the camera (or laptop) is going to be, how close to it the performer will stand, where they will move to and what the lighting is like.

From our experience, your practice could take up to three times as long as the performance to get it perfect.

5. Make a production room

When we streamed our music concert, we used two adjacent rooms to minimise any issues with microphones and sound, and to allow for quick movement between in case anything went wrong.

We placed the two hosts in one classroom, working off the same device, while the producers shared a room next door. This meant both groups of people could talk freely when off air and make any adjustments without interrupting the stream.

6. Secret shopper

During your practice and on the day, have a staff member who watches the event purely from an audience perspective.

We had a team member on WhatsApp, so it didn’t interrupt with any of the programmes we were running on our laptops but they could text us if required.

Typically, streams will work on a 10-20 second delay, so this person won’t be totally on the pulse, but close enough to spot any problems and alert you before it’s too late.

7. Mix your media

Although it’s great if you can stream in real time, we used a combination of live performances and pre-recorded videos.

It was easier to break the video up into shorter more manageable chunks instead of one long clip, which also meant the stream performance wasn’t suffering. It also means you always have something you can go to if there are some technical hitches at any point.

Be warned though, video editing takes quite a long time and requires a bit of skill. You can produce quite neat videos on iMovie for free and the inbuilt video editor on Windows works well, too, but don’t think you can wing it in an afternoon.

8. Sound it out

One issue we faced was with sound quality, particularly where people wanted to use a backing track to sing with.

Most schools will have more basic streaming software, which means the microphone will want to cancel the music out to hear the singing.

These usually worked best when the video was pre-recorded, so the performer could be seen and heard without any lagging or dips in audio quality.

9. Lights, camera, action

When you record footage, make sure everyone holds the camera in the same way! The chances are, videos will come in from all types of devices (we used iPads most frequently with a simple tripod to support them). We always turned the iPad to a landscape view, so the camera was positioned in the top left-hand corner. This way, all the videos looked the same when we recorded them. 

Keep in mind that videos recorded on different devices will also be stored as different types of files, which can slow down the editing.

Where you can, save time by using the same recording device each time – an iPhone is always adequate.

10. K.I.S.S.

We didn’t become Hollywood producers overnight and we still aren’t – we are teachers. Resist the temptation to throw in all the bells and whistles, instead focus on what’s important.

During such a challenging time, parents will be delighted you are making such a huge effort in the first place. Keep it simple staff!

Niall Statham is head of physical education at Hartland International School in Dubai and Adam Whitty is swimming coach at the school

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