How to Live Stream on YouTube: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to live stream on YouTube

These days, video isn’t something we just watch; it’s something we interact with real-time. Whether we’re participating in an online conference, viewing a streamed sporting event or attending a live performance of our favorite comedian, there’s magic in shared virtual experience. Together, we hold our breaths, waiting for the revelation, the punchline or the next goal. We share moments of laughter and awe, suspense and applause, no matter how distant we may be or how little we may know each other.

Because of this promise - a more involved viewing experience, a deeper sense of community, real-time participation - many businesses are turning to live video as a way to build audience engagement. These days, anyone can live stream from their social media pages or even their professional website.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to live stream on YouTube, step-by-step. We’ll also share tips and ideas to inspire you as you create your own video content.

How to get started with YouTube Live

Before we dive into how to go live on YouTube, let’s talk about a few quick things you’ll need in order to set yourself up.

First, you’ll want proper recording equipment. This includes:

  • Microphone: Make sure you’re connected to a microphone on your computer or mobile device. While the built-in mic should be sufficient for most purposes, some people opt for an external microphone for reduced background noise and high-quality sound.

  • Camera: Attach an HD webcam to your computer or get a handheld video camera if your goal is to make high quality, professional content. If you prefer to film on your phone, get a tripod to hold the device and keep the video steady.

  • Encoder (optional): An encoder is a tool that converts your recording into streamable content for the web. You’ll need an encoder only if you’re streaming with external tools, such as professional audio and video gear (more on that later). Streamlabs OBS is a popular encoding software for YouTube Live that’s easy to download and use.

Once you have your gear, you’ll need to enable live streaming on your account. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to YouTube.

  2. On the top right, click Create. Then click Go Live.

  3. Follow the prompts to verify your channel. You’ll be asked to add your phone number to receive a verification code.

Note that it takes up to 24 hours to enable your first live stream, so start the process at least one day before you plan to go live. When it’s ready, you can begin live streaming immediately.

How to live stream on Youtube: 3 ways

There are three ways to record your live stream: mobile, webcam, and encoder. Below, we’ll go over the different methods so you can choose the best option for your needs.

Method #1: Live stream on mobile

Mobile is a popular option for vlogging and short live video updates. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need at least 1,000 subscribers in order to go live on mobile. Here’s how to live stream from your phone:

  1. Navigate to your YouTube channel by opening the YouTube app on your phone or tablet.

  2. In the top right, tap Capture, and then tap Go Live. (At this point, you’ll be asked to enable your account for live streaming if it isn’t already.)

  3. Follow the prompts to set up your video:

  4. To schedule the video for later, tap More Options.

  5. To set up options such as monetization and live chat, tap More Options and Show More, and then tap Next.

  6. To share your screen in your video, tap Create Channel and then Share Screen.

  7. Now, it’s time for the big moment! Tap Go Live.

  8. Click Finish to end your recording. Your channel will automatically save an archive of the stream.

That’s all there is to it. Note that if you choose to schedule your live stream in advance, the process is similar. All you need to do is tap Capture in the upper right corner of YouTube, and then tap Go Live. From there, you’ll see your calendar and will be able to select your scheduled stream.

To get the 1,000 followers you need for mobile live streaming, take a look at these articles on how to become a successful YouTuber and how to get more subscribers on YouTube.

How to live stream on YouTube: live streaming on mobile

Method #2: Live stream with your webcam

If you’re wondering how to go live on YouTube from your computer, try live streaming via webcam. This is a relatively simple process, since it doesn’t require the use of an encoder. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to YouTube on your computer.

  2. Enable your channel for live streaming (see above).

  3. On the top right of the page, click Create. Then, click Go Live.

  4. On the left, select Webcam.

  5. Next, enter a title and description to set up your video. You can also adjust your privacy settings and schedule your video for later.

  6. For additional options such as YouTube monetization and live chat, click More Options, and then select Advanced Settings.

  7. Click Next. Your camera will take a thumbnail.

  8. It’s time to go live! Click Go Live.

  9. Click End Stream to finish your video. Your content will automatically be archived.

  10. To access old streams - as well as current and scheduled streams - go to the Live Tab.

How to live stream on YouTube: live streaming via webcam

Method #3: Live stream with an encoder

For a more advanced production, you should opt to live stream using an encoder. You’ll need this tool only if you’re using external audio and video hardware, managing multiple cameras and microphones, or sharing your computer screen. To get started:

  1. Enable live streaming (see above).

  2. Install the encoder. Keep in mind that some encoders are software applications, while others are external hardware. If you’re unsure of which one to use, take a look at this list of YouTube Live verified encoders.

  3. Connect your hardware, such as your webcam, external mic, or headset. Make sure they’re correctly set up with your encoder.

  4. Start streaming by entering your YouTube Live server URL and stream key into your encoder.

Tips for a successful YouTube live stream

Now that you know the basics of how to go live on YouTube, let’s talk about how to make your efforts a success:

01. Define your goal

Think about what you want to get out of your YouTube live stream. Perhaps you’ve just created a website and would like to get traffic, or maybe you want more engagement or subscriptions. Craft your video in a way that guides people toward these goals. For instance, you might choose to include a live Q&A about your product or share a customer success story.

02. Plan the production

If you’re recording with a team, avoid uncertainties about who should speak when, who should hold the camera, and at what point to stop recording. Before you go live, create a rough structure of your script beforehand, as well as a closing statement, and assign roles to each team member in order to maintain a smooth and uninterrupted flow.

How to live stream on YouTube: Plan the production

03. Promote your live stream

Draw a large virtual crowd by promoting your live stream on as many channels as possible. Include a link to the video on your website, share it on your social media channels, and send email reminders to your subscribers. You can even include a teaser video on social media to get your audience wanting more. On top of that, optimize your YouTube SEO to get your videos ranking high.

04. Optimize the timing

Because your viewers may be in different time zones, you’ll need to think carefully about when to start your stream. Check to see whether your target audience is primarily in one country or region, and then pick a corresponding time. If your audience is spread out geographically, check your YouTube analytics to see which time of day gets the most views.

04. Make it accessible

If your YouTube channel has more than 10,000 subscribers, you can use live automatic captions. This gives all viewers the ability to understand and enjoy your content. You should also speak clearly - more slowly than you would in daily conversation - and use easy-to-follow visuals to explain your points.

05. Do a trial run

When live streaming, you’ve only got one shot - there’s no chance to edit it later. Prepare your setup and do a few run-throughs of your presentation. Whether you’re giving a webinar, teaching an online course, or going live on YouTube Gaming, check your audio, internet connection, background and lighting before hitting the Go Live button.

How to live stream on YouTube: Do a trial run

06. Engage with your audience

Another YouTube live streaming tip is to give your viewers a reason to watch until the end. For example, you might share a free e-book or coupon code at the conclusion of your video.

There are also several YouTube features that help you boost engagement. Enable live chat to make them interested throughout and build their sense of community as an audience. Be sure to respond to relevant comments during your video and giving shoutouts to viewers.

07. Check your YouTube analytics

You can check your real-time and post-live YouTube analytics during or after streaming. Based on those insights, you can either adapt your strategy as you go, or use them to tweak and refine your next video. In particular, check for peaks in concurrent viewers to see which moments stimulated your audience’s interest the most. You should also keep tabs on your viewer retention and average view duration.

YouTube live stream ideas and examples

At this point, you have a thorough understanding of how to live stream on YouTube - from steps to make it happen to strategies for strengthening your content. As you plan your videos, take a look at the following examples for inspiration. These are businesses and organizations that have successfully used live streaming to build brand engagement and gain a loyal following.

01. Adobe Creative Cloud Sketch Party

Adobe Creative Cloud went live on YouTube to highlight its product in a compelling and creative way. In the live stream, illustrator Kathleen Martin creates beautiful drawings and lets live viewers select her sketches and color choices. Martin also offers helpful tips and insights for illustrators, making her video as educational as it is fascinating.

For businesses of all industries, this is great inspiration for how to show off a product in action while generating interest among prospective customers. If you’re an artist or designer in particular, this can be food for thought when it comes to doing a real-time showcase of the process behind your work.

YouTube live stream examples: Adobe Creative Cloud

02. SpaceX Live Rocket Launch

SpaceX drew attention to its brand with its YouTube live stream of a rocket launch. The video shows the BulgariaSAT-1 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Unscripted and filmed from different angles, the live stream lets viewers feel very much present at an event they might otherwise never get to witness. Because the takeoff is suspenseful, viewers are compelled to watch it all the way through.

For most of us, filming a live rocket launch simply isn’t feasible. Nonetheless, this video provides a valuable lesson for organizations of all industries: to capture major events via live stream. Build anticipation about a big event for your brand through social media promotion and PR; then, go live and watch the viewers come rolling in.

YouTube live stream examples: SpaceX

03. Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Jelly Cam

This California aquarium’s live jelly cam gives viewers a close-up underwater look at delicate sea nettles. Each moment is different from the next as jellyfish pass gracefully in front of the camera, showing off their feathery tentacles and umbrella-shaped bells. The effect is mesmerizing for viewers - and also gets them interested in visiting the spectacle in-person.

Drawing inspiration from the jelly cam, you can keep a YouTube live stream going at all hours of the day. Do you have a farm? A garden or vineyard? Equipment that runs 24/7? If there are parts of your business that continue to run while you aren’t watching, live streaming is a great opportunity to show people what goes on behind the scenes.

YouTube live stream examples: Monterey Bay Aquarium

04. CorePower Yoga

CorePower Yoga offers live streamed classes for their viewers to enjoy. Their various instructors often share personal stories with viewers and give lessons from their own home, making the experience feel friendly and personal. There’s also a live chat going side-by-side the stream, allowing participants to bond with one another and have fun.

This instruction model is a great option for yoga, fitness and dance teachers crafting their first YouTube live video. While you can always upload videos to YouTube after filming, live streaming helps create a sense of community among viewers. You can also make a series of regularly scheduled streams, which helps build anticipation and draw loyal fans.

YouTube live stream examples: CorePower Yoga

05. National Geographic Live

National Geographic Live reveals the faces and stories behind the publication. In one live video, photographer and filmmaker Keith Ladzinski shares juicy tales of his job - from climbing icy spires in Antarctica to exploring karst landscapes in China.

This is an effective way to create content, particularly for photographers, filmmakers, writers and bloggers. In addition to sharing your work, do a live stream of your own adventures - whether you traveled to exotic lands or tried a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood restaurant. By providing the context behind your work, you’ll build a personal connection with your viewers and generate interest in your brand.

YouTube live stream examples: National Geographic Live

Benefits of live streaming for your business

Whether you’re taking visitors behind the scenes, showing your product in action, or highlighting a special event, live streaming is essential for establishing your online presence and spreading awareness of your business. More than a platform for entertainment, YouTube Live is an important tool for building lasting relationships with your audience and growing your customer base.

While YouTube is an excellent video platform, it’s also a good idea to place your content on as many places as possible online. In addition to going live on YouTube, reach additional viewers by streaming live videos directly on your website. That helps your audience get to know you, and encourages them to linger on your site and explore your brand. Check out this video maker to get started.

By Rebecca Strehlow

Wix Blog Writer


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