COVID-19 Showings – How To Live Stream a Virtual Open House
Live streaming: where to start?
With Coronavirus social distancing and shelter-at-home directives being the new normal, real estate agents should add virtual open houses to keep buyers engaged. Most real estate professionals are aware of live streaming features on Facebook, Youtube or Zoom, but without having a basic understanding of how live streaming works, getting started can be intimidating. This article outlines the most important live streaming solutions and provides some valuable tips and resources to help you get started hosting virtual open houses with ease and confidence.
What you’ll need to start live streaming
- Video and Audio Source(s) – Most devices (phone/tablet/laptops) have a build-in camera and microphone that are ready made for streaming. External devices (DSLR cameras etc.) generally require encoder soft- or hardware to mix and transcode a video streaming feed.
- A Streaming Destination – The place your live video will become available online. Popular ones include YouTube Live, Facebook Live or Zoom. Most platforms also allow you to embed/integrate the broadcast video into websites or landing pages.
- A Video Encoder – This is the software or standalone hardware device that packages real-time video and sends it to the Internet via a RTMP feed (Real-Time Messaging Protocol). Webcams and mobile phones generally have built-in encoders that can stream directly to your destination.
- A good Internet connection – so your stream doesn’t freeze, buffer, or drop off entirely.
Essentially, you have the choice of going live from three types of encoding devices: mobile phone/tablet, a computer with streaming software installed, or a dedicated hardware encoder. While a mobile phone may be an all-in-one video source and encoding device, the live production capabilities offered by a mobile device are limited.
Encoder software platforms provide much more features to manage participants (e.g. mute), share your desktop, apps or docs/photos/videos, add titles and graphics etc. Some offer broadcast studio features to e.g. manage multiple video sources. Encoders generate RTMP video feeds that can be used to live stream to most destinations such as Facebook or Youtube. Some platforms also offer video conferencing where participants can interact rather than just watch.
Live Streaming Destinations
Broadcast Studio Encoders
Choosing Your Live Streaming Setup
What hard and software you need ultimately depends on your live streaming requirements:
Instant Live Streaming
Doing an instant live stream is the easiest way to go live. Both Facebook and YouTube offer ‘Go Live’ options that let you instantly broadcast from your phone or laptop with a few clicks and no additional hard or software. While this is very convenient, it misses essential features to market your broadcast and build an audience and leads in advance.
Scheduled Live Streaming
Most platforms offer the ability to schedule live streams or events for a certain date. This provides opportunities to market your broadcast in advance, share links to the feed and post on social channels. It can also help with lead generation as you can require participants to register or or sign in to access the broadcast. However, scheduled streams have specific requirements to go live. Facebook requires an RTMP feed to go live so you will need 3rd party encoder software. You can go live on YouTube using a laptop or webcam but using your mobile device requires at least 1,000+ channel subscribers.
Facebook and YouTube live streams are one-way broadcasts where participants watch but can’t directly interact. You can add live chat or use comments as a way to communicate with your viewers and get feedback or questions. If you prefer virtual meetings where you can interact with participants in real time you can use 3rd party platforms that provide web conferencing features such as Zoom.com or BeLive.tv. These platforms usually require participants to register/login via their own websites or apps and then send RTMP feeds to your respective destination. Some encoders let you broadcast/syndicate your live stream to multiple platforms simultaneously.
Easiest Live Streaming Setup
Devices: laptop or tablet or mobile phone
Hardware: Stabilizer gimbal & microphone
Destination: Zoom.com/Zoom App
When it comes to ease of use and variety of features Zoom.com is hard to beat and the reason it’s become the web conferencing platform of choice in these pandemic times. You can schedule and start a web meeting from almost any device with a few clicks, invite and manage participants and share your screen. Web conferencing meetings offer full real-time interactions with your participants, a key feature not available on Facebook or Youtube Live and also well suited for private virtual showings.
Downsides of using Zoom: No built-in audiences Facebook or YouTube offer. Participants need to join using the Zoom website or download the app. No auto-created video recording post.
Recommended Live Streaming Setup
Devices: laptop & mobile phone
Hardware: Stabilizer gimbal & microphone
Destination: Facebook Business Page
The ‘ideal setup’ is obviously a personal choice considering your objective, technical abilities and budget as well the amount of time you want to invest in learning new tools. While doing live instant broadcasts on Facebook or Youtube from your phone seem like an easy choice, you might want to consider upgrading to a more sophisticated setup that offers more professional results. The most glaring differences between an amateur and pro video broadcast are shakiness and bad audio quality. Both issues can easily be tackled by using a stabilizer gimbal and external microphone. Keep in mind that live broadcasts get recorded and provide you with valuable video content you can repurpose on your website and social accounts, so video and audio quality is key.
Here is a recommended setup that will give you flexible, high-quality live broadcast capabilities ideal to run virtual open houses:
Signup for a free Streamyard.com account
Setup your Facebook page as your destination
Schedule a live broadcast to your Facebook business page
This will add a post to your page’s timeline you can promote
To go live, open the Streamyard.com dashboard for the scheduled broadcast
Add your mobile device as a guest (via in vite link)
Start the broadcast to go live on Facebook
The Streamyard.com dashboard lets you manage all aspects of the live broadcast. Both your laptop and mobile devices show up as video sources you can share or even show on a split screen. Facebook comments show up instantly on the dashboard and can be overlaid on the stream. Having both your laptop and mobile device as separate video sources allows you to set up the laptop as a fixed base to start and manage the broadcast then switch to your (gimbal mounted) phone camera to walk through the home. After a walk through you can sit down in front of the laptop to answer comments and questions and share other prepared media assets such as comparables, neighborhood info, pricing stats etc. When the broadcast is over Facebook will automatically post a recorded version as a video.