Last week, late on Friday afternoon, we decided to cancel our meetup. Given the meetup was on the following Wednesday it was a big ask to figure out how we would deliver something under the current circumstances. The current landscape is changing rapidly and with a growing number of people now working remotely it only made sense to do something online, namely some sort of live stream. Here’s what happened.
Firstly, a big shout out to Leo Mindel who gave his time to jump on a demo with me last Friday after I reached out on Slack to get some advice. I also have to thank the likes of Nathan Wrigley and Paul Lacey who regularly host the WP Builds Weekly WordPress podcast of which I subconsciously borrowed certain presenting techniques.
The system we used for the live stream, or what we were calling the “Virtual Meetup” was StreamYard, there is a free version but it’s limited. I decided to take the hit and upgrade. The upgrade allows more flexibility in branding and streaming destinations, it’s not too expensive at $25 PCM, $20 PCM if you pay for the yearly plan. However, it would be great to see a temporary initiative from the WordPress Community Support team to cover such costs in the future for meetup organisers, if they choose to take their Meetup online. Other free services are available as recommended by Meetup.
So StreamYard is fairly simple to use, no software to download, everything is done in a browser and it also works really well on mobile for remote users who might not have access to a computer.
As the host, all you need to do is create an account, your guests do not need an account, they will only need the link the host creates for the Broadcast.
The concept is this, you have Broadcasts and Destinations. Broadcasts can be broken down into “not being live” (or backstage) and “Go Live”. When you’re logged in you can create a Broadcast but you ideally need a Destination first.
Destinations are where you are streaming to, like Periscope, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. there are multiple options.
Once you have a destination set up and you’ve created a Broadcast allowing access to your mic and camera you’ll enter the Broadcast Studio. The link in the browser is what you can share to your guests, probably not a good idea to share publically unless you want to create a random show with strangers. Those who have the link can simply join you in the Broadcast Studio and they will appear in an icon like this:
As you add your guests to the Stream you can change the format accordingly to suit the setup using the very intuitive menu below the Stream:
At the bottom of the screen, there are also various settings for your own/guests settings, including the “Share Screen” functionality. This is where you or your guests can select any local Screen or Window that the host can add to the Stream:
In a broadcast, backstage or live, there are also tools you can use to really funk up the look and feel by adding live comments, changing banners, changing the branding etc:
All very intuitive to use, the only thing you can’t do unless your a “Go live” is to add comments to the Stream, but, even that is easy enough to do! Simply hover over the comment in the comments stream and the option to “show” will appear, you can guess the what happens if you click it.
All you do is get all your guests together backstage, take a deep breath… and hit Go Live!
Given the current situation, I think tools like this are going to be so important to the community.
To the forerunners, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, who should take all the credit for educating me on this, I’m so grateful to you, thank you.
To all the viewer who took the time to watch us bumble through our very first live stream, who have been so kind with their feedback and comments, thank you.