As radio stations around the country find themselves and their listeners in various stages of lockdown, broadcasters are continuing to look for ways to engage with their fans online. The virtual happy hour, in which DJs chit-chat over cocktails and invite listeners to watch and participate, has become popular. Here's how your station can get in on the fun:
1. Figure out the format of the happy hour.
First and foremost, you're going to need to decide what will happen during your happy hour. Will you interview a celebrity guest? Will you demonstrate a cocktail recipe? Will a local band perform?
Who will attend the happy hour? Multiple DJs from the station? Do you need to book any outside guests? Will you allow any listeners to participate as panelists?
When will the happy hour happen? Will it recur regularly? What will change in each happy hour — new guests, new recipes, etc.?
2. Decide how to incorporate audience participation.
One of the most compelling features of livestreams is that you can respond to audience comments in real time. As you develop your happy hour, don't just wait for people watching on YouTube, Facebook, or other platforms to leave comments; encourage them to do so. Look for specific opportunities to solicit comments from the audience, just as you might solicit callers on the air.
Decide how you're going to select and respond to those comments. Will you read them out loud? Does your livestreaming software allow you to post comments on the screen? The more interactive your livestream, the more interesting it will be for the audience.
WDHA Happy Hour:
3. Choose your software and hardware.
While Zoom has become the go-to virtual meeting platform, and it will allow you to broadcast live to destinations like YouTube and Facebook, I prefer software designed specifically for livestreaming video, such as Streamyard or BeLive. These make it easy to add logos, background, introductory videos, and other production elements. Try a few platforms out and decide which one best fits your needs. Be sure to connect these to the final destinations for your livestream, such as your station's Facebook Page, YouTube Channel, or website.
In addition to selecting software, you'll also want to make sure you have the right hardware. First and foremost, you'll need a reliable internet connection. Nothing makes a livestream more unbearable than a spotty connection. You'll also want to ensure that you've got good sound. While the mic in most smartphones are pretty good these days, if you're using a laptop or desktop you'll probably want to purchase an external microphone to use. And don't forget about lighting — a simple selfie lighting ring can make a big difference in the quality of your video.
4. Create production elements and gather props.
If you are going to use any production elements as part of your broadcast, such as video intros, make them in advance. (Here's a cheap and easy way to make them.) Gather any logos or background images you need and set the colors and titles in your livestreaming software. Additionally, gather any props you may need for the broadcast, such as cocktail ingredients.
WDRV Happy Hour:
5. Do a practice run.
Before streaming live for the first time, set up a practice session. Record the video so you can watch it back with an eye towards improvements. For example, you may discover that the room you are livestreaming from is too dark or that you need to purchase a stand to raise your laptop when broadcasting. The only way to figure out little details like these is through trial and error, and we'd prefer not to air those errors live.
6. Promote the happy hour.
Once you're confident that you're ready to host your first virtual happy hour, create a page on your station's website that gives all the details. Drive listeners to this webpage with all the channels at your station's disposal, including:
- On-air promos
- Live on-air mentions
- Email blasts
- Social media posts
- Tex message campaigns
- Push alerts in the station's mobile app
KLOS Happy Hour:
7. Share the happy hour video after it's over.
Don't think that your job is over as soon as the livestream ends. Many people may watch it after the fact, so embed the recording on a page on your website and continue to share it as a way to promote your next virtual happy hour.
Once your station has a couple of happy hours under its belt, your sales team may be able to find a sponsor for the event. Cheers to that!
Livestreaming 101 Webinar
Want to learn more about livestreaming? Check out this webinar from Peter Stewart, the author of The Livestreaming Handbook.