Your Guide to Live Streaming Events

Table of Contents

    If you haven't participated in a live streaming event at some point in your lifetime, it’s likely you’re an odd one out. It’s a practice that’s becoming increasingly ubiquitous, from Chris Rock’s live show on Netflix and the NFL wild card game streamed exclusively on Peacock to the Fortnight Eminem concert. People want to participate in all sorts of things, and the power of live streaming enables them to partake in whatever their hearts desire — regardless of geographic proximity.  

    Demandsage reports that the global live streaming market is anticipated to reach $252.76 billion by 2029, and live streaming accounts for 17% of all internet traffic (and 23% of total viewing time worldwide). It’s also noteworthy that 28% of internet users around the world watch live streams weekly. It’s a big market, so if you’re ready to take on the challenge and start streaming your events live, this guide is for you.  

    What Live Streaming Events Really Means

    Before we dive into the technicalities, what qualifies as an event? Truthfully, it could be anything. Sports, news, concerts, weddings, town halls, company meetings, and even influencers staring awkwardly at the camera while they “unbox” stuff count as live events. What matters is that something is happening you want viewers to see in real-time.  

    There are also many different ways to stream an event live. Most people are already familiar with some of the most obvious outlets, such as Instagram and YouTube Live events. These methods are easy because each platform already has all the necessary technology built in; you just need to point your device’s camera at your subject (yourself included), click a button, and voila — you’re streaming live, and you click the button again to turn it off.  

    While incredibly convenient for certain kinds of live streams, these methods are limiting for others. For instance, if you want to stream a bigger event from multiple camera angles like a concert, then you need more than camera phones. It’s beneficial to have higher-grade equipment and a robust live streaming platform that can handle all the background operations before distributing it to your audience. This is especially true if they’re watching on different devices: Instagram users are likely using exclusively their cell phones, but concert viewers could be using phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smart TVs, and more from various manufacturers.  

    Remember how live streaming events experienced an enormous boost in popularity during the height of the pandemic? Countless events went online for everyone’s safety. Take graduations, for example: high school and college graduations are major milestones, but because family members couldn’t attend in person (or students, for that matter), schools opted for streaming-based versions. Even today with typical ceremonies back on, many schools have realized the benefits of streaming them because it allows relatives to watch their loved ones walk across the stage without having to physically travel while still participating in the event from their devices.  

    These graduation ceremonies have more than an iPhone propped on a stand, though. Schools invested in legitimate equipment and streaming platforms that optimize viewing experiences. Watching your grandchild graduate via Instagram wasn’t going to cut it for most people, so educators have since started leveraging video solutions like Wowza to ensure family members can watch ceremonies on bigger screens without buffering or lags that make you miss the moment in real-time.  

    For the purposes of this guide, the example above is what we mean by live streaming events. Gamers who want to live stream have Twitch and influencers have social media, but keep reading if you want to stream more complicated events and reach wider audiences beyond an individual platform.  

    What Are the Benefits of Live Streaming Events?

    As we’ve mentioned, one of the primary benefits of live streaming events is enabling people to participate without being physically present. The business and entertainment worlds do it all the time, why not everyone else? When you can host a concert in Chicago that 5,000 people can attend in person but 50,000 can watch from the comfort of their homes at the same time, you have more opportunities to engage a global audience and generate new revenue streams.  

    Some other benefits of live streaming events include:  

    It’s cost-effective: You can save a lot of money when live streaming events because instead of paying for a venue capable of hosting large audiences, you can book a smaller one (or none at all) and stream to viewers at home. Plus, you reduce or eliminate expenses related to setting up stages, travel for organizers and attendees, and more — not to mention the labor involved in coordinating seating!  

    Increased revenue opportunities: As we mentioned above, live streaming events to a broader audience opens the floodgates for new revenue streams. Some ideas for monetization are: 

    • Inserting advertisements 
    • Interactive gamification (such as auctions, bidding, etc.) 
    • Brand sponsorships 
    • Pay per view and subscription models 
    • Affiliate marketing 
    • Tips from fans and donations 
    • Live commerce and shoppable video 

    Many of these avenues could be available to you if you decide to live stream your event instead of keeping it in-person only. Ticket sales are always valuable — why not sell them to people who don’t feel like going anywhere, too?  

    Analytics and data: Live streaming your event also grants you unique opportunities for insight into your audience. Sure, you can count how many people actually show up to the live event and try to make an educated guess on demographics based on who you see, but video analytics platforms allow you to keep track of who is watching (such as age, gender, etc), how long they watch for, which sites they came from, how engaged they were, and more. The more insight you have into your audience, the better you can improve your overall business strategy and influence your next event.  

    How Live Streaming Events Works

    Onto another question you undoubtedly have: how does live streaming an event work? How much effort, time, and money will it entail? We have a wealth of resources on this subject, so we won’t get too far into the weeds here, but here’s a basic overview of how streaming live events usually works 

    1. Live streaming entails taking a video signal and transferring it live online to multiple players around the world. First, the camera captures frames of video in real time and converts them into said digital signal. This signal contains an enormous amount of raw data at 4K resolution, so to make it a more manageable size, you use an encoder to compress the video data with a codec like H.264 (the most common). This process squeezes gigabytes into megabytes, packaging the remaining data into a protocol like RTMP or SRT so it’s transportable over the internet.  
    1. Next, the video data is transferred to the media server that transcodes the stream into different “codecs” and transrates it into multiple versions with different bitrates (to be better compatible with varying internet speeds), and possibly resizes it for devices with varying resolutions. Then, the server repackages the stream into protocols like HLS or MPEG-DASH for delivery to different players in a process known as “transmuxing.” Transmuxing changes the necessary packaging to meet different playback devices’ needs without changing the content of the stream itself. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is an optional step during packaging.  
    1. Because viewers can be anywhere in the world, live streaming also often leverages a content delivery network (CDN). CDN servers are positioned strategically around the globe to distribute video data faster by caching it locally, offering closer sources rather than forcing a viewer in Asia to suffer a frustrating experience if watching a live event in North America. Quality of experience (QoE) is essential in streaming, and CDNs are an integral part of ensuring that quality is high.  
    1. The final step is delivering video streams to a player for playback, such as Wowza Flowplayer. A player could be in a set top box, on an internet browser, or as an app on a mobile device. Players on different devices often require different streaming protocols and come with varying resolutions and connection speeds, so a live streaming platform is necessary to transmux, transcode, transrate, and resize data to make streams viewable on phones, tablets, computers, TVs, and more.  

    That’s the process in a nutshell: capture high-quality video, compress it into a manageable size, convert it to handle different resolutions and connection speeds, package it into multiple protocols for transportation over the internet, and distribute it to a worldwide audience. If done right, your viewers will have seamless playback no matter how big your audience is.  

    Necessary Equipment and Software for Live Streaming Events

    Now that you know how the process works, you see how complicated it can be. It seems so simple on Instagram and YouTube because those platforms have much of the technology built into their software, including encoding. However, those processes are less complex because certain kinds of transcoding and transmuxing aren’t necessary when you’re streaming to audiences using a single app (and they’re tailored to individual creators rather than larger-scale events that need multiple camera angles).  

    Fortunately, live streaming solutions like Wowza take care of much of the work so you don’t have to (could you imagine having to transcode your event manually? Yikes). That said, you’re likely still curious about what equipment you’ll need, so here’s a list to get you started. You can dive deeper into our particular hardware recommendations here 

    • Video cameras  
    • Audio equipment  
    • Mixers 
    • Switchers 
    • Encoders 
    • A live streaming solution (complete with media server and CDN) 
    • Player (some solutions like Wowza already include these).  

    With all these in place, you won’t be limited to a single platform; you’ll be able to stream your live event to viewers on all sorts of devices around the world with higher-quality audio and visuals than what camera phones can provide.  

    We also have a full list of recommended cameras for different use cases, so check it out if you plan on streaming tutorials, sports, concerts, and more.  

    A Few Live Streaming Event Best Practices

    Next up, planning and preparing for a live stream. Sure, you can plop a camera in front of a performer or meeting and figure it out from there, but you’ll be a lot more successful if you go in with intention 

    1. Define your goals and objectives. What are you hoping to achieve with your stream? It could be engagement, boosting revenue, generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or simply allowing people to watch from home. Articulating your goals will help steer your other business-streaming related decisions.
    2. Pick the right format and content. If you already know what your event will be, you can skip this step. If not, decide the right format according to the nature of your goals and your target audience. Perhaps you want to host a panel discussion, product launch, webinar, or live Q&A session. Each of these serves a different purpose and requires different resources, so consider carefully.
    3. Take care of the technical stuff. Technical readiness is crucial to your success — nothing will be more frustrating, and more detrimental to your objectives, than a lack of understanding or a technical hiccup. Make sure you have the right equipment, assess your internet connection’s reliability, adjust your lighting, double check sound, and select a live streaming platform that does the hardest parts (transcoding, packaging, delivery, etc.) for you and can support high numbers of viewers with ultra-low latency. Conduct plenty of tests ahead of time to iron out issues. For more advice on troubleshooting, you can check out this blog post.

    4. Promote your event. How do you ensure people actually attend your event? Promote your stream well in advance. No matter how great or important your content is, it won’t reach its full potential without an effective marketing strategy. Create a plan to generate buzz and draw in your audience across social media, email, your website, partnerships, and industry experts. Produce compelling teasers and trailers to give people a taste of what to expect. Drive traffic to your registration page if you have one or instruct viewers to tune in at the right time (the former is beneficial because you can use RSVPs to gauge interest and gather necessary information).
    5. Pay attention to analytics. Most live stream platforms come with analytics features that allow you to see how many people are watching, where they’re watching from, how they’re engaging, technical stream health metrics, and more. These analytics can grant you a great deal of insight into your audience (so you know what clicks with them) and technical performance (so you can address any issues swiftly before viewers notice) that make live streaming events a much less daunting process. 
    6. Repurpose content. Just because your event is over doesn’t mean it really has to be over. It’s unlikely everyone in your audience was able to watch the stream on time, so you can make it available as a video on demand for later viewing. Hosting old live streams in your library allows you to repurpose content so you can continue to expand your reach and new viewers rewatch events as often as they’d like while still generating revenue through ads and subscriptions. 
    7. Don’t forget "like-live." There’s a middle ground between live streaming and video on demand known as linear streaming. In this case, you can prerecord your live event, such as a performance or conference, and stream it to viewers as if it’s live at a prescheduled time (so fast-forward features won’t be available). This practice allows you to address any problems or hiccups during the event itself and edit them out if necessary before streaming it to your viewers.  

    Live Event Streaming Case Study

    Want to know what happens when live streaming an event goes well? Freeman is an organization that specializes in in-person, online, and hybrid trade shows, conferences, and all kinds of live events. The company has always leveraged live streaming, but this facet of its business became especially important during the height of COVID-19 the way it did for many organizations.  

    Freeman was already a Wowza customer, but when live streaming became even more necessary than before, it turned to Wowza’s Professional Services team and solutions engineers to accommodate a 3,000% increase in monthly streaming hours. It also required advanced functionality for real-time text and audio translations within an interactive streaming experience without expanding its in-house team. With Wowza under the hood, Freeman was able to build a custom platform supporting multiple in-player language selections during a live broadcast and leverage a variety of other unique configurations to fit its global audience’s needs.  

    Now streaming approximately 95,000 hours of content every month, the live events Freeman hosts are accessible to people wherever they are. You can read more about Freeman’s success with live streaming events alongside Wowza here 


    Learn more about Freeman’s success with live streaming events alongside Wowza
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    How To Choose the Best Platform for Live Streaming Events

    So, we’ve covered a lot of live event streaming basics. If you’re ready to get started, your next question is likely: which platform is best for me and my business? The live streaming market is pretty saturated with many providers that offer similar solutions with overlapping features, so let’s look into the most important features to shop for. You can also read our advice in more detail in our Buyer’s Guide to Video Streaming Platforms.  

    Live and VOD Transcoding 

    Successfully streaming a live event to your audience requires considering what devices they’re using, their possible bandwidths and internet reliability, favorite apps, and other factors. Because there’s almost a zero percent chance all viewers will use the same kind of device in the same location, transcoding video data into a more deliverable format is inevitable.  

    Transcoding can occur within your content management system with VOD, but live transcoding is rarer and a much more complicated process because it needs to happen immediately after the camera captures footage. Transcoding a live event stream effectively makes it possible to create simultaneous versions of time-aligned video streams (with their necessary bitrates and frame sizes) that will reach viewers on the correct protocols. Without this feature, your viewers will experience a significant amount of latency for force you to rely on “like-live” streaming.  

    Ultra-Low Latency  

    On that note, latency is a critical factor to consider when live streaming. Unfortunately, latency is unavoidable because it’s impossible to genuinely deliver video data in real time. It’s also the only way to scale to millions and millions of viewers with any economic reality, so many streams can make do with a latency of 30 seconds to a minute (such as live broadcasts like sports or American Idol). However, depending on your application, you might want to get as close to real time as possible. Platforms like Wowza can stream with less than 500 milliseconds of latency, which is especially useful for use cases like communications platforms, gambling, auctions, and anything else where audience participation is required or two-way communication is involved. This ultra-low latency is imperceptible to the human eye and ear, so when shopping for a video solution, pay attention to latency and how much your application can get away with.  

    API Access and Developer Tools  

    API access is essential because it prevents you from having to build your own video platform or piece together different open-source components (which you would have to maintain and pay for). Live streaming APIs will allow you to do things like:  

    • Create, start, and stop live streams 
    • Manage video assets and add metadata 
    • Obtain stream health information 
    • Stream at low latency 
    • Generate advanced workflows (e.g., loops) 
    • Syndicate to social media platforms 
    • Turn past streams into videos on demand 
    • Collect insight into video performances 

    Live streaming your events will go much smoother if you have API access that provides master control over your platform instead of operating different functions separately.  

    Video CMS  

    You’re undoubtedly familiar with traditional CMSs like WordPress. A video CMS is different because it’s an application you can use to store and manage video assets hassle-free, allowing you to organize and categorize your videos to make them more searchable and presentable to your viewers. Whether your videos are for public consumption or internal use, a video CMS makes storing, managing, and delivering video files easy. 

    Some benefits of a CMS include: 

    • Easy content management (without being a technical expert) 
    • Scalable storage (so you don’t have to worry about exceeding capacity) 
    • Organization and searchability (so you and viewers can find what you want to watch whenever you need)


    We have a lot to say about video analytics, but to keep it brief you should look for two kinds: Quality of Service (stream metrics) and Quality of Experience and Engagement. The latter helps you monitor how well your live streams are technically performing so you can address any issues before they affect the viewer experience. The former grants you insight into what kind of content connects with your audience most so you can adjust your overall strategy (or not adjust if it’s working!) accordingly.  

    Global CDN 

    Does the video platform you’re evaluating include a content distribution network, or do you need to outsource to another? If one is already included, fantastic — less work for you, and you can rest assured knowing that your streams will reach audience members with low latency no matter where they are.  

    Monetization Opportunities  

    As we’ve mentioned previously, new monetization opportunities are a major benefit of live event streaming. You can adopt a model that works best for your business, such as:  

    Advertising-Supported Video on Demand (AVOD): Including ads from third party companies who pay you to include their content within yours.  

    A growing form of this method is FAST (free ad-supported television). If you have a substantial enough library of content, you can create a FAST channel, like Xumo, where people can tune in without a subscription but watch for free because you make money from ad revenue. FAST is essentially the streaming version of a traditional cable channel.  

    Subscription-Based (SVOD): Charging individual users subscription fees to access all or most of your content, such as on a monthly basis.  

    Transactional-Based (TVOD): Also known as pay-per-view, this model involves gating content and charging viewers to access individual videos.  


    Protecting your content is imperative. Fortunately, most streaming solutions offer a variety of tools and features to keep your data safe, including DRM, token authorization, geo blocking, AES encryption, password protection, IP whitelisting, referrer restrictions, and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS). There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so you can use as many or as few of these tools as you believe necessary. You can learn more about security and content protection here 

    High-Quality Playback  

    Last but certainly not least, high-quality playback is imperative for a seamless viewing experience. You’ll lose viewers quickly if what they see on their screens is grainy, pixelated, slow, or otherwise frustrating to watch. The better the video looks, the more viewers are inclined to watch. In today’s day and age, high-quality playback isn’t even considered going above and beyond anymore; it’s standard, so while it won’t win you awesomeness points, you need it to stand out from competitors and keep viewers hooked.  

    Future Trends in Live Streaming Events

    Part of being cutting-edge and staying ahead of your competitors means keeping up with streaming trends and delivering new experiences to audiences as they want them. Some future trends we predict include:  

    Immersive Virtual and Augmented Reality  

    VR allows users to immerse themselves in a virtual environment while AR overlays digital information over the real world on a screen. These technologies are advancing rapidly and growing in popularity: imagine watching a live-streamed concert through VR headsets that make it look like you’re actually standing there. Similarly, it’s possible they would be able to explore the venue, interact with other attendees, and even have front-row seats at other events like sports and conferences. AR could provide real-time information, such as player statistics during a game or subtitles during a meeting. Plus, 360-degree cameras could provide viewers with a more comprehensive and dynamic experience. 

    Interactive Experiences  

    Many events live streamed to audiences are video and audio-only, but viewers are increasingly expecting some level of interactivity. Such engagement could look like polls, communication with other viewers, gambling, commenting, voting, and more. These elements — like voting — could even influence the outcome of a particular event. Gamification also allows viewers to earn rewards and compete with one another while watching.  

    Personalized Content 

    The rise of personalized content will also continue to shape the future of live streaming events. Audiences are growing to anticipate content tailored to their preferences, so platforms and providers will analyze user data to recommend events and generate viewing experiences around those events that individuals are more likely to be interested in. This customization will reach beyond recommendations, too: viewers will have the option to choose camera angles, audio feeds, or even commentators.  

    Artificial Intelligence  

    AI is also poised to significantly influence the streaming landscape. Some more mature uses — such as speech-to-text for transcription, enhancing metadata, and caption generation — are quickly becoming more accurate, and therefore making content more discoverable and accessible. Other examples like motion and object detection and facial recognition are already common in surveillance applications could expand into media and entertainment spaces.  

    Live Streaming Events With Wowza

    Do you host events you want to live stream? Whether you put on conferences, performances, conventions, graduations, trade shows, or anything else, you need a robust streaming platform to make it happen smoothly. There are many available on the market, but only a truly end-to-end solution will save you the trouble of piecing everything together and doing all sorts of costly manual work that leaves room for mishaps.  

    Wowza is the industry’s leading video platform that takes care of the technical aspects so you can focus on what you really want to: your event itself. If something goes awry on stage, do you really want to also worry about if your viewers are experiencing buffering? Definitely not, so we’ve got everything from encoding to playback covered.  

    Plus, Wowza is one of the few solutions experienced in VR and interactive video. If you want to capitalize on the trends mentioned in the previous section, it’s important to partner with a streaming provider that continuously innovates and grows with the industry instead of feeling stuck with a platform that only offers limited features and capabilities. sus 

    Wowza offers both cloud-based and software-based video solutions: Wowza Video and Wowza Streaming Engine, respectively (it’s also possible to leverage both to benefit from a hybrid solution). Both of these platforms empower you to stream your live event with:  

    • Adaptive bitrate streaming that maximizes playback for reliable, high-quality video 
    • Robust content security and DRM capabilities to protect your content 
    • Global scalability with our powerful CDN 
    • Advanced analytics to provide you with insight into your stream health and audience demographics 
    • Flexible content management so you can control your streams and transform live events into evergreen VOD content  

    That’s not all, though. With Wowza Professional Services, you can take advantage of live event support so you have someone experienced to help you with the technical stuff. Customers who use our live event support have dedicated streaming experts to help them set up, optimize, and monitor their streams. You can read more about this service here so you can focus on what happens in front of camera.  

    Ready to take live streaming events to new heights? Talk to a streaming expert to learn more.