Live Webcast Confession

I’m going to offer some ideas about how to promote your live webcast. But first, a confession.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned.

At Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we’ve been streaming our Sunday morning worship services live for a couple of years. For the most part, it has gone well. In fact, for the last nine months or so, since we’ve switched to the Wowza server at Amazon Web Services for our streaming host, it has been rock-solid reliable.

So we figured, “OK, it’s time to ramp up promotion a bit.” So on a Sunday morning, we placed this item in our Sunday bulletin:

Invite someone to worship with you … right
now! While you’re waiting for the service to begin,
send a text message, a tweet, or a Facebook post
from your smartphone and invite a friend… or all
your friends… to join you for worship via the live
webcast. Invite them to go to Live.FBCRichmond.org
and join us for the next hour.

Great idea, right?

Just to give it a little extra push, we asked our Associate Pastor for Invitation, Ralph Starling, to mention it at the beginning of the worship service. He did a great job. He pulled out his smartphone and asked everyone in the room to do the same. He asked everyone to send an email, tweet or update their Facebook status to invite their friends to worship with them through the webcast. He took the time do send an email himself. It appeared many others did so, too.

And the, wouldn’t you know it? Right then and there, at 11:03 Sunday morning… the webcast crashed! I was watching in horror as it happened. At first 30 or 40 participants were connected. And then a few more. And then – crash – down to 0.

We went into crisis management mode and began the troubleshooting. Could it be that so many people responded that it overloaded the server? Not likely.

Automatic Updates 'Restart Required' in Window...
Automatic Updates ‘Restart Required’ in Windows XP SP1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t take long to find the problem. The Windows computer we were using to encode and stream the service decided that it was time for an update. And when its time for a Windows Update, everything else takes a back seat… including our webcast.

Two-plus years without any problem. And then, at the moment we step up publicity on it, the webcast crashes. How embarrassing.

Well, obviously we have corrected the problem (which, of course, we should have done two years ago. It is a wonder it hadn’t happened before.).

There are several lessons in this. Let me mention just three.

First, disable all unnecessary programs running on the computer you’re using for encoding.

Second, have a well-thought-out troubleshooting protocol worked out in advance, so if (no, make it “when”) there’s a problem during the webcast, you know where to start and what to do.

And third, most importantly, maintain your sense of humor.

More promotional ideas and technical tips to come. Stay tuned…

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