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Your easy guide to doing a perfect Instagram Live

You can’t go on the ‘gram these days without being inundated by a blinking row of IG live right at the top of your phone screen at any given point.

IG LIVES are a great way to still feel connected to people (your favourite stars included) real-time, with the added bonus of getting important perspectives sometimes. Of course, there are a ton of jokes and memes doing the rounds about it, but I would strongly urge you ‘to not knock it till you’ve tried it’. I did IG LIVES for two weeks straight, and I can now expound on its merits. Calling it ‘Night Shift’, I hosted LIVES every weeknight at 10:00 pm, with guests whom I had conversations with on topics ranging from creativity to mental health.

Having been on both sides, as a host and a guest, also gave me added perspective about the etiquette one should follow for a LIVE. You’ll know what I am talking about if you’ve logged onto a LIVE that’s been interrupted by connectivity issues, logging in problems, and of course, conversations that make you want to leave mid-way. So this is what you need to keep in mind if you are hosting or joining an IG live.

Always plan in advance

This gives you plenty of time to choose your guest, should you want one, and also lets you tell your audience well in time to keep themselves free. It really helps to create a build-up on your Instagram, hyping it up for people to join in. On another note, you could also give your followers the option to weigh in on what time/day suits them best so they can attend your IG live.

The advantages of calling on a guest

Inviting someone else to be on your live gives you the chance to increase your reach. You are now catering to people who will join in from that person’s account as well as your own. This simply doubles your audience. Besides, it’s always better to go the conversation route as opposed to the monologue route.

Prepare well

A lot of great conversations can happen real-time over an Instagram LIVE because, given the current scenario, people are relatively free and thus more engaged. It’s a great tool to let people know a little more about yourself/your brand. In the case of inviting a guest, make sure they are clued in on the topics you plan to discuss. You don’t want any uncomfortable/unhappy surprises there.

Always be on time!

If you have announced that your LIVE is at 10:00 pm then be there on the dot. Make it clear to your guest too that you like to keep time. This helps your audience take you seriously.

Make creatives

Take the time to make a proper template to announce your LIVE with all the relevant details like the topic, the time, the guest, etc. Sure, you can use standard inbuilt Instagram story fonts, etc. to give the message out but it’s always more impactful if it’s via a template you specially created. Canva or Story Art are great options.

Be mindful and polite with the guest

It is a weird time right now and we are all navigating it the best we can. Nobody owes you their time, even if you have a huge following on your Instagram. If you want someone to join you on your IG live, ask them politely. You don’t know what the person may be going through, so be gentle.

Start talking to people as soon as your LIVE starts

There may be polarising views on this one, but I think not everyone has the time to catch a LIVE session real-time. Lots of people happen to check it out later, as and when they find the time. While in real-time, it takes a few minutes for your audience to build, it’s always nice to start talking (just general chit chat) so that the people who are watching later don’t have to see you staring idly or looking elsewhere for the first 5 minutes.

Always keep your phone steady

Don’t try and attempt a live while holding your phone in your hand. Your hand will invariably get tired and the whole shaky experience is not fun for viewers. You’d rather prop it up nicely on a desk so that your hands are free.

Don’t interrupt your guests to say hello to people in between

This is my biggest pet peeve about LIVES — people are more interested in the comments and who’s joining in rather than the actual conversation with the guest. Sure, acknowledge people at the start of the live but don’t do that abruptly during the live, especially when your guest is answering a question.

Take ONLY relevant questions on IG Live

It is ridiculous and rude (to your audience and guest) if you keep fixating on random comments. Invite relevant questions but let people know when they should send them in. As a host, you need to act like a moderator. Only take questions that will add value to your conversation.

Keep it short(ish)

Instagram cuts you off at one hour (you can start a new live after this) but irrespective, if you really want an engaged audience then you need to keep it fast-paced. It doesn’t make sense to drone on and it can get boring very fast for viewers who are technically spoiled for choice in terms of online content right now. Around 45 minutes is a good time for a LIVE with a conversation format.

There is something very intimate about an Instagram Live

You are inviting people into your home (heck, into your bedroom even). It allows for very real conversations. Use this to your advantage. It’s great to build your personal brand story through unscripted moments like these. Don’t worry about those who didn’t join your IG LIVE. Truth is, at the end of it you will have an inner circle. A bunch of followers who will feel more connected to you than ever before.

Technical Tips:

1. Sit near the router. You never know when your Internet starts acting up.

2. If your network connection just refuses to comply, try going off your Wi-Fi and use your phone Internet. If that doesn’t work either, just reschedule the LIVE. It is not possible to conduct an IG live when the frame is freezing every few seconds.

3. Always keep earphones near you when you are about to go live, as a backup. One can almost never predict if the sound will be all right.

4. Know that IG only lets the host save the IG live and not the person who joined it.

5. As soon as the live ends, IG prompts you if you’d like to share it on your story. ALWAYS choose that option because if not, your live will be lost forever.

6. Instagram keeps the IG live on your story for only 24 hours. If you want to save the IG live for good but your phone doesn’t give you the option, use external apps like In Grabber or Screen Recorder.

7. If you have the LIVE saved, you can adapt the same content and use it as IGTV/YouTube videos later.

8. It’s best to place the phone such that there is a neat background behind you. Even better if you manage to sit at an aesthetic spot since visual engagement is key in a live.

9. Make sure to periodically check comments so that you know if you are visible/audible. Your audience will promptly inform you in case they are having trouble seeing or hearing you.

10. You can type out the topic of your live and pin it as a comment so people who are joining later know what it’s all about.

11. Best to keep your phone on DND mode during your IG live so that you are not inundated with calls or messages while your live is on.

All images: Courtesy author and Getty 

Smriti Notani

Writer, blogger, and podcaster, Notani dons many hats. She spends all her waking hours tracking pop culture trends and unearthing memes, all the while being dedicated to feeding her alter ego ‘Real Girl’.