Lanaiya Lithe is no stranger to the online space. An actor, model, and dance instructor specialising in Caribbean and pole dancing, she already had a strong YouTube presence before COVID-19 turned the event space upside down. But, although she was used to being in front of a webcam, livestreaming was a brand new concept.
In fact, it was Lithe’s friends that encouraged her to start up her weekly event: Stamina Sunday. At first, she was reluctant, but realised her hesitance was a result of nerves. As someone who’s passionate about championing confidence and encouraging people to face their fears, she knew this was the perfect opportunity to practice what she preaches.
Stamina Sundays are “my way of helping my queens look and feel great,” Lithe says. “It’s about abolishing fears and insecurities [and] psyching ourselves up mentally to be the best versions of ourselves.”
After getting great reviews from her first session, she decided to do it all over again. And again. Now, Lithe has been holding live dance sessions for 16 weeks and counting. We sat down with her (virtually, of course) to discuss the things she’s learned on her journey from complete beginner to bonafide livestream queen.
Choose your platform wisely
There are lots of livestreaming tools out there, and it can take a few rounds of trial and error before you find the perfect one. Lithe already had an audience on YouTube, so that seemed like the best platform to start with. But after a few weeks of running her classes via YouTube’s streaming tools, she realised it wasn’t for her.
It “felt as if I was just talking to a blank wall because I couldn’t see anyone,” she explains. Plus, attendees could only respond by physically typing in a chat box – a little difficult when you’re busy twerking your way through a workout.
Lithe wanted to make her classes more immersive, so she switched to Zoom. “You have the option where people can see each other. I can see you, you can see me, we really feel like we’re together,” she highlights.
Top tip: Research the features and benefits of each platform before making a final decision. The interaction of Zoom is ideal for online classes, while YouTube’s distraction-free nature is suited for lecture-type scenarios.
Always do a test run
If there was one thing Lithe wished she’d known before livestreaming, it would be how to deal with the technological side of things. “It probably would have saved me a lot of stress,” she admits.
Technology is always full of surprises, and it may not work the way you expect. After running through an entire routine and wondering why her class wasn’t reacting in the way she’d hoped, she realised they couldn’t hear her tunes. It was difficult to play music in the background and talk at the same time, she says, because “the technology struggles to pick up which sound to focus on.”
Luckily, there was a solution: using two sources of sound. By connecting wireless headphones to her phone, the audience could hear Lithe’s voice perfectly. She then played the music via her laptop so they could hear the music crystal clear too.
Top tip: Before going in front of a live audience, work out any glitches during a practice stream for your friends and family.
Invest in your event space
Even if you’re streaming from your living room, you still want to maintain a professional appearance – especially if people are paying to attend your event. As an experienced vlogger, Lithe already had decent equipment, but she still had to invest in a few small things like Bluetooth earpieces. She also added a blackout layer to the curtains in her front room to mute the bright sunlight.
One piece of equipment she suggests people buy is studio lights. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but they’re vital for ensuring consistent lighting, no matter the time of day or year. Case in point: “Being in England, the weather’s lovely at the moment, but if it suddenly turns grey outside, you can still have your lights on and it will seem like it’s a normal sunny day.”
A laptop with a webcam, rather than streaming direct from a smartphone, is also a good way to go. It makes it easier to see your attendees – if you’re using Zoom, for example, a computer can show up to 49 thumbnails per page compared with four on the mobile app. A laptop works just fine for Lithe, but she notes that some people prefer to use their TV for an even bigger screen.
One more thing Lithe wishes she could have done is spend some money branding her space: “I use a whiteboard and my own makeshift branding which works, but had I known [four months ago], it would have been really professional.”
Top tip: Spend a little bit of money to create a professional look and feel.
Have a pre-event routine
Instead of checking things over a few minutes before her livestream, Lithe prefers to block off a few hours to get in the right headspace. She starts by running through her plan for the day’s session. Afterwards, she’ll grab a bite to eat to settle her stomach, and then have a shower.
“I will always try and make an effort, even though I am just going to my front room,” she says. That means her outfits are selected in advance, and time is spent on things like make-up.
Next, Lithe listens to her playlist while preparing her space by moving furniture around. She opens the windows and turns on the fan, and plays her music loud and proud. “I guess I’m preparing myself for the party vibe,” she says.
She finishes with even more practice, and switches on the stream around 10 minutes before the official start time to allow people plenty of time to join. These extra few minutes also give her a chance to answer questions and fix any tech issues that her attendees are experiencing.
Top tip: Develop your own pre-stream ritual to get in the right headspace and help your event run smoothly.
Use Eventbrite to get the word out
One of the most surprising things for Lithe was the fact that she was able to reach a global audience through Eventbrite. “When you’re teaching classes face to face, it’s only going to go as far as people are willing to commute,” she says. Now, she has attendees dialling in from the likes of Australia and Mexico.
She calls Eventbrite “a lifesaver” when it comes to selling tickets. She has used several of the ticketing options on offer, including both free and paid tickets and donations. The ability to integrate Eventbrite with Lithe’s website has also proven to be beneficial as visitors to her site can book tickets without leaving the page.
Plus, Lithe has been able to automate some of the more time-consuming events processes. “The bigger you grow, the more you have to do,” she comments. Now, instead of scheduling individual thank you emails, she can send an email to every attendee with the click of a button.
Top tip: Use Eventbrite’s apps and tools to manage every aspect of your event, from initial ticket sales to post-event emails.