Presenting Online Programming
In response to COVID-19, more and more artists and creatives are exploring the idea of going digital. Looking ahead to September, we’re also encouraging Culture Days organizers who can do so to plan for the possibility of pivoting from in-person to online events. To read more about the other sorts of programming we are supporting this year, visit the Participation Guide
Let’s get digital, digital
Planning online programs can seem limiting to those used to hosting in-person events, but doing so can actually present fresh and exciting possibilities! As a Culture Days organizer, creating digital events or programs is a great way to keep your network engaged, allows you to grow your audience, and helps to remove barriers to access and participation. However, we know that making the jump to online can feel super overwhelming.
What exactly is a virtual event? How much value can it provide? How can I transfer an in-person experience online? What tools do I need to make it happen?
The good news? Many in-person events can be easily adjusted to function online! We’ll walk you through a few ideas of what this could look like below, and point you to some expert resources for more specific guidance.
As the summer unfolds we’ll be updating this resource with new information and digital programming inspo. If you’ve had experience pivoting to online and have thoughts to share with the network—pro-tips, challenges, etc.—let us know at email@example.com.
Adjusting programs to exist online
This year, Culture Days is supporting two main types of digital experiences: livestreams and recordings. Livestreams invite audiences to view your program in real time, on a specific date during the festival. Digital recordings can be put up and viewed at any time. Whichever you decide, here’s some tips, ideas, and considerations for each:
All about livestreams
Hosting a livestream is an excellent way to foster feelings of connection and creative expression, especially during times of physical distancing. Depending on the platform, there’s a number of functions you can use to directly interact with your audience. Best of all, you can easily turn your livestream into a recorded digital experience so people can continue to enjoy it even after the event. Here’s some examples of how some arts and culture organizations have shifted to livestream, and some useful tips:
Performance-based events like concerts, dance, or theatre can be broadcast with the audience tuning in live:
- The National Arts Centre is producing Canada Performs organizing online shows by Canadian performers that are hosted through Facebook Live.
- The Stratford Festival has gone fully digital, with roundtables and panels being streamed, in addition to the productions.
- The Scotia Festival in Halifax hosted nightly concerts for their two-week run, while also offering loads of extra bonus content.
- Buddies in Bad Times Theatre group hosts a weekly digital performance series on Instagram, Queer, Far, Wherever You Are, featuring burlesque, DJ sets, readings, and more.
- National Canadian Film Day has compiled a how-to on hosting an online watch party. This article from CBC outlines how to host a concert online.
Exhibitions can be experienced through live virtual tours with commentary:
See staff of Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre Art Gallery give a tour of their various exhibitions.
The Virtual Museum of Canada, organized by the Canadian Museum of History, is a listing of various online exhibitions throughout the country.
Workshops and Classes
Workshops and classes can be held as digital meetings, where audience members can participate through discussion, chat boxes, and polls:
- Inter/Access offers a number of different workshops presented through Zoom.
- The Making Box hosts live improv classes every Friday.
- Arts Etobicoke’s Arts in Isolation project features numerous live workshops: spoken word, crafting, studio visits, and more.
- Communique has some relevant advice on shifting conferences to the virtual world.
Remember, simply live streaming your event may not be the best way to engage with an online audience. You’ll want to think about how you can make sure the audience feels included, if they can interact with the stream, and how well your program can be adapted for online viewing in real time. If that’s not for you, don’t worry—there’s other options.
Recorded digital experiences
Take the pressure off—online doesn’t have to mean live streamed. While a live streamed event may help in building excitement and capturing the energy of having a live audience, there are other ways of presenting programs that do not require real-time coordination. You won’t be able to engage with the audience live, but you can still host conversations in comment sections and on social media. Here’s some fun ideas for recorded digital experiences:
- The Glenbow Museum has created Online Exhibitions that visitors can browse through at anytime.
- The Bata Shoe Museum has lots of online content, including virtual tours and a digital jigsaw puzzle.
- There’s plenty of examples of creating ‘how-to’s’, DIY craft workshops, and digital community art projects on the UK’s GetCreative festival site.
- Record a craft how-to and ask participants to post them online, tagging you or your organization.
- Get inspired by some of the major global museums who have put virtual tours up on their sites.
Platforms to use
If you decide to go live, here’s the breakdown of some popular platforms available to host your event:
Zoom is a software that was designed to facilitate conference calls, virtual meetings and webinars. This makes it a great platform to use for programs that require participation from the audience:
- Available on computer and mobile
- Two modes: Meeting (attendees participate) & Webinar (One or more presenters and attendees are only spectators)
- You can control the attendees involvement by turning off their video, muting and unmuting them, turning the chat on and off
- The chat can be used to do Q&As and conduct polls
- The presenter can share their computer screen with attendees (useful for workshops and webinars where you want to share images)
- Optional password to enter the livestream
- Pre-registration option allows you to control capacity
- You can record your live stream. A video file will be available for you to download
- Free version has a stream time limit of 40min (for unlimited time, the Pro version costs $14.99/month)
- Here’s their own guide for hosting an online event.
- Twitch is designed for live streaming and is free to use
- There’s no time limit
- Offers more ways to interact with the audience
- You can add fun extensions to prompt viewers with questions or comments
- You can include links to collect donations
- Definitely more of an intermediate platform—if you’re not already comfortable with digital, maybe pass on this one
Vimeo is often used for more professional videos and so its livestream platform accommodates higher production value. This is a good platform to use if you are willing to pay to have more control over the technical specs of your stream.
- Not free ($7/month)
- Livestream can be linked to and simultaneously broadcast on your Facebook and YouTube account
- Full control of the videos’ technical specs
- Customization options like including your organization’s logo in the corner of the stream
- Option to protect your stream with a password
- Many options for engaging the audience: Chat, Q&A, Polls
- Your stream can be archived for later viewing on your Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook accounts
- Vimeo videos will be embedded on your Culture Days event page
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Open Broadcaster Software is an open source software for video recording and live streaming.
- Free to use
- One of the most used livestreaming softwares available
- Can host livestream
- Ability to record live sessions—eliminates the need for an external recorder
- A lot of plugins that you can use to add custom functionality
- Many resources and tutorials available for first-time users
Social media platforms
You can host a livestream directly on different social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. These platforms facilitate more straightforward livestreams, where a single video is broadcast live to whomever tunes in to the stream. These are good options for programs that do require participation from the audience. Facebook Live and YouTube Live function in very similar ways and allow you to do the same things, while Instagram Live is slightly more limiting.
- Free to use
- Can host livestream
- 8 hour time limit on your livestream (4 hours if using Facebook on your mobile device)
- Available on computer and mobile
- Chat box that can be enabled and disabled by presenter
- The stream can be archived directly on your account and made available for later viewing
- YouTube videos will be embedded on your Culture Days event page
- Here is YouTube’s own guide to creating livestream events on their platform
- Free to use
- 1 hour time limit on your livestream
- Available on mobile only
- Limited chat box
- The stream can be archived on your account for later viewing
Hosting online events or recorded programming also presents new ways of thinking about accessibility. Closed captioning, for example, is an easy way to make your programs more accessible.
We recommend browsing Creative Users Project’s site for an array of resources and research on digital accessibility.
Here’s a quick guide on how to close captions to videos on YouTube and Facebook:
YouTube will automatically include generated Close Captions in the language of your video’s audio. However, you can also manually add subtitles to videos in any language you want:
- Sign in to your account on YouTube
- Click on your account circular icon in the top right corner of the screen
- Select YouTube Studio from the drop down menu
- In the left-hand side menu select ‘Subtitles’
- Find the video you want to add subtitles to in the list and click on it
- You should now see the list of subtitle tracks for this video. You will see the automatically generated track, which you can edit
- To add a new subtitle track, click on the ‘Add language’ button
- Use the drop-down menu to select to language of subtitles you would like to add to the video
- Click on the ‘Add’ button under the subtitles column
- Click on ‘Create new subtitles or CC’
- Use the text box to add subtitles that correspond to the current video playback you see on the right-hand side
- Press shift + spacebar to play and pause the video playback
- Type the line of subtitles that matches what has just been played (the video will pause as you type)
- Press enter to submit the line of subtitles
- Repeat until the entire video has been captioned
- Once you are happy with your subtitles, press the ‘Publish’ button in the top right corner of the page.
Facebook can also generate closed captions for you, but they will not be automatically added to your videos. Here is how to generate them:
- Go your Facebook account and select the video you would like to add subtitles to
- Click on the three dots in the top right corner of the video
- Select ‘Edit Post’ from the drop-down menu
- Click on the ‘Subtitles’ tab of the editing menu
- If you have a subtitles SRT file, you can upload it here for the captions to be added to the video. Alternatively, you can click on the ‘Generate’ button for Facebook to automatically add closed captions
- You can then edit each line of generated subtitles to make sure it matched your video exactly
- Once you are satisfied with the entire subtitle track, click on the ‘Save to Video’ button
Just like for in-person Culture Days events, you can put in place a Pay-What-You-May policy for your online programs, or solicit donations. This is a good way to collect funds to assist in compensating artists who are involved in your Culture Days celebrations.
- WeShowUp is a platform that facilitates PWYM models for online presentations by prompting attendees to donate if they are able to after the event has taken place. WeShowUp is compatible with major streaming platforms YouTube, Zoom and Vimeo. If you want to ask for contributions from the public but are not sure how to set up a voluntary donation system online, WeShowUp may be a great solution. You can include a link right in your event page.
- Facebook Donations - If you’re a nonprofit or charity, you can collect donations connected to your events, or as part of a campaign—100% of proceeds go straight to you.
- Kickstarter - This platform is all about goal setting—if your project doesn’t raise the stated goal amount, no money will change hands. But it does offer the option of creating tiered donation packages, which allows for some creativity in what you can provide to donors. They charge 5% of funds raised.
- If you present musical performances, whether as a venue, presenter or individual artist, SOCAN can be a great resource. They help make sure proper licensing is acquired and collect royalty fees on behalf of musical artists, making getting paid easier for creatives across the country!
- Of course, you can always ask viewers to donate to you directly! Just include the information in your description and include any relevant links.
Still unsure about whether or not online is for you? There’s other options—online presentations are not the only alternative to in-person events—there are other ways for people to participate in arts and culture in a safe and engaged way. Do-It-Yourself and self-guided initiatives are great ways for people to participate on their own time and in their own space.
For further inspiration, refer to our Programming Ideas page, where we have Online and Self-Guided categories of events.