“Did you know your video is sideways?”

you, the columnist

A media expert I know suggested to me that columnists such as you and I ought to go on Facebook Live and read our work aloud.

How boring.

But that night, I went home, turned on blue lights in my backyard, and launched the “Sunday Night Blue Light Special.” I hit the Facebook Live button and started talking. Smiling. Joking. Cajoling.

I don’t read the column. I share the story behind the story, create a few funny props when I can, show pictures, and talk to the audience as friends.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

It’s the most fun I have all week.

If you have a smartphone, you can do this.

Here’s the routine:

Topic: Over the weekend, I decide what would be most fun to talk about. A column or an experience? What is helpful? What could lead to a positive call to action?

Promo: I announce the subject of that night’s video Sunday afternoon (around the time the big football game ends) on social media platforms. 8 pm Central Time.

Setup: Around 7 pm, I bring my “studio box” outside. I pull out the tools. An umbrella light I bought cheap on Amazon. A tripod that holds a smartphone. A Wi-Fi extender for a stronger signal.

There’s a microphone that connects to the phone. A few photos to show. A glass of water for dry mouth.

Thumbnail: I shoot some test video and use it to snip a thumbnail photo for later use. Otherwise, Facebook will pick a thumbnail and it won’t be good. Customize it.

Dress rehearsal: My first video of the night goes only on my camera roll. It’s about five minutes in length. Serves as a backup. (Later, I’ll also upload it to LinkedIn and IGTV, which is Instagram’s new “TV” channel.)

Full dress rehearsal: As soon as that one is done, I make a second video. This one is live on Twitter – about five minutes long.

Show time: At 8 pm precisely (I get complaints if I’m a minute late). I go live on my public Facebook profile page (facebook.com/dave.lieber/) and go for about seven minutes. After the previous two dress rehearsals, I’m more confident and relaxed.

Post: After the video ends, I post it on that Facebook page, where people can catch it in rerun. I also share the video’s URL (right-click) on other Facebook pages and groups I’m in. I upload the camera roll version to IGTV and LinkedIn. I repost again a few days later.

Everything goes back in the studio box.

It’s not the smoothest operation. I’m learning as I go.

Last Sunday, a friend asked, “Did you know your video is sideways?”


Thank goodness for the backup.

A few tips:

 – Open with something great so people don’t leave.

 – Develop one strong, main point, and make sure the headline reflects this.

 – Maintain good eye contact with the camera.

 – Use humor and props when appropriate.

 – Smile. Be happy. Enjoy yourself.

Reasons to do this:

– This Sunday-night routine instills discipline and serves as good practice for communication skills.

– It’s another way to build an audience.

– It serves a writer well to learn how to boil a good story down for video.

– A writer can show rather than tell the story behind the story.

– Feedback from the public is immediate.

– Some would rather watch you than read you.

– If your work is stuck behind a paywall, this is another way for fans to get access to your interests (which should be their interests, too).

Dave Lieber is The Watchdog investigative columnist for The Dallas Morning NewsDaveLieber.org @DaveLieber.
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