I recently wrote a column where I explain why virtual summits are the ultimate marketing tool. While virtual summits are great, if you’re looking for an effective way to not only engage but also convert potential customers into paying customers, live streaming is the way to go.

Live streamed online events are more effective than hybrid web-based events which rely on live and pre-recorded content. One of the best examples of this is breaking news. Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ recent 11-hour filibuster, where she spoke out against a proposed abortion bill, had viewers glued to their screens. The event was streamed live on YouTube and initially had 157,000 viewers. This eventually rose to an impressive 183,000 people connected and watching in real-time.

It’s not just the news industry which has caught on to the potential of live events as a tool to engage customers. Other notable examples include events such as the Glastonbury Festival, which was live streamed by the BBC this year. The event attracted 1.5 million viewers. Similarly, the US Music and Arts festival Bonnaroo was live streamed to over 11 million fans.

Live streaming has likewise been used in education to make the learning process more effective. At Cornell University, for example, the Kaltura platform was used to live stream the blooming of a rare rainforest plant to an impressive 550,000 viewers.

What makes live streaming so effective, however, isn’t just the fact that it engages and gives viewers access to content they ordinarily wouldn’t have access to. Live streamed events, if executed correctly, naturally lead to viral buzz online.

The results speak for themselves. BBC’s Glastonbury live stream was so successful that it generated the most TV-related tweets for the period that it aired, according to research by SecondSync. Another notable example is that of this year’s Super Bowl live stream, which resulted in a 44% increase in viewership and 52.5 million comments on various social media channels. Live streams can also be picked up by mainstream media.

Though live streams can promote a brand, convert potential leads and engage customers, they require planning and forethought. Before launching your event, here are some guidelines for you to keep in mind to make sure your live stream is on the right track:

1. Ensure it’s ‘live stream worthy’

Live streaming fulfills a basic human need to witness significant events as they happen. These events are what scholars have described as the “High Holidays of Mass Communication.” Unlike ordinary events, these are significant occasions that, like a holiday, would disrupt the normal flow of things. When choosing what to live stream, keep this in mind.

2. Make an event out of it

The best live streamed events are those that go on for a few days. This not only gives viewers something substantial to follow but is likely to have a more significant ripple effect on both social media and traditional media outlets. The longer the event the better, but if you can’t stretch it out over days it should at least be several hours long.

3. Get viewers involved

Viewers don’t want to feel that they’re being lectured to. Wherever possible, it’s best to turn a passive content consumption experience into something which is more active and encourages viewers to take part. In the case of regular live events such as a weekly tutorial or podcast, it might be more effective to offer a weekly question and answer session instead. This is likely to keep viewers more engaged as it gives them the opportunity to actively participate. Another option is to supplement the content of the live stream with live tweets and Facebook posts.

4. Make sure it runs smoothly

Since a live streamed event only allows participants to take part virtually it’s essential you invest the time needed to find the perfect streaming platform. Pick a platform which offers a reliable experience without any technical or buffering issues. There are also free platforms, like Google Hangouts, for smaller scale live events. When it comes to encouraging interaction, there are a range of tools which can be used including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and OVEE.