Going Live with the Library

This is a guest post from Grace, Head of Communications at the House of Commons Library. Check out the Library’s own blog, Second Reading. To see what Committees are doing with Facebook Live, check out the Scottish Affairs Committee's Q&A with their Chair.

Last month the Commons Library did our first ever Facebook Live Q&A – answering people’s questions about how Brexit will affect the economy.

Now, I am not an economist. And despite reading a lot of Library briefings I’m not a Brexit expert either. Luckily my job was to ask the questions, and my colleague Daniel – an economist - was there to answer them.

Why Facebook Live?

One of the best things about my job is working with the Commons Library specialists. It’s their job to write about what’s happening in the world without any political slant, so that MPs of all parties (and anyone else who is interested) can get the facts about pretty much any issue they care about.

This means I can pick up the phone and ask an expert when there’s something happening that I don’t understand. This is an enormous luxury when I’m trying to make sense of the huge amount of (often very polarised) information out there.

Sharing this luxury with our Facebook followers in a live Q&A seemed like a brilliant idea, as it meant they could question the experts too.

But what to talk about?

It’s not hard to find commentary about Brexit, but getting the facts can be trickier. Dan had written a really clear overview of how Brexit could affect the economy for our Key Issues 2017, which seemed a great place to start.

How did we plan it?

Once Dan had agreed to take part we needed to plan

  • the logistics
  • the tech
  • how we would promote it
  • what we would actually talk about

Iana, social media manager for committees, and Lina, the Library’s comms and marketing manager, took charge. We all met a couple of days before to do a test run, making sure the tech worked and practising in front of the camera.

We’re used to writing impartially in the Library, and Dan is a pro at giving a balanced view on contentious issues. I was worried about being asked overwhelmingly pro-leave or pro-remain questions, and if that would make it tough for Dan to present a balanced view in his answers.

So we spent time thinking of potential tricky questions and how we’d answer them.

The promotion

We tweeted from @commonslibrary to let people know it was coming up, and used the House of Commons and UK Parliament Facebook and Twitter to promote it too.

We made a short video for Twitter to help us promote it, and Facebook notified all our followers when we went live which helped boost our views.

Going live

We used an iPhone, a lapel microphone, a tripod and an app called Switcher Studio. The app has a free download option, which syncs with any chosen Facebook account and allows you to create more engaging live content.  The app meant we could show our logo, titles and charts during relevant points of the broadcast. The app also supports a multiple camera feature and can sync up to 4 additional iPhones or iPads, bringing dynamic viewpoints to the video. We didn’t use multi-camera this time but we will look to experiment with it in the future.

Iana looked after the filming while Lina and Laura monitored the questions coming in and sent them to me via slack. So all I had to do was read the questions, and all Dan had to do was answer them. Once we’d started it felt just like Dan and I were talking to one another and we both relaxed into it. I really enjoyed asking the questions and learning from Dan.

And what did Dan think?

"When Grace first approached me with the idea of taking part in a Facebook Live event, my first instinct was, ‘hmmm, a live Q&A streamed to anyone in the world who wants to view it - what could possibly go wrong?!’

The more I thought about it though, the more appealing it became. Not only would the event (hopefully) be of interest to our Facebook followers but it would also be a good way to sharpen my skills at explaining sometimes-complex economic arguments surrounding Brexit.

The team provided fantastic advice and support, giving me a great idea of what to expect, so when we went live I felt ready and prepared. I really enjoyed answering all the questions we received and the time just flew by. The whole experience was a lot of fun and an excellent way of engaging with the public."

How many people watched?

400 people watched live, the vid has been watched 5k times on the House of Commons Facebook page since.

We answered 9 questions in just under 20 minutes, so hopefully people found it as informative as I did!

What's next?

We've since done another Q&A on North Korea and the nuclear threat too - watch it here.

We’re planning to do more live Q&As, so tweet us @commonslibrary to let us know if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover and we’ll see what we can do. And for more in depth Brexit briefing go to

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