Thursday, September 19, 2019

Your Channel is Not a One Stop Shop




When attempting to grow your Twitch channel, it's easy to follow false leads. You want to please the people who watch your streams and attract as many new viewers as possible, so you make content that you think will appeal to the widest audience. If you play a variety of games, this might mean chasing every new release. If you stream one popular game, you may shoot for the type of show you've already seen work on other channels. Or you may aim to stream every conceivable genre of game, hoping to cover every base for every kind of viewer. I call this the 'One Stop Shop Approach' - you're trying to make your channel the only one your viewers ever need to watch on Twitch.

Here's the problem: no matter how much you do, your channel will never be a one stop shop. 

A minuscule percentage of your viewers, if anyone, will watch you and only you when they visit Twitch. That's simply a fact. Most viewers will watch a variety of streamers, and they don't want you to cover a subject they can already see someone else covering if you're not passionate about it. You should only do what you do best, and let others do what they do best. Not only will your viewers prefer this, but you'll be much happier for it.


➢ FAIR FIGHTS ARE OVERRATED


Your Twitch channel may become this big over time,
but don't try to start this way.
To use a recognizable equivalent, many Twitch streamers attempt to make their channels similar to Target- a place someone can to go find a large range of content for every demographic. In one visit to Target, a shopper could conceivably get everything they need, without ever having to visit another store. But if you were trying to open your own store in real life, you'd never even dream of opening a single, small shop meant to directly compete with the Target in the area. You'd never have enough money, staff or variety of products to hold a candle to them. You'd be quickly driven out of business. Instead, you want to stand out.

Have you ever been to a truly great local mom and pop store? A place that caters to a very specific need, offering a wide selection of products in their niche field, probably sporting a unique ambiance, maybe even holding community events with hands-on interaction. It could be an art supply store that offers night classes, a fabric shop with prints you can't find anywhere else, or a liquor store whose staff you can trust to help you find the perfect craft beer for any occasion. No matter how many different types of products Target offers, they would never be able to replicate the experience of visiting a really good one of these shops. Twitch is the same way: no matter your size, if you can do something nobody else is doing, you immediately become a commodity. The best way to compete in any field is not to defeat your competition- it's to work within a specific enough niche that you make all competition irrelevant.


➢ THE MOM AND POP TWITCH CHANNEL


If you want to grow, try aiming to become a 'Mom and Pop Twitch Channel' like your local art supply store, rather than a 'Big Box Twitch Channel' like Target. The more specific you can get with the experience you offer, the less relevant all other competition gets, because nobody else is able to do what you do. You can grow later, but trying to start big only leads to problems. Even the largest businesses in the world started in ultra-specific fields. Take Amazon for example- right now it's the ultimate one-stop shop if ever there was one. But many of you may not know that when Amazon launched in 1994, it only sold books and nothing else. It was a full four years before they branched out to other products in 1998. More of you are likely aware that at its launch, Facebook was exclusively available to university students- it was three whole years before they let anyone else sign up. Both of these companies knew it was best to become the biggest fish in a small pond of their choosing before attempting to branch out.

You're this size right now. Do one thing really well.
In the past entry Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself on Stream, I spoke about bringing the things you love doing personally into the forefront on your channel, and doubling down on those. If there's something you're truly knowledgeable about, or have a fiery passion for, it won't matter how big another channel is. You might be completely unique in the way you see the world or approach your streams. If you can establish yourself as an authority on a certain subject among viewers, no matter how small that subject is, people will want to come to your shows just to see your viewpoints.

Are you a person who talks in-depth about Tolkien lore? When a new LOTR or fantasy game comes out, your viewers will be looking forward to specifically seeing your perspective on that game. This is much more valuable than simply attracting viewers by playing a new release- in this scenario you're attracting people who are actually interested in you personally, not just the game. It doesn't have to be a new game either. Maybe you're known for doing no-hit challenge runs. Now, when you start playing the original Xbox version of Ninja Gaiden, fans of your channel have a reason to get excited, other than the simple nostalgia of seeing a game they used to like- they want to see how your type of show holds up against the game itself. Even if you play one of the most popular games in the world like Fortnite or Overwatch, you can still differentiate yourself from the crowd greatly by having something unique about your persona, your stream format, or your gameplay style.  Embracing as small a niche as possible will pay great dividends going forward.


➢ ENCOURAGING WORD OF MOUTH 


I'm going to ask you a question and I want you to answer as honestly as possible: If someone were telling their friend about your Twitch channel, what single feature would they describe?

If people have a reason to tell their friends about
you, that's a good sign.
Get rid of the general answers like 'I play new games,' 'my skill level' or 'my community' - every channel has these things. Find out what aspect of your shows comes to peoples' minds when they think of you. 'My 80's movie knowledge.' 'My creative OBS layouts.' 'My funny hats.' It doesn't matter how small this thing is, as long as you'd be proud to have your channel be known for that trait. If so, then double and triple down on that thing. Make it a huge part of your shows, until everyone knows you as the streamer who can fully recite every John Landis film, or always has a new crazy raid alert video, or does awesome cosplay based on the video games they show on stream. Being 'known for' something is much more important than simply being noticed. Anyone can attract new followers by playing a new game on launch day, but this won't encourage almost any of those new people to come back for the next new game. Having a clear and relatable hook will.

It's not about whether the thing you love doing has been done before either. No matter how many other streamers love solving daily crossword puzzles while queueing in Fortnite, You'll be much more differentiated by embracing that identity on your shows than simply trying to blend in with all the other Fortnite streamers. And after you've established yourself as 'the person who does crosswords with viewers while playing Fortnite,' people may join the shows just to be a part of that.

As I mentioned in the entry If You Can't Describe Your Channel, Who Can?, finding something unique about your channel doesn't mean simply inventing a gimmick. It has to be something authentic about you or the way you do your streams. If you don't have anything like that yet, don't worry- just keep streaming and things will naturally reveal themselves. Nobody truly knows their specialty when they first start their channel, and even when you find one it may change and evolve over time. But if you can identify even one thing to really differentiate you, you'll be better off than all the other streamers out there trying to be like everyone else.


➢ AIM TO BE ONE OF A KIND


As far as my channel is concerned, I genuinely believe there is no one else on Twitch making the same kind of content that I make. That's not to say my streams are better than others, but simply that they are totally unique. All my favorite streamers are the same way- there is nobody else out there who can do the same kind of show. This makes all our channels like puzzle pieces, letting viewers watch each person's stream when they're in the mood for that kind of show, rather than all of us trying to build our own entire puzzles from scratch. By embracing the fact that your channel can never be a 'one stop shop,' you too will be able to truly stand out from the crowd.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Perfecting Your Stream Prep




Everyone's streams are different, but we all have to deal with the process of setting up our shows just before going live. This might mean adjusting cameras or lights, installing game patches, relocating a console to our streaming area, adjusting audio sliders, or any of a million other little tasks which slowly chip away at our time and motivation. If your stream prep takes even five minutes longer than it should, that time adds up more than you might think. After your 100th stream, you would have wasted more than 8 combined hours, just on that five minute activity! I want to teach you to standardize your setup and minimize variables. This will make it so that there is as little time as possible between when you decide to stream and when you actually press that 'Go Live' button.


➢ FIND YOUR BASELINE


How long does it take you to set up your show? Time yourself, from the moment you decide you want to stream on a given day, to the moment you go live. Don't rush because you want to make 'good time' and don't leave out steps because they 'don't count'. For bonus points, measure this span of time across multiple stream preparations to get a more accurate figure. It doesn't matter how big the number you write down actually is, as long as it's truthful. We just need to understand what it's like for you now, before we can start improving your future shows.

Get your stream done, then get to the next stream faster.
Many of the steps you'll hear in this entry might sound inconvenient, like you'll have to spend valuable extra time improving your show's startup prep rather than actually doing your streams. It's true: stream improvements like this are going to theoretically take time away from your ability to do a longer stream on a given day. But so does every activity you could do in life. The key is understanding when it's appropriate to take the time for improvements rather than normal streaming. There are two considerations to make before jumping into these kinds of future-proofing changes:

  1. Did you already stream today? Make sure you only work on these kinds of improvements after you've already done your stream. Being live on the internet is always priority one after all, and you don't want these improvements to become an excuse for not showing up.
  2. Have you already done ten official streams on your channel? Unless you've been streaming for a while, you won't know which aspects of your setup time need improvement, and you should be focusing on honing your on-camera craft rather future-proofing. For more info about this, see the entry Surviving Your First Ten Streams.


➢ THE STATIONARY STREAMING SETUP


The ideal setup for streaming is completely stationary: a scenario in which you could simply sit down, press a button, and be live on the internet. This is far from reality for most however, because before the show starts there are things that need to get physically moved or changed every time they go live. This might mean a camera that needs to be positioned, a set of lights that need to be adjusted, or a green screen to be laid out. Each of these takes time to complete, and when you put them all together, they sap much more than your time.

When nothing is nailed down, things get out of
hand pretty fast.
See if there are any large-scale physical things you're able to regulate. Does your camera need to move every time you stream, or is there some way you could keep it in the same spot without ever moving it between shows? Can you keep your game console in your streaming area? Can you leave your green screen in place? What in your setup needs to be adjusted each time you want to go live? Can you think of a way to keep that thing stationary around the clock?

Physical changes like this might require rippling alterations to your streaming area as well. For my streams, I relocated my desk, the lamps and all the wall art in my room so I could make my stream lighting live in the optimal spot, and hook it up to the main light switch. Now when I enter the room, I simply press the light switch on the wall and every single light needed for my stream is already positioned and turned on. No adjustments, no digging on the floor or behind lamps for switches, no forgetting to turn on one of the lights before the show starts. It's all ready to go every time, and completely infallible. Imagine how much time and headache I've saved from that single change alone over the past 1,500 streams.


➢ REFINING THE INTANGIBLE


Be like a mechanic on your streams.
Virtual things should ideally be just as unchanging and regimented: volume levels, video window positioning, or capture card settings can all be controlled if you get creative. For my streams, I go through a huge amount of different games, which means juggling a crazy amount of volume levels to account for each one. Every time I'd start a new game, there were new factors to consider. Is the dialogue too quiet? Are the sound effects drowning out my voice? Since most PS4 games are natively quieter than PC games, how do I match their levels? I needed a way to solve all these problems without having to change a million settings every time I went live, or I would have been buried in busywork rather than actually streaming every day. Eventually I built three master OBS layouts: one for an average game volume level, one for uncharacteristically loud games, and one for games that are quiet even at 100% volume. This now allows me to simply 'go live' without ever touching an audio slider in OBS before or during my shows. See if there are any similar changes you can make on your channel, whether for audio, video or other settings, which will remove hassle from your day-to-day prep.

Sometimes improving your streams actually requires downgrading your streams. Is your camera a huge time-sink because you're borrowing it from your brother every time you go live? Is your Xbox One supposed to live in the family room, and you have to dig behind the TV to unplug its cables before each show? Does your green screen put up a fight every time you want to put it up, but there's no way to keep it up throughout the day? In other words, is there a single step that, by itself, takes 80% of your stream setup time? Then consider cutting that feature from your stream entirely. Yes, it'll lower the production value of your show, but if it allows you to stream more consistently then you'll be gaining much more than you lose. There is such a thing as growing too fast. It's the main reason new startup companies fail, and it's the main reason most Twitch streamers get burned out without even realizing what went wrong.


➢ MORE TIME FOR WHAT MATTERS


The biggest killers for streamers aren't huge losses or major mistakes- they're completely invisible enemies, things that creep up without the streamer even noticing, until one day they're ready to give up streaming altogether. Believe it or not, the stuff you're doing to prepare your stream right before going live could be quietly poisoning the well. By having a mountain of variable tasks, requiring you to get down on the floor, move things between rooms, unplug cables, or adjust settings, which all might take drastically different amounts of time or encourage mistakes in your execution, you'll start to subconsciously resent the activity of streaming altogether. It might not happen tomorrow, or a month from now, or even in a year, but if you keep a sloppy and undefined prep regimen, this stream fatigue will eventually creep up and you won't even know why.

When you make your stream setup process as stationary as possible, you won't be expending a bunch of mental energy to prepare your shows. Your setup time will be drastically shorter, and you'll be able to make significantly fewer mistakes. None of us will attain that mythical stream setup which needs absolutely no preparation before going live, but if you can adjust your stream to be as close to that ideal as possible, a huge weight will be lifted from your shoulders. When you perfect your stream preparations, you'll gain much more than time- you'll help your future self stay motivated for many more streams to come.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Don't Apologize for Your Streams, Just Improve




Let's play some Twitch Mad Libs. Fill in the words as they apply to you, if you've ever started a stream like this:

"Hey guys, sorry I missed yesterday's stream but (noun) needed me to (verb) at (time) and I was too (status effect) to stream. (Future date) I'm going to be better though, and every (span of time) going forward I'll be streaming at (hour). You can count on it!"

We've all followed this script before in some way or another, and it's understandable. It feels bad to break your promises and let people down, after all- you want them to understand why you weren't around so they aren't upset with you. But conducting streams like this is very problematic- not only is it unprofessional, it snowballs into missing more shows in the future. Wean yourself off this habit as soon as possible. Don't apologize when you miss your streams, or even bother acknowledging that you did so. Just do better next time, and silently excel as you move forward.

This is a very important step for a content creator. When you stop apologizing and promising, you drop all the baggage of your failures, and are able to move forward confidently with your plans. It also means you are truly taking responsibility for your actions. You stop depending on the sympathy of others to fuel your excuses, and learn to rely only on your own perseverance and work ethic. In short, you simply become a better streamer.


➢ YOU DON'T ANSWER TO ANYONE


On Twitch, there's no boss to give excuses to.
It's natural that most of us would want to seek forgiveness for missing content releases. This habit has been conditioned into us for our entire lives, after all. Through all our years in school and work, we've come to learn that it's usually okay to miss a day as long as you can come up with a sufficient excuse. If you tell your teacher why you were gone, they might let you retake that day's test and save your grade. If you can sound sick enough on the phone, your boss will probably let you take the day off, sometimes even with pay. Throughout childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood, we've learned that we're supposed to explain ourselves when we mess something up, so our superior understands why it went wrong.

On Twitch, there is no one above you to answer to. There is only you. You're not an employee on your Twitch channel, you're the business owner. Someone who is responsible for their entire business doesn't make excuses when they miss a day, they work twice as hard the next day to make up for it. If you didn't stream, it doesn't matter how valid or understandable your excuse is- at the end of the day, you didn't stream. You can only move forward, so just focus on not missing streams in the future.


➢ FINDING THE RIGHT SCHEDULE


Schedules are a killer for new streamers. Deviating from a schedule is the main reason that streamers end up needing to apologize in the first place. The way most streamers plan out their channels is as follows: the streamer thinks about what they'd like their content to look like, then they announce a streaming schedule and do their best to stick to it. I think this is a totally backwards mindset.

You should prove what schedule you're capable of executing first, and then announce it.

On Twitch, like in Monster Hunter, preparation
is key.
It's important to understand the practical realities of working on whatever schedule you're shooting for, before you commit to it. If you decide to only play horror games on Wednesdays, it might look good on paper, but in practice it could make you miserable to not be able to play your favorite genre six days out of the week. Maybe your new showtime is too close to when you get home from work, and you often can't make it in time to start your stream. Maybe your streams now intersect with when your significant other likes to eat dinner or when your favorite TV show airs. Plus, just because it looks like you have a free three hours this week from 7-10pm doesn't mean you will next week. Make sure you're executing first, living that schedule for at least a week or two, and only then promising when and what your content releases will be.

As a freelancer, my work schedule is very irregular, and on a given day I might be flying somewhere, working at an office in the morning, from home at night, or in a hotel room in the wee hours. If I promised that I'd be live on Twitch every night at 8pm, or at any concrete time with the life schedule I keep, I'd never be able to deliver consistently. For weeks and months, I created multiple shows every day to try and see which showtime worked best for me. And after all this, I decided on an unorthodox idea. I would do three shorter streams per day, but never promise a specific showtime. This means I can now fit streaming in whenever I'm available, and still make a whole lot of content. I lose some viewership from not being live at the same time every day, but I gain rock-solid consistency and peace of mind in knowing that I can deliver on my promises. I've done roughly 1,500 individual streams so far since going Affiliate last year, and I've never missed a single show. I was only able to come to this conclusion by heavy experimentation however- not just announcing a schedule I wish I could keep and then hoping I wouldn't break it. There's an ideal stream schedule out there for you too, but it won't simply come to you- you'll have to go looking for it.


➢ THE STREAMER'S DOWNFALL


When a content creator seeks validation for their failures by apologizing, they are hurting much more than their level of professionalism. This path leads to a dark payoff. Apologizing for missing streams can cause you to give up streaming.

Don't let it feel good to miss your streams.
In the entry Build Your Twitch Channel Like You're a Secret Agent, I spoke of how telling people about your plans trips the same chemical response in your brain as actually executing on those plans. The same is true for apologizing when you miss streams. By doing this, you're seeking a way to still feel good when you fail to deliver. "This is great!" you might say. Nobody is mad that you missed your show, they're even encouraging you! Now you don't associate missing your streams with negative emotions. So the next week comes and you miss two streams, but that's fine because no one is mad- you 'got away with it'. And from here you slowly start missing more and more of your shows until you've slipped too far and aren't doing it at all anymore.

I've seen it happen to plenty of channels before. Heck, it's happened to me before- I used to always announce a schedule for my content, and then start half my shows by apologizing for having missed the previous one. Those channels didn't work out. Don't forget, in the first Twitch Playbook entry I mentioned I had been on Twitch for a year, but I've been doing livestreaming for the past six years. That's five years of other personal channels on various platforms where I made every mistake in this book before anyone had ever even heard of me, and most of my previous efforts fizzled out because of a need to constantly apologize for missed content.


➢ UNDER-PROMISE, OVER-DELIVER


So just do your streams without announcing anything, and keep track privately whether you're able to stick to the schedule you want. Once you're able to prove over a week or two that your stream schedule works, then you can announce long term plans. This will ensure you're able to actually keep your promises and not have to constantly apologize. Don't be someone who announces new things every week and then breaks those plans the next. Build trust with your community, and with yourself. If you want to be a better and more consistent streamer, don't apologize for your content. If you keep silently improving, you'll be just fine.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Growth Check-In: Boosting Your Streams




If you've been following The Twitch Playbook for a while, you've likely made some modifications to your streams based on what you've heard here. In this entry we'll carve out the time to really reflect on your channel, and decide which of your channel's features are actual priorities. Whether you're trying to build your streaming fundamentals, optimize your usage of data tracking, or make tough calls about previous decisions you've made, it's always important to look back on your progress.

By being able to do this, you won't just improve your channel, you'll also become more adept at standing up to yourself. Many times we come up with ideas, and then won't pay attention to the warning signs that those ideas aren't working. If you're able to challenge your own assumptions about what works on your channel, you'll unlock a whole new level of accelerated growth.


➢ BACK TO BASICS


Think back to when you did your first ten official streams. What was your channel like back then? Did you feel confident speaking on camera? Did you have a hard time going live at every scheduled showtime? What did your streams look like, compared to how they look now?

The basics are always key.
On these criteria alone, have you improved? You'll notice that these three previous questions have nothing to do with follower numbers, view count, people in chat, or anything external. These are solely meant for measuring your own personal growth as a Twitch streamer. If you haven't improved in these three key fields, there's only one thing that can help: experience. The more time you spend on camera, the more confident you'll be. The more streams you're able to do consistently, the better you'll be at not missing shows in the future. By doing more streams and watching the results from multiple broadcasts, you'll start coming up with more ideas for visual improvements.

You now have two options: stream at the same frequency and wait longer, or stream more often and improve faster. There's nothing wrong with choosing the first option, but you will need to double down on your ability to be patient. You can't stream infrequently but expect the results of someone who is live 5 hours per day. It just doesn't work that way, and it wouldn't be fair if it did. If you instead choose to increase the amount of time you stream, the entries How to Find the Time to Stream on Twitch and How to Free Up Time for Twitch should have given you a roadmap for making the most of your day. If you've expanded to other social media platforms to support your channel but want to increase your stream output, make sure to also see the entry Twitch is the Only Social Channel You Need- you may want to cut back and focus on fundamentals first.


➢ SEEING THROUGH THE CODE


If you've been improving in these three fields, and you want to track more empirical data about your streams, check out your channel's analytics tab. Twitch has several very useful data tracking metrics built into their platform, which can assess just about every statistic you could ask for. From overviews of individual streams to months or years of channel growth, there's a lot to take in here.

See through all the data.
Before we dive into the rabbit hole of raw data, it's important to note that too much of a good thing can end up hurting you more than helping. I try to limit my usage of stat screens like this, and I take their data with a grain of salt. There are always a few unforeseen and un-trackable outside factors which can affect and skew the charts, so you should use this tool as a guide rather than a blueprint.

When going through numbers, it's best to focus on single stats that are most important to you. If you're looking to specialize your channel and focus in on one game, the field 'Which Categories Do My Viewers Like To Watch?' can help you make an informed decision. You can also go to the bar graph and track 'New Followers', which will show you which streams attracted new followers during the shows. Someone trying to optimize their streams can see 'Average Chatters' and 'Average Chat Messages' to track engagement, 'Time Streamed' to see their personal growth,  'Average Viewers' to see which streams people like to watch, and so on.

There are many stats you can use for community building as well. In the entry Three Easy Tips to Network on Twitch, I talked about the importance of building relationships with other channels on Twitch. The stat 'Where Did My Views Come From?' is excellent for making sure you can show support to the channels that have been supporting you. The same goes for the stat 'Which Channels Have Viewers In Common With Mine?' This one will help you identify whose communities have the most crossover with yours, and can help you make decisions about who you might want to do multiplayer streams or other joint projects with. On the bar graph, you can see 'Host/Raid Viewers' for each stream you've done, which allows you to know what percentage of your viewers came from someone else's support.


➢ CHALLENGING YOUR ASSUMPTIONS


Many times we will come up with an idea to improve our channels, we'll work out all the problems in our head before implementing it, we'll think of dozens of reasons why it should work, and we work out all the logistics of how it will fit into our schedules. Then we implement it, and... that's it. The problem is, when you're streaming on Twitch, there isn't really any oversight or outside party to hold you accountable for changes you make. So this change you enacted might have been a great one, or it might have been a dud, but you won't truly know until you do what most people aren't willing to do: go back and prove whether or not it's been working.

Constantly challenge yourself and your assumptions.
The nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman said it best. "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself- and you are the easiest person to fool."

Make sure to always challenge your assumptions. Even the things that seem like no-brainers should not be above reproach. What about the ones you've been doing forever, which have become a part of your channel's identity? Inspect those too. Be willing to make tough decisions, if it means making your streams better.

In the previous entry Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day, I talked about keeping a list of items you want to change on your channel, and breaking them down into categories to solve them more easily. Make sure you're writing down what you want to fix about your channel, or at least what you want to reassess in the future. You'd be surprised- putting something down in writing can be very powerful. When it comes time to make changes, don't try to fix ten things at once, just work on one of your checklist items. By bending all your will toward solving one specific problem, you will come up with solutions.

When we're able to identify problems and solve them efficiently, we're standing up to ourselves in a way most content creators are afraid to do. For most, the scariest enemy is admitting to ourselves that we were wrong in some way. But if you want to grow, this is a battle you'll have to fight. And if you're regularly looking backwards, you're already better equipped than most to face these challenges head-on.


➢ NEVER STOP LEARNING


It's very important to add things to your channel, make changes, and remove things that don't work, but it's just as important to regularly take the time to judge whether or not those additions, changes, or removals are delivering the effects you intended. Don't forget to take the time to reassess your decisions at regular intervals. Otherwise, who is going to hold you accountable? Whether your changes had a positive or negative impact on your channel, looking backwards will teach you valuable lessons about what works. So make sure to check in on your channel's growth every once in a while, in order to really boost your streams!

Friday, August 23, 2019

How to Easily Free Up Time for Twitch




You can't stream on Twitch if you have no free hours in the day. This point is pretty cut and dry, and is one of the biggest roadblocks in the way of would-be streamers who claim they simply can't dive into their passion right now. Luckily, in the earlier entry titled 'How to Find the Time to Stream on Twitch', I helped you to scale this deadly hurdle. In this entry we gazed into the future, to realize that we'll never 'have time' for anything new, establishing that if we don't start on our passions now, we'll spend the next fifty years putting off our dreams until they wither away. Clearly, if you haven't pulled the trigger on streaming yet, you'd better do whatever it takes to get started.

Despite this existentialist pep talk, some of you may still have a hard time carving out the hours from what looks like a busy schedule. So in this entry I will help you to very specifically identify what is sapping time and energy from your day. I personally have either cut down or completely cut out every single thing mentioned in this article. It wasn't easy, but after breaking free from these bad habits, you couldn't pay me to go back.

Whether you can't find any time to begin streaming at all, or you simply want to discover more time to work on the streams you've already been building, I can help you. The caveat is, you need to be willing to truly listen. Most people are only interested in building a skill until the point where it requires some kind of sacrifice, so before we start you'll need to ask yourself: "Am I willing to fully commit to my passion?"


➢ DIGGING OUT OF A PRODUCTIVITY HOLE


There's a popular story that has circulated around forever, which I'm going to paraphrase and simplify here. If you've heard this one already, just bear with me.

Sand. So much sand.
A professor takes out an empty jar and shows his class. He pours a bunch of rocks into the jar and asks the class if the jar is full. They agree that, yes, it is full. He then starts pouring sand into the jar on top of the rocks, and the sand slides through the cracks between the rocks and starts filling all the empty space. How is it possible that the sand could fill an already-full jar? He tells the students that the rocks represent all the most important things in our lives, like family, friends, school, work, etc. But the sand represents everything unimportant that we do in the fringes of our lives: social media, television, and aimless internet browsing. If you fill your jar with sand first, you won't have space for any rocks, so you should always focus on what's important before all else.

I know, I know. Nice story, but how does it affect your Twitch streams? Here's the thing: when we want to start making time for Twitch we aren't filling an empty jar, like choosing stats on a character sheet at the beginning of an RPG. We start with a jar that's already been filled, because we've been living our entire lives up to this point. And because it's so easy to lose track of what's important, most of our jars have a solid base of sand at the bottom, underneath all the rocks. This means there could be room to add a rock or two for Twitch streaming, but first you have to start digging.


➢ REMOVE JUST ONE THING FIRST


The initial step in this process is to cut one single time-wasting thing from your life. It's likely you regularly use at least one social media platform and end up losing yourself scrolling through all the status updates and pictures. Maybe you subscribe to a video streaming service and constantly embark on series binges or rewatch the same movies over and over again. Maybe you're prone to aimless internet wanderings, browsing your favorite list of websites for headlines to catch your interest.

It's overwhelming if you never take a step
back and reassess.
You'd be surprised how many minutes or hours your various technological vices take up each day when combined. Even if you can track the amount of time you spend using an app, this doesn't take into account the mental energy wasted because of the app. Getting into a Twitter argument can ruin your day long after you've closed your phone to wait for your opponent's reply, and constantly being enthralled to email or instant messages will wrench you from a state of concentration, to which you may have a hard time returning.

The following is a list of items that I have completely removed from my life, or otherwise cut back by 90%. Pick one of the following items (assuming you use it regularly), and remove it COMPLETELY from yours:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • YouTube
  • TV
  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Internet Browsing
  • Instant Messaging
  • Checking Email at Home
If you can remove just one of these things from your days, you'll get a taste of what it's like to live just a little bit cleaner. I guarantee that after a month of being more clear-headed, you'll wonder why you ever engaged with that platform in the first place. I mentioned that some of these I didn't completely cut out, but I didn't start that way and I recommend you don't either. Instead, start with a complete removal. Log out of your Facebook and never log back in, delete the Twitter app from your phone, or cancel your Hulu subscription. Otherwise, you'll likely relapse.

It's critically important that you not announce that you're doing this. Don't write some long tirade about how toxic the platform has been or why you're leaving, just drop off the face of the earth. The people you care about will still be able to contact you without it. If you don't write a long goodbye post, you won't be tempted to check for replies afterward, or have others potentially drag you back in. Just quit and never give it another thought. Don't lose sight of your objective, after all: you want to carve out enough time to live your dream. Yes it's difficult to cut one of these platforms out of your life, but if the alternative is causing yourself to never reach your goals, this is a sacrifice worth making a thousand times over.


➢ THE SNOWBALL EFFECT


I feel like a totally improved person now that
I've cut so much fat from my day.
When I did this, I couldn't believe the results. Aside from checking Facebook in the morning, I figured I mostly checked it while bored at work. How would removing a habit I normally engage with at the office help me have more free time when I'm home? Remember the jar full of rocks and sand we talked about earlier? Once I cut Facebook out of my life, the contents of my jar started shifting. After digging out all the blue Facebook sand, other sand took its place, freeing up room at the top for the Twitch rock that I wanted to nestle into my schedule. Instead of Facebook, I'd check Instagram or Twitter at the office, and since I had now gotten most of my social media fill during the workday, there was much more time after work to spend doing whatever I wanted. A few key decisions like this allowed me to free up more time for Twitch than I ever thought possible.

If you truly commit to one of these decisions, I'm sure you'll notice the same freedom forming in your previously busy schedule as well. If you're like me, you'll wonder just how deep the rabbit hole goes. You might excise another, and then another bad habit from your life until you have more free time than you know what to do with. As you might imagine by my reading past entries, I chose to put this massive stack of newly freed hours into growing my Twitch channel. There's no reason you couldn't gain just as much time as I did, or even surpass me in your quest for digitally clean living. There's plenty of free time in your day already, you just need to redirect it toward something you actually care about.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Power of Positive Streaming




There are all kinds of streams out there, but whatever your channel's identity, there will always be a top-level trait that permeates everything: how you conduct yourself toward others.

For my streams, cultivating an atmosphere of positivity is extremely important. No matter what's happening in my game or in the chat, I try to make it always known that the stream itself is a welcoming place. I think this makes followers feel more at home on the channel, and newcomers are struck by this often. You might think that your streams are too far in another direction to support a tone like this, but I personally think that anyone's streams, no matter their basic theme, would benefit from a blanket of positivity draped overhead.


➢ A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION


Radiating good vibes from the first moment someone joins a stream is important to me, and for this I set up on-stream actions that allow the whole community to join in. I have a whole network of commands for various greetings, responses and gameplay reactions that chatters can use to make people feel welcome.

This guy outside Megaton knows how to give a
good welcome.
When someone joins a stream, everyone currently in the chat is encouraged to send them a greeting command, which pays out with a "hello" message and a random assortment of emotes from a list I've cultivated. The only thing I personally do is announce excitedly that the new person has joined, and ask the chat to send the command. Everything else is up to the community, who can then each send their own greeting to the newcomer. This creates a flood of positive messages for the new person joining, and many people who have never been on my channel before have remarked how much they appreciate the warm welcome. It's very important to me that people feel they are noticed on my channel, and this kind of greeting from the whole chat is a great way to make sure that everyone is acquainted with each other.

It doesn't stop there though- there are commands to wish someone well upon leaving a stream, a command to give someone a randomized 'good night' message if they're going to bed, and commands for people to express their love, sadness or excitement for things that happen in the game and the chat. There are also ways for viewers to 'high five' each other for their achievements, or hug each other in greeting or support, and for both of these I've written dozens and dozens of different possible custom results so that each person's interaction is different.

All of this helps to further enhance the sense of togetherness between followers, while adding my channel's own personality at the same time. It creates a recurring theme for returning viewers, because everyone knows that these moments of interaction will appear, and can be on the lookout for them. It's a chance to be a part of the group and join in the fun, and it creates a whole new level of interaction aside from normal chat conversation. There's almost a separate language when watching my channel, and chatters very much enjoy taking part in the rituals and activities that come with this. Because people enjoy receiving the messages, and it's always fun to send them, this creates a forward momentum of positivity for future interactions.


➢ BE NICE, YOU'RE ON CAMERA!


When you're playing a game, it's easy to get caught up in the intense moments. Whether it stems from a lost competitive match, defeat from a tough boss, or a botched puzzle, I've seen many streamers become enraged on their streams and fly off the handle toward chatters, teammates on voice chat, or even other people in the room with them. I know it's difficult to stay cool when everything is going wrong and you just can't catch a break- we've all had our moments like this. But while it's okay (and even entertaining) to get mad at your game, you should never take your anger out on other people.

Don't forget, you're on camera.
Aside from just generally being a bad thing to do, acting mean toward others while streaming will cause members of your chat to lose interest in your stream, or sometimes give up on your channel altogether. In many cases, you won't know this has happened- they won't likely announce anything, they will simply stop watching. Acting cruelly toward others, even in a fit of rage, shows people your true colors, and viewers won't easily forget things like this. I've personally left plenty of streams when the caster suddenly started lashing out at everyone in a fury- it's just no fun to be around.

You need to understand your priorities on stream in this case. Sometimes our frustration with a game can make us see red, but this is only part of the problem- the bigger issue for many inexperienced streamers is an anxiety about people tuning out because of their poor performance in a game. This is a short-sighted viewpoint. The people who truly care about your shows won't leave because you're losing. Only the fairweather viewers will take off in these moments, but they wouldn't likely have stuck around anyway. Try to keep a cool head and remember that, whether you're winning or losing, people are watching your show to see you, not the game. They'll be entertained whether you win or lose, so enjoy the ride no matter where the roller coaster takes you.


➢ DIPLOMACY FIRST


It bothers me when Twitch streamers give their 'hot takes' on some subject in an angry, alienating way that's likely to demean, belittle, or discourage other opinions. I've left streams for this reason before as well, when it's clear the person is going to spend the next ten minutes railing on some movie, game or other subject that I happen to love. I'm not saying you shouldn't express your true thoughts for fear that others might disagree. But you should pay attention to how you're expressing those thoughts.

Let's say the new Star Wars movie just came out and a chatter asks whether you've seen it. If you seriously hated the movie, you might say something like this:

"Ugh, I hated this new Star Wars movie. It made no sense, it completely ruined the canon, and I can't believe anyone with an IQ higher than a child actually enjoyed it. All the critics who gave it high scores must have been paid off."

This is certainly honest, and some people may appreciate your candor. But even if I despised the new Star Wars movie more than life itself, I'd try to take a deep breath and say something more like this:

"I did see the new Star Wars movie! This one wasn't my favorite, but I'm interested to see where they take it from here. How about you, did you get a chance to check it out yet?"

Keep your rage in check.
This second one still expresses the fact that I didn't love the movie, but in a much more diplomatic way. It also takes into account the fact that this person is likely asking whether I saw the movie because they also just saw it, and therefore has a 50% chance of having enjoyed it. I'm not violently attacking the thing they wanted to talk about, but instead establishing my perspective while inviting actual discussion.

You may say that hot takes invite people to chat, but you'll notice I have nothing against hot takes themselves, only the way some people express them. No one wants to watch someone completely hate on their favorite subject, and will likely tune out when you start doing it. If they don't, and they start arguing in chat, consider the quality of discussion you've just invited. Inflammatory remarks are like junk food- even when they get results in the moment, they're bad for you in the long run. Maybe one vocal chatter got up to bat and argued, but 3 silent lurking viewers have been offended and stopped watching because they couldn't put up with your bickering and negativity. Do your best to keep things in perspective.


➢ KEEP OTHERS IN MIND


I personally think any community is better off with a healthy dose of positivity. At the end of the day, you just need to remember that these are real people you're dealing with. Try to act like you would in public- you wouldn't want to make someone feel unwelcome when they meet you, nor would you want to be openly mean, or consciously try to kill the mood at parties by going on angry rants. Then why would you do these things on your stream? Your actions always build toward a conclusion- constantly being negative will only encourage more negative people to stick around and more positive people to leave. But radiating positivity will cause the trolls and bad vibes to drop away, making your channel a much more pleasant place to be. By always keeping others in mind when conducting your shows, you'll soon understand the power of positive streaming!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Just Keep Streaming




You may have been streaming for a while now, and might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, why haven't I made it on Twitch yet?" After all, another streamer you know might be growing faster, maybe you've been losing followers, maybe your shows just aren't as professional as you want them to be. Should you call it quits? You've been making as many changes as you could think of to improve your channel, and nothing seems to be working. What else could you possibly try?

The answer is simple: take a page from Pixar's Finding Nemo and 'just keep streaming'.

No matter what happens, no matter how many people have unfollowed, no matter how big of a hill you still have to climb, don't give up. Nobody has ever accomplished anything by doing nothing, and you're only going to get better if you keep putting in the effort. Every day you'll gain valuable experience, making the things that are difficult now become second nature later, eventually freeing up your mind to tackle even tougher challenges going forward. You just have to keep streaming.


➢ LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING


You may be lamenting the fact that you have no talent for streaming. You are awkward on camera, your chat gets out of hand often (if you have a chat at all), and there are always technical problems during your shows. Another streamer, who started their channel around the same time you did, seems so much more put together. Their stream is everything yours isn't. How are they so much more naturally talented than you are?

You never know what's lurking under the surface
of another streamer's success.
It's very likely that they aren't. Do you know how many hours they stream per day, how many days they've done it in the last year and how many breaks from streaming they've taken along the way? How about the time they've labored over their channel behind the scenes, the sweat poured into perfecting their tech, or the personal pleasures they sacrificed to get to where they are? There's no way for you to know all of this, and there's no point trying to figure it out either.

There's an easy solution to cut through all this confusion: Assume that anyone with a better stream is simply putting in more hours than you are. As a content creator, there's only one thing about your channel that actually matters: the content. If you can carve out more on-camera or behind-the-scenes hours to get better faster, then go for it! If not, that's fine too, but you'll have to accept the fact that you won't improve as quickly. Nobody deserves to have their cake and eat it too- you either put in the time, or you don't get results.

Trying to measure ourselves against our neighbors is a natural human reaction, but it's ultimately a lose-lose scenario. You either end up proving they put in more work (which you should have assumed anyway), or you prove that they're more talented. But even if you could truly, unequivocally prove that someone was more talented than you are, how would that help? It would only give you a better excuse to feel sorry for yourself and quit. Don't bother. Keep making content, and only measure the quality of your streams against the quality of YOUR previous streams- no one else's. If you are continually getting better, that's all that matters.


➢ MORE FOLLOWERS, MORE PROBLEMS


Most new Twitch streamers measure success by their follower counts. This is useful when you're trying to reach your first 50 fans so you can claim Affiliate status, but after that there really isn't any benchmark to shoot for. Even still, because new streamers have been conditioned to strive for a higher follower count already, they will continue coveting this meaningless number, even to the detriment of their channel and community.

In SimCity, the larger your city gets, the more
problems it causes.
Often, an inexperienced streamer will notice a few people unfollowing in a row and assume it's because of something they did. They will then enact wild, kneejerk changes in order to 'correct' this issue, adjusting which games they play, the days they go live, or the way they cultivate their communities. Changes of this kind usually result in a streamer doing shows that they are less happy with, because they are now making streams only to appease their fickle follower number, not ones they actually enjoy. This road of turning streaming into a chore leads to burnout, and eventually, giving up on streaming altogether.

If you validate yourself by your follower count, beware: The higher your total follower count, the more followers you will lose each day. 

There's no way to calculate exactly how many followers your channel will lose, but on my own channel I've noticed that on average I lose roughly 1% of my total follower count EVERY WEEK. Of course, my channel puts out an insane amount of content and I gain significantly more followers than I lose, but the amount of people jumping ship at these higher scales is still shocking. When I had 10 followers I may not have lost anyone, or if I did it was very seldom. But soon, when I reached 250 followers I was losing 2-3 people each week, at 500 I was losing 5, and at 1,000 I was losing 10. That's 40 followers GONE every month. Wherever you are in your Twitch journey, consider how long it's taken you to gain your last 40 followers. Losing that many people in a mere 30 days is a scary prospect!

If you're starting out, you may not notice the consistency of dropoff. But as you grow you WILL see that followers leave, no matter what you do. You can't prevent this, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the quality of your channel. It's just a normal aspect of Twitch streaming. Try to keep in mind the difference between your followers and your follow count. For our purposes, think of 'followers' as people who watch and engage with your shows often- dedicated fans who care about your content and your own personal happiness. Your 'follow count' is a lifeless, soulless number that could be comprised of bots, people who joined only to win a giveaway contest, or by accident- you'd have no way of knowing where most of them came from. Unless you're seeing an actual decline in your dedicated followers' happiness on your streams, don't make drastic changes just because the anonymous number has gone down on a given week.


➢ WHEN TO BE FLEXIBLE


Stick to your guns.
"Okay," you might be saying. "So you're telling me I should keep streaming no matter what. It sounds like a good plan in theory. But what if my average stream length is 3 hours and I only have 90 minutes of free time before I have to start getting ready for a night out? In that scenario, there's simply nothing to be done. I'd have to miss my scheduled stream because there just isn't enough time today. Right?"

This is a very common thought process among new streamers, but ultimately it's just another excuse. You should be flexible about WHEN and HOW you stream, but never about WHETHER you stream. There's nothing more destructive to a growing streamer than finding excuses to miss their scheduled days.

If you're trying to grow your channel, if you're trying to gain on-camera experience, if you're trying to create a habit, all of these things can be disproportionately damaged by missing even a single day for arbitrary reasons like your streaming schedule. When you know you'll only have 90 minutes to stream, then stream for 90 minutes. If you get home after a late night and missed your showtime, go live afterwards. If you know you'll have personal plans all day the next day, stream twice the night before. There's no stream length too short, no time too late or early, no scheduling excuse that should ever prevent you from streaming. All you should care about is not letting your habit lapse. Anyone can stream when it's easy for them- it's how you face a challenge that defines you.


➢ BET ON YOURSELF


When you're streaming day in and day out without much noticeable change, it's hard to see the eventual payoff. This is because you're living in the moment, and aren't able to see the bigger picture. How can you tell whether you're likely to eventually make it, or if your streaming career is taking off at all? Since you can't see into the future, you'll just have to have faith. Do you want to be a streamer? Do you love doing it? If you were in Vegas, would you bet on your own eventual success on Twitch? If the answer to all three of these questions was, "yes," then act like it. It'll take longer than you think, and it'll take more work than you think, but as long as you keep applying yourself every single day, you will get to where you want to be. Just keep streaming, and you'll be fine.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Make the Most of Your Streaming Setup




Whatever equipment you may acquire for streaming, there comes a time when you need to stop purchasing new things and instead optimize what you have. And whether you stream from a top-notch studio, a no-frills laptop, or a home console's built in Twitch app, the things that matter about your stream itself stay exactly the same. In this entry, I'm going to help you to make the most of your streaming setup, no matter the scope of your tech.


➢ WORKING WITHIN LIMITS


Not these kinds of limits...
In order to begin, we need to make sure your head is in the right place. Many streamers will assume that once they've acquired a new piece of hardware or software, their stream has mostly plateaued, and it won't improve in any real way until another major purchase has been made. This is, in my opinion, the worst mindset you could have about streaming, and you'll never do any real problem solving with this attitude. Always think in terms of what you have, rather than what you don't have.

You may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of factors facing you, and not really know how to attack any given problem. This is normal, and it happens to everyone at times. But you can easily solve any stream issue by using only the tools available to you if you think in terms of these three top-tier concepts: clarity, setup, and style.


➢ CLARITY


The most important factor of a Twitch stream is also the most deceptively simple. You want to make your stream, in all its aspects, as clearly understandable to the viewer as possible. Make sure the main subject of the stream, whether it be the game, your craft table, or your face, is large on screen and clearly visible. For more specific details on general visual clarity, see the entry Easy Ways to Make Your Stream More Watchable, but this doesn't just apply to visuals. It's also true when you want to communicate concepts to the viewer. Consider this example scenario:

Creating clarity will typically cost you nothing,
so make it a priority.
You're doing a challenge run in the new God of War game, trying to complete it on the hardest difficulty without ever upgrading your character. The problem is, people continuously join your show and wonder why you're having such a hard time with many of the bosses. New people keep asking why you don't just use a skill you would have gotten when your character upgraded early in the game. These people aren't aware of your stream's base concept, and in this scenario you need to more effectively communicate the details of your challenge run to viewers.

How would you solve this problem? Take a second before moving forward to come up with your own idea for a solution.

If it were me, I might place a graphic on-screen explaining the challenge run's rules, but I'd also create a chatbot command that people can call up to learn more, change the stream title to explain the run itself, and put a description of the run in the info panels at the bottom of my channel. Plus, word of mouth is always helpful: I'd make sure to explain the challenge run out loud more often on stream, and ask mods in chat to explain the run to newcomers.

There are countless ways to solve the same problem, and the point is not to know which of these was correct, but to ultimately communicate your stream's goal clearly, even if it means creating multiple options for different viewers. Some people only listen, and some watch without sound; some viewers read the title, others don't. There will never be one single type of communication that clearly conveys information to every type of viewer, so make sure you cover as many bases as you can.


➢ SETUP


Your stream setup will define many things about how your shows operate. I've spoken a lot already about both network and computer performance in the entry, Getting Your Stream Output Settings Just Right. But if you don't have stream from a PC or use a capture card, you may think your show can't get much better, that it's a console or phone stream's lot in life to look a certain way. Some of this is true- you can't implement many of the fancy graphical options or on-screen widgets that PC users have. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take these same concepts to heart, adapted to fit the scope of your tech. In fact, learning to think in terms of what you have rather than what you don't have is even MORE important for you, as you don't have many things to work with in the first place.

Even if you don't stream from a computer, you likely have a PC or laptop available somewhere, from which you can host chatbot software. If not, there are cloud-based chatbots out there as well. Load these up with commands and fun minigames for your community to play during streams. Get creative- invent a personality for your bot, come up with fun responses for it to give, and have it do unique things during your streams. If you stream from a console, the audio mix is tweakable as well- make sure to use the concepts laid out in the entry Optimize Your Stream Audio Without Buying a New Mic to get your vocal mix on point.

Always make sure your camera is optimally placed too- get it as close to you as possible to give a clear image of yourself without having to zoom in. You might even have to move the camera or phone from its usual perch to achieve this, but your viewers will thank you. Use everything around you to make your stream shine- oftentimes with these kinds of non-PC streams I will take some time before my show and stack books to place the camera, rearrange lamps to create better lighting, or scotch tape my microphone or charger cables to hide them behind various objects. There's no excuse for a bad looking stream, only a lack of creativity in the streamer.


➢ STYLE


STYLE!
An important aspect of anyone's stream is its style. This is what will differentiate you from the crowd, and it will be the most easily recognizable thing about your shows. There are lots of things you can implement to create interesting concepts on your streams, all available to anyone clever enough to utilize them.

Someone who streams from a computer can add different kinds of channel graphics, transitions, effects, and on-screen chat minigames. All of these things, if implemented correctly, can enhance your channel's persona. Less is typically more here, but a few well-chosen widgets and graphics can go a long way, so try all kinds and refine them down to a select few that you really like.

If you're streaming from a console, phone or other device that can't use effects or graphics, you aren't out of luck either. There are all sorts of things you can do to enhance your stream's sense of style, as long as you're thinking about what you have rather than what you don't have. Maybe you wear costumes, speak in different voices or read passages from a book during loading screens. Maybe you ask your chat to place bets on multiplayer matches or influence your in-game decisions in singleplayer games. Maybe you hold tournaments with your community, chat with them through the console's built-in chat software, or decorate the wall in your room behind you with the names of community members. Of course, someone streaming from a PC would do well to use these kinds of non-technical strategies as well, but these will be most important to someone who has no other tech options available.


➢ SEEK CREATIVE SOLUTIONS


Some of the ideas I've mentioned above, like stacking your camera on a bunch of books, might be stopgap solutions, but you'd be surprised how many PERMANENT fixtures I came up with purely by thinking in terms of what I had rather than what I didn't have. I became so good at placing household lamps to light my stream that I never had to buy anything better. Over 1,000 stream-hours in, I still only use a $20 Amazon Basics desk light and an IKEA standing lamp. I use a $15 external number pad on my PC to switch OBS scenes instead of a $100 Stream Deck, and it works perfectly. Plus, always announcing my show's intro verbally instead of commissioning a high-quality intro video has forced me to become significantly better at speaking on camera. In the end, it's not about saving money (though that's always a good thing), it's about always keeping your mind sharp.

There will always be new things to buy for your stream, if you allow yourself to keep coming up with excuses to buy them. Not only will this burn a hole in your pocket, it'll cause your overall problem solving skills to atrophy. If you truly believe in the back of your mind that your channel won't get much better until you buy that next wishlist item, you'll never come up with any really creative ideas for your stream's clarity, setup or style. So before you take out your credit card, make the most of the streaming setup you already have!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Surviving Your First Ten Streams




Let's say you're ready to do your first ever Twitch stream. You spent hours laboring over the graphical treatment, camera settings, microphone, and game volume levels. Now, feeling completely prepared, you finally press that Go Live button for the first time. And the stream is a disaster. Unforeseen technical problems crop up almost as soon as your show starts, and you wrestle with them throughout your broadcast. Watching back, you realize your audio sounded weird the whole time and nobody in chat told you. Plus, you look so self-conscious on-camera that it makes you want to cringe. What went wrong here?

Nothing.

You should expect your first several official streams to be terrible, no matter what you do or how much you prepare. This is normal. Learn from each cringe-worthy mistake, but don't let it affect your drive to keep pursuing your passion. No one is immune to having bad first streams. Even if you think your first stream went well, a year from now you'll find things about it to be embarrassed about. This is why I always advocate streaming before you think you're ready.

Just jump right into streaming.
Most people define being 'ready' to stream as having good looking tech, graphics, sound and camera layouts. But what actually matters in the beginning- really the only thing that matters about streaming at all- is your experience gained by being on-camera, and you can only get that by being super awkward for hours on end. You want to improve your ABILITY to stream, not necessarily the stream itself. Since bad streams are unavoidable in the beginning, you should get yours out of the way as quickly as possible.


➢ THE PLACEMENT STREAMS


When you want to play Competitive Matches in Overwatch, you first have to go through a series of placement matches to determine your rank. I've noticed that a very similar concept holds true in Twitch streaming as well.

You need to have made 10 complete streams before you're officially a streamer.

Thinking this way will allow you to become more experienced faster in the fields that actually count. If you force yourself to power through 10 cringey, disaster-riddled 'Placement Streams', it guarantees that you'll be better at a few key categories right out of the gate:

  1. TRACKING DATA: You'll have several days' experience, likely over multiple weeks. This means you'll be better at tracking trends, such as which days of the week, times of day, and categories work best for your chosen stream type. 
  2. CHAT INTERACTION: Since you'll be doing multiple broadcasts and not just one big one, this ensures that different kinds of chatters will come through your shows, ensuring that your experience talking to chatters isn't skewed by one fluke stream where all your friends show up or a big raid comes in. 
  3. SETUP/TECH SNAGS: Since you have to go live on 10 separate occasions, you'll notice which things in your pre-stream routine are more difficult or time consuming, and which one you regularly forget to do. This will help you to iron out potential problems for future streams more quickly.
  4. ON-CAMERA CONFIDENCE: When you spend a bunch of time trying to make everything perfect before your first stream, each little misstep feels like it's tarnishing your own self-worth. You'd be surprised how much more confident you can be when you're doing a stream that you know will have problems. And you WILL have problems, whether or not you take my advice. Now, when those problems arise, you won't be hung up on how stupid you were for allowing them appear.

Clear your placement streams before thinking
about anything else.
All of these traits will help you become a better streamer more quickly, but they'll also carry over to all your future streams. The ability to track trends, interact with more diverse chats, fix setup issues, and have confidence on-camera will only compound as you do more and more shows. But by taking your first ten streams off their pedestal, you will be free to quickly gain many skills that other streamers take much longer to acquire.


➢ THE PROGRESS BAR


When starting out streaming, there are so many factors to consider. Keeping track of what is or isn't working is extremely difficult to do, because everything is so new. On top of all that, there are dozens of little mistakes (and a few really big ones) you'll make in the beginning that will fill you with self-doubt, and make you wonder whether you're even cut out for streaming at all. But when you think of your first ten streams as Placement Streams, you won't fret about the issues in these first shows- you'll have a definitive goal to strive toward. You can even keep a tally of the streams you've done so far, filling up a video game-style 'progress bar' until you reach your goal.

It's the same as any 'kill 10 enemies' quest in
an RPG. Just get those streams done.
When trying stream types that I've never done before on my channel, I still use the Placement Streams concept to accept my mistakes even to this day. For one IRL stream, my directional mic had come unplugged at the beginning and stayed that way for 90 straight minutes, having gotten low-quality in-camera audio for the entirety of what I had thought was a much more professional broadcast. I was crestfallen, realizing live on stream that so much of my hard work had been wasted. But then I thought back to the fact that I hadn't done ten IRL streams yet, and thus didn't deserve to make a perfect stream- I simply didn't have the experience. Even for seasoned streaming veterans, the idea of Placement Streams can help you to continue expanding outside your comfort zone, and stay humble about each of your new endeavors.

Make sure you aren't actually calling your early shows 'Placement Streams' out loud on camera either, or titling your broadcast that way. This might change the way viewers chat during your show, creating interactions that aren't indicative of what you'll really get out in the field. In order for a stream to count as one of the ten streams in your progress bar, it has to be an authentic attempt at an 'official' one of your broadcasts.

Once your progress bar is full, take a look back at your past ten streams. Look at how much you've improved since the first show! Even in this relatively small amount of time, you will likely have made lots of discoveries, found tech optimizations, and learned new ways to interact with chat. Many of these things likely couldn't be caught beforehand, no matter how much prep time you had- they're lessons that could only have been gleaned through experience. Of course, you won't be the greatest streamer of all time after only 10 shows, but you'll have enough knowledge and experience to know what works, what needs improving, and what needs to be removed from your future broadcasts. This method will force you not to make kneejerk reactions, and allow things to fall into place naturally. Plus, if you ever want to try a new type of stream in the future, just remember the Placement Streams concept and you'll have a much easier time!


➢ EARN SUCCESS, DON'T EXPECT IT


In one of the earliest entries, Build Your Twitch Channel Like You're a Secret Agent, I advised you not to tell anyone about your Twitch channel when you're starting out. You may have been confused by this directive at the time, but this entry should have made the logic behind that suggestion even more clear.

Your first stream will be garbage, and the ensuing nine won't be much better. So don't bother telling anyone about your streams until you're confident and competent enough to actually put on a good show. Armed with the knowledge that you won't be perfect at first, you should be less surprised when everything goes wrong. Using the Placement Streams concept, and having a timeline for when improvement might appear, should help you to avoid the major dejection that causes most streamers to quit before they finish their first week. Malcolm Gladwell famously posited that true mastery of any subject can be attained after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are dedicated to its craft, but we can worry about mastery later. First, you just need to get in the game. And for Twitch, all that takes is 10 full livestreams. Your first ten streams WILL be bad, so you might as well make those bad streams now, in order to start making good ones as quickly as possible!