Friday, February 15, 2019

Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day

As you continue streaming, you will notice that there are more problems to be addressed than you have time to solve at any given moment. The next time you go live, some of these problems might still be unsolved, because you keep forgetting to address them in your off time. Don’t leave solving these things up to chance!

This was a crucial point for me when starting my Twitch channel- at first I tried to remember major issues noticed while streaming and fix them after the show. The problem was, usually by the time my stream ended and the dust had settled I’d forgotten everything I wanted to change. Plus, I started noticing that my best ideas wouldn’t only come during a stream either- I’d have major breakthroughs at all hours, in the most unlikely situations.

I started keeping a checklist on my phone, adding every single thought to it, no matter how small. I made it a point to fix as many issues as could, whenever I could, but not to overdo it. The idea was not to get to every issue right away, but to have a definitive list of the problems I was facing. When I was able to look at the exact things causing me strife in my streams, rather than having a nebulous cloud of worries hanging over my head, it became a lot less stressful to solve them.

Be like Chuck Greene, always ready to modify what you
have in order to keep things interesting.


Now I can’t identify the specific things that are troubling your Twitch streams- how could I? Your channel is bound to be completely different from mine, and all your tech, games, hosting style, content and chat come with their own unique kinds of snags. But I can tell you about the kinds of problems I’ve addressed during the lifetime of my channel so far, and how I went about solving them:


Sometimes there is a problem on your stream that doesn’t require a lot of thinking, just a solution. These can be things like fixing a typo in your description, installing a patch to update the game you’re playing, or correcting the video window of a game on your stream if it’s cut off. Objective problems like these are the easiest for your chat to notice and point out to you, and also the easiest to fix. You shouldn’t have a problem solving one of these immediately after your stream is over, provide that you remembered to write it down. Don’t let these kinds of problems linger, especially if someone in your chat has pointed them out to you. As a viewer, it's no fun to watch a Twitch streamer who would rather live with an obvious problem on their stream than accept your help.


Sometimes making changes to your stream can feel like
a puzzle, but the rewards are great.
These can be trickier, but are usually even more important to get solved quickly. A subjective fix is something that requires critical thinking on your part to solve. It can include optimizing the placement of your graphics, changing the wording in your chatbot messages, or choosing when or where to add music. The most important kind of subjective fix on stream is optimizing your vocal audio mix- there’s nothing more important than having your own voice able to to be heard on stream. That’s not to say you need the most high quality gear, but having your voice loud enough compared to the game volume so that people can hear you even over the most action-packed moments is crucial. This takes some time to fix, as you’ll need to experiment with different sound levels, listening to recordings of your vocal mix over the game while it’s quiet as well as in battle sequences. The problem with subjective fixes is that people in chat usually won’t be able to point them out to you, because whether they need to be "solved" at all is up to your specific personal preferences. This means that unless you’re periodically watching your own streams and keeping track of subjective fixes you want to make, you could go hundreds of streams without ever noticing they was an issue. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I've been in that situation a few times. Don’t let it happen to you- write down the subjective issues you notice about your stream even if you don’t have a fix in mind. You may think of a solution later.


Sometimes problems don’t lend themselves to a quick fix, and require you to change your habits to make a solution actually work. These could include remembering to introduce your show in a certain way, being more active in your Discord community, or acting more welcoming to new followers. You won’t be able to consider these habit forming fixes “complete” until you’ve continually done them for several days or weeks and can trust yourself to keep doing them in the future. But having them show up as ‘incomplete’ every time you look at your checklist is a great way to remind you to keep that habit going.


A large-scale fix is something that will require a complete overhaul in some aspect of your channel. These are the problems that most people have the hardest time solving, because they either don’t know where to start, or are afraid to disrupt what they already have. Don’t shy away from writing things like this on your list. Even if they’re huge and seemingly insurmountable tasks. Later you can break a large goal into several smaller tasks of the previous three categories. The important thing is that you put these bigger problems down in black and white, and accept that they are, in fact, problems.

Examples of large-scale fixes include overhauling your stream layout, changing your channel's name (and all your branding with it), changing the types of games you play, implementing a new rule that changes how people act in your chat, or rethinking your hosting style. The moment you're too afraid to pivot major aspects of your channel is the moment you start stagnating, and lose major opportunities for growth. Step out of your comfort zone- always be ready to mix things up when you think it will improve your stream!


I used to keep a checklist of the areas I needed to go back
to in Castlevania, once I got the right items. Maybe I just
like checklists. But they work!
After making a list like this, keep an eye on which tasks go unsolved for the longest. Think to yourself why that is. Is it too much work? Are you worried about how people will receive the change? Are you scared you'll mess it up? On tasks that cause mental blocks, take everything in baby steps. Make small, reversible changes first and try to judge if it's helping your channel. Sometimes it's as simple as seeing the change in effect- a new logo Photoshopped into a screenshot of your Twitch page for example, or describing your channel in a new way during one of your shows with lower viewership, just to see how it feels. Sometimes that preview is all it takes to convince you the change needs to go into effect on the full scale. If not, you can usually roll back any changes you made to your channel. You never know until you try!

The only thing that can't be rolled back are purchases, which is why I strongly advise against them most of the time. (For more info about this, read my entry about starting your Twitch channel with no money.) If you are making a purchase to solve a problem, think through how that item will create ripples in your channel- what avenues it will open to you, but more importantly what avenues it will CLOSE. For example, I use a wired lavalier microphone which clips to my shirt collar. It gets good directional sound without breaking the bank, but it limits me pretty strictly to my chair. I can't get up and dance for example, or even move around much without snagging it. Yes I didn't move around much on my streams beforehand, but you'd better believe that I put thought into whether I'd ever NEED to move around on stream before I sunk the cost.

I'd suggest putting checklist items about purchases you want to make on another, less actively used list. You'd be surprised how many pieces of technology I thought I needed before applying some creative thinking and realizing I didn't need them at all!


What’s interesting is that I’ve still never whittled my checklist down to zero items- if anything, it has gotten bigger every day since I started cultivating it. That’s not to say that I haven’t solved all the original problems that I wrote down months ago, but I’ve continued creating more problems as the stream has gotten more complex, plus I notice ones I had passed over before, and that’s a good thing. I've become more adept at actually identifying issues of all sizes, and I've been able to get more granular with the solutions. I can polish my stream to a level I hadn’t thought possible before, only because I'm facing its problems head-on. If you think the goal to aspire to is being able to stream without ever having problems, you are mistaken. And if you’re at that point now, it simply means you are streaming without noticing all the things holding you back.

If you fix one thing about your streams every day, the results are extraordinary. The question is: are you willing to identify the problems?

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