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?


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.


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.


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!


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!

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