Friday, July 5, 2019

Up Your Showmanship on Stream

Responding to messages in chat and engaging with your viewers is very important on Twitch. Many streamers pride themselves on being available to answer questions and comments as quickly as possible, no matter what they're doing on their stream. In my opinion, much more important than the QUANTITY of chat messages you can address on stream though, is the QUALITY of interactions you can have with each person. For me, this breaks down to three important fields:

Don't just read a comment. Make that viewer feel heard.

Don't just respond to a question. Truly engage.

Don't let a question die with your answer. Build on it.

Practicing these three basic disciplines can help a good streamer to become great. You'll have more interesting conversations on stream, and make your viewers feel more appreciated in the process. It all comes down to the underappreciated art of showmanship.


Before you even think about responding to a comment, you should first be aware of how to take that comment. Many streamers will look over at their chat monitor, read a chat message silently to themselves, and then speak their answer. This creates a very one-sided conversation, because the comment itself isn't given voice or weight on the show- only the streamer's response to that comment is featured prominently. If you fall into this category, here are a few of my favorite techniques to make your conversations more two-sided:

Don't just read comments. Read them OUT LOUD.
Read the comment out loud. You don't have to do this blindly, you can scan it silently to yourself beforehand just so you know it isn't inappropriate (see the previous entry about Setting Limits For Your Streams for info about this) but giving voice to a comment on stream works wonders. It will help the commenter feel appreciated because you're truly giving their message its moment to appear on your show. Don't mumble the comment under your breath like you're scanning a legal contract either, make sure to emphasize the main points, get as excited it sounds like the viewer was when they wrote the message.

By doing this, you'll also create much more accessibility for others in the stream. If you respond to chat messages without reading the comment out loud, someone who is half-watching-half-listening to the show while they wash dishes likely wouldn't know what you're responding to. But if you read the comment and THEN respond to it, everyone is on the same page. The same goes for people watching the stream later in video form, or anyone on another platform if you're simulcasting to Twitch and YouTube. For me, always making my viewers feel truly heard by energetically reading their comments out loud is critically important. It's how I'd want to be treated if I was a viewer on my show.


Sometimes streamers, especially new ones, are very utilitarian about their answers to questions in chat. Do I like this game? Yes it's fun. What's my favorite game? It's Halo 3. What's my favorite color? Blue. If your 'engagements' with chat are similar to these, consider making a change.

Be able to open up with viewers.
You may say the question is to blame in many cases; "Do you like this game?" isn't giving you much to work with, after all. It implies a 'yes or no' answer. But you should always be capable of unfolding a question, reading between the lines or just plain transmuting it into a more interesting topic, in order to give more personalized answers. Learn to truly engage with comments.

When I take a question, I always try to add some unexpected piece of value to my answer. I add a simple unspoken phrase to every response I give: "Here's my answer. And here's a story about that." The following are a few examples of how I might respond to the previous questions using that framework:

Do I like this game? Yes I'm having a great time. When I was going in, here's what I expected. Here's how I was surprised. Here's an aspect I had a difficult time with.

What's my favorite game? It's Metal Gear Solid 4. Here's a story of how I went to the worldwide launch party in New York City as a teenager and waited for five hours for the director, Hideo Kojima, to sign my copy of the game, only for the line to get cut off right before it was my turn.

What's my favorite color? Green. Speaking of which, let's see if I can equip any green items in the game. What's everyone else's favorite color in chat? Let's make a character decorated with everyone's favorite hues!

These three examples should show how you can use even basic questions as a jumping off point to share opinions, personal anecdotes, or even completely change the conversation to something more interesting. When you're truly engaging with comments, you're not simply reading and answering the words put in front of you, but rather using those words to inspire even bigger discussions.


Being able to tell stories and entertain on your own is certainly important. and it will greatly heighten the level of showmanship on your streams. Just as important however, is being able to bring others into the conversation.

Build on comments and make them into
conversations for everyone!
In the example above about favorite colors, I asked the rest of the chat about their own favorite colors and invited everyone to join in, which then helped to customize an aspect of the game we were playing. This makes it not a one-sided conversation (by answering the question without reading it aloud) or even a two-sided conversation (by talking back and forth with one chatter on that subject) but a completely open conversation. You're building on what was originally a basic question, and getting everyone involved in the interactive process of answering it.

From the previous section, you could follow up your answer about whether you liked the game by asking others if they have it themselves or plan on getting it. What are their play styles? Who's their favorite character? Or if they don't have the game, what do they think of what they've seen so far? The same can be done with the conversation about your favorite game- asking others to share their favorite video games can start all sorts of larger discussions. Always remember that any question YOU can answer on stream could also be answered by others in chat, though they won't always chime in without provocation. Sometimes, people are just waiting for you to include them.


The major differentiating factor on a livestreaming platform like Twitch is the ability for someone watching at home to directly interact with the person on screen. You should always try to capitalize on this feature, and make everyone who chooses to speak up feel like they're measurably improving the show by doing so. In the entry, 'When Streaming On Twitch, "We" is Better Than "Me"' I spoke about how important it is to realize that you aren't the only one making your show great. So don't rush through your response to a message in chat- the comment itself, as well as its answer, should be a valuable and entertaining part of your show. When you're making the viewer feel heard, truly engaging while answering, and then building on their question afterward, you'll be doing exactly that. Get ready to up your showmanship on stream!

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