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.


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.


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.


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.


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?"


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!