Friday, November 6, 2020

Being More Authentic on Stream

If you've been on Twitch for a while, you might be wondering if there are some ways to better connect with your community while streaming. We've covered several techniques in past entries to become more welcoming to new viewers, moderate your chat, get to know people's interests, and more easily remember names. But I haven't talked quite as much about going in the other direction, and opening up so your chat can get to know you. Twitch provides you the unique experience of being able to not only state your opinions, but go back and forth with your community about them. It allows a much more free exchange of ideas than other platforms where the content is merely created beforehand and posted. 

In an effort to connect to as many potential viewers as possible, it's common for Twitch streamers to take very noncommittal stances on just about every subject. They won't necessarily open up about about what they dislike, or even go into great detail about the things they like, so that they can have ample room to agree with the stance of whichever chatter is talking. I used to fall into this 'don't rock the boat' mindset as well, until I realized something: It's actually easier for viewers to connect to a streamer who takes a stance about the things they care about, than to a streamer who simply agrees with what everyone says.


Imagine you're sitting down to dinner at a restaurant. You want to find the best item on the menu, and you ask the server what they recommend. I don't know about you, but I find it hard to trust the advice of a waiter or waitress who says, "Oh, everything's good here." Instead, I'd rather that person choose one or two items and tell me they're the best the chef has to offer. It's even better if they launch into an impassioned description about what makes those few dishes so great. This means they're really showing their viewpoint, and putting themselves out there. By omitting every other menu item from their recommendation they may technically be mildly criticizing them, but the trust built by focusing on something specific makes their endorsement much more compelling. Now to take it one step further, the thing that allows me to connect to a server the most is if they actively warn against getting a certain dish. If they tell me that I shouldn't get the fish because it's not the menu's strongest point, but then give me a few other great options based on what I like, that means they not only have an opinion, but it feels like they actually care about my dining experience. 

Don't be rude, but it helps to be honest.

When streaming, the same holds true. It's hard to find a connection with someone who doesn't seem to care one way or the other about anything. It's often said that acquaintances agree, but friends argue. Taking a stand on a subject and not simply nodding your head instantly implies a deeper connection with the other party. This doesn't mean you have to fight with your chat, but simply be willing to let your mind be heard. You will limit the amount of people who agree with your opinion, but you'll increase the amount of people who respect your opinion. And having someone respect where you're coming from, whether or not they agree with you, is much more important. 


This doesn't only apply to the way you respond to questions or comments either. What are the things you're passionate about? Don't be afraid to gush about them on stream when the mood strikes. This allows people to know what you're likely interested to talk about on future shows, and positions you as an authority on these subjects. There are a few things I tend to voice very strong opinions about on my shows: anything from the writings of JRR Tolkien, to the Metal Gear Solid franchise, or Japanese toilet seats (don't get me started on these by the way- I find it insane that every first world household doesn't have them). People who love my shows know that I'm passionate about those topics, and it allows them to associate certain subjects with my content. As I've mentioned in the entry Your Channel is Not a One Stop Shop, establishing myself as someone who particularly loves Tolkien lore means that viewers will think of me when a new Lord of the Rings game, movie or TV show comes out. They know that when I watch or play that new release, I'll adore certain aspects and likely passionately oppose others. I might even strongly dislike the whole thing, but the fact that it comes from a place of love for the overall property means that even an unfavorable assessment wouldn't simply feel negative. Showing my authentic interest in a topic allows that to become a signature aspect of my streams, and means that even viewers who don't agree with my opinions will likely still respect them. 

When I play these games, it's open season for 
unleashing all the Silmarillion quotes.

There are other things that I show my love for, rather than just talk about. I don't necessarily discuss the Japanese language that much on my shows for example, but because I've streamed my Duolingo studies for so many days in a row, people know it's a huge interest of mine. My non-stream content is enhanced by the things I care about as well. If you've been following The Twitch Playbook for example, you've seen several of my passions find their way into the various entries. Movies, literature, 1960's music, history and tech startup companies often get used as examples. Sometimes I even write entire entries about them, which I tie back into the various disciplines of Twitch streaming. These entries would probably be pretty drab if I had only stuck to broad generalisms and dry technical language. They're instances where the content itself is made more interesting and more personal by the author being more authentic. 


Being authentic also means allowing yourself to be seen when you're not at your best. It's much easier for your viewers to connect to you when they understand what you went through to get where you are. In The Twitch Playbook that's something I've tried to do quite often, and you'll see in almost every entry very specific examples of how I've failed and picked myself back up. I hope it's empowered many of you, especially those who are brand new to streaming, to realize there's nothing wrong with making mistakes. And on your streams, you can help your own community by being just as genuine. Try showing your authentic self to your community, and see how much more powerful your connections can become. 

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