Friday, August 13, 2021

Don’t Panic: A Guide to Facing Stream Problems


It’s happened to all of us at some point. Everything’s set up, we’re ready to stream, and then suddenly we find out there’s an internet outage. Or we’re in the middle of a stream, and a part suddenly stops working. Or we turn on our PC before going live, only to find that it won't boot up. Problems both big and small are always going to be a part of the livestreaming experience. In past entries, I helped you to come up with solutions to various issues (including some of the ones mentioned above), and get into the mindset which will help you solve many more. But what about the exact moment when catastrophe strikes? There are so many thoughts and emotions running through your head in those few seconds when you see the screen go black, realize you’d forgotten to turn on your microphone, or accidentally corrupt your save file. It’s hard to keep yourself in check when something terrible or embarrassing happens. And that goes double if you’re in front of a live audience when it happens. So in this entry, we’re going to focus not on the solutions themselves, but on keeping a cool head when problems arise. That way, we’ll be better equipped to face any situation. 


So something bad just happened. Maybe you’re live on air, or maybe you’re sitting at your desk waiting to go live. No matter how bad it seems, just take a second and breathe. Remind yourself that it’s fixable. There’s no streaming problem that can’t be solved in some way. Maybe your broadcasts won’t immediately bounce back to 100% capacity, and maybe you’ll have to switch things up, but there will always be a way to go on with the show if you put your mind to it. In the entry Become a Solution-Oriented Streamer, I spoke about three totally different ways I’ve solved one of the worst problems a streamer can face: a lack of internet. There are all sorts of ways to attack any problem, and even though things might seem uncertain in that initial moment of catastrophe, you should remind yourself that it’s not so bad after all. 

Breathe in, and breathe out.

It’s also important to consider the people that might be around you. This includes those in your physical space, as well as the viewers in your chat. It sucks when something bad happens while you’re live, because that means everyone can see your mistake front and center. The combination of embarrassment and frustration can lead many streamers to fly off the handle. Smashing things and yelling can be entertaining when they’re done in good fun, but not when you’re genuinely upset. In such a scenario, the only people who will be entertained will be laughing at you, not with you. And after that kind of situation, you’re likely to regret whatever went down. So try to put things in perspective. Consider that your viewers want you to succeed. If they’re fans, they likely don’t mind that something went wrong, and would be willing to wait while you fix it. They’ll understand if you need to take the show down and come back later, or even change the show entirely while you come up with a solution. Keep in mind that you’re all on the same team. If fairweather viewers leave when things go wrong on the stream, there will always be others to take their place when you’re back to normal. But don't offend your fans. They're the ones who really care about you. So try not to get in your own head about what will happen to the show while you figure things out. Focus on yourself first. 

And if you are live when the problem occurs, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break while you cool your head. Send the stream to a ‘be right back’ screen if you have one, get out of your chair and just walk around for a bit. For those of us who can’t control our outbursts when problems occur, this particular technique will be especially useful. Give yourself a moment to calm down, and afterward you’ll be able to think about solutions in peace. 


When you’ve lived through a few problematic situations, you’ll start to have an easier time keeping your cool. But you’ll also have an opportunity to help your future self, by preventing repeat problems. Think about some of the things you’ve faced- even the ones that were completely out of your control at the time. Is there anything you can do to catch that issue early, or to create some new workflow which sidesteps the trouble altogether? In entries like Perfecting Your Pre-Stream Checklist, I helped you to set up a constantly improving system for your streams, which can help to further cut down on anything unexpected in the future. 

Geralt is a guy with plenty of problems to
deal with. But he takes them in stride.

Whatever issues you have, it’s good to remember that Twitch streams are fleeting. Any mistake you make today will be washed away tomorrow. And this concept compounds with experience. If you’ve only done five streams, this one botched episode may feel like a major stain on your reputation, but after your thousandth broadcast, it won’t seem like such a big deal. Just keep streaming, and keep learning. You’ll soon find that many of the biggest problems of last year don’t even register on your radar today. As I talked about in the entry Stream With No Complaints, allowing yourself to perceive every bump in the road as a major problem will only cause you to resent the act of streaming, because it'll feel like it's full of problems. But if you keep things in perspective, your worries will melt away. 


Ironically, while writing this very entry, I was preparing for a broadcast and my streaming PC met with the dreaded ‘blue screen of death.’ A terrible problem to have for a streamer, especially right at the moment of intending to go live. Even though I’ve used this entry’s techniques throughout the lifetime of my channel, this was a great opportunity to put everything into practice once again. And I’m glad to say that I did keep my cool. After plenty of troubleshooting, I found that I had to reinstall Windows, restore anything I could from backups, and set up all my software again. I didn’t lose hope at having a mostly-bricked computer, or lament all the time it would take to set everything back up. I simply took things in stride. So you’ll be glad to know that the anecdotes I mention in these entries aren’t all from the distant past. Nobody can completely prevent problems from occurring on their streams, no matter how prepared they are, or how much experience they’ve accumulated. All we can do is stay calm, collect ourselves, and get ready to face whatever challenges await. 

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