The Basics of Streaming


Thinking about streaming yourself?  Check out this guide from Overboreded gaming, featured on the Twitch subreddit:

Part I: The Basics of Streaming

Starting Out

New broadcasters have a challenging time ahead of them on Twitch. There’s so much to do, nearly endless things to learn, and nobody really knows you exist. Even if you’re willing to work hard, knowing how to get started is a challenge in itself. What follows is a fairly comprehensive list of things you probably want to work on as you first start broadcasting.

Initially, you’ll benefit from doing a lot of learning and practicing. Unless you have experience entertaining, public speaking, and working with the relevant equipment and software, there is a lot to pick up before you can expect your content to be good. Successful streamers make something worth watching. After all, if your stream isn’t entertaining, why should anyone want to see it?

To start off, I’ve broken this section down into five main topics:

  • What Are Your Goals?
  • Planning and Mental Preparation
  • Equipment and Software
  • Tips for Early Growth
  • Positive Streaming Behaviors

I recommend reading through these sections, and putting some thought and work into planning your broadcast. Make a basic plan for your channel and then just start streaming – experiment and find out if you even like it. Read the list of positive streaming behaviors and incorporate them into your cast. Finally, as you find the need for more specific information, approach individual sections in Part II of this guide for additional advice.


What Are Your Goals?

If you’re even thinking about broadcasting on Twitch, stop and answer that question. Twitch is an amazing environment with room for broadcasters of every size with every imaginable way of using their service. What do you want your place to be? Knowing your goals impacts how you should be reading this guide.

  • How large do you want your broadcast to be? You may be streaming for personal friends, a small audience, or tens of thousands of viewers. Smaller audiences will be easier to reach. Larger audiences will take effort and compromises to attain.
  • What is your gaming niche? Maybe you love speedrunning. You might play an MMORPG or a MOBA. You might be into indie games, console games, classic games, fighting games, a single game, or every new release. Or you might be a variety caster, playing any game at any time.
  • What will the attitude of my cast be? You could be serious, angry, or lighthearted. Do you want people laughing with you, at you, or because of you? Will you cultivate an air of maturity surrounding your stream or is anything permitted?
  • What can you do that makes you special? At the end of 2015, Twitch had over 2.1 million unique broadcasters and 13k partnered channels. Obviously, not everyone is going to be unique in a group that size, but what can you do to make yourself stand out in people’s minds?

You don’t need all the answers when you’re just starting out, but the more you know, the better off you’ll be. If you want to have at least a small regular audience, streaming on Twitch is at least an involved hobby. Reaching even more people makes it more like managing a small business. Answering the above questions is like the first step of putting together a business plan. Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you can start building a plan for your cast to reach those goals.


Planning and Mental Preparation

Let me begin with a reminder: know your goals for streaming. When you think about the next few steps, realize that different goals require different things. A strict streaming schedule, for example, may leave someone testing the waters with broadcasting burnt out, but is necessary for someone trying hard to maximize their stream growth. With that in mind, here are some preliminaries you should think about and work on as you start toying with broadcasting.

  • Remember to Enjoy Yourself

    If you don’t enjoy creating content, people likely won’t enjoy the content you create. Personality and energy are important for drawing people to your stream. Once you start losing those because you aren’t enjoying yourself, something needs to change. Before you even start broadcasting, you don’t know if you’ll enjoy it. Keep fun in mind as you think about these suggestions, and never forget it as your channel grows.

  • Figure Out What Makes You Interesting

    Take a long few minutes to figure out what are the best aspects about you. You don’t need something crazy, different, or unique here. Are you an exceptionally skilled gamer? Do you think you’re funny? Can you instruct others well? Make people feel good about themselves? If you can’t think of anything, you aren’t trying hard enough.

    At this point, trying to fully brand your channel may be difficult and you may not have the casting experience to make it work for you. But you can still be interesting and play to your strengths. Figuring out what they are is a good start.

  • Name Your Channel Carefully

    Your Twitch handle will stick with you the entire time you broadcast. Name changes are next to impossible to get, and you probably don’t want to rebuild everything on a new channel just because you want a different name. Ideally, your name should be unique and interesting. Symbols, underscores and random letters/numbers are probably unnecessary. When in doubt, simple is probably best.

    Once you create your Twitch name, take thirty minutes out of your day. Create an e-mail account tied to that name. Use it to register accounts with your Twitch handle on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Discord, Steam, and any other forms of social media or services you may ever think about using. It costs nothing, and you’ll reserve those spaces for whenever they’re relevant to you.

  • Think About Your Schedule

    When you stream is important, especially to you. Committing to more than you can enjoyably do is a disaster waiting to happen. However, streaming more hours is generally better for growing a broadcast, and keeping those hours relatively consistent from week to week benefits both you and your viewers. Finding a happy medium between randomly casting and a strict schedule is fairly important.

    Some things to keep in mind:

    • Short streams make it hard to reach new viewers and hold interest. Broadcasting at minimum 2-4 hours at a time usually works well.
    • Many “professional” broadcasters stream 4-8 hours at a time, 5-7 days a week. You don’t need to do this. However, if your schedule allows it and you enjoy streaming, it is probably good for growth.
    • Twitch is worldwide and covers many time zones. If your stream times shift wildly from day to day, you’ll be reaching viewers in many different time zones, making it harder to get regular viewers.
    • Start small, and leave room to grow. Find a few regular times to broadcast throughout the week where you could have extra time to stream if you feel like it. Try to commit to some relatively short broadcasts, and keep going if you enjoy it.
    • Remember that changing your broadcast times without warning will make it more difficult for viewers to catch your stream again.
  • Practice Talking to Yourself, About Everything You Do

    Streaming, especially without a large audience, benefits from constant commentary. You need to be engaging and interesting to other people who may not even be there. Learn to narrate your life. Explain everything you’re doing, remembering that it may not always be clear to other people. Commentate your thought process – make your internal monologue external (with some filtering of course). Learning how to do that before you start broadcasting is a great place to start.

  • Watch Other Streams Critically

    You probably already watch at least a few very decent streamers on Twitch for personal enjoyment. There should be some things that they do wonderfully on stream and at least a few things that could stand some improvement. Watch their streams and figure out what those things are. Emulate good qualities, and try to avoid the bad. Do this with as many different broadcasters as you can. Take notes. And when you eventually start broadcasting, watch your past streams and do the same.

  • Don’t Commit To Being Yourself

    Who you are and how you feel in your everyday life doesn’t have to determine how you act on stream. You can be yourself, or an even better you. After all, you probably don’t naturally talk to yourself as you play video games. So why draw the line there? Be open to experimentation, especially before you have a solid audience. Try being silly, excited, bouncy, crazy, anything. Exaggerate your best qualities. Minimize your worst. Focus on how you say words and improve the way you speak. Be willing to be more outgoing and interesting.

    There are no personality police. Nobody will say “you can’t act that way because you weren’t that way before.” Think of this like The New Guy – Twitch is a place where you are free to redefine yourself.

  • Consider the niche you want to occupy

    There’s no need to decide what your place will be on Twitch too early on, but realize that the types of games you play and when you switch them will impact your viewing audience. Know that the way you behave and how you interact with your audience shapes the way your stream will grow and how your chat will develop. Start determining these things as you experiment with broadcasting, and learn more about them as you begin attracting regular viewers.


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