Wednesday, 8 August 2018

5 Things I Have Learned from a Year of Streaming

Today is a weird day.  I feel all excited and giddy about what I can achieve in one day.  I have given myself a goal line and I am going to work my butt off to reach it.  That is exactly what most future streamers or content creators feel when they first start out.  Then the dread sets in. Wait... how am I going to stream?  What am I going to stream?  What if no one watches?  What if I say something offensive?  These questions are some that I had and I researched the heck out of the streaming media platform.  After I had my fill of how to stream and how to start a stream videos and articles I decided I wanted to do it. I wanted to start of slowly.  A webcam, Check.  A mic, Check.  A game, Check.  Here are the things I have learned throughout my journey streaming.

I downloaded all the programs and quickly began to start troubleshooting...  This is one thing that no one tells you about when you start streaming.  You need to be a master Troubleshooter.  All computers are different and some of the experiences that I have had seem to only be experienced by me.  I can get into the nitty grity but lets just say old gear is old gear and sometimes they don't work with new tech.

I didn't have the money to buy new equipment so I worked with what I already had.  A 10 year old Webcam, 6 Year old Computer, and a sound interface that was bought for about $120 CAD that I was going to use for music production.  Google of course is your best friend but Youtube is where I got the most out of my OBS Studio the streaming program that I used at the time.  Things do get frustrating but a cool head can save for problems in the future.  It is also good to experience technical difficulties so that you know how to fix anything if it were to happen again.  You have to live through the issues which may cause a delay in your stream or even a cancelled stream but every streamer will go through this at some point during their lifespan as a streamer.  You may replace older items with newer ones, watch videos to research a certain issue, or even ask your community for help if they had any of the issues you may have been having.  Troubleshooting and technical difficulties are part of the job when you are the one responsible for the tech for your one person stream show.

Out of Your Control:
So you are ready to stream.  It has been a long day of work and family obligations.  You turn on your computer watch a couple of YouTube videos or your favorite streamer.  You get through some trouble shooting and then the phone rings.  It's work and you gotta come in right away.  You're pissed, stressed and sad that you can't stream.  It sucks but you gotta do what pays you.  Other things can happen as well.  Your internet provider and life line to the all the meme's has trouble connecting and you are having drop offs in upload speed leading to frame drops.  You may have a key component fail on you like your webcam or Stream Labs OBS isn't functioning properly.  Things will go sideways.  It is inevitable that set backs will happen.  When it does, I have taken a deep breath and tried to communicate it out to my followers as much as possible.  Send a tweet,  Go to discord and let people know that you are having issues.  Communication is best so that the people who know your schedule and are waiting for you to go live understand there is a delay or a cancellation of the stream.  I don't like leaving people in the dark and there have been a few times that I did not let any of my community know that I was not going to stream.  Everyone always appreciates a heads up.  They can now enjoy more Fortnite streams.

Switching Things Up:
Variety is the spice of life is an idiom that I have heard over and over again.  It is actually part of a poem that a guy named William Cowper had penned nearly 2 centuries ago.  Now this can be so true for what you can do in a stream.  At first I stuck with my schedule playing the game I decided to stream.  Week in, week out the schedule was set and I followed it.  I noticed after the third game I streamed I started to loose interest in the game that I was playing.  How could I?  I was on a journey through the beloved Final Fantasy series.  I should be enthralled!  Nope!  So I had to change things up.  I added another day to my schedule and started to Stream Sonic the Hedgehog games.  It was a great way to break from my slump.  It also opened me up to a new audience that previously I wouldn't have known about.  Let me tell you Sonic fans are very passionate about that spiky blue gold ring eating speed demon, but I digress.  I also did a few different fun streams with my community like a Slenderman play through and a Harry Potter sorting night.  I am a proud Hufflepuff by the way. These changes helped me flesh myself out as a streamer and helped connect me closer to my audience.  Switching up your stream schedule will also help with your mental health.

If you need a break, take a break!  If you are missing streams try to cut down or change the days and you may find that will work better than streaming more.  Consistency is key if you haven't heard already from all the other "how to" stream articles.  When making changes, usually a week ahead of time is good for people to prepare for any changes in schedule you may have.   If you find you are getting bored or stuck in a rut try a new game or a new schedule may help.

Not Everyone Will Like You:
I always want to keep a positive attitude when it comes to streaming.  I love meeting new people and having conversations about our favourite games.  It is a high when there are so many people that think like you and find your stream  There are times however when you can't seem to attract those people. Your chat is dead and nothing you can do seems to keep anyone interested enough to stay and hang out.  This happens.  It is not your fault.  You will not be able to cater to everyone right away.  Not everyone will like the game you are playing.  Not everyone will like your face, voice, mannerisms.  I struggled with this for a little while and it is easy to get downhearted.   However the dedication that you put into the stream will show and there will be a few people who will notice it.  Before you know it you are starting a discord server and hanging out and making life long friends.  Even as I stream now I see people just pass through my stream with passing comments.  I know that I haven't given them a reason to follow me but I have taken steps to interact with those who take the time to chat.  If they like me that's great; if they don't no problems.  As they say you can't win them all.  But you can stack the cards in your favour by trying to be friendly and acknowledge that everyone is different.  Your attitude on stream will bleed through always.

Watch Other Streamers and Yourself:
Watching other streams is amazing.  You get to see why people like streamers and their streams.  You can also see how viable of a medium streaming is.  This is how I felt when I watched my brother start his own nearly five plus years ago.  When I started I would visit other streams to see what I can improve on.  Below is my first setup streaming Final Fantasy 7.  This is already about 3 weeks of streaming.  My chat couldn't be read, my mic covered my face, my webcam orientation was not the best it could be.  I could totally have done so much better.
Now as my experience has grown, I have fixed most of those nit picky things that I'd just said.   Take some time to re-watch some of your own.  The information that you can net when you re-watch one of your old streams is invaluable.  You may find that you did something in your old stream that you don't do now was more effective in getting people to hit that follow button.  You may also find the not so good things that you may still do and you can cut that out.

Pro athletes take the time to review tapes of their play style and their movements, why can't streamers?  A really big change that I got from watching one of my old streams is a comment I got on a stream I had on YouTube.  The person complained that they couldn't see my face and that my mic was covering it.  I, at the time ignored them.  Comments do not have tone and I took offence to what the person was saying.  How dare they complain that they can't see my face.  How was I supposed to speak into my microphone?  These issues were fixed with a couple of adjustments.  I only changed my ways because that comment stuck around with me for a while and it bugged me.  So I re-watched a few of my streams and I totally get where they were coming from.
How was I supposed to make a connection with people if they were staring at Brian McMicFace on the webcam.  There is nothing like learning from yourself.  Take the time to learn from others but self reflection on feed back from your followers and watchers is priceless.

So there you have it.  I hope this article will help you out a little.  Streaming is a strange and wonderful platform for those who want to engage and build a community with their followers.  This is actually my first attempt at writing a Blog post.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.  If you have any comments on what I can improve on please let me know!  If you are a streamer what is something that you have learned from streaming looking back at your experiences!  I would really love to know!

Until the next post I hope you have a great day and be kind to everyone.

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