D&D, RPG, Workshops

Feeling Twitchy: Thoughts on Streaming

As you may have seen, I just recently started streaming RPG content on a shiny new Scriv the Bard Twitch channel!

It’s been an exciting new adventure that I look forward to continuing each week, though it certainly isn’t without it’s growing pains. A few people have asked me for advice/general tips for new streamers, so I figured this would be a good time to share some initial thoughts!

Getting Started:

The hardest part of any new project is simply taking those first steps…and I was super nervous about making the leap! It’s something I had been thinking about for a while, and when the opportunity presented itself as a way to celebrate the first anniversary of the blog, I threw caution to the winds and prayed to the muses that my awkwardness wouldn’t get the better of me!

I also realized just how much was involved in establishing the Twitch channel. With the help of fellow creative types Senpai_Eeyore and Argonskies, we put together a pretty nice looking channel with custom overlays that really helped bring it all to life!

But you don’t need these fancy things to start streaming! At the ground level, as long as you have decent camera and microphone, you’re ready to go– but here are some other things you’ll want to consider as well!

Equipment: you don’t have to spend a ton of money, but do make sure you have a decent camera and microphone. Just like with podcasting, the quality of the recording can turn away a lot of audience members before they even get to the content itself. Depending on your budget, you might also want to look into lighting and a green screen to give yourself more control over the environmental factors which can affect your stream.

  • Yeti USB Microphone
  • Logitech C920 Camera
  • Chromakey Green Screen
  • MACTREM 6 inch LED light

Streaming Platform: Right now, Twitch is the most accessible and established platform for streaming, though Mixer may become a competitor for the market once it is more established. There are also plenty of creators who trea using YouTube Live, or record and post up videos after the fact, so it really depends on how you want to present your content! Do you want to record and edit your videos prior to sharing, or are you comfortable with streaming live? If you’re nervous about being on camera, trying some trial-run recordings might be a good way to help you loosen up and find out what you’re comfortable with. This also gives you a chance to experiment with lighting, camera, etc. I wish I had done this a few times before live streaming, but I’m hoping there’s some entertainment value in watching me try to figure out technology as we go (cue nervous laughter)…

If you decide to use Twitch, I would recommend downloading Streamlabs OBS to help you manage your stream. It’s pretty intuitive and user-friendly, and makes it pretty easy to adjust volume, flip back and forth between your different screens/overlays, and keep an eye on the chat box all the while. Just take some time to orient yourself with the program first…it also has a “record” function for those test runs and eventual YouTube uploads!

Another tool you can use, that’s free to download, is a ChatBot! These services can help moderate your chat room and push key information about your stream, your content, and where to follow you in social media platforms. For my stream, I like to use MooBot. It comes with plenty of customization options in regards to unique command prompts that it can push autonomously or in response to queries from the chat. Any mods you identify can also help manage MooBot while you’re streaming.

Screens and Overlays: While overlays aren’t required, they do lend a certain production quality to the stream, but again, it’s a matter of preference! If you’ve got a super cool office with nerd-swag all up on the walls, then you have no need for the green screen and special screens, just keep it real. When it comes to display screens, however, it’s nice to have an “Offline” or “Break” screen for your channel so that your viewers have something to look at that when you’re not live. This can be anything from a “Be right back” message, a screenshot of the content, some cool character art, or a schedule for your upcoming streams. No matter what you use, screens like this give your channel a more finished look.

For the Scriv channel, I decided to go with the green screen so we can use custom screens and overlays for chatting, and then smoother visual integration for screen sharing and gaming. All of the character art on the channel is credited to @argonskiesart and the design of overlays, screens, and animations was done by @Senpai_Eeyore.

Self-Promotion:

This one is tough, but if you’re trying to promote yourself as a content creator of any kind, you need to become comfortable with talking about what you do! Use the different social media platforms at your disposal to stir up interest in your stream, and you can even reach out to friends directly to see if they’ll be able to hop in the chat! Having friendly “faces” in the chat while you’re on air goes a long way with relieving some of those nerves and spikes of anxiety that can accompany live streaming.

If you want to kick off your first stream with a bang, start dropping content teasers and links to your channel a few days in advance, with a countdown on the day of the event itself. For Scriv-tival, I started a week out from the event with the formal announcement, followed by a series of smaller announcements and reveals. For regularly scheduled streams, I like to send out some prep/hype tweets at the beginning of the week to let people know what to look forward to, always with the link to your channel. It’s also a good idea to update any bios/”about me” pages with links to any content you create.

The big takeaway here: the more you promote your stream, the better your chances of having a consistent audience! Not everyone is going to hit that “follow” button right away, and some followers won’t opt-in to stream update emails and notifications when you go live.

Consistency is Key:

Once you’ve started streaming…stick with it! Don’t overstretch yourself, but start with a schedule that you know you can maintain, whether it’s once a week, twice a week, or every evening. No matter the frequency, make sure you keep to your schedule so that your audience always knows when they can catch you. This also gives you a schedule for building your library of content in a reliable manner. If you break from this schedule for any reason, it isn’t the end of the world, but be sure to release some sort of message explaining the reason for the change (holiday, life events, etc.).

If you’re consistent the majority of the time, your audience will forgive some anomalies now and then 🙂 the same goes for unplanned bonus streams if you have a day here or there and you just feel like hopping online.

Programming:

So you’ve prepared your overlays and identified a schedule…now you need to polish up your content! If your “brand” is associated with a specific theme or type of message, ensure your content aligns with that message as closely as possible. This is especially important when you’re first starting out…once you’ve established yourself, you can branch out to do some atypical things. That isn’t to say that your brand needs to be especially strict, as long as the content all makes sense. For example: my core content deals with family friendly D&D and RPGs, therefore my content needs to connect to that in some way. On Tuesday’s I have a creation stream where we create family-friendly Heroes Of Iyastera content. On Thursday’s gaming stream, even though it isn’t D&D content, I still stick to family-friendly RPGs. You can have variety in the type of streams you have as long as it fits with your brand. For example, I’m not going to suddenly switch to streaming music or Fortnite content when I already have an established theme.

This is important in the same way that schedule consistency is important: the audience you build is going to be drawn to your channel for the unique content that you provide. If you do your scheduling and programming well, they’ll know when you’re live and what to expect when they come to your stream. This also goes a long way in building a community with the friends and followers you gain along the way…

Building an Audience:

In time, you will start to see the same people visiting your channel week after week…regular audience members who have chosen to incorporate you into their weekly routines. If you want to cultivate a community, you need to interact with people actively. Welcome old and new friends when you see them in the chat and engage with them during your stream. This is one of my favourite parts of streaming by far…it not only helps you feel more relaxed when you’re on air, but it goes a long way in forging friendships with other like-minded people in the gaming community!

The flipside to this one, is audience management. If you want to have a welcoming and family-friendly environment, sometimes you’ll need to police behaviour and comments that are disruptive or inappropriate. The internet is full of trolls who are all too willing to stir the pot. While you’re setting up your stream, be sure to double check your moderator settings to screen things like bad language or harassment. You can also grant mod permissions to trusted friends who are willing to help you manage the chat alongside chatbot services that you can download (like MooBot).

These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from watching Twitch streamers I admire and trial and through error from my first week of streaming. I’m sure there will be many more lessons learned to share, but I hope you find this helpful! At the end of the day, I am having a fantastic time streaming and learning new ways to interact with the Scribbler Network. I count myself very lucky that I already had met some lovely friends and colleagues before starting to stream, but I still have a long way to go before the channel is truly established!

In these early days, I’m learning that it’s more important to focus on the content and consistency of the stream than worrying about the numbers. If you have fun creating your art, whatever it may be, then that passion will translate across the screen! Stress and Anxiety related to streaming is a widespread issue across the twitch community, so be sure to set attainable goals without overreaching, make the time to take care of yourself, and most important of all…have fun!

If you’re having a good time, your audience will too 🙂

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