Streaming is scary. You’ve got to consider technicalities like microphone sensitivity and FPS rate. Meanwhile, you need to interact well with your audience and ensure your chat is moderated adequately so everyone can have a good time. Between games, you need to create a conversation that makes people laugh, think, and stick around. And of course, you’ve got to play well enough for people to keep watching.
It’s a juggling act that few do well with at first. The good news: your first dozen streams don’t have to be that good. Instead, dedicate those early days to improvement. This way, when you start to capture a chunk of the millions of viewers who are watching streamers right now, you will have an offering that makes them want to return.
Knowing which element of the act to improve first is tricky. But there are a few tried and tested enhancements you can make to your stream that will give you an instant boost in quality and will yield higher audience figures.
Create the Right Environment
Head over to your favorite gamer’s stream and take note of their background. You’ll notice that they all have backgrounds that suit their style. Big-name, family-oriented streamers like Stone Mountain 64 have a relaxing living room that offers a window into his married life. More intense gamers like NickMercs play in their gaming rooms with sport-like graphics in the background. Big-time streamers understand that their background is an important part of their stream, and work to create an environment that replicates their style.
The key to a great background doesn’t necessarily involve making massive financial investments. You just need a background that suits your style and doesn’t distract from your gameplay. So, when choosing your background, make sure the color balance is correct — bright backgrounds can disrupt color balances and will wash you out — and work to create a space that gives viewers a small window into your life. If you’re looking to remodel your streaming space, be sure you avoid common painting mistakes like ignoring lighting or mixing too many colors, as these will just distract from your stream.
Create a Consistent Offering
There is one commonality amongst all popular streams: consistency. Every streamer who has a large following knows the value of consistently uploading content on time and setting a schedule. If you fail to start streaming on time, or don’t stream at all when folks are expecting you, then you will lose the following you have worked hard to gain.
Platforms like Twitch even allow you to post your schedule to your page, so potential viewers can see when you air in their time zone and will be able to tune in accordingly. Twitch created the schedule option after finding that the majority of content watched on Twitch comes from repeat viewers, who tune in to watch the same streamers at the same time. If you want to take advantage of this insight, then you must conform to the rule of consistency until you’ve developed a loyal following that will watch you anytime, anywhere.
Find the Right Game
If you intend on streaming FPS games, you are going to come up against a tough reality: you probably aren’t good enough (yet!). Even streamers who aren’t considered top players have K/D ratios among the top 5%, and are routinely pulling off trick shots or strategic plays that would take years of practice to replicate. You probably know whether or not you have the potential to be good enough in competitive streamer games like League of Legends or CS:GO. If you are close to the streamer standard, you might just need to invest in some new hardware or get a few tips from a community of gamers at a similar skill level.
Even if you don’t have the skill to compete with top streamers, you don’t have to abandon your gaming stream altogether. Instead, you should find a game that suits your playing style, even if it isn’t among the most-watched games out there. By playing less popular titles well, you’ll catch an audience who are looking to find something new + don’t want to watch slide-canceling teens quickscope other players from across the map. Streamers like Broxh_ provide a perfect example of this streaming strategy. He doesn’t play the most popular games but captures an audience that wants to see something different.
Match Subscriptions With Extra Content
As your stream starts to grow, you will be able to offer different perks to viewers who make larger donations to your stream. However, if you haven’t strategically planned what higher subscriptions should earn viewers, then you aren’t motivating people to donate in higher amounts.
To fix this, you must become familiar with subscription-based commerce, and offer exclusive content to those who invest more into your streaming career. Offer Q+A sessions, behind-the-scenes video tours of your gaming setup, or even offer to coach select subscribers who value your content. This will force you to deliver higher-quality content and will create hype around the exclusivity of your membership packages.
Prepare for Interaction
Success requires preparation. Even though many streamers might look unprepared, they’ve likely spent hours lining up talking points, creating graphics, and moderating automated chat responses (or, they’ve employed someone else to do it for them!). As a growing streamer, it is tempting to just jump on the stream and hope that your charisma will carry you for the next few hours. However, in reality, you will end up with hours of embarrassing dead air and will bleed viewers.
The best way to prepare for a stream is to dedicate an hour before you stream to note-taking on potential talking points. To find engaging conversation, simply navigate different social media channels that provide a similar offering to yourself. See what they’re talking about, and try to form your own opinion on the subject. For example, if a new game is approaching release, make sure you have a nuanced opinion on it. Or, if a public holiday is coming up, maybe note down an entertaining memory you have from that same holiday.
As your channel grows, you will need more robust moderation tools to maintain a safe streaming space for your viewers. This means that you might need to block repeat offenders, and must find ways to moderate any abusive behavior on your stream. It sounds strange, but your stream is open to the public, so you have a responsibility to create a virtual space that is welcoming to all. Otherwise, you might find yourself on Twitch’s growing list of banned streamers.
Stay the Course
Gaming should teach you lessons about life. The most transferable lesson it teaches us all? Improvement takes time and effort. You probably sucked the first time you played your favorite game, but over time you learn the tricks and skills necessary for success. Streaming is the exact same. You can’t expect to crack jokes and slay opponents in your first few weeks — it takes practice and a willingness to grind out small improvements.
As proof of this concept, go back to your favorite streamer’s early streams, and see just how bad they were at audience engagement. Ninja’s first upload is a 58-second clip of him playing Halo with no commentary. 9 years of consistent uploading later, he has 24 million subscribers on YouTube and runs streams that routinely peak among the very best. Even if those numbers aren’t in your future, being realistic about the rate of your improvement is vital if you want to last.