The Process Behind Running My Stream


Developing my streaming process has been…a process. For a long time, I failed to see the forest through the trees. Trying to squeeze the most performance out of my underpowered hardware, I spent too much time figuring out how to present a technically-competent stream and not enough time thinking about everything else that goes into it. Didn’t have a plan to promote my stream. Didn’t think about what type of content I wanted to create once I got things working. Didn’t even think about why I was doing this in the first place beyond seeing whether I could do it at all.

My aimlessness came back to haunt me when I came up just short of reaching Twitch Affiliate status. Even though it wasn’t a goal I was actively targeting, missing the mark forced me to really think about what I wanted and the steps required to get there. Streaming is still a struggle, but having a better handle on my goals has really helped me define my approach to this demanding hobby.

As of now, this is the process I go through to make each stream happen.

 

Scheduling

When I started doing this, I would stream whenever I felt like it. This was convenient for me, but it’s hard for viewers to drop everything for me when I spontaneously go live. Giving everyone advance notice gives viewers the opportunity to schedule the show in their calendars.

In an ideal world, I would stream during the same time slots every week. However, with the way my life is right now, that’s simply not possible. As a middle ground, I post a weekly schedule every Monday morning, giving you at least 24 hours notice.

During the weekend, my wife and I discuss what we have going on that week and I pick the days that are most convenient. Right now, it usually works out to one weekday night and one weekend morning. At some point, I’m hoping to consistently stream for two weeknights a week.

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On Sunday nights, I craft the schedule posts. I do all of this on my phone, as I’m usually not at the house on weekends. Whether I’m at the in-laws, or standing in line at the grocery store, I’m writing out the post and designing the schedule graphic within the flow of my life.  Those get posted on the Monday morning. I also update the schedule on this site, as well as on my Twitch page.

The night before the stream, I will prep the promotional posts relating to that event. One is a pre-show Tweet that’s released a few hours beforehand. The other is a go-live notification, which also includes taking a selfie.

I don’t really take selfies in my day-to-day life, but they are a popular form of promoting one’s stream. For some reason, they generate the most engagement. Coming up with angles and poses each time is proving difficult, but I’m willing to put in the work if this is what works best.

Preparation

I put a big emphasis on conversation during my streams. These shows are at their best when we’re all engaged in a compelling discussion. In order to achieve this effect, I have to come prepared with a lot of things to talk about. As a means of not forgetting everything, I have a dedicated notebook with me that I write in for the stream. Jotting down any talking points beforehand gives me something to refer to when topics run dry.

The night before a stream isn’t just time for me to take a promotional selfie. I also check all of my equipment to make sure everything is working as it should. Things happen, from my Stream Deck breaking, to a firmware update to my streaming software that has to be done before going live, to my computer randomly deciding that my webcam and my microphone are no longer in sync. Doing this check the night before gives me time to fix any issues at the last minute or make any improvements with ample time to test. Even when things are working fine, the audio mix between games is different, requiring me to adjust the volume settings for every game I stream.

Ideally, this process is over in two minutes. In a worst case scenario, this can take hours. I’d rather deal with this now than have everything fall apart when I’m live, though things will inevitably fall apart when I go live.

On the day of, I post the pre-stream Tweet just before I leave work. We normally get home from work until about 6:30pm EST. After cooking and eating dinner, I generally have 20 minutes or less for one last technical check. Once we’re good to go, I start streaming and push the go-live posts on Twitter and Instagram.

Lights! Camera! ACTION!

With the hours of setup complete, all that’s left is to play. Right? Wrong. Playing a game and streaming at the same time is a true test of multitasking. As I’m playing, I’m also doing the following:

  • Controlling the camera angles
  • Activating funny GIFs at opportune times
  • Monitoring the notifications to ensure that I thank everyone who follows or subscribes to the channel
  • Monitoring the stream’s technical performance to ensure that viewers are watching a stable picture. If things break, I can fix certain things on the fly, while others require a restart.
  • Mark highlights on my Stream Deck to edit out later
  • Monitoring the chat to ensure that I respond to everyone involved in the conversation while taking action on anyone that misbehaves
  • Leading the conversation

It’s really easy to slip into the game and neglect all of these other responsibilities as a stream. However, if you’re unable to stay on top of all these things, your stream will suffer. Even if things are technically sound, getting overly-absorbed in the game can mean that you’re neglecting messages from viewers or not talking enough to make for a compelling show. The last thing I want you to see as a streamer is me just sitting quietly, playing my game. I firmly believe that unless I’m not injecting my “touch” to the stream on top of playing the game, I’m not worth watching.

Juggling all of these responsibilities is a skill in itself. You have to practice it and have a desire to get better. Being able to handle all of these things at once goes a long way towards producing a great show for the viewers.

After the show is…all of the editing

When a show ends, my work is far from over. I upload my local file of the stream to YouTube, which is saved at a much higher bitrate than what’s presented on stream. It makes for a better-looking VOD than what you can get from exporting from Twitch directly. Every stream I upload to YouTube can’t go live until 24 hours after it aired on Twitch due to the Twitch Affiliate agreement, so all of these clips have to be scheduled for release at a later time.

While that’s happening, I’m working on Twitch, cropping out the full stream and any highlights I want to save. Then I make thumbnails for everything. Then I write the blog post that showcases the stream, highlights from the stream, and any shoutouts relevant to that broadcast. If my weeknight streams usually end at 10pm, this process usually takes me 30 minutes to two hours. It’s not uncommon for me to go to bed until midnight or 1am on crazy nights. The last thing I do before I go to bed is to email myself the highlights…

…because there’s still more editing to do. I send myself any clips that I deem worthy of sharing on social media to my phone, where I’ll run the video through iMovie and In Shot in order to make a social-friendly clip. This usually involves cutting clips down to a minute or less, cropping them into a square shape, writing headlines, adding my Twitch tag, and adding any sort of emojis or visuals to really squeeze the most out of these clips. Whether I’m riding on the train to-and-from work, eating lunch at work, or just standing in line somewhere, I’m editing clips in order to make them work as ads for my Twitch channel. Before I’m even done editing clips from the last stream, it’s time to host another one. The work never stops.

That’s my process. More complex than turning on a webcam, but there are others hustling way harder and smarter than I am. This doesn’t even include Boss Rush, which has some major variations on my workflow. Maybe I’ll cover that another time. As long as I’m streaming, I’ll continue to evolve my approach in hopes of getting where I want to go.


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