So recently there’s been a lot of discussion on the TwitchClub discord about people struggling with speaking to an empty or near empty room, or maybe just talking during a stream in general, and many people were asking for advice and recommendations.
This discussion got me thinking, and so here are those thoughts.
I’ll go ahead and apologize if this gets a little long and boring, I do tend to ramble a bit, but hopefully some people will find it useful.
Disclaimer: I’m no professional, these are just my thoughts and I wanted to share them.
I think at some point in time we’ve all experienced the awkwardness of pushing ourselves to do something we’re not initially comfortable with. For many people speaking to an empty room, is incredibly difficult. Public speaking is a big deal too and that’s really something we’ve all had/have to do it at some point as a streamer and it’s one of the foundations of having an entertaining stream. Not only that, the skill of speaking properly is a great one to have in the real world. I’m not trying to offend anyone but some people are easier to understand than others. Whether it’s an accent, tone, or cadence, we all have very individual vocal patterns.
One thing I hear over and over again is a general lack of confidence. That’s something you can work on. It’s a very major success factor, not only as a streamer, but also when it comes to speaking in the real world. People are naturally attracted to others with confidence, and when it comes to speaking, a confident speaker has the ability to draw people in.
The phrase “Fake it till you make it” really does apply here, especially to those who are naturally a little more shy or reserved.
Not everyone has that kind of confidence and some people just can’t get over it, but you can’t take streaming seriously without expecting some hard work. Faking confidence can help build real confidence. Sounds a bit stupid to some people I know, but it’s true.
“How can I be more confident?” I hear you ask. Well here are some thoughts on that:
Posture/Body Language – poor posture is quite a common thing. It’s easy to start to slouch when spending so much time on the computer. Not only is it healthy to work on a good posture, it adds to confidence! Sit up, head up, shoulders back, etc. it can actually make you feel more confident.
Body movement to demonstrate what you’re saying can help too. It can help to make a point, or simply to make things more entertaining. Streaming is very visual, and a streamer who is more dynamic is more interesting to view than someone static. When we get nervous we get tense, and that shows through your body language. Streaming is very demanding. You’ll be able to focus more on chat/gaming by sitting up rather than leaning back.
Keep a log of your successes. I hear so many streamers focusing on their viewer or follower count. I’ve fallen foul to the same issue myself in the past, and I won’t lie, sometimes I still do. I just want to tell you, no matter how you want to analyse those numbers, it doesn’t change anything except your attitude. In fact, it serves no purpose at all and it does you no good! The usual result is actually feelings of failure or going nowhere.
Try to shift your focus onto positive streaming events. Whenever you have a great moment in stream make a note of it, physically write it down on a notepad or make a mental note, whatever works for you. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is, treat it as a milestone. Whether it’s someone stopping by and talking in chat for a bit, someone paying you a compliment, a stream where you had zero dropped frames, or you gained one follower. They’re all positives. Reflect on your successes, you earned them.
Smile. The physical act of smiling helps us feel better! There are actual health benefits to smiling but it also makes you more appealing to look at. As viewers, we can tell when a streamer isn’t having a good time and it doesn’t make them worth watching at that point. If you drop by a stream and that streamer is smiling, laughing, having a great time playing their game, you’re going to be more inclined to keep watching. A smile can help change not only your mood, but your viewers too. Trolls rarely pick on someone having fun and being a blast to watch. Another piece of advice, even if you don’t have a webcam, is to make sure you’re smiling anyway, it really does help. The same thing can apply in real life too. Try smiling when you’re on the phone, I can guarantee not only does it change your mood, but also the other callers mood can be affected too.
Pronunciation is another key thing to keep in mind. I have a terrible accent. Even my English friends tell me my accent is messed up. Travelling and living all over the world haven’t helped at all. I know this, and I’m constantly conscious of it.
Just as speaking confidently is important, so is being understood. Whether you’re keeping the commentary going to an empty room or a room full of ten thousand people, it doesn’t matter if nobody can understand you. They’re not going to stick around and keep on trying to understand you, they’ll move on to someone they can understand easily.
Listen to yourself. Record your voice and then listen back to hear how you sound to others. This way you can think about what you think needs improvement. It might be speed, clarity, your tone etc. I know it’s hard to be self critical, but it’s more effective to listen to yourself via a recording than to listen to yourself in your head. We all sound differently to ourselves than how others hear us. Recording yourself reading a short story, a newspaper article or a game review can help pinpoint things you might want work on. Initially, focus on speaking clearly, and then slowly work on speed afterwards. Speed isn’t everything though. Sometimes it’s better to slow down. Speaking in front of others, often makes people nervous and then they start speeding up their speech without realizing it. Speaking too fast can make you much harder to understand. Clear speech or “diction” starts with slowing down and making sure you’re properly enunciating each word. Don’t slow it to a crawl, but make an effort to take your time and get your message out clearly.
Mumbling can occur without you realizing it as well. If you’re a bit nervous or shy or not used to speaking to an empty room you might be quieter than you realize. Sometimes it can help to speak a little louder than normal. Now I’m not saying start shouting so the neighbors can hear you, but try and project your voice to your monitor rather than just speaking into the mic directly in front of you.
Also, please take some time to conduct tests with your mic before you stream (or use any kind of voice communication program). Everyone will thank you for it.
First impressions are important and if someone drops by your channel and hears you yelling at the mic or can barely hear you, it’s very unlikely they’ll stay. Noise Gates are also your friend, nobody wants to listen to the other people in your house having a conversation, but best practices for audio setup are probably best left to another conversation.
So how do I talk to an empty room? Probably one of the hardest things to do as a streamer, is speaking to an empty room. It’s a hard concept to grasp. It’s a very a weird feeling talking to nobody and keeping up a commentary that doesn’t make you sound like a crazy person.
This is probably one of the most difficult things to keep up. Your viewers, or lack of them, aren’t psychic. Literally learn to speak your mind, and vocalize your thoughts. This is a huge step to entertaining an empty room.
You can try experimenting with making short Youtube videos. Making a 15-30 minute video is easier than trying to make the jump straight into speaking to an empty room for 2 or 3 hours. You don’t even have to make the videos public, and you can use them to self evaluate. You might want to remember that YouTube is another great source of content and you can link your Twitch viewers to it in the future if you decide to share them.
We all have something we’re passionate about and can talk about for hours on end. Finding your topics can help keep the ball rolling. Are you very detailed/in-depth about games? Maybe talk about your thought process on strategies and why you’re doing X or Y. Or maybe you are really great at telling stories? Find opportunities to tell stories, whether they’re personal experiences or maybe just an awesome story you heard from someone else, tell them anyway. Try writing down some topics before your stream. Use sticky notes on your monitor in case you need something spontaneous to talk about.
Always assume the room is full.
Whether you realize it or not, people often come in and out of your stream multiple times. They’ll often check back to see if anything has changed since the last time they stopped by, or just to see what you’re talking about now. The chances of them sticking around rise dramatically if you’re in the middle of talking, even if it’s just because they’re curious about what you have to say. I know when I stop by a channel and I see someone streaming deadpan, with no talking at all, I’m likely to move on very quickly.
With all that being being said, don’t concentrate so hard on non-stop talking that you neglect the game, or anyone else that tries to talk to you in chat.
It’s fine to take small breaks from talking.
Another thing to keep in mind, is to make sure you don’t panic if people suddenly stop talking in chat. I’ve had really busy streams where the chat slowly grinds to a slow crawl for no apparent reason. It happens, learn to deal with it. Maybe use one of the topics you write down before the stream to re ignite some conversation.
You’ll often find that lurkers just want to lurk. It’s all good, but do not be tempted to call them out. Calling people out is just as likely to make them leave.
Twitch has a new annoying habit of telling me “Your friend XYZ has just started watching”.
Do not take this as an invitation to say “Hi”. They’ll speak to you if they want to, and lurk when they want to, learn to respect that.
When your going through your commentary, ask and answer your own questions.
I find the 5 W’s are useful here; “Who? What? When? Where? Why?”
Using these can be far more effective than just trying to think of things on the spot and putting yourself under more pressure.
It gives you the ability to kickstart a conversation with yourself. Even if you start to go off on some random tangent, it’s gotten your commentary going again.
Feel free to ask questions if you know there are people in chat that might reply, but don’t be afraid to answer yourself if nobody in chat replies.
Often I’ll ask how someone’s day is going, if they don’t reply, don’t let the conversation die there. Reply with how your own day is going and keep the commentary alive. Sometimes this can lead to some other random conversation. At the end of the day do what it takes to keep your commentary active.
Streaming can be very draining, and especially if you’re the only one keeping that energy going. Trying to stream on an empty stomach or when you’re super tired often means a rough stream. Everyone handles it differently, but from personal experience I just get really un-talkative when I’m hungry or tired.
Remember, an energetic, confident streamer is more likely to hold a viewer’s interest than someone who’s not. So try and stay energized.
Take a quick break every now and again. Even if it’s just getting up to go and get a drink, it helps. Your body wasn’t built to sit in one spot for hours on end.
Now, none of this stuff will get you viewers instantly, it’s not going to dramatically improve your stream overnight, and it won’t improve the quality of your life.
Streaming isn’t for everyone, it doesn’t work for everyone, and many people don’t want to put in the work it takes to make a successful channel.
Having said that, I believe that if you’re willing to be self critical, accept constructive criticism from others, and put in the work, some of the points I’ve mentioned above will help you both in streaming and maybe your life in general.
I hope you got something out of my ramblings and that you can take away something useful after such a long read. Thanks for your time.