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Leo Wattenberg

Planning livestreams effectively

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Live streaming in theory is the easiest kind of content to create: You hit the "Stream now" button and just wing it from there. But in practice, doing that will result in a rather unenjoyable stream. You can do better. 

A good stream has a plan to it, and there are two things you can plan for: The schedule and the content. 


As for the schedule, you should go live when your audience has time to watch. If your audience is school kids, you can reach them usually anytime between school's out and reasonably late evening, if your audience is adults, you can reach them usually between late afternoon and unreasonably late evening. Note that time zones exist, if you're living in Europe, but most of your audience is American, you may want to switch to more america-friendly times.

If you're considering streaming professionally (towards full-time, that is), you may want to try to cover as much of the spare time of your audience as useful. "As useful" means that there are more considerations to than just that. For one, mental health is a thing; streaming all day every day for a year will likely burn you out. Even when streaming full time, you want to have at least one free day per week. For another, you may run out of content in the middle of a stream if the stream is too long. 


Planning content for a stream is almost a necessity. It allows you to deliver a constantly and consistently interesting stream. For example:

  • If you're playing a game, try beating within the span of one stream. This will allow your stream to just take over the dramaturgical elements of the game you're playing, so you're building up towards the climax the entire stream and are able to end it right after. If the game is too long to beat in one go, try at least finishing the final stretch in one stream. Having to end the stream half an hour before the game ends is annoying for your audience. All of this of course requires you to inform yourself how the game is going to go. 
  • If you're doing something that doesn't really give you an overarching storyline, such as playing MOBAs or non-gaming, prepare some topics you'd like to talk about, preferably in a way that builds towards a climax again. 
  • Recognize what the natural breakpoints are in your content (you can use them for pee-breaks or to start wrapping up the stream).
  • Recognize how long you can be entertaining. Being entertaining is exhausting, and after a while your audience will be able to tell that you no longer are giving your 100%. End the stream before your exhaustion becomes noticeable to the viewer. You may need to re-watch your previous streams to find out when this point is reached as it's hard to judge in the moment.
  • There is a certain startup delay after starting the stream as people slowly join in to watch. During this startup time, you can have a countdown/idle screen, but I personally prefer having some sort of filler content instead, eg. some small casual game. 

It isn't always possible or even useful to have a stream follow a storyline leading to a climax. But in every case, you should have an explicit goal with your stream. This can be "I want to reach more people", "I want to connect with existing fans", or anything else you'd like. Having a goal allows you to work towards the goal, so for example, steps to "reach more people" can be "play popular games people care about" or "talk about recent and upcoming events", if you want to connect with your fans, you probably want to have more of a Q&A environment and not one where you need to intensely focus on a game. 


Schedule planning and content planning can conflict with each other. For example, if your schedule says you'll stream for 5 hours on a day, but you've reached your goal (eg playing through a game) already after 2.5 hours, you have to decide if you want to follow the content planning and end the stream right there and then, or if you want to follow the schedule planning and improvise for the second half of the stream. Resolving this conflict gets easier if you have backup content prepared, and even backup content for your backup content, so it should come to no surprise that most professional streamers stick to their schedule and go for the backup content. But if you didn't (or couldn't) plan for backup content and the only thing you had runs dry, don't be afraid to end your stream early. There is a saying in the showbiz attributed to P. T. Barnum "always leave them wanting more": It's better to end too early, than to drag your show for so long that people start getting bored and leave. 


With all that in mind, you should be able to answer these common streaming-related questions for yourself:

  • How long should a stream be?
    How long can you be entertaining for on a regular basis?
  • What are the ideal streaming times?
    When does your audience have time to watch your stream? (look at your analytics)
  • What should I stream?
    What brings you closer to your goal? (What is your goal?)
  • How often should I stream?
    How much can you sustain and still have spare time?


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