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What Twitch Streamers Can Teach You About Hosting Virtual Events

By / Apr 13, 2020 (RyanKing999/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The gamer-oriented video-streaming network is having a moment in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, and its engaging users are a huge part of the reason why. It’s a strategy you could use for putting on your own virtual events.

The idea of putting on a virtual event at scale might seem very scary for an association that hasn’t done so before.

Fortunately, there are lots of examples of people who have, and many of them are to be found on Twitch, the Amazon-owned video-streaming service that has gained popularity over the past few weeks, as people have been looking for interactive live entertainment from the comfort of their homes.

With live events canceled, Twitch is drawing new attention from streamers outside of the platform’s original gaming focus, with musicians embracing the tool, and athletes trying their hands at digital versions of the games they typically physically play.

The service is by far the most popular streaming service, representing 3 billion hours watched in the first three months of 2020, according to research by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet. That’s roughly two thirds of all views by hours watched and 72 percent of all hours streamed. (By comparison, YouTube only represents 22 percent of hours watched and 8 percent of hours streamed.)

As a result, if you’re looking for some ideas of how to hold down the fort virtually, Twitch could be the right place to look. Some lessons to borrow for your own strategy:

Focus on building connection and engagement. Like TikTok, Snapchat, and myriad other misunderstood platforms that confound older users, some might find the general idea of watching someone else playing games or doing something online to be a total waste of time. But the secret might be that watching someone else actually brings people together. “It’s the chat, the scrolling conversation and close-knit group of loyal viewers that makes Twitch users feel so connected to each other,” explained a 2018 Ad Age article. “Any popular streamer’s chat is incredibly lively, idiosyncratic and home to fiercely committed viewers. It’s filled with in-jokes. It’s fast-paced. And it never turns off. In this way, Twitch reflects the reality of 21st-century relationships: dispersed geographically, virtual and always on.”

Invest in the right hardware. Whether it’s green screens, ring lights, microphone stands, or higher-quality webcams, streaming comes with its own investment considerations, which can help you raise the quality of your livestream. One specialized tool for streaming that’s very popular among gamers is an external button-based interface that can handle on-the-fly commands and graphics changes as needed, with the best known such device being the Elgato Stream Deck.

Aim for authenticity; fakeness is easy to spot. A hilarious sketch on Saturday Night Live over the weekend took aim at an over-the-top kind of livestreaming that is often associated with Twitch. It was funny in part because it mocked a cliché effectively. In reality, Twitch often is driven by real people with engaging personalities, and those personalities are feeling the stress of the current moment as well. (And also, donating their time and money to fighting COVID-19.) A good streamer lets their guard down every once in a while and doesn’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a good rule of thumb for someone looking to stand out on a video feed.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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