During the Corona outbreak, I was scheduled to give a guest lecture at the Technical University of Delft for the course Software Architecture course. But as the pandemic progressed, we decided to give the guest lecture remotely. Delivering the lecture remotely turned out a great success using Twitch. It was easy to set up and students could still interact and ask questions. In this blog post, I will show you how you can give a remote lecture or talk using Twitch.
You can watch the remote lecture here. I streamed the slides and a smaller video of myself. The audience could interact with each other and the speaker using a chat stream. You can see a screenshot below.
Twitch is a simple platform to use for streaming that is mostly popular for gaming, but more people in the industry use it to stream talks or even live coding. The decision to use Twitch was based upon the fact that it is so easy to setup.
To start using Twitch, you need to register an account. Just sign up and you are ready to stream! After that, you can announce that you will stream at a specific time and give out the link to your channel. The channel is just the link to your profile. For example, the link for my channel is twitch.tv/snorberhuis.
I used the Twitch client to read the chat. The chat is how you interact with the audience. They can ask questions, have discussions among themselves, and give feedback on the presentation. You can download this client from the website. The chat supports any IRC client. You can detach the chat window and align it in the way that you want.
Open Broadcaster Software
Twitch itself does not provide streaming software. For that, I used Open Broadcaster Software(OBS). It was one of the recommended tools to stream and it is free. It is easy to set up and provides all the features that you need.
The first time you start OBS, it will ask you for your Twitch stream key. You can retrieve this from Twitch settings. The stream key will authenticate you and allow you to begin to stream. You can skip this step and later set up your stream key in the OBS settings.
OBS uses scenes and input sources. You can use different scenes for different phases during the presentation. Switching scenes allows you to change between a combination of input sources quickly.
I created three scenes:
- Start: used 15 minutes before the start to let people know that everything is working and they are in the right place
- Presentation: used during the presentation to show the slides, a webcam, and capture audio
- Break: used during the 15 minutes break to be calm screen
The Start and Break scenes both contained just a single image. The start scene showed people that we were going to start at the specified time. The break scene showed that we would continue after 15 minutes.
I created the images in Keynote and exported them as `png`. Then you can easily import them into OBS using an image source. Add these to your scene. You can see the screenshots below how to do it for the start screen.
Now it is time to set up the presentation scene. I added three input sources to this scene:
- Display capture: to capture my main screen with slides
- Video capture: to capture my webcam
- Audio Input capture: to capture my microphone
You can rearrange the display and video capture by clicking on them and moving them. After clicking on them, you can change the size by dragging the borders. You decide what capture goes on top by reordering the sources. Play around until you have a nice setup.
Now you can easily switch between the scenes by clicking on them. Clicking changes the output to the stream and even adds a nice default fade!
One thing I forgot is to disable the global audio input. You need to disable all your microphones in settings. Otherwise, you will still stream your microphone during the start and break scene. This happened to me. See below how to do it.
Test your setup
You can test your configuration by pressing start recording and stopping recording. This record everything according to your scene setup and allows you to practice. OBS will record to the location set in your settings. Watch for if your slides are correctly visible and listen to your microphone levels.
We have finished the technical part of presenting on Twitch. You are now ready to stream!
Presenting in Twitch
Let's talk about the practical part of presenting on Twitch.
I used a setup where I can easily see my slides, see the chat, administrate the stream, and privately talk to the professor (we did not use it).
On my main display, I had my slides in the presenter mode. I could easily see them and go to the next one using my mouse.
On my laptop screen below it, I had the Twitch chat, OBS, and Skype. You can get a window with just the chat by browsing in the Twitch client to your channel and go to Settings > Switch to non-Mod Settings > Popout chat.
Unfortunately, I could not get a setup working with Keynote that gives you the presenter screen with everything you are familiar with like the next slide, a timer, and presenter notes. This is because Keynote takes the whole second screen. I had to export the slides to PDF and use those.
I started the presentation with an explanation of how the Twitch stream would work for the audience. I can highly recommend this. We discussed that they could ask questions at any time, have discussions between themselves, and that we had some moderators active.
For the audience, it is really easy to ask questions. It even works better than in real life! Because as a presenter, you do not need to be interrupted by the questions. I learned during the presentation, I could focus on doing the presentation and come back to the chat and read the questions. Feel free to take some time and announce that you are going to read the chat now. Just think out loud and it is not a problem. For me, it felt really comfortable and some students gave feedback they also found it easy.
Some students with more experience on the Twitch platform advised and volunteered to have moderators during the chat. In a rehearsal, there was one bot spamming advertisements. But during the presentation we did not need moderation. I think having moderators is still a good idea.
Giving a Twitch presentation is just as draining as giving a presentation in real life. I would imagine listening is the same experience. Keeping the regular break was a great idea.
Giving a presentation on Twitch requires the same skills as in real-life. You can get into some distracting habits for you and your audience.
Because sometimes it feels like you are giving a monologue to a screen. What I found helpful was to have a completely clean desk so that there is nothing you can fiddle with. In the end, I started twirling on my desk chair. So a fixed chair would have prevented this.
Looking back, I would spend more time on audio quality if I would have had the time. Better sound quality would have improved the delivery so much. I did use an external microphone that already helped a lot. After feedback of a student on a rehearsal, I moved my microphone away from me. But sometimes I was still picked up too loud. I could have tinkered more with the audio gains.
Twitch only saves your video for 14 days. After that you will lose it. So it is not a permanent place to keep your video's. This also makes it important to repeat the questions as you will lose the chat. You can download them after streaming and host them somewhere else.
Using Twitch to give a remote lecture was an enjoyable experience. We got feedback from the students they learned from the presentation and had fun. The setup only took me a total of two hours. In the coming months, we will have to transition a lot of activities to a remote structure. Giving presentations and lectures are easy to do with this setup.
I would love to hear your feedback! Hit me up on twitter: @snorberhuis.