One of the most bizarre conversations I had with fellow entrepreneurs during the last year was helping them understand their surprise that just because they were streaming didn’t mean they would have an audience. And reminding them that the platforms they stream on do not owe you an audience.
The lack of streaming curation definitely presented a quality problem, as Phil Hutcheon, Founder of DICE so eloquently states in his ‘20 Things We Learned About LiveStreaming’ post. There are more live stream events happening than anyone could possibly watch or care about.
And if you’re streaming for free on one of the major social networks you’re fooling yourself - and giving your most valuable asset away for free.
What’s going to make someone who’s never heard of you check out the thing you’ve created?
Give your thing a concept.
Steven Pressfield worked in advertising before he ever wrote screenplays, novels or books on creativity. The job taught him to think in terms of concepts, he writes in Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t.
An example: Avis Rent-a-Car’s slogan “We’re #2 so we try harder.” Another one: “A diamond is forever.”
A concept takes something familiar and reframes it. Gives it a new spin that makes you see it with fresh eyes. Avis makes their being second best a positive. You’ll get better service with us. De Beers associates the indestructibility of a diamond with the promise of eternal love.
Any creative work has a concept, even when dealing with familiar elements. CB Cebulski worked for years sorting through submissions for Marvel Comics (now he’s Editor-in-Chief). He advised writers not to submit a story about Wolverine in a bar, in Japan, or in the Danger Room. He’s seen that before. Pitch him something he hasn’t seen.
Here are a few concepts that made the grade at Marvel:
Wolverine lives in the post-apocalyptic future as a peaceful farmer, refusing to use his powers, and has to re-enter the world of violence and heroics when his family is murdered.
When Hawkeye isn’t being an Avenger, he lives in a Brooklyn tenement, and defends it from Russian mobsters.
Doctor Octopus transfers his consciousness into Spider-Man’s body in order to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was.
A concept is easy to explain. You can see the story play out right away, and still want to see how they do it.
This applies when you’re creating something entirely original too:
In a world of vastly reduced fertility, an extremist Christian theocracy rigidly controls women’s reproduction. (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Two thirty-one year old women portray themselves as nerdy thirteen-year-old middle schoolers, amongst actual thirteen year old actors. (Pen15)
An interviewer asks deeply researched questions while he and his guest eat progressively hotter chicken wings. (Hot Ones)
As you create, ask yourself if your concept would hook you if it were someone else’s thing. Would you click on it. Would you pull it off the shelf and read the blurb. Would the preview stay with you. Would you think “I wanna see that!” and actually take action.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule - it’s a recommendation. It can help you sift through the ideas you come up with to see which ones have legs. It keeps you on track as you create, evaluating each new element for how it expresses the concept. It helps the money people get it. It helps the marketing people sell it. It helps get strangers intrigued enough to give your thing a chance.
Just because you’re streaming, doesn’t mean people will watch. If your pre-pandemic live show or keynote stage presence was mediocre, your streaming event is likely to get similar results. As I tell my stage craft clients - if I can close my eyes during your talk and get the same experience, you have more work to do. You’re on camera. Make it interesting. Here’s to putting in work!