Jay Connor is the Founder and Co-Host of The Extraordinary Negroes Podcast. In 2017, he was invited to present his podcast live at South By Southwest. This is no ordinary venue, and Connor had an extraordinary experience. In this article, he shares the strategies he learned for making a live podcast in one of the most popular performance events in America.
On Oscar night, “Moonlight” wasn’t the only big winner. As I bore witness to the cast of “La La Land” fumbling through their ill-fated acceptance speeches for “Best Picture”, from my laptop I noticed a pop-up notification for a new email.
To my surprise, it was an invitation from South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual conglomerate of music, film, and interactive media festivals and conferences. They invited me and my co-host to fly out to Austin, Texas, and record an episode of our show, The Extraordinary Negroes, in front of a live audience, on their newly unveiled Live Podcast Stage.
Knowing what kind of impact that the insanely popular SXSW festival has had on undiscovered talent such as Amy Winehouse, John Mayer, and Katy Perry, I was floored by the opportunity. I graciously accepted.
The experience was one that I’ll never forget. It created a bevy of new opportunities for our podcast to explore and pursue. Also, it served as a valuable learning lesson on how to successfully transition from recording our show in-studio to performing our show in front of a large audience.
But what exactly did we learn?
Show Up Early
Every opportunity, venue, and expectation differs, But, proper preparation is essential to executing a great live podcast. As podcasters, we pour countless hours beforehand crafting interview questions, or knocking out any required research. Live podcasts add an entirely new dimension.
This was our first time attending the massive SXSW festival, and we had absolutely no idea what to expect. So, we decided to scope out the stage that we would be performing on early. An entire day early.
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We familiarized ourselves with the stage placement, the projection screens available, and the audience layout to figure out how we could maximize each. How could we arrange our seating to make the audience feel like they’re a part of our conversation? How could we use the projection screens to incorporate visual media?
Additionally, we introduced ourselves to the audio engineer. We discussed our vision for our performance with the production staff in charge of bringing our show to life. The following day, when we arrived an hour before our show to prepare, everyone was on the same page and ready to execute a great live podcast for our audience.
Engage Your Audience & Fan Base
The easiest interpretation of this is to keep your audience involved and engrossed by your performance, but there’s much more to it than that. After our show was over, we made it a point to meet with as many members of the audience as possible.
We took pictures, thanked each of them for attending our show, and expressed a genuine desire to create a memorable experience as gratitude for their participation and support.
Your fan base is integral to the success of your show. Conveying your appreciation is important.
But equally as important is that the live podcast served as an impromptu networking session. You never know who's in the audience looking to partner with you or introduce you to fruitful opportunities. So, it’s important to prepare accordingly, and ingratiate yourself with everyone present.
Being mindful of this directly led to sponsorships and other opportunities.
Stay True to Yourself
When transitioning from an in-studio show to performing a live podcast, it’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in the process. Under the influence of the cruel cocktail of anxiety and adrenaline, you might feel compelled to turn your show up a notch or seven.
Here’s a tip: Don’t.
Should you adapt to your surroundings and involve your audience? Absolutely. Should you convey your show in a visually and audibly stimulating manner? That too. But, don't step too far outside of what converted your audience into fans in the first place.
If your show has segments that are particularly popular, feel free to expand upon them. But don’t abandon them entirely or make them otherwise unrecognizable.
On The Extraordinary Negroes, we’ve had the luxury of interviewing big name actors such as Jerrika Hinton of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” fame, musicians such as 2017 Grammy Nominees KING, and celebrated authors such as Kiese Laymon and Demetria Lucas O’Doyley. So knowing how popular our interview segments were, we made it a point to incorporate an interview into our live show.
But instead of interviewing a guest, we introduced a new twist and interviewed each other. This provided our fans with tremendous insight into our journey as podcasters. Also, it as separated our live podcast from our traditional studio format. So, we remained true to the essence of our show. I highly recommend doing the same. Your fans will not only receive what they came to see, and leave satisfied.
Preparation, Connection, and Gratitude
In closing, performing your live podcast in front of an audience, no matter how big or small, is no small feat. After all your painstaking preparation (and trepidation), one of the greatest rewards you can receive after your performance is a round of applause. Prepare accordingly, and incorporate these tips in order to make the most of your moment.
We’ve had the luxury of recording several live shows since our inception, but to hear “Once Upon a Live SXSW Episode”, our live episode recording at SXSW from Tune In’s Live Podcast Stage, click here!
Not all of us are as fortunate as Jay Connor. But, with the right skills, you can create a live podcast that delivers value for your audience, increases engagement, and can lead you toward sponsorship. In the Podcast Host Academy, we have courses and tools to help you do everything for a live podcast, from planning your content to plugging in cables. Our Weekly Live Q&As can also help you with any questions you might have. Join us!