By Jay Connor
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 behind 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, 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 and graciously accepted.
As far as the experience itself, it was one that I’ll never forget. Not only did it create a bevy of new opportunities for our podcast to explore and pursue, but 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 was it we learned?
Show Up Early
Though every opportunity, venue, and expectation differs, proper preparation is essential to executing a great live show. As podcasters, we pour countless hours beforehand crafting interview questions or knocking out any required research. But live shows add an entirely new dimension.
So in this specific instance, since this was our first time attending the massive SXSW festival and we had absolutely no idea what to expect, we made the decision to scope out the stage that we would be performing on an entire day early.
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 and discussed our vision for our performance with the production staff in charge of bringing our show to life. That meant 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 show 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. So conveying your appreciation is important.
But equally as important is that this served as an impromptu networking session. You never know what executives or other entities are in the audience looking to partner with you or introduce you to other fruitful opportunities. So it’s important to prepare accordingly and ingratiate yourself with everyone present.
Case in point, being mindful of this directly lead to sponsorships and other opportunities being subsequently presented to us.
Stay True to Yourself
When transitioning from an in-studio show to performing in front of a live audience, 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 manner that is both visually and audibly stimulating? That too. But what you don’t want to do is 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 continue tradition and 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, as well as separated our live show from our traditional studio format. All while remaining true to the essence of our show. Which is why I highly recommend doing the same. Because your fans will not only receive what they came to see, but leave satisfied.
In closing, performing your podcast in front of a live 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. So prepare accordingly and incorporate these tips in order to make the most of your moment.
Jay Connor Founder and Co-Host of The Extraordinary Negroes Podcast
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!