Seven years ago, I recorded my first live podcast.
The process was remarkably simple, even then: my co-hosts and I called into BlogTalkRadio on our phones and we provided postgame commentary for a basketball game that had just ended.
I’m pretty sure the three of us outnumbered listeners for that first show. So the stakes were extremely low. It was basically like we were just talking on the phone amongst ourselves, as we might have done even if we weren’t recording.
Except that it wasn’t like that at all.
Because some people were listening. And a million people could have been listening, had they wanted to.
I mean, we were live … on the air!
Which gave that first episode of our nascent postgame show an energy unlike any other I had ever felt before.
I was hooked.
And now our original trio is still intact, preparing for our seventh season of hosting The Assembly Call IU Postgame Show. (This will be our fifth season broadcasting live with video in addition to audio.)
Because there is something special, beneficial, and even a little addictive, about broadcasting podcast recordings live.
If you’ve never tried it, here are a few reasons why you should.
1. You’ll get to feel the unique energy of the green light
When you write a blog post, you do so hidden away from the world.
You can start and stop, delete and backspace, pace, puff, pee, and procrastinate as much as you want to. No one will know.
There is pressure, of course, because writing is hard and occasionally mysterious work, but the pressure isn’t immediate.
Even if you’re on a deadline, you don’t have the added pressure of tens or hundreds or even thousands of people tuning in to see you sweat.
The same goes for recording a podcast.
Oh sure, if you’re conducting an interview with a high-profile guest, there is pressure. You surely don’t have unlimited time to get it right.
But still, you can edit out mistakes, accommodate a last-minute reschedule, or even decide to never publish the interview if it turns into a disaster.
Now, you may look at that last sentence and think: But aren’t all of those … positives? Aren’t those good and convenient reasons to not broadcast podcast recordings live?
I still do many podcast recordings in private too. Broadcasting live doesn’t work for every type of show. But every time I do, I recognize that it’s not the same. I’m missing something … the unique energy of the green light.
I took that photo right now, as I wrote this.
Do you see that green light at the top of my computer screen? That light indicates the camera is on.
All I would have to do is hit Start Broadcast, and my every subsequent move and word would be on display for my entire YouTube audience as well as anyone else who happened to have the link.
I have grown to love that moment.
Because ready or not — and sometimes I definitely don’t feel ready — you’re live when that green light pops on and you hit Start. You have no choice but to be ready. You have to be ready. People are watching!
And I’ve come to trust that the energy I feel in that moment helps bring out my best as a content creator. Because I have no choice but to be authentic.
When the green light is on, it’s just me, my ideas, and my ability to communicate them to my audience.
There is a rawness and a realness that can’t be duplicated with any other form of content. I’ve always felt more closely connected to the audiences I’ve hosted live shows for.
Not to mention, broadcasting live has had an immense impact on my skills as a podcast host. When you’re live, you can’t edit out dead air, or a flubbed question, or an awkward pause. Learning how to avoid those mishaps live has helped me also avoid them during private recordings.
I don’t think you really know who you are, and what you’re capable of, as a content creator until you’ve put yourself out there live in front of your audience.
The green light is powerful.
You owe it to yourself to see what it can bring out of you.
2. You earn more respect and trust from your audience
I just alluded to this, but it warrants further mention.
It’s important to recognize that most people don’t produce live video. It can be easy for folks like you and me to forget that, because we’re so close to online content creation and live video is a popular topic these days.
But there is still only a small fraction of people who do it, a smaller fraction who do it consistently, and an even smaller fraction who do it well.
And, of course, most podcasters don’t record their episodes in front of a live internet audience.
You might think these are reasons not to do it. If so many others aren’t, why should I?
But I think you should look at it as the great opportunity that it is.
You have the chance to do something few people are doing, and it will help you build a special kind of relationship with your audience that few people will have.
For example, every time I send out an email requesting donations from our audience at The Assembly Call, I always notice an inordinate proportion of the donations coming from the small but loyal group of people who consistently tune in to our live broadcasts.
Why? I believe it’s because these folks are with us during our most open, authentic, and vulnerable moments.
Once a podcast is published, it’s done. It’s a finished product. We all assume that if a podcast pops up in our feed, it was vetted, edited, polished, and deemed good enough for consumption. There is no risk. The listening experience is relaxed.
But every moment of a live broadcast is a risk.
A thousand things could go wrong every second. There is no safety net. Your audience recognizes this. They are less relaxed, and more in the moment with you. And (so long as they like you, of course) they’re rooting for you to succeed.
Plus, since most of your audience members would never consider hosting a live broadcast of any kind, there is a built-in level of respect because you are.
When you do it competently and deliver a good product? That respect level and appreciation grows.
So if you want to establish a deeper connection with your core audience members, give them a live broadcast to show up to. Then give it a little time to take hold. You’ll see.
3. Broadcasting live video gives you powerful repurposing potential
You certainly can broadcast just audio. We did it with BlogTalkRadio in those early days. Programs like Spreaker allow you to do it now.
But the video aspect of a live broadcast is what truly unlocks the benefits I described above.
Before our last season of The Assembly Call, I wondered if we were taking on an unnecessary complication broadcasting video. I mean, it’s just the three of us talking into a computer. That visual isn’t exactly what I would call compelling.
I thought, Should we just broadcast the audio live, since that’s all people really care about?
Fortunately, I decided to ask our audience.
The response shocked me.
I thought most people would say the video was pointless. At best, I figured there would be a lot of indifference to the question.
The response from our audience members was nearly unanimous: people didn’t just like the video, they loved the video element.
Many people told me that it helped them feel more connected not just to us as individuals, but also to what we were saying. People liked being able to match the subtleties of our facial expressions to the points we were making.
Having us there on video made it feel more like a postgame party that we were hosting and a bunch of their familiar friends would be attending (via the live chat).
Needless to say, I kept the video. And I was glad — deep down I wanted to keep the video, because it gave us so many additional ways to promote the show.
Obviously we would publish the audio as a podcast no matter what, and attempt to build followings at Apple Podcasts and other podcast directories, but producing video allowed us to focus on building an audience on YouTube as well.
In addition, Facebook likes video. We can republish the video on our Facebook account.
This year, we’ve added a Director of Shareable Content position. This individual (an IU student entering his third year as an intern) is going to be finding compelling snippets from our show and creating clips designed to spread on social media. We couldn’t do this without video.
And while video certainly doesn’t have to be produced live, and shouldn’t be for certain objectives, if you can find a way to leverage the power of video and the power of broadcasting live … remember:
- The unique energy of the green light
- The deeper connection with the audience
- The repurposing opportunities to promote your show
And while I don’t think live broadcasts are right for every type of show, or every type of host, I do think everyone should at least try it.
The power of live broadcasting: a quick case study
I’ve seen the experience transform people from quiet, meek, fourth-wheel co-hosts who barely feel comfortable contributing … into bold, confident hosts of their own shows who can now hold their own on broadcasts with titans in their industry.
I’m thinking of someone specific here.
Our very own Will DeWitt — who started off as that quiet, meek intern for us at The Assembly Call and is now the host of the popular show Da Bears Brothers as well as a budding Q&A and case study host at Digital Commerce Academy.
And while Will was always going to come out of his shell eventually and become a top-notch content producer — because he’s wired for success and has an indomitable work ethic — I think he’d agree that the benefits delivered by the bright green light of his own live show helped him get there much quicker.
In fact, when Will saw that I was writing this article, he reached out and said we should “tag team” it. And he sent me three points he wanted to include.
You already got my three points for why I love broadcasting my podcast recordings live.
Now here are Will’s:
1. The pressure is a positive
When it comes to broadcasting your podcast live, one thing is for certain — the pressure is on!
There are no second chances if you mess up a line or word. Instead, you have to roll with the punches.
But don’t worry, because in my experience, that’s only been a positive thing. The pressure brings out the best in you. You have to bring your “A” game.
Personally, there’s an absolute difference in the tone of my voice when I record offline, and when I broadcast live.
When I’m offline, I sound boring, flat, and disinterested. However, when I am live, the adrenaline courses through my body and I sound excited, animated, and attentive.
Not only is that difference in tone a benefit for those who tune in to the live broadcast, but it also better serves those who listen to the actual podcast, as they get the best version of myself.
2. You build a separate engaged audience
Another benefit of recording your podcast live is the opportunity to build a separate audience for your show.
Even if you already have a fan base for your established podcast, you should consider broadcasting your upcoming shows live.
Because if you do, and if you consistently broadcast live, you will gain an eager (and loyal) audience that will tune in for every show, which practically doubles your reach and your potential for growth.
3. You build a more connected community
Live broadcasts present the opportunity for your listeners to connect with one another.
The path of a podcast listener can be a lonely one. They download your latest episode, listen to it, and then wait for the next one.
But, by recording live, you give your listeners the platform they need to not only connect with other listeners, but also with you.
If you field live questions from your listeners and address them by name, then they become part of the family. And once they do, it’s hard for them to leave. Isn’t that the goal? To retain every listener you can?
This is one of my favorite aspects of broadcasting live: the ability to create a community and bring people together.
It’s a special feeling when you see your listeners connect with one another and have fruitful conversations about the topic you’re discussing on the podcast.
The facilitation of conversation takes your show to the next level and allows your listeners to connect with you (and one another) like never before.
That solidarity is nearly impossible with the standard method of recording offline.
Producing your remarkable podcast
Just because you read this far, I don’t expect you to be sold on live broadcasting as the perfect way for you to take your podcasting to the next level.
Depending on your background, experience, and affinities as a podcaster, live video may have been the furthest thing from your mind when you sat down to read this post.
But I do hope you’ll give it a try. Just to see. Because … who knows?
It’s worked for me. It’s worked for Will. It’s worked for countless others. Could it work for you too?
There’s only one way to find out.
Regardless, if you are committed to taking your podcasting to the next level, join us over at The Showrunner. It’s the podcast about podcasting that I host with Jonny Nastor.
And while we record our podcast episodes in private, my favorite Showrunner events have been the live Showrunner Huddle Q&As that we’ve done. And we’ll be doing more of them soon.
To stay connected and get our free, 9-step guide to launching a remarkable podcast, join us at showrunner.fm.