Suchandrika Chakrabarti is a freelance journalist and podcaster, having made the Black Mirror Cracked and Freelance Pod podcasts. She is hosting live recordings of Freelance Pod this autumn at the London Podcast Festival, Kings Place, and at the Boulevard Theatre, Soho.
In many ways, podcasting is the opposite of a live show performed in front of a crowd. When you record a podcast, you cannot see or be seen by your audience. You can stumble and re-take as many times as you need to and the audio will be edited before the world gets to hear it. All very safe so far. So why risk it and go live?
On a recent episode of my podcast, I asked London Podcast Festival programmer Zoë Jeyes, what do listeners get out of a live event.
She explained that listeners build a relationship with the voice they hear through their earphones to the point they feel like the host has become their friend. However, this is a one-sided relationship.
All changes when they see their favourite podcaster live on a stage.
"Within a few minutes, it stops being a one-sided friendship because there’s an ease to those conversations. It happens because of all those shared things you have around listening to the podcast, sometimes for years. I think that’s really special," she said.
Behind the screen, your podcast has been engaging listeners and building up a following, too. Now when they have the opportunity to meet the host, they get to experience how their favourite listens are formed alongside fellow fans.
But simply plonking the host and a guest or two on a stage with a microphone and an hour timeslot is not going to cut it. You need to enhance the podcast experience to keep audiences hooked.
I met Abdulwahab Tahhan on the London-based Refugee Journalism Project. His story of leaving Syria as a refugee six years ago - and settling into British life - deserved more than the 20-ish minutes I was able to give it on that episode of my podcast.
His tales about his early life are about the city of Aleppo that has been demolished by civil warfare.
To convey this drastic reality to the audience, we will project his photos from the past behind us as a backdrop to add deeper context.
What is remarkable about Abdul is that he can tell these stories with the perfect blend of seriousness and sarcasm. His tone and humour are useful tools to portray feelings, which are just as important as the facts.
So we are peppering the show with his stand-up - he has opened for comedian Romesh Ranganathan before, so we have high hopes. We will also be quizzing the audience on the Life in the UK Test - a painstaking requirement to gain British citizenship.
Prospective British citizens like Abdul still have to study for the exam, take it and pass it. We will put the audience's knowledge of the UK to the test, offering them to win some very silly prizes. But the point of the photos, the stand-up and the games is to provoke emotions in the audience listening to Abdul and his journey.
Now, I could simply interview him on-stage and get the facts. But including the audience in this version of a podcast will allow us to go beyond the facts, to share the emotional truth with an entire room. That is why your podcast listeners are turning up for a live, visual and interactive show.
I will share the lessons I have learnt at Newsrewired conference on 27 November, where I am hosting a workshop called ‘Grow your audience by hosting a live podcast recording’.
We will tackle how a piece of audio can become a visual, interactive live show that will make the audience and fans of the podcast feel part of the action.
Save the date: This podcast workshop takes place at Newsrewired on 27 November at Reuters, London. Visit newsrewired.com for the full agenda and tickets
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