Recording with an audience

By their very nature podcasts are always pre-recorded. A “live” edition is one recorded in front of an audience. Over on the Facebook group “UK Podcasters” a question was asked about recording with an audience. As it’ not something I have included in either book, I thought an answer here (and there) might be useful.

I haven’t included a live event in a podcast series, but I have produced hundreds if similar radio programmes.

Don’t change the core chatracter of your podcast or the editorial purpose but if there is an audience then there is a purpose for that, so they should be included in a meaningful way.

At the very least have an atmos mic for the audience to pick up the applause, laughs, gasps of sheer enjoyment! You will want to involve the audience somehow- certainly acknowledge they are there and welcome to the recording. Is there an editorial reason to involve them more directly such as inviting them to ask questions or give answers, tell stories??

If you are new to this, brief a few people so when the audience is invited to become involved, there isn’t a deadly silence. If there is a lot of audience participation, my experience is almost always that it takes time to start and takes forever to stop! Everyone wants to say something when you are trying to wrap, So be ready to manage an enthusiastic start.

It helps – whether you are involving them directly or peripherally, to “warm up” the audience. Give them 3 to 4 minutes on what is happening, what is going to happen, where they can listen to it afterwards, who you are, why you are there. If they are going to be directly involved – asking questions – then spend 15 or 20 minutes getting them started. As them questions, get them to tell you why they are there, their opinions on (anything really) but some relevant subjects. Keep it fairly light and personable. At that stage you will be able to spot interesting people and trouble makers.

Are you producing? If you can’t get a wireless cueing systen, your presenter will probably need some sort of visual cue. Can you set up a PC with a very long lead to the keyboard? Or something similar. Passing notes is probably OK, but a series of hand signals at least.

Take particular care of mic-ing your participants. Spend as long as you can getting it right. If they are using hand held mics or head mics you will be OK. If they are fixed mics the likelihood is the panel/participants will stray and you won’t be able to push up gain without feedback. There is no excuse for feedback. Balance the sound before the audience gets in and when they are there, use the warming up session to get the mics set up probably. The set-up is going to take longer than you expect.

During the recording, if there is a confrontation among the audience, make sure the argument is about the subject not ad hominem – play the ball not the player.

If you have specific questions, let me know. And as Paul says, you will have a bigger audience listening to the show, so there is the basis for some promotional activity for future editions.

If anything else occurs to me I’ll add it further down the thread. It’s worth the effort – it is a great feeling … when it’s all over!

[The featured inage is from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lincoln_Theater_audience.jpg]

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