Live podcast launch events are a surefire way to generate the buzz for your show, but only when you do it right. How can you fill your event and captivate your audience, keeping them at the edge of their seats for what you have to offer? Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard have you covered. In this episode, they give you tips to plan and host memorable live podcast launch events. And no, this is different than just your usual recordings behind the mic. How do you show the real you and attract not just subscribers but also sponsors and guests? Join Tom and Tracy in today’s show to jumpstart planning your podcast launch event and reap its full benefits!
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Tips For Planning And Hosting Memorable Live Podcast Launch Events
In this episode, we’re going to talk about Tips For Planning And Hosting Memorable Live Podcast Launch Events.
Not just launch events though. It could be a season launch, a season-ender, or any type of live event that you want to do. Typically we see a lot more of these happening with launch events and/or season launch events.
We went to one of these in Los Angeles for a podcaster that was starting their second show. It doesn’t always mean you’re completely new to podcasting when you do it in that context either. We’ve had some experience with this and we’ve been to a few launch events a few years ago. This Might Get Uncomfortable had a podcast launch event. Do you remember that, Tracy?
Whitney Lauritsen did a great job. They packed people in there and had all kinds of activities and lots of the affiliates and other things were there. We’ve covered this topic before here on the show. We’ve mentioned it multiple times, but we didn’t do a whole episode on it. We thought we would because there have been some trends going on with live events coming back and many podcasters working to interface and engage with their communities and their members. This is why we wanted to bring this back up because it’s back in the news again.
I was reading my hard copy, the paper copy of Wired Magazine, which is one of my favorite things to do. There was a big article called Sonic Boom. The Sonic Boom article is also available online. We’re reading this article and reviewing it and they were talking about mostly entertainment-style shows, true crime, shows with communities that are on edge waiting for the season finale or the season opener. They were talking about them, doing a lot more of these live interfaces, and getting quite an audience.
That’s why I was impressed with both of the podcast launch events we’ve been to. Admittedly, both of those events were in Greater Los Angeles, which is a very populated city, one of the largest cities in the country. It might seem like getting 100-plus people to your launch event would not be that hard. I have to say I was pretty impressed that each of these events that we’ve been to was able to fill the room to the point where there weren’t enough seats for everybody. It has to be a standing room only at a part of this event, which is what you want when you think about it.
I know we have some specific things we want to say here, Tracy, but off the bat, I want to say the most impressive part which, as a podcaster, is gold value here. At the event, they have eye contact with 100-plus people and they say, “Everybody, I want you to do me a favor and pull out your cell phones.” First of all, I’m sure everybody’s cell phones weren’t really muted at that point, but they first asked them, “Now pull out your favorite podcasting app and please find our podcast and subscribe to it right now. Help us start with a bang with this new show.” You get a whole bunch of subscribers right there on day one to help boost the show. They ask, “Now, everybody please silence your phones because we’re going to record a live episode right here.” There was a twofold benefit there.
It’s a great way to jumpstart your subscriber base. We know that those podcasters who start with a community do better long-term. They last longer. They have subscribers who download and don’t miss any episodes. They tend to have binge listeners, which is a great thing for the long-term growth of a show. Both of these podcasters that we’re talking about did these live events that Tom’s referring to here also had sponsors come to the event and they demonstrated by putting over 100 people in the room that they were going to deliver residual value from episode one.
That is critically important. If you want to get sponsors, you’re going to have to bring them more value than just starting the show and hoping you bring them listeners hope is not a plan as we say here. This launch event model could demonstrate otherwise to those sponsors and get them to be patient because they saw what you could do in the beginning. It needs to build over time in the podcasting world and you’ve created an opportunity for them to be patient for that.
It provided the sponsors’ real value right there in that event because what they did was livestream the recording of two different episodes at that launch event, interrupted by actual food and drink. The event paid off in several ways for the physical in-person attendees, but they also were able to have people attend virtually the recordings and the sponsors all got live shoutouts streaming on social media.
If you’re watching the video on YouTube later, you’re not listening to the live, but we do livestream. We are having a sponsor and we intentionally don’t have sponsors on this show. It’s not our purpose to record it, but if we had live sponsors, there would be real value for that sponsor getting shoutouts live on social media and being mentioned at a launch event to all the in-person attendees.
That has real tangible value even when you can’t say, “I have thousands of subscribers.” Now you don’t. Remember if those episodes you’re recording are some of the very first episodes of your show, they are going to be the most listened-to episodes you ever do for that podcast. That is something that people overlook and undersell the opportunity to a sponsor or to a guest who’s going to be on one of your early episodes.
I see this show after show that has guests in particular. If you’re a guest on one of those episodes, sometimes guests will say, “You’re a new podcast. Come back to me when you have 20 or 25 episodes. You’re doing it for 6 months. You can tell me how many listens you’re getting a month and then I’ll come back.” That is a huge missed opportunity for anybody who says that. I sell that as a premier opportunity for the potential guest and/or a sponsor if I’m going to give them a shoutout.
Anybody who listens to that show in the future, 6 months from now, 9 months from now, or 1 year from now, will listen to your latest episode. If they like it, they’re going to go back and listen to the first half dozen to dozen episodes. Even if you have 200 or 300 episodes by the time they join you, they’re still going to do that before, maybe they’ll skip a bunch in the middle. They’re always going to go back because they’re curious about how the show started.
Same thing with sponsors. If you’re going to record live and they’re a part of the episode that isn’t dynamically inserted, that sponsor will continue to get value for years to come as long as that podcast is published. It does provide real value for a sponsor. Remember that. You can sell that and get your sponsors to fund your launch event. That in reality is what that likely will do.
Additionally, if you’re going to have a premier guest, someone who’s premium and they’re on the fence about you because it’s a new show, the added benefit of a live event, they’re not likely to travel for that, but hopefully, they’ll be able to come in and want to join the event because you have the live interface as well. It gives them an extra opportunity.
This is a great way for you to get your premium guests in early, but let’s talk about some tips, Tom, for really looking at this idea of how to be better at doing a live event. It’s different than recording your podcast, being in a studio, or your home interface. You have to consider your home audience. Your audience is listening to the recording and the audience that’s live there right now. You have to consider both when you are preparing for this event.
I’m glad you brought that up because it is critical. Even if you are editing your show, I’m going to talk about this in a little bit different way. Our podcast editors are there to make us sound our best having prerecorded the episode. It doesn’t matter if you take breaks or fumble too many ums and uhs. They’re potentially going to make you sound a whole lot better than you are.
When you’re recording live, the real you is there for everyone to see and you need to be prepared. The biggest tip is preparation. Make sure you’re prepared. Notice we’ve only talked about one podcast launch event and named that show. We’re not mentioning who the other one is because we don’t want to embarrass them. They had a great launch event and did some good things, but some things could have been much better and were overlooked. We’re sharing some of that now.
Just because you’ve done hundreds of podcast episodes behind the mic in your studio, in your home office, and wherever you record doesn’t make you a great interviewer live. That is something that either needs to be practiced, you need to be sure you’re capable of, or you prepare ahead of time. This is what happened in this particular case. This host is not bad at all. They’re a great host, but they don’t normally do panels. Yet they chose the panel format of having multiple guests as the format for their live event. I understand that because it makes it a little more engaging live and you want to have an engaging live event. Asking questions of a panel is very different than asking questions one-on-one in an interview.
Not only is asking the questions differently but the way in which you’re going to ask them and how you need to engage that panelist and hopefully get them to speak. There are some better ways to do that than what a lot of people who don’t have experience with it. Asking the same question to each panelist is not a great way to go about it but asking a different unique question to each one rather than passing the mic and going down. There are many different techniques.
Tracy, you’ve been involved in a lot more panels at live events, you’ve been a moderator of panels and you also have sat on a panel as a guest. What would you say are some recommendations for conducting the best engaging panel experience? I would say less for the live audience, but more for the streamed audience or the recorded audience who would hear it later as a podcast.
The tips apply to both. I’m going to cover them this way. The thing is that as a host, you have to have higher energy. You must be more engaging in a live event and you have to carry the whole panel because you’re going to have different energy levels from the panel. You want to raise them to your energy level. Doing some pre-interviews and understanding your panelists beforehand is essential. Sometimes that doesn’t happen until you get to the live event. It has happened to me many times when I made phone calls and talked to the panelists, but live, they’re different. It wasn’t what I expected.
Talk to them beforehand as well, maybe in a pre-call. Make sure you do both. Understanding why they’re there is the most essential thing. That way, you can guide your questions to what they want to get out of the event as a guest. That’s critically important. Understanding what’s driving them, why are they here, why are they interested in this subject? What drives them to be a part of this industry? That’s important to understand that if you’re going to have panelists and if you’re going to be a great host of guiding the audience to hear what that panelist has to contribute.A live podcast launch event is a great way to jumpstart your subscriber base. Click To Tweet
I never ask the same question of the panelists unless it truly is a closeout and I know they’re going to give a different answer. If I don’t know that they’re going to give a different answer, I don’t want to ask the question. It’s redundant. What it does sometimes is do this weird thing where the panelist is cognizant of the fact that they don’t want to answer the same thing the last person did and then they go way off base and just be contrary to be contrary. It’s not useful to your listening audience. It’s not good advice. We don’t want to do that.
That’s why asking the same question to each panelist might not create the best listening or viewing experience.
Not giving the best advice as well. That’s one of the things that we do. Energy level, asking different questions that are targeted at helping that guest shine is critically important. The third thing that you have to remember is that your audience is sitting there. If you are not asking the right follow-up question, and you don’t stop this. If you’re going down the panel and you’re worried about that, your audience is sitting there going, “I want to ask this question.” If you didn’t have that model planned into your live, you need to plan that into your live and allow them to have that opportunity to ask the question that you didn’t.
That’s important because that live audience is dissatisfied with that more so than your listening audience. Your listening audience knows this already happened. It’s a little bit more passive in how they’re listening to it, but your live audience is sitting there engaged and they want to walk up and ask the question so they’ll bombard your guest afterward with questions that you should have allowed them to ask to live.
Making sure that you have a live interface to guest interface live questioning as a part of your process is important. Make sure that those questions are relayed to you and that you repeat them so that they are captured in the recorded episode. Making sure that you have a microphone that is live to the recording is important as well. That’s a technical thing that you want to accomplish in your event.
Those are the three major tip areas. The last tip that I have is just thinking through the effect of that live event. What is that real draw? You can’t just hope that that guest is a big enough draw. It also has to be that guest and a topic draw, making sure that you’re guiding that panel to a particular topic area ahead of time and you planned it, which you may not always do. I don’t do that with my guests. When I do a guest interview, I plan the topic or title after I’ve interviewed them. You cannot do that when you’re doing a live event. You need to have the topic be the draw and the guest be the draw in case people don’t know who they are.
I agree with that, Tracy. I want to point something out here that is an advantage of having a panel. 1 of these launch events had 2 different podcast recordings and each of them had 3 panelists involved in that episode. The advantage of that is you’ve got three people that you can incentivize to promote that episode when it publishes as a podcast and as a video on YouTube if you’re doing video and promote the live event ahead of time. Even after the fact, you have 3 people promoting each episode rather than just 1 as a single guest. Those episodes are probably going to get a lot more exposure and attention so you’re multiplying the potential share factor of an episode by three in this case when you’re having that.
The other thing I wanted to share, Tracy, as a tip has to do with how you are introducing your guests and what context you’re putting on them for the audience, the live audience, and the recorded audience for the podcast episode. How are you introducing them? Are you reading their bios? I have to say I was not impressed at all with that at one of these launch events we went to because the speakers had not prepared. They were pulling out their phones and they were scrolling, trying to find notes they had made on their phones and then it was too small.
One of them is having to find their reading glasses and trying to figure it out. It was not smooth and not prepared. It was embarrassing. Reading the bios of each of the guests was very mechanical and not heartfelt. It wasn’t to the level of professionalism that I would want to have if I were doing such a launch event. It felt like it was an amateur hour there for that time.
For the same thing with the sponsors, if you do not have prepared ahead of time, review it with your sponsors about what you’re going to say about them, and then you make a mistake live and that happened, you’re going to have some upset sponsors who are not going to be happy continuing forward with you. That is a huge miss because you’ve now done it in front of a group and either given the wrong link or given the wrong message or pronounce their name wrong. All of those things happen live and in this particular case, they did a repeat and rerecorded it.
They rerecorded at the end so they could cut it into the recorded episode. The value of the live was already lost.
Also, what happened was the host was embarrassed and you could sense it. The host did not want to record it again and didn’t do a great job of re-recording it even. It had bad energy, almost anger. That’s not a good thing either. It’s okay if you want to rerecord your sponsor spots for your recorded episode later and cut them out of the live. You need to do a good job with the live, in-person. If you’re not going to do that shoutout, then let the sponsor have an opportunity to say a few words.Do not pass up that opportunity to do a great job in setting the guests up and make them feel valuable and important. Click To Tweet
That would’ve been a better idea. Invite the sponsor to speak about their call to action company. In a live event, that’s an opportunity you don’t normally have to do. That might’ve been a better idea or at least allow them to do it, even if they decline and want you to do it for them. Same thing as preparation. The introduction of the guest is so much more important.
I agree with you Tracy, even on podcast interviews that I do, and I recommend this with new podcasters, they don’t just try to record their episode from start to finish all in one take and introduce the guest first because they don’t have all that experience with the guest. What was so great about the episode was I told them to record their interview or discussion with their guest first, then you know what was so good about it, say goodbye to them.
Now you record an introduction to them because you have that experience in context. You can’t do that in a live event. You’ve got to be prepared. Either do a pre-interview like you suggested or do some more research on them, but have prepared remarks. Prepare yourself one way or another. That’s why live events are much more difficult.
I don’t purposefully allow a written bio in my own hands when I’m doing a live event. That way it prevents me from reading it. I put bullet points. I know the one key thing that I want to express when I’m introducing something is why they’re on that panel, why they’re here at that live event. I want to make sure I get that across. I might have a couple of bullet points that remind me of their credentials, of their book title, or something like that, that I might glance at to remind myself so I don’t mess it up. I don’t want to do that live in front of them because I don’t want to be embarrassed by saying that wrong. That allows me to do that.
Too often, inexperienced moderators at almost every live event I go to, whenever I see a panel, what they cop out and do is they say, “Introduce yourself.” That is the worst thing you can ever do for your podcast and for your authority as the moderator and host of that panel. You have said your guests are way more important than you and you’re nobody. You can’t even be trusted with doing the passive authority and introduction. That’s critical. Do not pass up that opportunity to do a great job, set them up, and make that guest feel valuable and important. Your whole panel is going to change its tone from that first moment.
Let’s talk a little bit before we go here because I do want to end this, but let’s talk about a little bit of technical issues. If you don’t normally edit your episodes, you like to do this whole livestream model. You just live it and then you do it but you have your microphone and you have your great setup. It’s a controlled environment at your home studio. In a live event, you can’t control the way the environment is around you. There are a lot more echoes. There’s coughing happening in the audience. There’s stuff happening there. Even if you can’t afford to do it on your regular episodes, make sure that you plan for that as a part of your live.
It will not be a great experience for your listening audience. Because it’s one of your early episodes if you’re using it as the launch part of your event or in the case of some of these true crime shows that are using it for the finale, to have them have a bad listening experience is going to make it so that the listeners say, “If this is the common experience, they don’t know what it’s going to be like in the future.” They may not give it a shot and that would be an absolute shame. Make sure you plan into your budget that you will do some sound leveling and fixes to the audio if you have planned to use an editor.
You have to have some tech and be prepared. The best way to go live is from your cell phone. Have somebody on that cell phone to be able to point it to each guest. You can zoom in and out when you’re doing live on most phones. Certainly, on iPhones, you can, but you’ve got to pipe in the sound from a mixing board. You have to have the right cable that is connected to microphones for each person. You need to have somebody operating that mixing board to try to level that sound who’s listening to it in their ears.
If you plan to do more than just stream live on your social channels, but you want to do and put it as a YouTube video later, you want to landscape use. You’re going to want an external camera as well. You’re going to want to capture a wide shot that you can break in and out from the individual that you’re capturing on it. You’re going to need multiple people supporting you as well. This is a key, good technical, and lots of extra equipment that you can rent. There are lots of places. Good lighting if you’re going to record that video because sometimes the spaces you’re in have terrible lighting. It can happen because you don’t always control the environment that you’re in there.
That doesn’t have to be high-budget stuff. It’s just a matter of preparation and making sure that the outcome achieves what you want it to, what your intention is. It’s just thought and planning. You can do this.
Thought and planning for the live audience experience as well as the recorded audience experience. Remember to cover both. The last thing I want to say before we go, Tom, about a live event is if you’re not delivering a great value. The true crime is great, if you’re going to deliver your finale and those live people get to hear it before the recorded audience, they’re going to have a compelling reason to show up at your event. Let’s say you’re in a true crime and you haven’t announced who your new season is about, they’re going to get to hear it first, you’ll put out the press release, and then you drop your episodes next, great.
You’re giving them an added value to show up. You’re giving members an excuse to belong to a membership group, maybe drop some money in Patreon so that they can come to the event. Giving yourself these opportunities and there are reasons for them to come and to show up to the live are critically important because there’s a lot of complacency nowadays. It’s so easy to listen to it in my podcast, in my environment, the way I’m going to do it. Why would I show up live? Give them a compelling reason why. That will create a better engagement and audience future for you at any point in your podcast.
Thanks so much, Tracy. Let’s leave it there. We’ll be back next time with another great episode. Thanks for tuning in, everybody. Be a part of the Podetize community and come join us live if you’d like to participate in live Q&A and discussion.
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Thanks so much.
- Sonic Boom – Wired Magazine