With the excitement surrounding the return of the London Podcast Festival, we spoke to Martin Zaltz Austwick and Sarah Myles about this year’s Podcast Maker Weekend, a diverse series of podcasting workshops that runs alongside the festival this weekend. We were keen to find out how you structure a virtual event in the time of a pandemic, and how you encourage podcast makers of all experience levels? Well, Martin and Sarah had a plan.
Pod Bible: How did you come to be part of the Podcast Maker Weekend?
Sarah Myles: I think the first stages [of my work on Podcast Maker Weekend] were late 2019; I had been running RISE & SHINE for a while and was asked to speak at one of the Podcast Maker Weekend events for that year’s festival. This next bit I’m not proud of – I hate glamourising binge drinking and for the record, have had maybe 7 drinks all lockdown but there was free alcohol backstage and I ended up drinking way, way too much. I have vague memories of sort of cornering Martin and slurring “we should definitely collaborate”. Believe it or not, it actually worked and we started conversations about doing just that. Fast forward to the start of lockdown, Martin began running Maker livestreams and I took the RISE & SHINE events online. There was a lot of promoting each other’s streams on socials. Martin then reached out about bringing RISE & SHINE into the weekend this year and of course I jumped at the opportunity (especially as it meant getting to give back to Kings Place who hosted RISE & SHINE events back in the pre-lockdown days).
Martin Zaltz Austwick: I created it in 2017.
PB: Knowing that Podcast Maker Weekend started in 2017, how has it grown over the years?
Martin: It’s got bigger, brought in more varied and diverse topics and speakers, and even ran as a weekly stream in the early months of 2020’s lockdown. In 2019, I worked with a team of volunteers, and in 2020 it was great to partner with Sarah/RISE & SHINE for the first time.
PB: How do you create a virtual event for the COVID-19 world?
Sarah: If you want to run a stream, I would say to make sure you mentally prepare yourself to not feel bad if/when glitches happen. The other key points are: You can really get some dream speakers as everyone is just sitting around their house so take full advantage of that. It also means that while the excuses for doing things like all white panels was never acceptable, you will really be seen for what you are if you try that with a virtual event. On the diversity and inclusion note, closed captions can make events so much more accessible, it’s just a case of switching them on in YouTube. I use them for R&S events and have even had live captions during an event at the RISE & SHINE festival earlier in lockdown. Guarding yourself from Zoom bombings is important, Zoom have been working hard to prevent this but I like streaming to YouTube, then using the chat box on YouTube for questions. YouTube has worked well for R&S as it means videos can be accessed at any time. Finally, have backup internet. The internet seems worse during lockdown, doesn’t it? I’m sure a 5G conspiracy theorist may have an answer for why but whatever’s going on, just have a backup or set someone to co-host the meeting in Zoom.
PB: What were your priorities going into creating the sessions for Podcast Maker Weekend this year?
Martin: Providing some great sessions that will attract beginners and more experienced makers, too – reaching out to some of the best British makers as well as some incredibly talented international creators. Representing fiction, discussion, sound design, technique, art, and the business side of audiomaking.
Sarah: Understanding that everyone has varying levels of productivity during lockdown. Maybe you want to start a podcast right now or maybe you (like me most of the time) are plain tired and getting some tips on pitching will give you food for thought to set into action when you’re feeling a bit better. Selfishly, I also created some talks that I just want to see as a podcast producer.
PB: What do you hope participants will take away from the weekend?
Martin: A love for the art and technique of audio, and some practical skills for creating audio in exchange for money.
Sarah: This is so cheesy, but confidence. If I hear “there are too many podcasts” one more time, I’ll burst. I want people to make podcasts or at the very least, know that they can and that their ideas are worthwhile.
PB: Where can people learn more about the weekend?
Martin: podcastmakerweekend.com, or on our Twitter.
Sarah: I hope this self promo isn’t too shameless, but if you’ve gone to the effort of logging into Twitter, are interested in learning about podcasting, RISE & SHINE is @riseshineaudio or you can sign up to the mailing list at riseandshineaudio.com where I send out mailers about this and other events.