Secrets to Producing a Podcast Episode From A Conference

We went to Vegas and made four episodes in four days, and survived

. 7 min read

We went to Vegas and made four episodes in four days, and survived

You know the saying. What happens in Vegas… gets recorded daily and uploaded to your brand’s podcast feed. I think that’s how that one goes, right?

When our client team at CloudFix told us they were heading to Las Vegas to attend Amazon’s annual, and massive AWS re:Invent conference, they asked us if we wanted to come along and record bonus episodes of their show, AWS Insiders, straight from the Strip.


AWS Insiders Cover Art (Left: regular season. Right: episodic artwork for live shows)

A week in Vegas? Making podcasts? Sounded like fun. But “sounds like fun” does not make much of a compelling business case.

If you’ve thought about doing something similar with your podcast, you can use this guide to craft a pitch for your boss.

First, Decide Why Your Show Needs To Be There

The re:Invent conference is a massive, annual event inviting tens of thousands of people who rely on Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) for all their cloud computing needs. Anyone can set up a few mics in a hotel suite and pull in guests at will from the conference floor. It can be an efficient way to bank a lot of content for future episodes and that’s often enough of a reason.

In CloudFix’s case, the goal was much more ambitious. “We have a strong brand in the AWS community, so it’s important that our podcast is a continuation of that. It has to be the most helpful and entertaining podcast in the AWS space,” Joshua Merritt told us. He’s the creative director for CloudFix, and the person we work with most on the podcast. “With our daily coverage, that means that every listener should feel like they are getting exclusive access to the conference they can’t get anywhere else.”

So there’s the business case we needed: build a podcast plan that enhances brand visibility and makes listeners feel like they’re listening to something special.

With those goals in mind, Pacific Content showrunner Mio Adilman and Joshua made a plan: for every morning of the conference, we’d record a bonus episode, and push it to the podcast feed by the end of each day.

Keep in mind that, typically, from concept to final mix, an episode of the podcast takes a few weeks to produce. In Vegas, we were going to do four of them in four days.

I booked the flights, and the team got to work. Here’s how we did it.

Book your guests in advance. It’s one thing to find great guests for your regular episodes. It’s another to find great guests who also happen to be attending the same conference as you, and have the time to head to your suite to be part of your podcast. Pacific Content producers Aparita Bhandari and Marshall Whitsed landed every guest we needed before the road team headed to Nevada.

Make a simple editorial plan. The team agreed that our episodes would springboard from each morning’s keynote address. This would allow us to build a predictable production schedule while focusing our editorial on content that would have the most wide-ranging listener appeal.

Blueprint your scripts. We knew we’d have to move quickly each day to get the content recorded and then published, so there’d be little time to write episodes from scratch. Mio wisely took time to build out a rough script that could serve as a kind of scaffold for each recording. Come game time, a bunch of tailoring would still be needed to match the script to that day’s story. But with a baseline in place, it made the effort that much more efficient.

Give it a spin before you fly. A couple of weeks before the event, the team met up online, grabbed a rough script, and simulated recording a live-to-tape episode (complete with a stand-in guest). It allowed Mio to refine the baseline script and see how he’d need to manage the team and our guests on the ground. Co-hosts Rahul and Hilary got a feel for what it’s like to roll through an entire episode quickly. And Joshua on the client team was able to collaborate on refining the format. “Format is so important,” Mio told me, “So lock it in and stick to it.”

Gear Up. We hoped to give these episodes a bit of Vegas flavor, so we decided to set up our recording space on the rooftop terrace of a hotel. CloudFix had booked this suite for all their hospitality needs, so we staged ourselves right outside. We knew it might get a little loud up there (which it did)*. Just don’t underestimate how much gear you’ll need, or how hard it might be to secure it. Shawn Cole, our director of audio, asked the team to travel with their microphones. But he had to scour Las Vegas to find the rest of the gear we needed (cables, speakers, stands, etc.). Remember: you’re going to a big conference, which means you’re not the only one who’s going to be renting gear. Plan well ahead.

Team Up. Make sure you have enough people on hand — you can’t multitask audio capture editorial and publishing. Our co-hosts Hilary and Rahul watched each keynote every morning and prepped questions and notes for the recording that would follow immediately after. They were rock stars. Mio ran the show and directed the edit. Shawn ran audio and assembled the rough cut. Kristie Chan, one of our sound designers, produced the final edits from her home in Vancouver. I filled in the gaps when needed, did the grunt work, prepped the metadata, published the audio… and picked up lunch (which, in Vegas, was not an easy task).

Publish or Perish. Our daily recording sessions typically wrapped around 12:30 p.m. (PST), and our episodes were published between 4:30 p.m. (PST) and 5:30 p.m. (PST). It’s amazing what producing on deadline does to your ability to make decisions fast and turn content around. As Mio put it, “It’s like a band that goes on the road. You learn your chops very quickly.”

Promote, Promote, Promote. None of the above matters much, however, if you don’t back it up with a robust promotion strategy. Again, the point was to drive listeners to the show and give the podcast (and Cloudfix) more visibility in the AWS community.

Branded stickers with QR codes distributed by the CloudFix team

On this front, the team at CloudFix outdid themselves.

  • Conference booth staff were invited to promote the show and ask people about their podcast listening habits.
  • Stickers for the podcast and cardboard inserts stuffed within swag included QR codes pushing people to the show.
  • Free sunglasses came with AWS Insiders branded microfibre cleaning cloths.
  • TVs in the booth and CloudFix hospitality suites played a rotating ad for AWS Insiders.
  • But the cherry on this promotion sundae was this massive billboard ad situated right on the Vegas Strip!
A rotating digital ad for CloudFix and their podcast was a mainstay on the Vegas Strip during the conference.

Results. The effort paid off. The QR code was a trackable Chartable link. So we were able to measure how much traffic all this promotion drove to the show:

*for client confidentiality reasons, numbers have been removed from our graphs

So Should You Build a Conference Podcast Plan? We approached our project ambitiously, deciding to make the Vegas shows feel as close to a typical AWS Insiders podcast as possible. It took more work, more planning, more editing, and more time to pull it off. Along with CloudFix’s promotions strategy, the show found a ton of new listeners in a very short period, which helps our client grow its reputation in the AWS space. “We’re very happy with the early results, which indicate that we created high-quality live coverage that our audience loved,” Joshua says. “Now it’s a matter of continuing to build on what worked and grow the show even more.”

*Fun fact: the day after we wrapped production, the wind and weather conditions changed, and so did the flight paths. Airplanes were redirected to another runway, which meant scores of them started flying low, right over the rooftop terrace we had spent a week recording from. Disaster averted!

Our recording space: the rooftop terrace of a hotel.

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