I live-streamed for fourteen weeks, every Tuesday at 19:00 CET. I had thirteen amazing guests. We talked about many different things in the software industry, ranging from DevOps to marketing. I learned a lot from my guests and enjoyed all the talks. But, I decided to stop, here is why.
The Dilemma of Structure
One of the major problems was either having too much structure or too little structure. Since I was interested in software engineering and development topics, it was hard to have an informal chat. Because the topics require preparation. When you have guests, then you have to have questions so that you can guide the stream. But apparently, this is not what people expect from live streams.
When the talk is live, people expect a more casual chat. Even though we were chatting without any presentation or formality, all the preparations led to not getting enough engagement. Structured live streams are considered like webinars. People hesitate to ask questions.
Being aware of this doesn't make it easier. Finding the balance between structure and no-structure is extremely hard. Although I was willing to work hard on this, the format didn't seem a good fit.
Public Speaking is Difficult
Getting comfortable with public speaking in the second language is difficult. English is not my native language. Although I use it every single day, I still cannot compare myself with native speakers.
In the live streams, this resulted in me talking more to explain an idea because I wasn't sure if I was giving the correct message or asking the question in the right way. English is a low-context language. It means that it has particular words to define a situation or a thing. Being concise requires a comprehensive knowledge of vocabulary.
Preparing questions beforehand helps to solve this problem partially. Yet, the problem is not only the host. The language barrier of listeners is also something to consider.
I was not expecting a lot of people to show up. On average, there were ~15 people in each session. I was pretty surprised to see that many people are watching. Yet, the number of comments and questions on the chat was reasonably small. What I was looking for in these live streams was engagement.
Engagement in software engineering topics requires focus. Live sessions make it harder. Because people often watch streams while they are eating or doing something else. When the subject demands constant attention, it becomes almost impossible to follow. The lack of a pause button doesn't help either. When they don't understand one sentence because of a technical problem on the stream or something else on their side, they are lost. As a host, you don't see that.
There is often a delay in live streams. The host doesn't get an immediate reaction. Sometimes there is a technical delay, or people have a question after thinking about the topic. These kinds of situations create barriers between the host and the viewer. The communication between the audience and the host has to be synchronous, but it's most often not.
Communication Style & Community
The power of the internet comes from asynchronous communication. This communication style enables people to connect from two sides of the world. Live events, by nature, are against this power; they are synchronous. Both sync and async communication styles have their places on the internet. However, when it comes to topics with software engineering and leadership, synchronicity falls behind.
Creating engaging live streams is a local event. While local communities are the way how we live in society, we also have to embrace joining our communities together. When our communities are disengaged from each other, we start living in silos. The success of the internet comes from providing this connection. However, live events, such as live streams, Clubhouse chats, etc., have the central problem of being synchronous. Although I still like talking with people, I don't think the topics I cover are suitable to live streams. I have other plans for live events.
The Podcast Approach
While live streaming is focused on talking with viewers, podcasting is talking alone or with guests. The format I chose, interviewing, is the most common and suitable approach in podcasting. I also know that standing out in podcasting is difficult. The podcasts with 10-15 episodes fill the podcast graveyard. When the entry barrier is low to anything, it gets very competitive.
Podcasting is evolving every day. I believe that we're still in the early days of podcasting, and I expect to see many different podcasting formats. Even though I'm only doing interviews right now, I am also looking for new ways to create a podcast. I'm willing to try other styles and learn from them.
While the competition is fierce, my focus is on satisfying my curiosity. I believe that I will shape the format in time. Finding your style always takes time. The key is to keep the production going.
Whatever we do, we have to do it consistently for a long time to learn it well. Going forward with high speed is not what makes you stand out. Learning takes time. Whoever learns fast gets ahead in every competition. I learned not to compete with others. My competition is with myself. It's challenging for me, but now, I can carry all my learnings from 3,5 months of live streaming into podcasting. Stay tuned.