Do I Need Video on When I Podcast?

Until recently, I’ve been a staunch defender of “video on” when you’re doing a podcast interview, for reasons I’ll get to in a second. In fact, I haven’t heard a really good argument for not having it on…until recently. So in this post, we’ll weigh the pros and cons and determine if you should have video on when recording a podcast.

I’m Not Talking About Posting Video

So right off the bat, we’re assuming the video is not for public consumption. That’s a different question I’ll answer in a different blog post. I’m talking strictly about having video on for an audio only podcast.

Pros: Yes! Video On!

The biggest pro of having your video on is you can see your guest. You can feed off their reaction, and there is probably less over-talking.

You’re also more engaged in the conversation. With video on, you’re less likely to start mindlessly scrolling a website…or perhaps even letting your mind wander.

At Podcast Movement 2018, I got to see Terry Gross, Host of Fresh Air, speak. She told a story about how one particularly boring guest was talking for a while and she let her mind wander, completely missing what her guest said. As you can imagine, she embarrassingly had to recover when he stopped talking.

There’s also that added, unspoken bit to the conversation. You can see your guest’s body language and pick up on it, making for a better conversation between you and your guest.

But that same unspoken bit, some argue, is also the biggest con of video on.

Cons: No Way! Keep Video Off.

Before we get to the biggest (and maybe least obvious) con, let’s talk about some of the common arguments for video off. The most common one is saving bandwidth. If either you or your guest have questionable internet, killing video is a quick way to ease those bandwidth pipes.

It also saves you (or more likely your guest) the trouble of being at least a little camera-ready. Especially if you don’t know each other outside of this interview, your guest might feel pressure to look good or rearrange what’s in shot.

Finally, you’re saving assets you’re never going to use. Every so often I need to go into my Zoom folder and delete old calls because the video is saved too1. But that argument is flimsy at best.

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You’re Excluding Listeners

On a recently episode of Upgrade+ with Jason Snell and Myke Hurley, Jason makes the most compelling argument I’ve ever heard for keeping the video off: those unspoken bits of the conversation I mentioned earlier. Reading body language, exchanging looks, referencing what you see, excludes your listeners.

Having video on for your audio only podcast excludes listeners from the experience. Click To Tweet

If this is going to be an audio only podcast, Snell argues, then it should truly be audio only. That’s the only way listeners will get the full effect of the conversation you’re having. It’s the only way it can feel like they’re sitting in on the conversation with you.

And I can see that. In fact, there have been several times where I’ve described what I was seeing. Or I’ve said something like, “listeners you can’t this, but…”

I’ve never considered that this takes just a little bit away from the listening experience. And yes, many once every several episodes is OK. But I can see how it can get frustrating if you start doing it every episode.

The Verdict: Yay or Nay to Video While Podcasting

I could give you the frustrating, “it depends” answer. It kind of does! But honestly, I think Jason’s argument is convincing enough for me to give it a try. There are several benefits to having video on, and as the host, I should be a good enough conversationalist to not need video as a crutch.

So the verdict is No. You do not need video on while podcasting. Go forth and save bandwidth (but not before letting me know your thoughts in the comments).

  1. Heck, I don’t even use the Zoom audio in most cases- I make my own recordings.

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