Live Audience Taping: How Do You Prepare?

Speaking at an event is one thing. Teaching a Bible class is another. But when you film content to produce on DVD, it’s a whole new ball game.

I just released my first ever 8-lesson DVD Bible study series in November called Your Strong Suit, based on the Armor of God found in Ephesians 6. The live taping took place last May at my home church.

Over the course of 48 hours, we taped eight, 35-45 minute lessons. Gulp.

Believe me when I say I could hardly put a coherent sentence together after that. It was exhilarating, amazing, and absolutely exhausting.

As an author, you may be requested to put some of your content in video snippets. Or perhaps, like me, you plan on producing a series of some kind. I promise I’m not an expert at this. But I hope that my recent experience offers insight and information that may help you.

So how do you prepare?

First of all, writing to speak is vastly different from writing to print. You have a live audience to keep engaged (and hopefully awake), so injecting humor and stories is essential. So here goes:

1) Forget about the cameras.

I was very thankful the production crew suggested a mini run through the night before our live taping officially started. When I walked in the staging area and saw three large television cameras, my heart started going pitter patter. Actually, it was more like POUND, POUND. One of the cameramen would actually be walking around to catch close up shots and audience reaction. My heart came right out of my chest at that point.

Over the course of the run through, the tech team was incredibly helpful in showing me the stage’s walking parameters to ensure consistent, good lighting. They taught me how to slow down my talking rate to make more impactful statements. But most importantly, they reminded me to take several deep breaths, release the tension in my voice, and speak/connect directly with the audience. Their coaching made all the difference.

2) Know your content so well that you barely need notes.

Nothing is more boring than watching someone read. I cannot stress enough how vital it is to thoroughly prepare. I rehearsed each lesson several times in the weeks leading up the taping so that when that weekend arrived, it wasn’t the first time I taught them (so to speak). We were on a tight schedule and budget. Room for error didn’t exist. 

Lesson preparation is essential. We only had 30 minute breaks in between each teaching session and it goes by at lightening speed. After each teaching, I’d head back stage to cool off, hydrate, take a deep breath, sit a minute, go through wardrobe changes/makeup touch-ups, pray, pull out my notes for the next session, read them through, and hit the stage again. If you’re not  properly prepared, you won’t make it.

3)  Put a team, buffers, and boundaries around you.

I cannot say enough about the team that surrounded me that weekend. My ministry assistant and a score of ministry volunteers handled the live audience registration, meals, and anything else an attendee needed. My stage manager (and best friend) never left my side except during taping time itself. She kept me on time and provided a buffer to handle anything that came up back stage. She handled all the technicalities so I could focus on preparing for the next session.

And then there’s the production team. I just can’t thank God often enough for those amazing professionals. They seamlessly ran the worship times, screen content, sound levels, and coordinated camera shots (both stationary and roaming) of me and the audience to produce a top level series. Joel, the Production Manager, even told jokes to keep the audience awake and laughing in between sessions. The main thing is that they are the professionals. Trust them and their instructions.

I hope you found a few helpful tidbits from my experience. What I learned during that amazing weekend put me on my knees in thankfulness, and taught me invaluable lessons that will play an important role in any future series.

If you’d like to see a 90 second snippet of the final series, click here.

Let’s chat: If you’ve done this type of thing before, what would you add or take away from this list? If you’re hoping to produce DVD content in the future, what did you find most helpful?

This entry was posted in Non-fiction, Social Media, Writing and tagged , , , by Donna Pyle. Bookmark the permalink.

About Donna Pyle

DONNA PYLE is author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a passion for studying and teaching God’s Word. Since launching Artesian Ministries in 2007, she has authored 20 full-length Bible studies, as well as numerous smaller Bible studies, devotions, and magazine articles. She has released two DVD-based Bible study series and a small-group based Bible study book, The God of All Comfort, through Concordia Publishing House on August 15, 2012. She regularly travels throughout the U.S. and internationally, speaking at conferences, conventions, women’s retreats, prayer luncheons, and special events. Donna fuels her creativity with Chick-Fil-A® and Starbucks®, and enjoys writing, blogging about faith-based issues, traveling, reading, singing, and torturing her cats with feather toys.

14 thoughts on “Live Audience Taping: How Do You Prepare?

  1. Oh my goodness, Donna! I can’t even imagine doing something like that, session after session. What a major undertaking. My respect and admiration for you just went up several notches, my friend. What a great study too. 🙂

    • Jessica, I’m so excited that you’re going through the study now. There’s nothing like digging in the Word. Thanks for your kind words and encouragement!

  2. Fascinating to hear about the behind-the-scenes details! Thanks for sharing and teaching, Donna.

  3. Donna,

    I can’t wait to dig in to your study! You have to be one of the most giving writer-gals I know. I can only imagine how much effort you put into your video series.

    Praying the Lord launches around the world!

  4. I’ve done three videos in my career. Fortunately, they were all done in a studio and used a teleprompter. If I were doing them live with a cameraman walking about, I would freak out!

    The key thing that I learned was that my writing style is much different than my speaking style. There were many lines that were great on paper, but I just couldn’t make my mouth say the right words, in the correct order, using the right pauses and inflections.There were several retakes for some sections — and more so as I got tired towards the end of the second day of recording.

    • Thanks so much for your great insights, Peter. Oh my, I cannot imagine only interacting with a teleprompter! I had to do a direct-to-camera address as a forward for the study and had to re-start/re-take it 3 times. Talk about freaking out! I admire what you did, my Friend. I don’t believe I could – especially for two days. I’m glad you mentioned that you grew tired, as well. The team was great about keeping energy-packed snacks on hand to keep my energy level consistent. Thanks again for your words of wisdom.

  5. Great tips Donna! I could add a small one. Be willing to laugh at yourself! When I worked on the DVD for my book Divine Design I was so nervous at the beginning I kept messing up. But after I laughed at my goof-ups, I relaxed and things went much better.

  6. I enjoyed your post, Donna! Great video clip too!

    I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do live video taping. The thought itself was too frightening to dwell on. Funny thing is, after reading your post and all the comments, I could almost see it happening some day. Lord willing, of course! Blessings to you and your ministry!

    • Cheryl,
      Thanks so much for your kind words! If you’ve done any sort of speaking whatsoever, you can do this. You can! The team you surround yourself with makes all the difference. Blessings!

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