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Tip for Live Shows on Zoom

I've been performing and producing live shows on Zoom since March 2020. While it certainly doesn't feel the same as standing in a room with other humans around - I've recently tried a new trick that adds back a bit of that crucial component you mainly feel in live performances - the audience's response!

As anyone who has had a meeting (or a show) on a video conference platform knows - there is limited capacity for 2 (or more) people to speak at once. Someone's audio "wins" and the other person becomes inaudible (even if just temporarily).

"What was that?"

"Can you say that again?"

For this reason, most "live" shows request that the audience mute themselves - so their laughter or audible replies don't take over the soundtrack.

This leads to that strange effect where you SEE people laughing but don't hear them.

In one early show I played with using a "soundboard" of canned audience replies. While initially amusing (in the way it is for classic comedy TV shows), the effect grew tiresome and contrived.

In other shows, we've encouraged the audience to "laugh" in the chat. flooding the performers with streams of HAHAHA, clap clap clap, and repeating the funny lines that set them off. This has a nice "2nd screen" effect of allowing the crowd to connect and interact with each other without getting in the way of the performance.

But this past week, I think I hit on the best of all worlds...

allowing the audience to remain UNMUTED while still not overwhelming the main performer.

Here's what we did.

ZOOM has settings under the "Audio Settings" preference that allow one to alter the input microphone "gain." This is handy in general if your microphone is too soft or loud (compared to others) in a meeting or show.

For our Stand Up Comedy Showcase, featuring a great set of new standups (that had completed my 4 week Stand Up Comedy Workshop), we had the entire audience turn their microphone "input volume" down to about 10%. Not completely off, but far enough down so that, when they DID laugh or make noise, the software seemed to still prioritize the main (or louder) speaker!

The Results

It's not perfect, but it's not terrible either!

Have a try, next time you are doing a live showcase. I'd love to hear how it goes!


Corey Rosen - Author, "Your Story, Well Told" (Mango Publishing). Host of The Moth, Company member at BATS Improv, Writer at Lucasfilm Animation, Tippett Studio, & Jim Henson Productions.


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