Consent in Podcasting

What does consent based podcasting look like? I know that many podcasts have release forms as a standard expression of consent but those don’t feel like consent in the sense of creating safety for the guest. Usually those forms are to protect the host and they are signed prior to recording. As a guest, it can feel scary to know that a recording (especially a live one!) has my consent to be shared when I don’t even know where the conversation will go! Being vulnerable without safety feels like a trauma response – a way of fawning perhaps. As someone who wants to show up authentically and offer my vulnerability as a way to connect and learn, being a podcast guest with a vulnerable story to share has been a bit of a conundrum. 

Since becoming a parent, I’ve become increasingly aware of consent as it relates to children. I’m passionate about consent-based learning and after a few not so great podcast experiences, I’ve given a lot of thought about the importance of consent in podcasting.

On April 11th, my story was shared on Thoughtvolution Podcast. Stefan Dubiel, the host, had several layers of consent before, during, and after recording together. His approach made it easier for me to share more deeply about my experience of getting sick at the start of the pandemic and trying to get hospital treatment and a diagnosis during the highest COVID spike in Ontario. For those of you who know my story, check out . I’m season 1, episode 9. You can likely hear the depth I’m able to access because I felt safe. That safety was not by accident, it was cultivated out of care. Each step of Stefan’s podcast process is consent based. 

I’ve now had several experiences of being a guest, getting turned down for being a guest, making requests to be a guest and being a podcast host for my own MetaMentoring podcast. I’ve thought a lot about how multiple layers of consent creates safety and how empowering it is to give consent for people who are sharing deeply personal stories. My podcast is not at the level of Stefan’s, I’m still finding my comfort zone and yet, I felt curious, how did Stefan create that sense of safety for me? How can I find my own processes to create safety for my guests? AND as a potential guest sharing my story on other podcasts, how can consent based practices help me identify which podcasts will be a good fit for my vulnerability considering the depth of emotion my story holds?

Well, I’ve given it some thought and I’ve got a list! Here are my top 5 signs of a consent-based podcast.

  1. The Intake Form is Inclusive: When the intake form asks about your needs and preferences as a guest, that’s a really good sign! These could include, but are not limited to, the guest’s preferred pronouns, if the guest would like anonymity or to use a pseudonym, and (I haven’t seen this yet but I think I’ll put it on my form when I’m ready to make one) any neurodivergent labels a guest may have or other needs they are juggling and how the podcast host could offer support during the recording. 
  2. There is a Pre-interview Connection Call: I have found that for guests who are sharing something personal, a connection call to check for fit is imperative. As a guest, I want to know if this other person will offer a sense of safety and if their energy can match mine. When I’m telling my pain, I need to go slowly as a way to feel safe. I can tell the story faster, but I won’t get emotionally deep. A connection call gives me an idea of what depth the interview will have and, importantly, if I consent to my story being shared in that way. Stefan actually gave me a copy of the intro to the podcast after our pre-interview connection call. I got to hear his understanding of my story and give feedback prior to the interview. So he had another layer of consent in his process!
  3. Previewing the Questions: During the interview, Stefan did something I really appreciated, he recorded himself asking the question and then stopped the recording for me to gather my thoughts or for us to talk about it before recording my answer. It was a neat way for me to preview the question and retain the element of giving an authentic response. As a host, I offer a question preview also. My style has been to formulate the interview questions after the connection call and share them with the guest so they can give me feedback or think about how they might like to answer each question in advance. Either way, the process of giving time to the guest to consider the question and formulate their answer feels supportive.
  4. The Guest Sets the Pace: As a host, I’m still learning how to do this well but when the guest is offered whatever time they need to tell what they wish to share, they can relax and offer more layers of their story. Depth takes safety and time is one way to offer that safety. I’ve been on a few podcasts now and although I can share my story in 10 minutes or less, it’s less likely I’ll be able to tap into my own feeling in a way that will engage others. Sometimes the depth of my story isn’t the point and while I understand the importance of a time limit, I want to acknowledge a time limit changes what someone will share. I’m still working on finding the right way to offer time as a podcast host. I find this one to be really tricky.
  5. Final Consent Before Recording Goes Live: After interviewing with Stefan, he gave me a copy of my edited interview to “approve”. That final layer of consent takes extra time and it’s not something I’ve been coordinated enough to do yet as a host. Having experienced it with Stefan, I certainly see the value in it. I would like to move in that direction for guests who are sharing something deeply vulnerable.

Sometimes people are sharing parts of their lives that were traumatic and without consent-based processes, hosts can unintentionally add to the trauma. Telling our vulnerable stories is also a chance for healing. Each level of checking for consent is an opportunity to exchange feedback and make sure the guest is comfortable with their story being told in the way it’s framed. 

I think for me, having experienced consent-based processes in podcasts as a guest, I think I have more clarity about what I need to open up and feel safe. It doesn’t mean I won’t participate in podcasts without these elements, but these consent pieces can act as safety check-points. If there are more check-points, I might be more likely to share the deeper parts of my story. With less consent check-ins from the podcast host, my very emotional story might stay surface level – for my own protection.

Do you have any other ideas of consent-based practices that can happen in podcasting? If you have other ideas, I would love to hear them! 


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