I recently developed a podcasting workshop for Netskills that’s turned out to be one of our most popular events and certainly my favourite to run (thanks for the funding Lawrie!). So, based on what I learnt from putting this workshop together, here are a few tips for anyone thinking of producing a podcast.
Understand the medium: When done well, podcasting is engaging, entertaining and educational. However, podcast directories are full of podcasts that only a mother could love. So, how do you keep it interesting?
- Plan before you produce: Your mind will be elsewhere when recording, so have an outline to keep you on track. Some people script, but if you do, be careful not to sound scripted. You can’t script interviews, but you can still plan for them.
- Respect your audience: It takes time to make a good podcast, but it takes time to listen to one too. Audio is listened to in real time, so let people know what’s coming and why it’s worth hanging around. Your listeners may be mobile, distracted and time-shifting, so don’t ask too much of them.
- Be conversational: Don’t think of it as broadcasting to the masses, but more like having a chat with a friend. That forces you to be less formal and more personal, which works well in this medium
- Add detail: Your words help listeners create images in their minds, so give them enough detail to make that image interesting as well as accurate.
Get the right equipment: You don’t need to a sound engineer to produce a professional sounding podcast, but knowing a bit about the hardware will help you get a good, clean signal that your listeners will thank you for:
- A decent mic: Forget the one that came with your PC. For under £100 you can get one that will make you sound like a pro. We use a Samson C03-U condenser mic with USB output – plug this into a laptop and you have a portable studio.
- Another decent mic: Condenser mics are no good for field work as they’re too sensitive to handling noise. Instead, get a decent dynamic mic such as a Shure SM58. We also use an Edirol R09-HR recorder, which is lightweight enough to carry around, but gives surprisingly good results.
- Mixer: you might not need one at first, but as your show grows you’ll find their multiple high quality (XLR) inputs and control over each channel essential.
- Headphones: Our brains tune out background noise, but mics don’t, so use a good set of headphones to monitor your signal.
Present like a Pro: The best equipment won’t help you if you can’t use it to communicate effectively.
- Get in the zone: Find the positioning that gives the best sound for your mic. Too far away, and you’ll sound tinny; too close and you risk popping the mic and picking up some unpleasant mouth sounds. As a rule, place the mic about a hands width from your mouth and slightly off to one side.
- Be natural: Talking into a mic can seem strange at first, but the more you do it the easier it gets. A common mistake is to talk too quickly, so be aware of your pace. Watch the ‘erm…’ count, but don’t let it put you off – you can edit them out later.
- Adopt an on air persona: This might mean being a bit more OTT than you are in real life, but a little over-emphasis in the right places is very effective.
- Listen to you: This might come as a shock, but yes, you really do sound like that! Once you come to terms with this, you’ll find it’s easier to be natural and to make the most of your voice.
That’s a wrap: But the work doesn’t stop at recording. The post-take edit is where you can tweak your content with tools like Audacity to make it really sparkle.
- Cut paste: Audio software makes it easy to cut, copy, paste & resequence your audio as well as add extra tracks
- Signal processing: Equalisation, compression and normalisation can really give your audio warmth and presence. But use each in moderation.
Get it out there: Of course, the final step – publishing your polished podcast – is the most important, but is usually the most simple. It certainly is if you use a free podcast hosting service like Podomatic, to which you just upload your content via a set of forms and through the magic of RSS, your podcast will find its way to your listeners. There are of course lots of ways to host podcasts, but that’s another post.
If you want to know more about podasting, check out the links below, get in touch or come on one of our workshops!
- My podcasting bookmarks on delicious
- Netskills podcasting workshop
- Podcasts by workshop participants
I’m aware that it’s a little ironic to blog about podcasting, so I will eat my own dogfood and do a podcast version of this post soon.
(photo credits: All images downloaded from stock.xchng)