It’s a selected summary of the book I recently read, Absolute beginner’s Guide to Podcasting (Amazon). If you are an active subscriber of my blog, you will know I read it because I intend to produce a podcast with my friends.
Although some tips are very useful, some aren’t. To reinforce my understanding of podcasting and benefit my valuable readers (you), I wrote this brief version. At the bottom of this page, I’ve included the ignored sections and the reasons. Here’s the useful information from the book about podcasting:
1. Begin with your listeners in mind
The first step to producing a great podcast is to define your audience. Who are they? Who are you speaking to? After you figured out, you can get the tone of your voice right and content focused on their needs.
Now, conceive your imaginary audience. (This list is overly detailed. Pick some.)
a) Aspects to think of the audience:
Age, Gender, Educational background, Socio-economic background, Entertainment interests, Relationship interests, Political leanings, Interests in social issues or causes, Hobby, News interests, Literary and aristic interests, Occupational interests, Business and financial intersts, Technology interests, Religious affliation, Lifestyle interests
b) How the audience listens:
Media: MP3 player / computer
Activity: Driving / working / exercising
Frequency: Sporadically / regularly
Day of the weeks: all week / on business days
Now you must know who they are. Notice the difference between chatting with high school kids and speaking to businesspeople?
2. Best Overall sounds (Structure of the podcast)
When it comes to broadcasting, the structure, length, and frequency are the backbones. Summon that imaginary audience again and let them tell you how the podcast should be. The book targets the commute people. It also works well with the public.
When drafting the structure of the podcast/single episode, consider different delivery methods.
a) Ways to construct a podcast:
Structure: Soliloquy / breaking it up with interviews, music, sound effects
Delivery: Ad-libbed / scripted
Pace: Slow and deliberate / Fast and sensational
No one limits the time of an episode. But, considering the attention span of an average audience and what they are doing while listening (like commuting), the author recommends the time of an episode.
b) The ideal duration of episodes
20 – 30 mins
c) The frequency
Perhaps audience like the show so much. But, they will finally give up subscribing to your podcast when they got no news from you. Thus, it’d be best to stick to a schedule.
Be consistent with your publishing schedule. e.g. once a week
Inform the audience how often you upload a episode.
Also, getting feedback would be a much better tool to know if it’s appropriate to your audience. We will discuss it in chapter 6, after recording.
3. The Voice
Finally, we now deal with the core element: you voice. You are the main reason why listeners switch off or not. Your persona alters the audience’s liking to the show.
For some persona, it isn’t good nor bad, but we can focus on some changeable quality when practising and recording.
a) Host Persona that can be improved:
Voice: the physics of your voice. Have you warmed up your voice? If you try to speak in the morning, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Have you projected your voice? mumbling doesn’t help your listeners to understand what you’re saying. Remember: your sole voice should communicate everything to them. Not your body language. They can’t see you pointing at something. If your audience don’t understand? They won’t come back again.
Delivery: how you say it. Logically? Backed up with examples? You can’t concentrate on all of it while speaking. To be aware of the soundness and richness of your delivery, you must listen to your own voice. Or invite others. Find an honest friend and let he/she criticise how you speak!
Sense of humor: want someone to be attentive? Make them laugh! It grabs their attention. Sometimes, preparation is all you need to be funny. Jot down some jokes!
Energy level: Are you sure you want to talk to your audience? Oh, wait. Are you sure you speak like you want to talk to anyone at all? No worries. Welcome to your stage. Don’t talk like a normal conversation. The listeners clicked into your podcast to learn and have fun. Power on your engine!
Vocabulary: When you listen to a podcast about Chinese or English language, you won’t expect them to talk like gangsters, will you? Select your words to match the audience’s expectations!
The book also listed the below quality to which you should pay attention. But, it’s not necessary to follow them all.
b) Host Persona that can’t be improved:
Attitude, Political perspective, Social perspective, Sense of playfulness, Outrageousness
There’re other things to which you should pay more attention. Plus, maybe they are the gimmicks of your show!
c) Project your persona
Imagine your voice penetrate the microphone. The audience doesn’t want to hear normal conversations; they want entertainment from the other end of their speaker. Pretend you’re the politician on TV. Imitate the voice of a comedian. And explode your inner mind to the outer world!
If you happen to be afraid to host solo and to be absent-minded while broadcasting, you may find a partner to speak with you in the studio.
One question: Is there any ideal qualities of your co-host?
a) Your and your co-host’s voice should be distinctly different
What makes you realise it’s the other person speaking right away? A female voice and a male voice. Well, but sometimes you can’t find one. How about a nerdy, bookish, chivalrous voice plus a passionate, quick-tempered, energetic voice? It automatically draws two mental pictures of each of you in their ears.
How about a nerdy, bookish, chivalrous voice plus a passionate, quick-tempered, energetic voice? It automatically draws two mental pictures of each of you in their ears.
b) Or try to call each other’s name frequently.
But what if you two have a similar voice? No need to over-think. Tell the audience who’s speaking at the moment by calling out names and they will know.
Guidelines for co-hosting
a) Assign distinct roles for each host
We bring in new hosts to add diversities to energise the whole show. Like a drama show, different characters together creates colours and dynamites. The relationship between two hosts could be:
Adversarial: I say left; you say right. I read; you exercise. I say eating; you say drinking. What’s the best way to create heated discussion? To create drama? Bring two people with two distinct mindsets will be entertaining and thought-provoking.
Q&A: Teacher and student’s relationship can cater the audience’s curiosity. Perhaps the audience has the same questions that the student host has. Inviting a teacher host will be a great structure to run the whole lesson.
b) Don’t talk each other over
Be considerate. The audience can’t hear anything if two voices speak at once.
4. Show prep
Show preparation is almost essential for a quality episode. It helps you to organise your mind and increase the credibility of your talk. You may have lots of printed materials on the working table. But, how can we make the show and the materials more useful and organised?
a) Finalise the flow of the show before recording
My Show notes of the first episode of TT group
Think about how long each section should be. A clear structure helps you as a host to know what you’re talking during recording.
b) Print out the materials
It would be much easier for you to make any amendments and adding extra notes on the blank space of the sheets. And more importantly, it enables you to do the following action.
c) Highlight the key points
You won’t have time to review your materials during recordings. There must be some key information in the articles that you found. For example, a quotation from a celebrity and some demographic data. Then, you can easily find that passage if you want to back up the point you’re making.
d) Prioritise materials
If you well-prepared your episode with tonnes of materials over the desks, you probably want to separate them into manageable piles. Some are interesting. Some are appalling. Some are…… not so interesting. Briefly organise the materials and you will find which is which. Rethink whether you want to include those into the episode.
e) Mix up materials by topic
If you’re doing a casual podcast about pop music, you may consider separating those funny facts about the singers. In the actual recording, just pick the labelled file and you have a sea of interesting facts to share with your curious audience.
f) Unpredictability – within the framework
While the audience would love some surprises, a concrete structure hooks your audience. People come to your podcast channel and keep on listening for certain reasons.
The situation is like picking up a guy/girl on the street. At first, you have to make up a reason for them to understand why you’re talking to them. Then, you may ask the person out (if you have the courage). Along the way, it becomes progressively difficult. You two have to ‘do something’ for you to be together. That something is the same with your listeners.
Also, telling them what they will attain after listening is a great way to keeping them hooked to the podcast. Or then give them a present when you two have known each other long enough! That’s unpredictability.
Finish recording? Don’t throw away your notes for now. It’s still useful for the audience. Look for more in chapter 6, After recording.
5. During recording
The meat of podcasting. The tips are divided into two groups, Soft Mindset and Hard Skills.
Sadly, the quality mostly depends on how well you speak. Thus, mindsets are to get you inspired and skills to mask the mistakes.
a) Try standing and walking around
The first time I heard this advice, I found it strange too. But, it’s sensible. Ernest Hemmingway, a famous American writer, actually wrote his book with his butt off the sofa and chair. It’s worth a try.
b) Maintain a mental picture of a listener
Talk to me. TALK TO ME! Your listeners are the sole purpose of your podcast. Get the mental picture of them out from chapter 1, begin with your listeners in mind. Talk to them like you’re speaking directly to them. They will feel it.
a) Pause for moment if you wanna add something in post-production
It’s time-consuming to dig out all the flaws in that recording of 30-minute waveform picture. Do yourselves a favour by leaving a mark on that picture by pausing. It helps you to find out the problematic area faster.
b) Double-ender Technique (used in interviews)
For interviews, you may think of recording the interview directly from the phone. But, you probably found the sound quality bad using those traditional methods to record an interview.
Double-ender technique could fix that problem. Make sure the person you want to interview, too, has a microphone. After that, both of you hit the record button at the same time. Using microphone ascertains the sound quality. Later in post-production, merge the two tracks. It maintains the high sound quality as if recording at the same place.
6. After recording (Spreading the message)
As I said in the introduction, I won’t talk about editing and mixing in this article. It’s more useful to try any audio editing software and go with it.
Talking about the ways to disseminate the content is more worthy.
Construct a website or a blog
Make your audience come back for more! Anything about you and the podcast reminds them the existence of your wonderful podcast. Think about it: WordPress is free!
a) Post the show notes
Remember I tell you to save all the materials you found while preparing? That’s the time to upload them to show them everything. Embed the links you used to let the audience to know more, reinforce the memory.
Also, putting down the main points of the whole episode on the website is another means to share information.
b) Collect feedback
Being able to get feedback is the strength of constructing a blog on which people could comment.
Feedback is from your audience. The flaws and things that are attractive are doubly effective when the audience are listening. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the podcast is the key to improving the performance.
Don’t think you can earn money in the beginning. It would be a long way. Before you think about money, you should firstly consider the following things:
a) Build your audience
How can you convert the podcast into money? The podcast should have value first. Nowadays, publicity is money. To negotiate the price of putting an advertisement in the podcast, maximise the value by gaining more audience. The more audience you have, the higher chance you could get the deal.
b) Understand your audience’s profile
To show the value of the podcast, you could get the overview of the audience by conducting an online survey. Encourage them to fill in the information, for instance, why they listen and the age group they are in. It gives a fuller picture of the podcast for the businesses to ponder the appropriateness of the deal.
Create an online survey on Google Forms!
Now, you have got a sensible number of audience. The book suggests 4 models that help you to pay the bill or maybe live out of your podcast.
1) The Associate/Affiliate Model
This model is about selling products with your podcast. It’s a win-win situation. Products, like books or food, benefit the listeners. They get what they want. They don’t have to search the products for long. Meanwhile, you as the host get the money to release the pressure of your day job(s).
Directly asking them to support your show. When you don’t work for your day job, you have more time to produce quality content for your podcast. If you are keen on podcasting and the podcast is so valuable, why don’t ask them to help you with your problem!?
Patreon would be a good place to start.
3) The sponsorship Model
That’s when you ask companies to put adverts on your podcast. Businesses need to publicise their goods. Podcast as a media can act like TV and radio broadcasting, advertising products.
4) Distribution to paid subscribers
Well, your podcast itself is like a product. You could as well ‘sell’ it to others to earn money.
Podbean may help you to set up everything.
I hope you will save a lot of time and, meanwhile, learn a lot of knowledge about podcasting by reading this short version of the book. I, too, hope I will create a gripping podcast.
It may sound old-fashioned: the most important thing to create a podcast is to DO IT. Now I wrote this article and you read it, it’s time for us to construct the podcast. Get your ideas on paper and organise the whole thing. Call your friends for help. If you have enough willpower to constantly upload episodes to iTunes, you’ll be the next celeb hosts! Hope to see you in the top 100 list on iTunes!
The chapters I ignored in this article:
- 01 The Overview: About the history of podcasting and the benefits of it over traditional radio. It’s not useful.
- 06 Setting Up Your Studio: About audio technology. I already know the knowledge and bought all the equipment and downloaded the software I need.
- 08 Processing and Posting Your Podcast: About editing and mix the track. Again, I already knew them.
- 09-10 Public Syndication, In-House Syndication: About RSS. Still, don’t know it after I read the chapters. It doesn’t matter to me, anyway. Because I have some websites that can help me to do all the things.
- 11 Promoting Your Podcast: All methods suggested are outdated.
- 14,16 Music and Intellectual Property, Letting Your Podcast Go –Taking a Wider View of Rights: No real value. The resources are out-dated. The law can be easily explained but the book takes tedious pages.