If you’ve been paying any attention lately, you might have noticed that podcasts are ALL the rage. Ever since the first season of NPR’s Serial hit the waves in 2015, it seems like podcasting as a trend has absolutely exploded. From storytellers to entertainers to marketers and more, everyone wants to take advantage of the time audiences have available to listen, even when they’re not able to watch or read.
Plus, in the grand scheme of things, podcast production is very easy. If you have a computer or smartphone with a built in microphone, or even an external mic, you can produce a podcast.
But as with any type of media that has such a low barrier of entry, the quality of podcasts out there varies widely. Obviously content is a huge variable here. But another significant factor in the audience reception of any new podcast is audio quality. After all, if someone is committing to putting your voice in their ears for a half hour or so, it should be pleasant and easy to listen to!
Try these quick tips to make your podcast recordings clean, entertaining, and easy to listen to—so your audience will keep on coming back for more.
Invest in a Good Microphone
Anyone planning to podcast regularly will find that purchasing a good microphone is a worthwhile investment. Directional microphones are best as they block out background sound and will only pick up the sound that’s being sent into them directly.
A pop filter is also helpful as it will soften those plosive consonants such as P, K, or T. (You’d be surprised by how much havoc an explosive plosive can wreak on your sound quality.)
Choose a Great Recording Environment
Decide where you will record your podcasts, and if possible, try to record in the same spot each time. Not only will this help you avoid any kinks in the sound quality, but it will also give you a consistent sound between episodes.
Obviously a quiet room that doesn’t experience much foot traffic is best. Rooms with big hardwood floors and tables will cause a lot of echo, thereby eliminating that intimate sound you may be going for. If you have access to a room with echo absorbers (think big curtains and/or rugs), that would be your best option.
Practice Simple Articulation Exercises Beforehand
It’s amazing. Once the microphone is turned on, simple phrases turn into landmines, with you tripping over your tongue every which way. Doing a few simple diction exercises beforehand can relax you, get your muscles working, and also give you more confidence.
Mute Your Microphone When You’re Not Talking
You probably have no idea how loud keyboard typing or sneezing or that little radiator in the corner can be until you’re editing your audio. Suddenly in the middle of your guest’s best answer, the audio spikes with keyboard keys clacking or you slurping your Starbucks. Mute it.
Keep a Consistent Distance From Your Microphone
Though slurping can be edited out, it’s much harder to fix when your volume level wavers dramatically between a teeny tiny whisper and A DULL ROAR!
Maintain a consistent distance from your microphone and talk in a conversational tone. You’ll thank me later.
In America, our volume and pitch tend to fall as we finish a thought. After awhile, this creates a lilt that can send your audience straight to sleep! And that’s not what we want, right?
To fix this, try lifting your pitch at the end of lines to keep energy moving forward and up. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy! Just simply putting that thought into your brain will ensure that you drive through the ends of your thoughts, keeping energy up and preventing the listener from dozing off or losing interest.
This is especially important on your sign off! How do you want to end the show, with a bang or a whimper?
Don’t Just Follow a Script
This tip is for those of you who are interviewing guests. It’s tempting to write out a script of questions and stick to it every episode. As soon as they answer, you say, “That’s great,” and move onto the next question on your list. But that is not how you’d have a real conversation! Instead, listen to the answers your guests give and react accordingly.
Creating a template of important things to touch on in order to give the interview shape is perfectly a-okay, but challenge yourself to actually respond to what the guest is saying. Some great prompts are, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “What was that like?” or “How did that affect you?”
By doubling down on a question, you narrow your point of focus and force your guest to get specific and honest. This is what makes an interview really come to life—the natural, spontaneous give-and-take between two people who are really connecting.
Start Over When Necessary and Take Your Time
Listen, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Podcasts are not being transmitted live. This means you can take your time and start over whenever you need to. If you trip over a word? Just make a note of the timing for yourself and your editor and say, “Hey! That was messy. I’m going to do that again!” In two clicks of a mouse, it’s gone.
If you’re struggling to find where to go with the next question, take a few seconds, look over your notes, and breathe through it. Editing out silence is far easier than editing messy delivery.
Trust me, the genuine “you” is always going to be better than some radio voice you could put on. Whoever you are, whatever weirds you wins you. If you have a quirky voice or laugh or a really strange sense of humor, do that thing! Be that thing! On a primal level, vulnerability and authenticity build trust because this indicates transparency to us.
So, whatever is authentic to you, own it! Let your freak flag fly, because that will attract like-minded… well, freaks! After all, if there’s no flag, it can be hard to even identify the ship. And like, who wants to board a ship that’s going to Connecticut? If a ship’s going to Alaska or Costa Rica, it may lose some passengers, but whoever is on it will probably be pretty freaking excited about their voyage.
So, relax, breathe, be yourself, and set sail with your audience to the places that thrill you most!