Starting a Podcast: A Quick Guide

Why start a podcast?

  1. It’s a quick way to build an audience. If your content is good, it’s easy to market your podcast (e.g. Facebook ads) and there’s a ready made audience (e.g. iTunes) for your show. A podcast also has international reach.
  2. You can produce a much greater volume of content. In the age of content marketing, podcasts allow you to create a lot of content in a short amount of time. You can communicate more and faster through speech than you can in writing.
  3. It’s fast and cheap. You don’t need state-of-the-art equipment. One of the most successful podcasts out there, Entrepreneur On Fire makes $250K+/mth and started with a $70 mic in a bedroom.
  4. You have complete control. You can decide what to talk about on your shows, who to have as guests, whether to have advertisers or not and so on. There’s no FCC regulations to dictate what you can and can’t do.
  5. You can make money. Whilst this may not be your primary motivation (and it shouldn’t be your only motivation), you can make a lot of money podcasting. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. However, if you are interested in your topic and can build a loyal audience over time, you can make an income – even a great living – from podcasting.

Planning your podcast

  1. Decide on your show length. You should aim for a show of at least 20 minutes. Some shows can be as long as 3 hours.
  2. Outlining your show. Consistency is important. If you study every show (podcast, TV or video), it’s likely that it follows a standard template, e.g. intro, first topic, second topic, advertiser, third topic, monologue, exit music. Create whatever outline suits you but stick to it every time. Some shows are “free-form” and that’s OK but those shows typically require strong hosts and guests with lots to talk about to make work.
  3. Do your homework. If you want to be taken seriously – especially by sponsors – you need to do your due diligence and do research for your show. Research your guests, research stories, try to get a basic understanding of what you want to talk about. It’s the professional thing to do.
  4. Sketch out your script. Make a few key notes for your show, outline the general structure, the points you want to make for each section and the sequence of events – and that’s it. Don’t write out your show word for word. It will kill all personality and sound fake and stiff. You want to sound as conversational as possible – like someone chatting to a friend in a cafe. Yes, that relaxed sound comes more naturally to some than others but it will come with practice.
  5. Bring your personality. The great thing about podcasting is that it gives you an opportunity to be yourself. Resist the temptation to adopt a particular persona. Just be you. You don’t have to be witty or wacky or anything you’re not. You will find your natural voice and rhythm the longer you do it – it’s not a process that can be forced.

Some podcasts break all these guidelines and are successful but they’re the exception. If you’re just starting out, we recommend you follow this process until you gain confidence.

What you need to start podcasting

  1. A computer with Internet access. A PC or Mac, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be state-of the-art. If you get into podcasting seriously, you may want a computer that has a faster processor and more memory but if you’re just starting out, learning the trade, go with a cheap computer. It’s the smart thing to do.
  2. Headphones. You want to invest in a decent, sturdy pair of headphones. You want a pair that can isolate the sound from the outside world. Again, you don’t need the most expensive model but don’t go for the cheapest either.
  3. Microphones. The higher quality your microphone the more professional sound quality your podcast will have. You get what you pay for. You can start out with a USB microphone but professional podcasters will eventually upgrade to XLR microphones. A USB microphone is fine if you’re just starting out. You can get sucked into a rabbit hole of what microphone to get. Just go with a decent USB microphone when you’re starting out and trying to see if podcasting is right for you.
  4. Recording software. Macs come with recording software built in. PCs have free software which you can download. Both have proprietary packages if you want to do more advanced things with your podcast recordings. When you’re starting out, the free (or cheap) software packages are sufficient.

A final word about equipment. Don’t be the spoiled kid. What do we mean? Don’t be that person who has to have the best of everything but then does nothing with it. Don’t let not having “the best” be an excuse to procrastinate and not do your show. It’s more important – and admirable – to go out there, get your show done and start producing good content regardless of the hardware you have.

Making your first show

  1. Settle on a final outline for your show and follow it. Make sure your layout covers the points you want to make, includes the information you want to share and the show offers something of value to your target audience. Don’t be tempted to ad lib and go off-script. You can do that when you have more experience but when you’re starting out it’s good to have structure.
  2. Record your voice. Hate the way they sound? You need to get over it. Your voice only sounds strange to you because a recorded voice and a spoken voice “bounces differently” (that’s the scientific explanation) on its way to your auditory canal. What’s more important is the style you’re going to adopt. Will you be conversational? A professional reporter/interviewer? Loud and boisterous? Quiet and calm?
  3. Listen to podcasts you like. Listen to podcasts you like and presenters you admire. What tips can you glean from them? What do they do that you think works? How do they sound? What questions do they ask and so on. Try to learn from those you respect.
  4. Practice. Try to enlist a friend or relative to interview. If you can’t find anyone, just practice your side of the conversation. Practice explaining something; practice a monologue; practice reviewing a film or video game. Practice getting use to being in front of a recording mic.
  5. Save your audio file. Once you have saved your recording with the software on your computer, you may decide to edit it.

Editing your podcast show

Be warned, you can lose days editing your sound file. It’s just not worth it. However, there are some basic editing housework that you will need to take care of.

  1. Reduce long silences. There are some people who go through their entire recording removing every pause they can find. Don’t do this. It sounds unnatural and it’s not necessary. And, sometimes, long silences are part of the conversation and can be dramatic. So, if you need to, only reduce silences, don’t remove them entirely.
  2. Give yourself editing points. If you stumble during recording, give yourself a few seconds pause. It’s much easier to edit out a mistake that has a few seconds buffer than trying to clip a sound file at a precise point.
  3. Clean up the sound. Remove what background noise, e.g. hiss, that you can using your software.
  4. Raise/equalise the volumes. Sometimes voices can sound loud or quiet on the same recording. If you’ve recorded voices on their own channels, you can independently adjust the volume of the voices. Raise/lower each voice as necessary so they are of similar volume.

Publishing and hosting your podcast

  1. Tag your show correctly. This is good practice. You want to give your show a full title, description and various keywords which describe its content. It makes finding/searching for your show (both for yourself and your online audience) much easier.
  2. Use a third-party company to host your audio file. Don’t try to upload your sound file to your regular hosting company. Your hosting company won’t like it and your hosting package is not designed to handle the bandwidth. Look to use a company like Libsyn, Podbean or Soundcloud (there are others).
  3. Have a player on your website. A good hosting company will give you a link to add a player to your website so that visitors can stream your show.
  4. Connect iTunes to your blog. iTunes are the big players in the podcast space. If you want to maximum exposure for your podcast, you probably want to submit it to iTunes. You submit the URL of your podcast feed to iTunes using a service like Feedburner.com and iTunes/Feedburner does the rest.

Need more help? This is just a crash introduction and we’re unable to cover every detail. The good news is that there are tonnes of free resources on YouTube to help you publish your podcast.

Also, you can find further information with this helpful beginner’s guide from Hubspot…

Photo credit: Matthew Keefe via Flickr.com / CC BY 2.0

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