Podcasting is hot right now.
After an initial burst of excitement a decade ago, it receded into the shadows as the Social Media phenomenon overtook everything.
But now podcasting is back big time. With so many new podcasters every day, there’s only one way to stand out from a very crowded field – provide a top-quality experience for your listeners.
That means sounding perfect on your podcast. People are not going to invest their time and energy into a sub-par listening experience.
So, what can you do to ensure that every episode of your podcast sounds pristine?
Your first step is to read this article – it’s packed with tips and tricks to give your listeners the podcast sound they deserve.
Starting Your Podcast
So what are the most important things for starting your podcast?
First of all, it’s important to note that the bar has been raised in recent years when it comes to listener expectations of podcast quality.
A decade ago you could get away with a less than optimal sound on your podcast. But not anymore.
Top-notch podcasts such as Serial and WTF have raised expectations to the point where people will quickly turn away from lesser offerings.
Recording audio on your hone and throwing it up as a podcast will no longer cut it. Taking shortcuts in setting up your podcast venture will not work, either.
So, here is a breakdown of the stuff you will need to get started.
You will never achieve a good level of sound without a top-notch microphone.
If you are going to be podcasting out in the field, then you’ll need a mic with an extra-long handle so you can get it close to your interview subject’s mouth.
It should also be Omni-directional and be rattle free.
If you will be recording your podcast exclusively in-house, you will want a uni-directional mic. All microphones will require a standard 3-pin XLR lead to plug them into a recorder or mixing desk.
You should also invest in a couple of stands that will allow you to do both sit-down interviews and round-table discussions.
Check that the microphone fits the stand and that, when the stand sits on the table, the mic reaches to your mouth without you having to uncomfortably lean forward.
A boom arm is also a useful accessory. It will allow you to precisely position the mic as needed.
You will also need a pop filter to shield your mic from picking up those harsh popping sounds when you pronounce hard consonants.
It will also keep your mic free of saliva. If you are going to be out in the field, you’ll also want a windscreen to protect your mic from the elements.
You will need a pair of full-size headphones in order to monitor your podcast as you’re delivering it and to enable editing later on.
You will want headphones that cover your entire ear in order to prevent any sound from leaking out.
While you are listening to yourself through the headphones, you want to hear the sound at its flattest. Be wary of effects like the bass boost that will distort the sound.
While you are listening to yourself through the headphones, you want to hear the sound at its flattest. Be wary of effects like bass boost that will distort the sound.
If you have more than one host or are interviewing someone, you will need a headphone amplifier.
Audio Interface & Mixing Desk
An audio interface is a bridge between your mic and your computer. It will convert the analog signal that comes from the mic to a digital signal that can be read by the computer.
A mixing desk allows you to control the levels, inputs, and outputs that you need to get the best sound.
A shock mount prevents unwanted sounds from tapping the desk and being picked up by your microphone.
If you are lucky, your microphone may come with a shock mount as part of the purchase package.
You will need some quality editing software. Fortunately, there are a couple of excellent options out there that are free of charge.
The Best Software
There are a whole lot of options when it comes to editing software.
However, when it comes to podcasting you want a unit that is user-friendly and one that focuses more on the spoken word than on music.
The most basic function of your editing software is to clean up your sound. That could be as simple as removing your word whiskers and stumbles as you are talking.
You might have to top and tail – remove the parts at the start and end of an interview. Or you might have to condense a 45-minute interview down to 10 minutes.
Another job that you may have to do with your editing software is to adjust the sound levels if one person is louder than the other.
Most software is compatible with both Windows and Mac. However, there are a few which are Mac only. Here are the five best software editing suites on the market:
- Can be a little confusing
- Compatible with Mac & PC
- Mac only
- Easy to Use
- Pro Level
- Mac & PC
- Batch Processing
- $20 per month
- 30-day trial version available
Logic Pro X
- Very Powerful
- Pro Level
- Mac only
- 4200 (one-time purchase)
- Built-in Skype recorder (pro version only)
- Unique Workflow
- Mac & PC
- $375 (Journalist Pro)
Tip: In addition to your sound editing software, it is a great idea to download a tiny widget called the Levelator.
It normalizes all your sound levels, which could save you hours of work. You don’t have to do anything except simply drag and drop your file into a window.
It will then give you a new version alongside the original file with all the sound levels normalized!
Top: When editing, be sure to save your original file and keep it as a master. Do all of your edits on a separate file.
Perfecting Your Presentation
Before launching into your first podcast episode, take the time to listen to what is already out there.
Listen to your favorite podcasts with a notepad and jot down what it is that you especially like about them.
It could be their humor, their fast wit or their interview techniques. Notice how good interviewers get the most out of their interview subjects.
They ask the questions that their audience wants to hear, they seamlessly segway between segments and they are able to adjust to new situations on the fly.
As well as being able to write and follow a script, a good podcaster has the ability to effectively adlib.
If you are not a confident public speaker or have a tendency to feel self-conscious, you will probably benefit from doing a public speaking or media training course.
The most important part of your podcast is your introduction. If you fail to hook in your listeners, they are not going to hang around.
Your intro needs to be powerful, punchy and well thought out. Your intro should tease what is going to be coming next. It is usually best to script your intro as opposed to ad-libbing it.
Try to use your language playfully. Make use of alliteration, humor, turn of phrase and play on words. Then, when you get into the meat of your podcats, do not make it bland.
Take a stand, form an opinion and express your personality. As a podcaster, you do not have an obligation to be fair and partial. This is your platform to express what is on your mind!
Using the Microphone Effectively
The most important aspect of producing a quality audio experience is to get the positioning of the mic just right.
A handheld mic should be positioned just below the speaker’s mouth.
If you are interviewing someone, explain to them beforehand that you need to invade their personal space somewhat to ensure that the audience gets everything they say.
When you are recording in-studio, be sure that the speaker stays ‘on mike’ at all times.
They should be sitting close to the mic, with their mouth about six inches away from it. They should not lean back in their chairs.
If two people are having a discussion, there is a natural tendency to turn towards the other person when speaking.
However, this tendency needs to be avoided. As a result, you need to control your body language in order to stay on mike at all times.
Make sure to check all sound levels before you start recording. Record all voices at around 12 decibels (dB).
You will see this indicated on the light meter of your mixing desk (the green, yellow and orange lights). Be sure to use your headphones to register the sound as well.
Tip: Remove any jewelry that you may be wearing before you begin recording.
Be carefully, too, if you have a tendency to wildly gesticulate with your arms when you get excited as you may inadvertently bang the mic.
In addition, make sure that all mobile phones and tablets are switched off or switched to silent mode.
The key to being a good interviewer is to listen to your guests. That will allow you to engage with him or her naturally rather than sticking to a rigid script.
Your podcast will sound far more appealing and interesting if you sound like you are having a free-wheeling conversation.
Remember that the podcast format provides you with the freedom to pursue tangents and go off in different directions.
This is often what makes the interview memorable. Do your research by studying examples of both good and bad interviews.
It is best practice to always interview your subject face to face. Sometimes this will not be possible, so you can resort to Skype.
However, Skype has a lot of variables that you don’t have control over. These include the strength of the internet connection.
The last thing you want is to have the internet cut out just when it’s getting to the best part.
It is a good idea to get the guest to introduce themselves at the start of the interview. Let them know the first question ahead of time so the interview gets off to a smooth start.
Do not talk over your guests. To show acknowledgment of what he or she is saying, nod your head instead of making any sound.
Although it may sound obvious, do not eat when you are interviewing someone.
Doing so would be disrespectful to your subject and your listeners – and it will produce a terrible sound. You should, however, have water available, both for yourself and your interview subject.
In order to achieve the most pleasing sound for your podcast listeners, you need to consider the vocal mix of participants in the podcast.
Try to include a mixture of age ranges invoice, along with male and female and even different accents. All of these things will add uniqueness and variety to your podcast.
When you are booking the interview subjects, you need to take into account the voice quality of your subject.
If they have an annoying lisp or are a stutterer, your audience is going to have a hard time listening to the podcast.
It might be better to present what they have to say in a different format, such as you interviewing them by email and then paraphrasing their answer in your own words.
If you really want to produce the best podcast sound, you should hire a producer. This person will help you to script, research and structure the show before you begin recording.
They will then direct the show when you are in the studio.
When you are interviewing, they will be able to communicate to you through headphones, feeding you questions and ideas on how to improve the interview quality.
They will also make sure that all of the equipment is working as it should, with all the indictor levels correct.
The producer will also edit the raw recording into the final podcast show.
In short, a good producer will alleviate you of the responsibilities of putting together and editing the show so that you can concentrate on engaging with your audience.
Q & A
Should you record or go live with a podcast?
There is no definitive answer to the question as to whether you should record your podcast or go live. Many people like the control that they get from a recording.
It enables them to cut out bits that they don’t like. They can also clean up their sound, cutting out word whiskers and uncomfortable pauses.
You are also able to correct factual errors, such as getting the wrong name or date.
When you are recording life, you don’t get to make any of these changes. Once it comes out of your mouth, or the mouth of your interview subject, it has already gone out to the podcasting universe.
Podcasting live, though, does have its benefits. It is great for topical subjects where your viewers want and need the information straight away.
It can also allow for a more free-flowing natural and conversational podcast. Going life can also allow podcasters to engage in real-time with members of their audience.
Should I record in stereo or mono?
If you record the participants in your podcast separately, you will be able to balance the voices at different parts of the stereo field.
You could, for example, pan one voice to the left and the other to the right.
The listener will hear one slightly more in the left ear and the other slightly more in the right ear. This will make it easier for the listener to follow the conversation.
The hassle of recording in stereo is that you will have to publish the podcast as a stereo audio file.
This means that the download will be significantly larger than a mono file, which may be annoying for your listeners.
Should my podcast have an outro?
Yes, your podcast should have an outro. Your outro is the last thing your listeners hear and remember.
So, make it memorable. It should be short and it should involve a call to action.
Change your call to action up regularly. If you tell them to subscribe to your email list every week, the message will be redundant once they have done so.
In order to build a following for your podcast, you need to produce the highest quality product possible.
That means taking the time and effort to ensure that your sound is as near to perfect as possible.
In this article, we have provided you with a lot of tips and advice to allow you to make your sound perfect on your podcast.
Work through them systematically in order to give your prospective the listeners the premium quality listening experience that they deserve.