Snippets

What I learned from podcasting

I’m still tiptoeing my way into the waters of podcasting but with 8 shows under my belt I thought this would be a good point to reflect on the experience so far, share some of what I’ve learned - and maybe coax some of you to test the waters too…

1. Researching: I knew absolutely nothing about podcasting before I started so it was a steep learning curve. There are lots and lots (and lots) of good resources out there, including plenty of free material on the Internet. I found a piece on 10 ways to improve your podcasts a useful intro (I know, improving before I’d even started!) plus a squidoo lens (which I’m sorry I haven’t bookmarked and so can’t share).

My local library offered up “The Absolute Beginners Guide to Podcasting” – a plain English guide to explaining what was what, the equipment you needed and how to get started. This helped me a lot in the early stages. I’ll need to borrow it again when I’m ready to go to the next level :-)

2. Getting organised: You will, of course, need some equipment but it’s easier and cheaper than you might think. I already had a microphone – it’s cheap and cheerful but it does for now. I found a recorder and editor on the Net (free with a trial pay system). It is surprisingly easy to use – I’m not the best with technology but I worked it out by trial and error.

The last piece in the jigsaw is to transfer your MP3 to a podcast channel – I stumbled across Gcast and again have found it easier to use than anticipated. Here’s a pic of the dashboard on my home page - it’s just a question of uploading the audio file and then publishing it.

3. Getting started: This is the hardest part. There are lots of barriers to getting started – there’s the practicalities, learning how it works, the time it takes to record the first one (it gets much quicker and easier after a while). But the main barrier is fear – fear of broadcasting, fear of the sound of our own voice.

I found this piece of advice at just the right time, from a Podcast Sisters interview with Grammar Girl:

1. Start! Don’t be frightened.. just start, you can evolve over time but don’t wait for perfection…just take those first steps.
2. Produce your show on a consistent basis.
3. Keep your format consistent - it helps build loyalty with the listeners.

4. Planning: I have gone for a consistent time slot and format – partly because I thought I’d let it drop otherwise, and partly because it matched the advice I’d read. I go for a show each Wednesday, to take less than five minutes, structured around one writing theme, normally with 5 points. I ask my mind (creativity, unconscious mind, whatever you like to call it) to come up with an idea and a structure by Tuesday morning. So far it’s worked!

Once I have the idea I work out the five points, then jot it down in bullet points on powerpoint. One slide per point. Plus one for the intro, and one for the wind up. I know from experience I can deliver that in under 5 minutes. This is a lot more structure and planning than I do for (most of) my writing – but it helps me to keep it tight and to give it a structure. I’m also quite entertained by some of the ideas I’ve come up with – like the Halloween piece, zombies, and signposting your writing. The tight frame is a catalyst for creativity I think.

5. Recording: You would laugh if you could see my Heath Robinson recording studio. My microphone is on top of a pile of 8 books by the pc (I read somewhere it’s better to record talking up the way.) The cat is banished to the garden and I have to hope his yowls of protest don’t make it onto the recording.

My slides are stuck (yes with selotape) onto my base unit and screen so I can keep an eye on the structure and bullet points of the show – but avoid reading from a script. It’s so I can avoid waffling but not sound too stilted. I have to leave enough room between the pieces of paper so I can see the button on the recorder to hit stop when I’m done! Not entirely professional I know – but hey, it works.

6. Editing: This is the bit I find hardest. I’ve worked out how to cut out pauses and silences (like at the end if I’ve been trying to switch the thing off!) but not how to edit, seamlessly, in the middle. So if I say something ridiculous near the end I have to go back and do the whole thing over again. That is so much harder than writing when you can create a whole piece then revisit to tidy it up – it also makes it harder to do the next point which is…

7. Smiling: I encourage people to smile when they write because it makes a difference to how you come across. This is even more important when you’re broadcasting. If I forget to smile the recording can sound really, really downbeat and miserable. I’d say state management (that is, getting into an upbeat, positive, jazzed up state before you start) makes even more of a difference than it does with your writing – it’s as if the recorder amplifies your mood as well the sounds.

8. Feedback: This is another part I find hard – I don’t get much feedback on the podcasts, much less than on the blogs I write. There are lots of possible reasons for this – people aren’t listening, they’re too polite to say they don’t like them, it’s an audio format so it’s not easy to switch back to written comments, people who prefer audio might not like writing comments anyway, plus the format I’m using for the show is more ‘how to’ than conversational – so maybe there isn’t so much room to chip in.

9. Learning: I know I’m just at the beginning of the learning curve on podcasting and have a lot to learn if I wanted to take it to the next level. I’d like to be able to add in some music – or at least know how to – and I’d like to be able to record an interview. But beyond that, I’m not sure. I guess I’m seeing it more as a possible add on to a future teaching program than something I’m going to want to get into for its own sake. Which brings me to point 10…

10. Knowing your purpose: I started the podcasting experiment because people said they’d find the audio format a useful way to learn writing tips. It doesn’t come naturally to me, nor would it be my chosen way to learn – but that’s not the point. It’s about delivering something that’s of value to someone else, that matches their learning style.

Some people say podcasting is a lot of fun. I haven’t found it so (yet) but I’m glad that I’ve done it - because I think it adds something to the mix of what I offer, because I’ve mastered the technology, and because I’ve got used to hearing my voice ‘out there’. And that’s the real barrier to getting going. Yes the technology means a learning stretch but there are plenty resources to help you through it. What stops us are things that are more human and personal – not wanting to sound foolish, not liking the sound of our own voice, fear of getting it wrong, and just plain fear.

And you know there’s only one real way to get past that one, don’t you – to feel it, and do it anyway…


This is my contribution to this month’s ‘What I Learned From’ project. Thanks Robert for organising another group writing project and making the invitation so open that I could dovetail it with these reflections on my podcasting experiment.

To listen to my early podcasts you can dip into the archive, tune into my gcast page or press play on the green radio box in the sidebar (click ‘posts’ for a list of previous shows).

If you’ve any feedback on the learning points here, on what you’ve thought of my podcasts so far (but no rotten tomatoes please!) or to share any tips on how you’ve got to grips with podcasting - please jump in to the comment box…

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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17 Responses to “What I learned from podcasting”

  1. On November 11, 2007 at 2:06 pm Robyn responded with... #

    I love your “down to earth style” Joanna! You said, “My microphone is on top of a pile of 8 books by the pc (I read somewhere it’s better to record talking up the way.) The cat is banished to the garden and I have to hope his yowls of protest don’t make it onto the recording.” I could just picuture that.

    I also like the fact that you let me see the pros and cons. It gives me a chance to consider it logically.

    Thanks for sharing this post so “chock” full of information and your experiences related to it. Lovely authenticity!

    ReplyReply
  2. On November 12, 2007 at 8:36 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thanks Robyn.

    I hoped that telling it the way that it was might help other people to see the possibilities too. Hopefully I won’t have done too much damage to my professional reputation!

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  3. On November 12, 2007 at 11:41 am Robert Hruzek responded with... #

    Very good “lessons learned”, Joanna! Sometimes I think podcasting would be a natural for my storytelling. But good grief, I barely have time for posting what I do now!

    How long does it take for you to create one podcast?

    By the way, thanks for your contribution to this month’s writing project! :-)

    ReplyReply
  4. On November 12, 2007 at 3:51 pm Mike DeWitt responded with... #

    Hi Joanna,

    I really enjoy your podcast format and style. Keep up the good work!

    As far as editing, I strongly recommend Audacity, a free recording and editing program. It easily allows you to do the kinds of edits you would like. If it’s of interest, send me a list of the kinds of things you want to do and I could whip up a screencast for you!

    Mike

    ReplyReply
  5. On November 12, 2007 at 5:30 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Robert, I’d say it’s definitely worth giving it a go. You might find that you really enjoy it.

    Time wise - not really that much longer than a post - can be quick to record if the first one goes okay. I don’t know how to edit much so I don’t spend long on that part!! Can be a little bit footery creating the post around it (which I think is worth doing, not least as the search engines can’t crawl through audio)

    It does depend on the format you go for - I’m going for a fairly structured approach with mine - you might be happy to start telling a story and see where it goes… (scary thought, huh?)

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  6. On November 12, 2007 at 5:33 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Mike, thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

    Things I’d like to do - for now, it’s really adding in a music at the beginning and end, and seeing if it’s possible to edit any daft things I say in the middle. So I don’t have to record the whole thing all over which gets in the way of me staying good natured and smiling…

    A screencast sounds fantastic! Is this something you already know how to do or are you experimenting through Teaching Sells? I just did my first practice run with camtasia at the weekend and was totally wowed by the possibilities it offers..

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  7. On November 12, 2007 at 6:22 pm Lillie Ammann responded with... #

    Joanna,

    Thanks for this useful information. Although I don’t plan to do podcasts myself, but I want to podcast sermons from th Web site I maintain for my church. Someone else records the sermons, but your suggestion of GCast will be helpful.

    ReplyReply
  8. On November 12, 2007 at 7:06 pm Mike DeWitt responded with... #

    Joanna,

    I’ve been experimenting with this stuff for a couple of months. Teaching Sells just came along at an opportune time. I use DebugMode’s Wink and CamStudio, which fit my price point (free) right now. Not as comprehensive as Camtasia, but you can get the same result. If you’re interested in seeing the type of thing I’ve been playing with, you can check out this post:http://spookyaction.blogspot.com/2007/11/business-process-transformation-video.html

    I’ll put a quick tutorial together for adding music tracks at the start and end as well as cutting/inserting speech. It’ll be a good reference for me, too!

    ReplyReply
  9. On November 12, 2007 at 9:42 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Lillie, that sounds like a good project. I’d say it’s pretty straightforward once you’ve got your MP3 recording. There are no doubt other service providers out there but I’ve found Gcast very easy to use.

    Best wishes

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  10. On November 12, 2007 at 10:06 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Mike - thanks for the pointers re resources and the link to your own video. I didn’t have time to get all the way through but I can see that the blend of visuals and voice over makes a big difference. I’m itching to learn more about all this stuff.

    And thanks once again for the offer of the recording tutorial!

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  11. On November 13, 2007 at 8:31 pm Mike DeWitt responded with... #

    Hi Joanna,

    The video is being folded, spindled, and whatever else VEOH does to new material. It should be done by the time Liz’s open mic night starts!

    http://spookyaction.blogspot.com/2007/11/audacity-for-podcasting-video-primer.html

    Enjoy, and any comments/suggestions are always welcome!

    Mike

    ReplyReply
  12. On November 13, 2007 at 8:33 pm Mike DeWitt responded with... #

    Ready now!

    ReplyReply
  13. On November 14, 2007 at 9:40 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Mike, it was brilliant. Thanks so much for doing this for me! I don’t have time to experiment with the new learning for today’s podcast, but I definitely will for future editions - with full credits going to you (assuming it works that is - otherwise I’ll keep stumm!)

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  14. On November 14, 2007 at 3:09 pm Mike DeWitt responded with... #

    Joanna,

    You’ll have no problem. You saw in the video how simple the whole thing is. That’s what I love about the program!

    Mike

    ReplyReply
  15. On November 15, 2007 at 9:18 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Mike - you need to be a good teacher to persuade someone that a tool is simple to use…

    BTW you’ve inspired me to learn more about the screencasting too - so many possibilities there

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  16. On November 22, 2007 at 5:27 pm Alex @ Web 2.0 WordPress Guide responded with... #

    Joanna,

    Very nice writeup on podcasting. I have to admit I attempted to use it but with my accent - its effects were nullified and I ended up going with Odiogo service for those who want to have my articles delivered in audio format … hey computer voice turned out to be better then my own :D

    Perhaps I can use some of your tips for my own needs, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyReply
  17. On November 22, 2007 at 6:13 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thanks for the feedback Alex, and I’m glad you liked the article.

    One of the things I like about the ‘what I learned from’ challenges is that they help you draw out some of the general lessons - like planning, overcoming fears - which can be applied to lots of other areas of our work or life… as you say, always something that we can think of using and applying somewhere, somehow…

    Joanna

    ReplyReply

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