Six Tips for Starting Your Show Out Strong and Standing Out from the Pack
One of the most attractive aspects of podcasting is that, no matter how niche your interests are, there will be a show that scratches that itch. If that show doesn’t exist, there’s no one stopping you from creating your own show. And, while the latest data shows that there are more than 1 million different podcasts currently being made today, there’s always room for one more. After all, no one is going to make a show with your voice except for you.
While no gatekeepers are deciding who gets to make a podcast, there are some basic ideas that, if followed, will allow you to not only find your audience but retain them. Keep these tips in mind before you hit the wi-fi airways:
1. Be About Something
Ask yourself a simple question before you begin: “What is this podcast about?” The answer could be anything, but it needs to be something. Podcasts about nothing (or everything) have a much harder time building an audience than shows that have a well-thought-out game plan. The listener wants to know what he or she is getting when they hit “subscribe.” If it’s just going to be you and a friend talking every week about whatever crosses your mind, you’re going to have a tougher time gaining traction.
One of the truly great things about podcasting is that, no matter how small your niche is, you can connect with an audience. That listenership might never number in the millions, but having a small-but-loyal following is satisfying.
2. Publish Regularly
When you publish a podcast when you feel like it, you’re probably not going to create the momentum needed to build a listenership. No matter how entertaining you are, people will forget you if they never know when you’re going to put out a show. You have to be a regular part of their lives and you can’t do that if you publish irregularly.
Figure out what your schedule should be, and then stick to it. If you think you’re up to a daily podcast — and to be brutally honest, almost no one is — you’d better be publishing every day. Miss a day here and there, and you’re breaking the contract you’ve made with your listeners.
Make the schedule something that you can keep doing regularly. It might be once a week, twice a week, twice a month or every full moon, but give your audience a chance to find it — and then be able to depend on it.
3. Invest in Good Equipment
It’s true that almost all of us now have basic broadcasting equipment in our pockets. If you want to make a show, you can put on a pair of earbuds and start recording your show on your smartphone. Apps exist that allow you to do just that, and if you want to get your feet wet in the media stream, that’s an option.
If you want to be serious about this podcasting thing, however, you’ll need the right tools for the job. Fortunately, this equipment is all reasonably affordable and if you have a decent computer you’re already well on your way.
In addition to a computer, you’ll need recording and editing software (which we’ll discuss in a bit). Most importantly, you’ll need a good microphone. There are several sub-$100 USB microphones available, and many will have opinions on which one is the best. The one thing that all experts would agree on, however, is that almost all of them are better than the earbuds that came with your phone.
To get the best results, you’ll need to record in a quiet area. It doesn’t need to be soundproofed (although if you can rig an area with acoustic foam it will do wonders for limiting your background noise), but keep in mind that if you can hear something distracting, your microphone will pick it up, and so will your listeners. Make sure that the room you’re in isn’t so big as to create echoes, as well. You don’t want to sound like you’re coming live from a subway station or a gymnasium.
No matter how engaging your content is, listeners won’t fight through bad audio. Do a test run and listen back to it. If you’re noticing the symptoms of bad sound, fix the problem before stepping out on the stage.
4. Record Individually
If you have a regular co-host (and you’re not in the same space when recording), it’s tempting to record your conversation over Skype or some other platform, slap the music over the beginning and end of the file and send it out into the world.
Fight this temptation.
It’s fine to record the online conversation as a backup. If you’re serious about having the best sound quality possible, however, the solution is to make sure each of you is recording your voice locally. (Audacity is a great option — it’s easy to use and, best of all, free). Check to make sure everyone hit “record” on their computer, count down for syncing when it’s time to put it all together and have at it. After the recording session is over, use a multitrack software program to build the show. Adobe Audition is a great option but is pricy if you don’t have a Creative Cloud membership. GarageBand is a free option for Apple users and Audacity itself is an excellent platform for creating create multitrack recordings.
One of the benefits of doing it this way is that you have much better control over each voice’s sound levels. If one of you is a loud talker and the other is a bit of a mumbler, this ability to equalize is a godsend. It’s also easier to take out background noises, tape hiss, and other distractions when you have clean copies of each voice. Also, there often will be internet connection “hiccups” from time to time, resulting in “tinny” or “warbly” sounds — or in the worst cases a complete sound drop-out. If you’re recording independently of the Internet, your voice will continue to sound crystal clear.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
You should know that, unless your show is a “one season/one sitting” telling of a story, it will evolve. You’ll find out what works, what doesn’t, and learn better ways of presenting your perspective as you gain experience. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but also keep your audience in mind. You’re asking them to spend precious moments of their lives with you. If you don’t respect their time with clear audio and entertaining ideas, hundreds of thousands of other podcasts would love their attention. Building an audience is difficult; it’s almost impossible if you don’t learn and develop your craft.
Consider the first show to be your “test pancake,” meaning you work out our initial problems on an episode you know you aren’t going to release. When you take the pressure to release this test episode off your shoulders, good things can happen. You can get more comfortable behind the mic, work out the kinks in your production pipeline (there will be kinks), and get a much better notion of how the reality of making a podcast compares to your idea of it.
6. Pick the Right Host
With practice, engaging content, a set content release schedule, some online marketing and, let’s face it, a dollop of luck, the world will soon beat a path to your podcast’s door.
This leads us to a challenge that many of us would love to face — not having enough bandwidth for all the people who want to download our show. If you just put the mp3 files up for download with the same provider you’re using for your show’s website, they’ll quickly pull the plug if the bandwidth gets out of control.
There are platforms specifically designed to host podcasts and these companies will also provide you valuable information about your audience. I’ve always had good experiences with libsyn.com, but there are several others available. For a monthly fee, you upload your files, get the feed information and can syndicate to your heart’s desire, including getting your show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and others. It’s best to start with a platform like this from the get-go. Not only is it the simplest way to get started, but changing things once your podcast picks up speed is a great way to lose listeners.
Keep these six tips in mind before starting your show, and then aim high. The world — or at least a subset of it — is waiting for their next favorite podcast!