Podcasting Takeaways - Part 1
Since I began working at Branch Metrics, I’ve had the privilege of curating the content and strategy behind our Podcast outreach.
In the beginning, I drew a lot of inspiration from Michael Copeland over at the A16Z podcast station. As I started doing more podcasts, I learned some important lessons on creating audio that is well-curated, compelling, thoughtful, interesting, exciting, and fun.
In the future, as I learn, grow, and publish more podcasts, I will throw back all the lessons I’ve learned under the same series.
Tips from a Month in Podcasting
1.) Voice is everything: It might seem cliche, but I couldn’t stress this point more. Your voice and the voices of othes are what make a podcast rock or die before it gets published. As I’ve progressed in the last month I’ve had to listen to my voice hundreds of times. This has caused me to reflect on how I sound, not only to myself but to others – do I talk loud, quiet, fast, slow, or strange? What are the words I use too often? How do I ask questions? A huge part of improving your podcast outreach is having an excellent interviewer. If you’re taking on this role then don’t be afraid to reflect, get feedback and make changes to the way you use your voice.
2.) Set the right expectations: A lot of speakers come into podcasts not knowing what to expect. Instead of hoping that they will get it right automatically, just be upfront in your expectations! Specifically, acknowledge how you want your podcast to flow, what flavor of questions you will ask, how you will ask those questions, what type of responses you think your audience will care about and anything else that you think will benefit them in knowing. This was some of the feedback I got early on from my first few podcasts and it has been a guiding principle ever since - don’t leave anything to chance. Be upfront, be honest, be genuine, and set your expectations early. Confirm them as often as you can.
3.) Laughing can kill the flow: I like to smile and laugh a lot. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do well for my podcasts. In general, laughing can disrupt the flow of the speakers’ voices and can cause an uncomfortable interruption in the thought process of those listening. If something is funny, it’s okay to laugh on a podcast, but in general you should think about how hard you are laughing and if it really is necessary for the situation. If all else fails, take it down a notch and try chuckling instead.
4.) Timing your questions perfectly: The goal of the interviewer is to guide the discussion, ask meaningful and related questions, and create a unified theme around the podcast. Much of this is done by asking questions at the right time. In general, I’ve found there are two important things to keep in mind:
Reasons to Ask Questions
Acknowlegment & Elaboration: You ask a question to confirm you understand what the speaker is saying and to inquire for deeper elaboration.
Follow Up<: You want them to immediately follow up on their point with a similar, related point.
Shift Directions: You want to shift into a new question or topic.
These are the three main types of buckets that I think about when posing new questions. The hard part is not really thinking of the questions, but asking them in the right way.
How to Position & Execute Good Questions:
The easiest way to deliver high quality questions in the right way is to find the pause after which the speaker is finishing a threaded thought and is moving into a new moment. Don’t be afraid to insert yourself if you want to shift the conversation. The most important thing to remember is that it should be a discussion. How would you insert a comment or question into a conversation with your friend or family? Hopefully, by waiting for the right timing and by picking up on context clues based on the information they are feeding you.
5.) Know your acknowledgement words: Almost as important as asking good questions is listening to the responses your speaker gives and ackowledging important points. It likely seems trivial that this made it onto my top tips, but when you’re listening to a speaker tell a compelling story, or describe a fascinating thought on the market, nothing kills the mood than a misplaced comment or word. From what I’ve found, it’s best to keep things simple. Use words like “Yeah, Sure, Interesting, That’s really cool.” The more you try to interrupt, use long-winded and complicated phrases, or distract the listener from the speaker, the more drop-off you’re likely to get.
6.) Discussion & conversation vs. interview: After trying both models, I think there is a time and place for both types of podcasts. However, discussion podcasts tend to have higher listens, more shares, and are much easier to both conduct and listen to. A discussion makes things relaxed and in turn allows the speaker to talk about a subject in a way that most audiences never hear.
An interview can also lead to a great podcast, but most people freeze up when “interviewed” and tend to project prepared, static answers that do not lead to good pocast material. If you’re doing an interview it should be with somebody seasoned and who will be conducting the interview off the cuff (so that it feels more like a discussion) – even if the questions are curated.
7.) Don’t forget distribution: SoundCloud has become my go-to for podcasts because it is incredibly simple to setup and manage. Additionally, SoundCloud has great analytics at a pretty good price-point, which make it a great place to begin logging pods. However, despite this notion, it’s important to remember that there are many other notable channels for podcast distribution. In fact, if you don’t distribute to as many channels as possible, you run the risk of losing listeners.
In this respect, I advise checking out the SoundCloud beta RSS program, which allows you to use your SoundCloud casts to distribute among most RSS aggregators, like iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Instacast.
If approved, you can grab your RSS feed straight from SoundCloud and push a submission into iTunes or other RSS aggregators. By far, this is the simplest way I have found to mass distribute podcasts with as little effort as possible.
This list isn’t complete, but does capture an amateur’s start to podcasting. The best thing you can do for yourself as you start to curate and record podcasts is to think thoroughly about your intent, your audience, and yourself.
What is the reason you’re making this podcast? What message or thoughts are you hoping to capture and convey?
Who is your audience; and who’s going to be most captivated by what you’re talking about? Speak to them!
How are you coming across? Be self-aware. Think about how you ask questions, how you speak, what your voice sounds like and try to actively improve so that your listeners get the best experience you can deliver.