What do you get when you put two award-winning veteran podcasters together for an interview? Nine pro tips for making your podcast sensational.
Today we’ll explore how to create a great podcast, and what Grammar Girl and I have learned in our years of podcasting.
My launch as the Get-it-Done Guy came about as a guest appearance hosting the Grammar Girl podcast. That was 12 years ago this week! As I prepare to turn over the reins of the Get-it-Done Guy podcast to its incoming host, the talented and savvy Rachel Cooke, it seemed fitting to return to Grammar Girl and explore what we’ve learned from years behind the microphone.
1. Motivation and passion are the key to success
Know why you’re creating your podcast, and make sure it’s enough to keep you motivated. Creating a podcast is work, and creating one on a regular, consistent schedule is a lot of work. Make sure you’re devoted enough to see it through.
2. Practice reading from a script
You’d think reading from a script would be just like first grade—open up the text and read aloud. What you might not remember from first grade are the awkward pauses, the indrawn breaths, and the fact that you sounded like a first-grader reading out loud from a text.
A business colleague listened to my first few episodes and promptly said, "You sound like you’re reading from a script. Poorly.” They were right.
A business colleague listened to my first few episodes and promptly said, "You sound like you’re reading from a script. Poorly.” They were right. My reading was stilted. Better than a first-grader, yes, but nowhere near the quality level I’d need.
That doesn’t fly in a podcast. Reading from a script is a serious skill. Practice until you sound natural and engaging.
3. Try voice lessons
Make sure your voice sounds nice. A round, resonant voice works very well in an audio medium. If you don’t have that kind of a voice, you can get one! I didn’t have a beautiful, resonant voice, so I took voice lessons. When you learn vocal control, your vocal quality can improve dramatically.
4. Train yourself to read ahead
Next, learn to read ahead by a few words or a sentence. By knowing what’s coming next, you can adjust the tone of the sentence you’re in the middle of reading aloud so it will flow smoothly. Imagine the script:
It’s a wonderful day-
time soap opera
You might read the first line as a complete sentence and then stumble when you get to the second line and realize you were actually in the middle of a word. If you’re reading ahead, you’ll know it’s all one sentence and you'll read it the right way.
5. Be aware of your fillers
Master your “ums” and “ahs.” We rarely realize we’re using filler syllables when talking, but the microphone brings them out. Listen to recordings and get critical of your performance. Identify the fillers you often use. Teach yourself to pause silently when you would otherwise add a filler word.
Teach yourself to pause silently when you would otherwise add a filler word.
6. Understand that there’s no right way to do a podcast
There are all kinds of podcast formats—scripted, spontaneous, expert-voice, interview. They can be long, short, or anywhere in between. Each kind requires different skills and different production capabilities.
Scripted podcasts can be very efficient to listen to, but they require a lot more preparation—you have to write a script.
Interview podcasts can be easier to produce, but you need to learn to be a good interviewer.
A seven-minute Get-it-Done Guy episode runs about 1,100 words. The script takes me about two-and-a-half hours to write. Then we do an editing pass. In the background, while all that's happening, our ad manager works with sponsors to plan out the talking points for our ads. After that, I record. Before the episode drops, a professional sound engineer adds the intro and exit music and cleans up any glitches. Finally, our digital assistant listens to the entire episode and makes sure our sponsor's talking points were included. When everything passes muster, the episode gets released. Total person-power for that seven-minute episode? About one full day’s worth of labor.
Interview podcasts can be easier to produce, but you need to learn to be a good interviewer. And then you have to hope beyond hope that your guest can be a good guest. Interviewing someone who’s boring can be like pulling teeth. (Only pulling teeth isn’t boring if you get to use a bone saw. Don’t ask how I know this.)
Ultimately, you should choose the podcast format that works for you and will keep working over the long haul.
7. Prepare for interview technical challenges
Though interviews take less time on the front end, just figuring out how to get a high-quality recording can be surprisingly challenging:
- You can use a recording service like Zencastr.com. It records both sides of a conversation at high quality, then uploads and combines them into a single recording.
- You can use Zoom or Skype to record a conversation, though the audio can be spotty depending on your network connection.
- You can talk to your guest by cell phone and each have a microphone turned on to create a high-quality recording on your computer. Then your audio engineer combines the two high-quality recordings into a single episode.
Whatever method you choose, you're going to encounter problems occasionally. (Or often. Your mileage may vary.) Your guest won’t know how to use the cloud-based service. You’ll have connection problems. You’ll record your individual tracks at different sampling rates and your audio engineer will go lose their sanity trying to create the final episode.
When it comes to interviews, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
8. You should always know your interview talking points in advance
While some podcast hosts are natural interviewers and can make an interview fun and engaging to listen to week after week, don’t leave it up to chance.
If you’re doing an interview, even if it’s conversational, plan out your talking points in advance.
If you’re doing an interview, even if it’s conversational, plan out your talking points in advance. A conversation may be far-ranging, and you want to keep it on track and make sure you’re hitting all the content you wanted to hit.
9. A regular release schedule is the key to building an audience
If you want to build an audience, be prepared to release a new episode on a regular, predictable cycle.
Make sure your release cycle isn’t too aggressive. Build in enough time to produce good episodes.
Grownups are like 5-year-olds—we like things predictable. If people know you release a new episode every Tuesday, they’ll start to look forward to Tuesdays because they’ll get your next episode. Just make sure your release cycle isn’t too aggressive. Build in enough time to produce good episodes.
Listen to the podcast if you want to know more
Have a listen to my interview with Mignon to hear a conversation between two veteran podcasters. We cover many more topics, including:
- How to build and keep an audience
- What’s important in advertising on podcasts
- The truth about podcasts as marketing
- The truth about marketing podcasts
- Choosing show titles and cover art
You can click the audio player above to have a listen, or click the links below to listen on your favorite platform.
There’s a lot more to creating a podcast than meets the eye. If you keep these basics in mind, you’ll be off to a good start.
I’m Stever Robbins, and this is one of my very last podcasts after 12 years as Get-it-Done Guy. I’m moving on to new adventures, which include running affordable Get-it-Done Groups—support to help you turn procrastination into progress. You can find me at SteverRobbins.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!