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October 9, 2009 / conceptbin

5 Tips for Podcasting

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I love me a good podcast. I subscribe to about ten of them from the BBC, Guardian, NPR, and more (see this post), so it makes sense that I make my own sometimes. The podcasting started because I was invited to guest lecture on the MA in Cultural Management at Bifröst University in Iceland. Making regular podcasts for Icelandic postgrads (and a few for my Greenwich students) I’ve learned a few things, mostly from the mistakes.

These rules of thumb are provisional, as all such rules inevitably are. Feel free to add more in the comments section.

1. A podcast is not a lecture. It’s a way of reaching your listeners when they’re on the bus or the train, rather than a sit-down-take-notes audience that you might find in a lecture theatre. The podcast is a specific medium which can usefully supplement lectures and seminars, but it’s not a substitute for either.

2. Edit while you record. Pause the recording if you don’t know what to say next, gather your thoughts, then move on. Nothing kills the pace of the podcast like a protracted episode of “ummm, uuh, I think…ummm…”

3. Be concise. I like to follow a 15-minute rule for my podcasts: Either the whole thing comes in at under 15 minutes, or it’s broken into 15-minute segments. Each segment should have a clear focus of some kind (e.g., on one concept, one topic, one problem). Separate the segments with a sound cue (music, pause, a change of some kind) that signals a transition.

4. Establish a rhythm. Talk at a pace that suits you, but if you’re a slow talker you’ll have to step it up. Like any radio producer will tell you, rhythm matters in order to keep your listeners from zoning out while you drone on. It’s obvious, but you must listen to yourself – otherwise you’ll never notice your own speaking habits and annoying tics so you can do something about it.

5. Introduce the podcast – even if it’s only a few minutes long. Add a short opening snippet when the main body of the podcast is complete. It only has to be long enough to give the listener a sense of what’s coming. You’re not talking to a captive audience; you have to earn their attention from the outset.

In short, remember the specificity of your medium. A podcast is inherently mobile, it unfolds acoustically (not spatially, like print and images), and it will probably be played while something else is going on. Imagine your listener out walking, doing the dishes, driving, sitting on the train or the bus. What kind of travel companion do you want your podcast to be?

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