Updated: Aug 9
For the past two years, I have contemplated hosting my own podcast. Being a storyteller at heart, it seems like an excellent way to supplement my writing and creating on this site. I have a pretty specific idea of what I want to do with this yet-to-be-created podcast but I have been hesitant to begin. That changed last week when I was a guest on a podcast.
After the show and listening to the podcast episode, I came away with realistic expectations of not just what I need but more importantly, what I need to change about myself to have any shot of attracting and retaining listeners.
One of my boys is a co-host of a sports podcast called The UnCoachables (Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3nHNxLBHfbYQbZxbVXXNLO) where they talk mostly about football, baseball, and fantasy sports. In one episode, I was invited on to guest speak about what sports was like for me growing up in the 1970s and 1980s (there will be a part 2 in the future talking about sports in the 1990s.) I have to say that my experience was incredible. Tuning in to these young men through their very first season, I have listened to them grow tremendously as hosts. Because of them, I was eager to see where I was in the podcast game.
After listening to them, I need some podcast school! I listened to the episode four times and took a lot of notes. From those notes, I believe I have constructed a decent guide for anyone thinking about their own podcast.
PODCASTS ARE FUN!
Podcasts can be a lot of work but more than anything, they should be fun. The reality is that most of us will not develop a podcast that replaces our careers. In the absence of that, it has to be fun or else one is wasting their time. Make sure that you are having fun doing it.
TALK ABOUT WHAT INTERESTS YOU...
Part of the having fun bit of a podcast is to talk about the things that truly interest you. My son and his co-host do a sports podcast because it is of great interest to them. In my case, my personality is too eclectic to settle on a single interest. My future podcast will be a variety podcast in the spirit of telling stories around a campfire meets late-night radio programs.
...BUT BE KNOWLEDGABLE IN YOUR INTEREST
There needs to be credibility in your podcast and the talking points lest your listeners lose interest quickly. It's one thing to talk about random things but an entirely different thing to put knowledge behind it. For example, while geology is an interest to me, I have no business hosting a podcast that speaks to the science behind geology. You'll need to research and you'll need to prep your episodes.
GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Podcast equipment costs can add up quickly. Not everyone has the means to set up a studio that is worthy of radio and television programming. That doesn't mean you should just talk into your phone and upload a recording either. My advice would be to research what you need and get the best of what you can afford.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
There are so many things we do when we speak that easily influence the reception of the podcat from your listeners. Many of these things can easily turn off listeners and have them go elsewhere. For example, when I listened to the episode I was on, I picked up three distinct things I was doing wrong.
The first was that I was speaking too quickly. The initial was likely a result of nervousness but the latter was the excitement of speaking. I got on a roll and barely stopped. Like momentum, my voice went faster. Cadence management is key. Too fast and people lose what you are saying. Too slow and people lose interest. Find that sweet spot and work to maintain that speed.
The second was all those additional noises, words, and phrases we don't realize that we do until we hear ourselves. All the times we utter "um", "like", "yeah", they really add up. I have a habit cough so I was very conscious of it. Listening to the episode, I only heard myself once with a muffled cough. That was good. What wasn't good was that I said "you know" a lot but what really stood out was the number of times I said, "and everything." I cannot recall that as part of my normal speaking in conversation but my God I said it a lot! Identify those unnecessary sounds and words then work to eliminate them.
The third thing is to be clear in what you say. If I wrote as I spoke in that episode, the transcript would have been full of long run-on sentences. Phrases like those I listed above extended those sentences. The good news is that we all do this for the most part. The best way to correct this is to practice. Do rehearsals before you first go on the air. Record yourself and share those recordings with people you know and trust to evaluate your recordings honestly. You'll start to develop a podcast voice so that you sound crisp and concise during your episodes.
PREMARKET YOUR PODCAST
Don't wait until you release your first episode. Start making strategic announcements to your friends and family. Give them an idea of what your podcast will be about without giving it away completely. If you can, record some teasers and share those first. Leave them wanting more so that they tune in.
When I say write a script, I don't mean script out everything you want to say. Instead, give yourself a solid agenda or outline with notes. It will help keep you on task and give you opportunities to do follow-up if you are interviewing someone.
RELEASE YOUR FIRST EPISODE...
Now that you have gotten everything ready, it's time to record the episode, edit the episode if it needs it, then release it into the wild. After its posted, share the news with everyone.
...THEN BE PATIENT
Rarely do we ever catch lightning in a bottle. You'll need to be patient and understand it may take a while to catch on. It's natural to want you to capture listeners and have that base grow. Don't let it discourage you if it takes time. Ask for feeback and adjust accordingly.
KEEP HAVING FUN!
If it's no longer fun then why keep it up? Remember, this most likely started as an interest or as a passion. Do it for yourself first and foremost. Anything after is the icing on the cake!
For help getting started on your podcast, here are a few links to help:
I wish you the best of luck my fellow future podcasters!
Shawn X is preparing his podcast. The Campfire is scheduled to premiere in the fall of 2022. Check out https://www.shawnx.co/campfire for more information.