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A few weeks ago, I made the trip to London to do a podcasting course at the Guardian offices – this meant driving from South Wales at 5am on a Sunday morning (no public transport to get me there on time) – it was worth it.

Podcasting seemed to be seen as quite a nerdy format in its early days.

However, as the popularity of Serial shows, it’s a medium that people are not only listening to in increasing numbers but, importantly, it’s a place where people are giving lots of their attention – podcasts are often 45- 90 minutes long. A juicy prospect, perhaps, for communicators trying to get people to spend five seconds reading their tweets or a minute watching their Facebook videos.

podcast-share-of-ear-1030x579Image credit: Edison Research

Here are some of the insights I took away from the day as well as some quick tips.

Big credit to my favourite speaker of the event – Ollie Mann, who co-hosts the Answer Me This Podcast and does loads of other good stuff. His part of the day was so useful as he was very frank and forthcoming with the details of his inspiring story of going from amateur podcaster to radio broadcaster and all round brilliant media dude.

Don’t promote it!

Ollie said that he and his co-host Helen Zaltzman didn’t tell journalists about their podcast, or make any big efforts to promote it until they were happy with it. He recommends we publish but wait until episode 15-20 to tell the world, when things are running more smoothly and you have something to show people.

I love this advice as it just felt right to me.  Some of my best projects started with no permission, veered wildly off plan and when I knew I had something to show – that’s when I got my buy-in.  I hope I get so good at podcasting that, in the future, the ones I do this year are thoroughly embarrassing.

*I’d better not mention that I’ve been podcasting with the awesome Ben Proctor for the past few months. When I’ve found my feet and feel my nattering is as entertaining and useful as co-host Ben’s, I’ll come back here and tell you more.*

I’d add that, in my experience, it’d be hard for a perfectionist to do this. Luckily, I’m happy to play, get things wrong, sound like a plonker. As long as I’m learning, it’s worth fighting the voice in my head saying “people will think I’m thick/hate my voice/hate my personality”. Screw that.

Intimacy 

Unlike with radio, people often listen to podcasts through earphones or alone in the car. They choose to listen at a time right for them, and they might binge on episodes.  This creates quite a different connection between the listener and host than with live radio.

What I take from this is that we don’t have to be like slick news readers – for the length of each podcast we can just aim to invite people to join in our world.

Aleks Krotoski on the Guardian Tech Weekly podcast is like the cool geek mate I wish I had. 

I love Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo almost like friends – I’m in on the the in-jokes and laughs on Wittertainment and I hear them more often than I see many of my mates.

Evan Davies has been like my friendly business mentor with his podcast, The Bottom Line. He asks respectfully cheeky and enquiring questions of his very cool guests. I listened to hours at a time from the archives when I set up my company and I’d buy that guy a drink any day.

A great example of intimacy, suggested during the Guardian event, is the WTF episode where Marc Maron interviews Obama. It’s a good one, give it a go if you’ve not heard it.

Quick tips

General

  • No talking over the guest/co-host.  It sounds obvious but it’s surprising how often we might be tempted to do this and quite tricky not to encourage the speaker with ‘mm hmm’, and ‘yes’ and other verbal affirmations we use in normal conversation.
  • If you have two hosts, know your individual strengths and stick to them. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.

Recording and editing

  • Back-up. Always check it’s recorded before your guest leaves and if disaster strikes beg them to do it again!
  • Use a pop shield. I was delighted to know the real name for the little foam covering that I have for years called a spoffle. It cuts out wind noise and stops your ‘P’s and ’T’s sounding harsh.
  • Record in the most soft furnished room in your house. It will make the sound less echo-y. So not a boardroom or place with hard furniture. If you hear air conditioning, switch it off. Draw curtains, shut windows, turn off tellies, stick the dog outside.
  • Keep your microphone nice and close to your mouth.
  • In the edit, aim for consistency of volume. Ensure all levels are similar so people listening don’t have to turn it up and down.

I’ll finish by saying – this is just a fraction of what was discussed at the event and I do recommend the course if you’re interested in learning more about podcasts.

I’m just a beginner – please tell me more tips and your experiences of podcasting in the comments.