Anna Noble, one of my MA Online Journalism students, wrote this about her first experiences of podcasting. I liked it so much I’ve asked to reproduce it here.
For my latest journalism experiment I have bravely entered the world of podcasting with zero broadcasting experience under my belt.
The result was literally days of record, delete, record, edit, delete and then: “That was perfect! But… you forgot to press the record button.”
I did manage to work through the frustration and actually start to enjoy discovering what you can do with a mic, a recorder and the free audio editing software Audacity.
I love the amount of creativity that audio allows you: you’ve got the tone, pitch, speed, sound effects, and the actual words you use, all at your disposal. It really allows you the freedom to present a story in a unique voice.
Anyway, here are 5 lessons I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.
1. Tear up the script
The way you write is not the way you speak. This may seem pretty obvious but when I sat down to write a script, my reading voice automatically switched on and I forgot what conversation sounds like.
It was much easier just to ad-lib in a natural conversational tone.
If you must script it, then compose your script by speaking it to yourself from the beginning and writing it down as you go.
2. Be a performer
I read a post from an ex NPR intern that revealed some of the quirky things radio broadcasters get up to, in order to sound lively and entertaining on air. So I looked into developing my own recording quirks.
In my previous life I have been known to get up in front of a microphone with a guitar and sing a few covers or (very rarely) share some poetry.
Creating the podcast felt like tapping into that performance mindset, once again. I found standing up gave my voice more confidence and I even brought home a mic stand, as a prop.
Basically, do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that your recording this for an audience. Even though the reality may well be you’re sat in the room talking to yourself.
3. Using statistics? Think data visualisations for your imagination
Turning numbers/colours/abstract concepts into mental pictures is a real challenge in audio, not having any of the usual visual tools available in other mediums.
I was inspired by the way Radiolab use sound effects to help visualise and compare numbers in their cellmates podcast — that’s cells in the biological sense.
My football stadium analogy for the prison population, provided the perfect opportunity to create an mental image of the number through sound effects. And this leads on nicely to lesson number 4.
4. Let the sound effects talk
I initially viewed sound effects as a way to add colour and atmosphere to my podcast — but as one of my trusty podcast addicts (see point 5) pointed out they are actually a great way of moving a story along. You can use them to signal a change in topic, like the door closing at 1:40, and you’ve no need for some long winded explanation or linkage.
Effects are a lot of fun to play with but coming up with the right key words to find that sound, only you can hear, in your head can be tricky.
5. Have a trusted group of podcast addicts
Perhaps the most important part of making my podcast was asking a small group of people to listen and give feedback, at different points in the recording. To know what works and what doesn’t and steal some great ideas, you haven’t thought of yet.
Thanks to everyone who provided feedback and suggestions. In particular to Nick Booth, from Podnosh, for his podcasting workshop at Birmingham City University.
Now to tackle the next episode.