Saturday, April 10, 2010

Podcasting 101: Top 10 Must-Dos

Strangely enough, I have gotten a lot of emails from current and prospective podcasters that say this show has inspired them to create their own. I am quite flattered that anybody considers this show to be of a good enough quality that they would want to emulate it in any way, form, or fashion. Though I’ve only been doing this podcasting thing 6 months, I would like to impart a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned both as a show-maker and a show-listener.

  1. Only talk about things you know. If you’ve never studied it, lived it, loved it, touched it, tasted it, smelled it, or ridden it, then you probably shouldn’t talk about it. Nobody’s asking that you be an expert on the matter, but you’re putting yourself out there for thousands of people to hear what you have to say. It doesn’t benefit you in any way to be wrong. If you don’t have a passion for your topic, choose to talk about something else.
  2. Keep notes. As you think of random ideas throughout the day/week/month between shows, take them down. I’ve found the easiest thing to do is to use the Notes application on my phone. That way, when a topic just hasn’t jumped out at me by the time I’m ready to record the next show, I can just refer to my list and pull from that.
  3. Record in the same spot. Find a place that’s quiet, that won’t have noise distractions. Don’t turn on any fans, boot the animals out of the room, turn your phone and twitter and social networking updates to silent, and for the love of all that is holy please don’t start and stop to go answer the phone or get something to eat or take care of the loud noise in the background. I know life happens, but you’re breaking your concentration and focus and breaking up the pace of the show. It annoys a listener like crazy. Psychologists say that you'll feel more at ease and remember information easier if you have to recall it in the same place you learned it. (Which is why it's easier to take your English test in your English classroom rather than in the auditorium.) So research your podcast and record it in the same area. You'll remember your information easier, and it won't sound like you're reading straight from Wikipedia.
  4. Script your first show. Maybe even script your first 2, 5, or 10 shows. If nothing else, at least write out your main topic, that way you don’t trip up and forget where you were heading halfway through your topic. Your first few shows are critical in letting prospective listeners whether they want to listen to you. We’re not in it for the money or any pseudo-fame, but we are making a show nonetheless. Being well-spoken, without the ums and uhs and empty space in between statements is part of that entertainment/well-spoken factor. Once you become more comfortable talking to your computer, you can script less and less.
  5. Mix up your topics. Sometimes you might want to talk about herbs, sometimes a biography of a famous pagan figure, perhaps others you’re beefing about Silver Ravenwolf, but either way it goes don’t beat your audience over the head with a topic. Give them something else to think about. Sure you can talk magic and paganism, but mix in a bit about your daily life, your opinions on your favorite movies or books, etc. One easy way around this is to break your show into segments.  I recommend a 2:1 ratio - especially if you're a pagan podcaster. There are only so many big pagan topics, and many of them have already been covered. And, other podcasts already have the market on herb and stone segments. So do your one spirituality segment, and give at least 2 other non-pagan, or pagan lite, topics. Say something funny, something personal, something random, but say something ELSE. Your mix of topics is why someone will tune in to your show rather than Generic Witchy Podcast #472. Also, just stay away from this format: Intro - break - herb segment - break - stone segment - break - main witchy topic of the day - BREAK - god awful pagan music - BREAK - tell everyone how to email you about said witchy topics. A) That's TOO MANY BREAKS! That's great that you're promoting other people,  but we tuned in to listen to YOUR show! B) That format, or one really similar, is in use by a LOT of other pagan podcasters. They've been doing it longer and probably do it better.
  6. Know when to shut up. Again, don’t beat your audience over the head with a topic. This is why I recommend scripting your main topic at least. Make your point. Give your research. Crack a relevant joke or 3, but know when to say when. Your listeners will most definitely get bored if you use your show like a baseball bat and beat them in the head with your 45-minute long, uninterrupted monologue on the same thing. Also, vary things up from show to show. If you’re doing a big biography show one time, share some opinions next time, and maybe have an interview on the show after that. 
  7. Research. I covered part of this in point 1, but please do research on your topic. And, as I’ve said before in Inciting a Filtered Riot, don’t just research books in the New Age section of the bookstore. A quick and easy way to do some academic research on your topic is to stop by your local bookstore or use Google Scholar, which searches peer-reviewed, academic articles for your search words. Want to talk about Gerald Gardner? Run his name through Google Scholar and see what comes up!
  8. Learn how to operate your recording program. There’s nothing worse than a podcaster whose clicking and scrolling and edits and stuff are so completely obvious. Learn how to insert music and sound bites and effects and stuff into your audio file so that you’re not just recording something through a combination of speakers and microphones (something I’m still learning). No matter what program you use there is some sort of how-to video or article or discussion forum that will tell you how to operate it. Please, oh dear god please, use it.
  9. Upload a show regularly, but don’t promise when. We all understand that life happens, but when you leave 3 months, 6 months, or a year between shows…you’re really not putting out a show. If your favorite television program came out that often, would you still be watching that show? However, don’t guarantee when the next show will come out. You’ll eventually only disappoint your followers and yourself.
  10. Give yourself a break. Nobody’s first show was perfect. Nobody’s 10th show was perfect. It takes time to get a feel for what your show will sound like and what you will bring to the table as a podcaster in whatever community you’re podcasting for. Your volume levels might suck. You might accidentally record your show so that it only comes out of the left speaker and then correct it only to have it come out of only the right speaker. You might record an interview in such a way that it sounds like you’re a million miles from that person. You might edit yourself so that you cut off the middle of your words or the whole last 12 minutes of your show. Everybody does it, and everybody is still podcasting.
There are so many more tips that I could give, so many really important things to keep in mind (like DON'T read directly from Wikipedia! DON'T rip off other shows' ideas! etc.), but I felt this is probably the best 101 version of a top 10 list. I may put out a 102 top 10, but that will probably be done right after I make Project Pagan Enough bumper stickers. Which is to say...tomorrow. (as in the ubiquitous always-putting-things-off-until-tomorrow tomorrow)

I hope this helps in some way. If you ever have any questions about how to make your podcast run, feel free to ask! IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com You can also tweet @IncitingARiot. Happy podcasting and, in advance, welcome to the Podkin!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

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