This week, Rough House ran our very first Art of Podcasts course.
The aim was to help people produce professional, broadcast quality podcasts. It was designed for complete beginners – and none of those who signed up had ever done a podcast before.
The course was taught by our lovely team member Gail Downey, who is an extremely experienced radio broadcaster and has produced many podcasts for corporate clients, with assistance from me, and a technical whizzkid Paul Horton.
We devised a course which covered the uses of podcasts, content, how to script, presentation skills, the technical stuff – ie recording and editing – plus a bit of advice about uploading. The aim was that during the day everyone would produce a podcast they could take away and upload onto their website afterwards.
The first hurdle people considering recording podcasts have to tackle is the whole idea of the technical equipment. But as our trainees discovered on the course, it’s really not expensive and it’s not that complicated to master.
The broadcast quality recorder, the Zoom H1, which Gail and I use costs only around £100, and you can buy them on on Amazon. But if your computer has a microphone, you can also record a podcast straight into it, and you can even record one on your iPhone.
We edited the podcasts on some free software called Audacity (link to Audacity), which everyone had loaded onto their laptops in advance.
The first big task of the day was to discuss the reasons why people wanted to start doing podcasts.
These included: marketing their business, promoting training courses in public health, being available to clients for advice and support 24/7 and reusing the content of full day conferences.
We went onto to talk about content – and each trainee had to be interviewed another about what the podcast they recorded that day would be.
This provided the first lesson, as it became clear that the impression the audience (us) received about what the podcast would be about, what the interviewee thought they’d put across were two very different things.
Before recording any podcast, you need to be very clear and focussed about what it is you want to say and make sure you only say that. Preferably you need no more than three key messages.
There is a huge gulf between a piece of writing which is intended to be read on paper or a website, and one which is to be read aloud.
For broadcasters, it comes totally naturally to write in a way designed to be spoken (try reading my blogs aloud, you’ll probably see what I mean). For those on the course used to giving presentations, writing a script wasn’t too great a leap, but for others it was a huge learning curve.
Written text when read aloud generally sounds very unnatural and formal – for example we naturally compress ‘we would’ into ‘we’d’. And it doesn’t follow the norms of grammar.
In general the tricks and devices used to add interest and variety to a piece of written stylish text sound very strange when read out. Use the colloquialisms, phrases and language that you use when you are speaking normally.
The advice we gave was to continually read aloud as you write, to rehearse, and to try it out on someone prepared to be critical – constructively of course.
Once the scripts were written, it was time to record the podcasts.
Probably to everyone’s surprise, this went very well! The thing about the recorders we use is that they’re really very simple to master. You switch on, press record, read your script, and then press record again. Then you can play it back, and if you’re not happy, do it again.
The great thing about this, is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET IT RIGHT FIRST TIME! Because the podcast is being edited, if you stumble, or cough, or dry up, or if a plane goes over, you can start again, or ‘pick up’ in broadcast parlance.
Once everyone had recorded their podcasts, we loaded them into their laptops using the USB cable, and then Paul showed everyone how to edit using Audacity.
It’s really not that difficult to master, so everyone managed to produce a podcast they were happy with during the afternoon. We showed everyone how to add interest and ‘texture’ using jingles, music and sound effects. Of course, there’s a limit to how proficient you can become in an afternoon; the most important thing in learning any technical skill like editing is to practise, practise, practise.
The one thing we weren’t able to do during the day was upload the finished podcasts onto the trainees’ websites. Since everyone’s sites are configured differently, and podcasts need to be hosted on special sites, this wasn’t really an option.
But as soon as that’s been done, we’ll be sharing the finished podcasts with you. Watch this space!