About a year ago, some friends and I started looking into the possibility of doing a video game podcast. We all played a lot of games and were immersed in gaming culture, so we thought we might have something interesting to add to the conversation. However, like most new podcasters, we struggled and ended up making a lot of mistakes along the way. Hopefully, this series of guides will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of podcasting, while offering some good insight into the things that worked out well for us. Without further ado here is our answer to how to make a podcast:
The word ‘fun’ is key, because fame and fortune aren’t something you’ll get from the medium.
Presumably, you’re reading this because you think doing a podcast sounds fun. The word ‘fun’ is key, because fame and fortune aren’t something you’ll get from the medium. That said, if you’re going to bother doing all the work it takes to make a podcast, you’re going to want some listeners. You’ll also want those listeners to be engaged in what you have to say. For a podcast that means several things:
No one wants to listen to a podcast that is poorly mixed, full of static, or contains obnoxious booms and hisses. Getting a good headset is the best way to combat this on the cheap. If you can afford it, an even better idea is to get a mixer and a good home-friendly microphone (I’d recommend a Shure Beta 58A).
As long as you have a clear audio signal and even mixing, you’re golden.
Keep in mind that your listeners are probably going to be hearing you via a highly compressed audio file, so there’s no need for overkill here. If you don’t already have access to professional grade gear, this is not the time to start. Keep it simple and functional at first and then look into more professional solutions like sound booths and condenser mics later. As long as you have a clear audio signal and even mixing, you’re golden.
Another important thing is to turn off any electronics or appliances that might create a hum in the mix. You’d be surprised how little background sound is required before it becomes annoying to your listeners (if you can hear it at all, it’s too much).
Finally, don’t be afraid to “fix it in post” when you absolutely have to. This approach is anathema to professionals, but it’s often the only option for amateurs who don’t have the benefits of professional training and gear.
Let’s say you’ve tried everything you can to eliminate the static hiss from your mic, but recording time is fast approaching and, alas, the sound is still there. This isn’t an ideal situation, but recording anyway and cleaning it up as much as you can in your audio editing software (with filters like “reduce noise”) is vastly preferable to sending it out as-is — or even worse, not recording. When it comes down to it, releasing an episode with some technical hiccups is better than not releasing anything at all, as long as the content itself is good.
This one is harder than you might think. There’s a vast gulf of difference between what sounds good to you when you’re conversing with your friends and what sounds good to a listener who’s never met you. You need to know when to let tangents in the conversation go on, when to reign them in, and when to stick strictly to the topic at hand.
The best way to do this is to listen to episodes of your podcast. If you find yourself getting bored or zoning out, it’s a guarantee that your listeners are doing the same thing. Unless you have the charm of George Clooney and the eloquence of Stephen Fry, this is something you’ll probably have to work at, but your podcast will benefit immensely from it. You’ll also get naturally better at this over time, so don’t give up right away if it doesn’t seem to be working out.
If you find yourself getting bored or zoning out, it’s a guarantee that your listeners are doing the same thing.
It’s also important to think about what kind of a podcast you’re doing. Is it more news-oriented or more topical? Is it meant to sound crisp and professional or casual and fun? Once you’ve found your podcast’s “voice,” you can identify the types of changes that will make it better.
On the Game Out Loud Podcast, we’ve boiled our conversational shortcomings down into three categories: Energy, Honesty, and Brevity — or Ehb, as we jokingly call it (because it’s a terrible acronym). Before every show we remind ourselves to be as lively as possible (E for Energy), to not hold back our opinions because we think they’ll be unpopular or strange (H for honesty), and to not go on large rants or long tangents (B for brevity). If you can pinpoint the shortcomings in your own group and focus on improving them, your podcast will be much better for it.
Feedback is very important because it will let you know if you’re doing a good job with the previous two categories. Engage with your listeners as much as possible. Ask them what they think about your show and take what they say to heart. It’s easy to convince yourself that what you’re doing is amazing (or terrible), but your audience should really be the judge of that. There is nothing more valuable than having a flaw or a strength pointed out to you by a listener and working that feedback into future episodes.
No one wants to listen to a podcast that comes out at sporadic intervals.
Also vitally important to getting feedback is consistency. No one wants to listen to a podcast that comes out at sporadic intervals. Pick a schedule and stick as closely to it as you can. You’ll be much more likely to keep your listeners interested, which means they will be more likely to let you know what they think of your podcast.
These are the basics on how to make a podcast, but there is much, much more to cover. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll get into more specifics about how to record, edit, and mix your podcast. I’ll also suggest some affordable hardware and free software to help you along without stressing your wallet.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below!