Podcasting Basics for Beginners

Podcasting Basics for BeginnersImage Source: Pixabay

Do you dream of hosting your own talk show, spreading new ideas, or sharing your expertise and opinions with an audience? With the advent of new technologies and the Internet, it is now possible to share your ideas with the world through podcasting.

In the past, talk radio required professional radio studios and expensive broadcast equipment. These days, everyone—from major celebrities and thought leaders to college students and homemakers—can reach a potentially wide audience through podcasting. All they need is a reliable Internet connection and some inexpensive equipment.

This article outlines the basic skills, concept development, rudimentary equipment, and steps you will need to launch your own podcast series. If you excel at producing exciting and engaging content, who knows? Your podcast could become the next editor’s pick at the iTunes store.

Basic Skills: People and Communication Skills

Before you can launch a successful podcast series, you’ll need to master basic people and communication skills. “Why people skills?” you might ask. Just like talk show hosts invite guests to participate in their shows, you may decide that your podcast series will need guests to make it more interesting and enriching.

With strongly developed people skills, you’ll be able to communicate with guests in a professional and effective manner, and inspire them to participate positively in your sessions. As for communication skills, podcasting by its very nature requires podcasters to be effective in written and verbal communication.

If you lack confidence in your communication skills, you could undergo communication training at a reputable organization, listen to some of your favorite podcasters, or even watch a few TED talks. Pay attention to how they express themselves and deliver information, as this can inspire and inform your own communication style.

Concept Development: Choose a Distinct Theme and Format

Your podcast needs a distinct theme—whether it’s helpful tips and inspiring stories for stay-at-home moms, or useful advice for entrepreneurs in their 20s. Carve a distinct niche for your podcast and talk about topics you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. It also helps to focus on a niche that hasn’t been covered much or is relatively lacking in content.

Choosing a workable format is just as important as selecting a theme. Each episode of the podcast needs to be structured around a format, and you’re likely to create better and more effective content if you opt for the same framework for each episode.

Generally, podcasts have a host who invites guests to converse about specific topics that are chosen in advance, though podcasts with just one host and no guests also exist. The beauty of podcasting is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to structuring formats.

How long should each episode last? It can be as short as five minutes and as long as one hour. Most podcasts don’t exceed 60 minutes, as content longer than one hour could overwhelm listeners.

While not absolutely necessary, it is ideal to create a basic script for each episode to ensure a smooth flow and transition of segments. However, you shouldn’t stick too rigidly to a highly detailed script or the podcast could come across as unnatural.

You’ll also need to work out a schedule for your podcast. Should you air new episodes once or twice a week, or once or twice a month? It is advisable to air fewer new episodes in the beginning and to increase production as your podcast gains traction and a broader audience.

Basic Equipment for Recording Podcasts

Podcasting Basics for BeginnersImage Source: Pixabay

As noted in a helpful article about podcasting published in Adorama Learning Center (ALC), recording podcasts with a single voice requires three inexpensive pieces of equipment:

  • A microphone
  • A device to record on, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet
  • Headphones

Other equipment you should consider investing in include the following:

  • Recording software
  • A mixer
  • A pop filter

Choosing a Microphone

The microphone is the most important part of your podcasting signal chain. If you’re on a budget, consider investing in a USB microphone as this won’t require expensive audio interfaces. Once you’ve gained a strong audience and more experience, you can invest in fancier equipment, such as analog microphones with XLR outputs, multi-channel audio interfaces, and outboard mixing boards.

USB microphones convert analog sound into a digital signal within the microphone and can be plugged directly into the USB ports of laptops and desktops. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, consider investing in Blue Microphones’ Yeti series, which is available from online electronics retailers like Adorama. Blue’s bestselling Yeti is a USB-powered small-diaphragm condenser microphone equipped with onboard gain control and a mute button.

Podcasting Basics for BeginnersImage Source: Adorama

The Yeti can pick up sounds from multiple directions and recording patterns (cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo), making it handy for two-person interviews. This microphone has its shortcomings though, as the Yeti captures more background noise than other professional solutions. To correct this, you can adjust its volume setting and tweak the recording in post-production.

Microphone Options for Smartphones and Tablets

Fortunately, you don’t need to invest in a computer in order to podcast, as you can record your podcasts on your smartphone or tablet using any of the free or paid apps that are available for your device. However, as not all USB microphones will connect directly to iOS devices, you’ll need to invest in a USB hub to connect an iOS device to your USB microphone. Great USB hubs that fit the bill include the Mobile Edge 7 Port USB Hub.

Choose a USB hub that has an A/C power adapter that plugs into the wall to provide direct power for your USB microphone. You can then use a USB to lightning converter or cable to finish the setup. Plug the cable into another port of the hub and connect the lightning end to your mobile device. This enables the USB microphone to communicate with your phone or tablet while receiving power from the USB hub.

Choosing Headphones

Closed-back over-ear headphones or a tight-fitting pair of earbuds generally work well for podcasting. The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is designed to remain comfortable throughout long podcasting sessions, and eliminates bleed from the headphones back into the recording microphone.

Podcasting Basics for BeginnersImage Source: audio-technica.com

Choosing Recording Software

You can use any type of audio recording software to record and edit your podcasts—including high-end recording programs such as Pro Tools, and reputable free options like Audacity.

Audacity is a free open source and cross-platform software for recording and editing sound. In addition to being compatible with most operating systems, it is easy enough to be used by beginners. You can record live audio directly onto the website or import different audio files, including MP3s and WAVs, onto the website.

Adding Mixers and Pop Filters

As you gain greater experience in podcasting, you should consider investing in a mixer. A good mixer will give you greater control over effects, and will allow you to include music, sound, and movie clips in your podcasts. Another great add-on is pop filters, which can be mounted in front of your microphone to minimize the popped plosives that people make when they say the “p,” “b,” and “d” sounds.

Steps to Launching Your Podcast Series

Once you’ve brushed up on your basic skills, developed your podcast concept, and obtained the basic gear, you can then begin your first podcast session. Launch your recording software, make your first recording, make tweaks to the recording in post-production, and convert your audio file into a podcast.

After uploading your podcast to a host site, you can begin promoting your content and building an audience. Best of luck!

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