I think I need professional HELP (with my podcast)

Blake's Banter Pre-Production

There is an assumption that it’s easy to make a podcast. No problem! Just buy a computer, buy a mic, and start talking, right? But pretty quickly most organizations learn that just speaking into a mic doesn’t necessarily make for a good podcast, or one that will attract listeners…and even speaking to your mic is not all as easy as it sounds.

That said, you might need help with your podcast if you’ve ever thought:

  • I’m running out of things to talk about.
  • We have trouble releasing consistent shows.
  • Our show doesn’t really sound that good.

I will take these one at a time.

I am out of ideas!! HELP.

Sometimes the way you talk about an idea can be paramount. Here are some ideas to keep your show fresh:

  • Try taking an old show and putting a new spin on it. If you’ve previously had a guest with one opinion on a topic, have another guest with a totally different opinion.
  • Get crazy and have your competition on the show!
  • Follow up with a guest to see how they are doing since they were last on your show.
  • New segments can also be fun! Something like “Featured Member of the Week” or a specialist segment relevant to your industry: “Ted’s Tangerine Talk” or “The Advocacy Minute.”
  • You are very close to your association and you have your own way of approaching things. Bring in an outside mind who can approach your topics from a different angle. New ways of conveying information can keep your listeners interested even if you have several shows discussing similar things.

If you’re still feeling stuck or out of good ideas, it’s a professional producer’s job to be creative and give listeners a reason to listen. Consider hiring one.

We have trouble consistently releasing shows.

I see this with association podcasts all the time. Human beings are creatures of habit and a consistent show is essential to building a loyal fan base. There is a reason the Eleven O’Clock News starts at 11:00 pm every night. People expect it to be there and they make a habit of tuning in. They learn the hosts’ names and get to know their personalities. But making a show consistently can be challenging. One of the things we advise is to try to record shows in batches once a month for weekly shows. Attempt to get your releases ahead of schedule by a few weeks. You will have time to recover if a guest flakes out. You’re never scrambling at the last minute trying to get tomorrow’s show out. Remember those college all-nighters? If you’re like me, you don’t want to go back in time either. Like I said before, a good producer is a bit like having a trainer at the gym. Somebody constantly asking “what’s going on with the show?” will help keep you on track.

My show doesn’t sound very good.

This can be caused by a number of things, but here are the top three:

  1. Not having a good mic. “But Blake, what is a good mic?” I did an entire video on the ways to pick out a mic. You’ll feel smart after watching it, I promise.
  2. Not being on top of the mic. Have you ever seen a video of Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern or anybody else on the radio in action? They all have one thing in common. They are all right on top of the mic. Do not be afraid to turn the mic gain down and get right on top of it. It may seem like you are too close to it or it may sound distorted (crackly). Your audio tech should be able to fix that. If you don’t have a tech, call the place where you purchased your audio system and ask them how to turn the gain down on the mic.
  3. But we have a great mic, why doesn’t it sound good? If you have a good mic and you’re right up close, this usually means you didn’t put the studio magic in it. After you get the recording you need to mix it. Balancing it with the music and getting the multitrack audio to sound good is a bit of an art. If you don’t know what multitracking means you may want to consider learning how to do it (just google multitrack recording and ten trillion tips will come up). If you are multitrack editing here is a quick video with some pointers.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for making a show sound great. A lot of it comes right down to experience. But in my 20+ years of experience, here are a few things I’ve seen association podcasters doing wrong.

They mix only on headphones. Yes, you’re mixing at your desk or in an office environment, so you’re just trying to be mindful of your neighbors. Many associations may not have a dedicated studio where they can edit, so they don’t get to hear how the mix sounds on speakers. This could be a reason your podcast doesn’t sound as good as the others. Here is some info on why mixing on speakers is important.

Would you publish a website without checking how it looks on both a computer and a smartphone? So listen to your mix on both headphones and speakers if at all possible. Then compare it to your favorite sounding podcast. Keep noodling with the mix until it sounds close. Listen to your mix in the car, your listeners will be. In the car or on their smartphone earbuds will be the two most common listening situations. So why not find out exactly what it is going to sound like.

They mix on poor speakers. Your computer speakers won’t cut it. You need to hear everything. You also want the sound to be as flat (boring) as possible. Both stereo speakers and computer speakers color the sound boosting certain frequencies to make it sound better. This is great for listening to a final product. But not for mixing and here’s why. Your mix will be heard on all kinds of speakers and headphones which will not have the same coloration as yours. Think of a TV store showing the same program on many different screens at the same time. They don’t all look the same. Some have more intense blues, others might have a brighter picture with less contrast. The same is true with consumer speakers. For mixing, you want neutral sounding monitor speakers so your mix will sound its best on any system your listeners are using. Some name brands for quality studio monitors are Genelec, Adam, and KRK (KRKs are fun because they have yellow woofers). In post-production work, Genelecs are the standard for the most part. They call these speakers truth tellers because you may not like what you hear when you first listen to your mix, but you want to be able to hear those flaws so you can fix them. If you can make your mix sound good on those it will usually sound great on anything.

Note: If you really have no access to a speaker mixing environment, at the very least, listen on a few different pairs of headphones.

The bottom line is, be patient with yourself. Mixing has a learning curve and like anything worth doing, it takes time and effort to get good at it.