As a podcaster, you want your listeners to enjoy your show, subscribe, and always look forward to your next episode.
Here are five tips to help you create a good listening experience. They’ll help to shift the focus towards your content, and away from any potentially annoying audio or presentation issues.
1. Edit Speech
When editing the speech in your podcast, taking out a few big ums and ahs can really clean things up. It’ll speed the show along, and generally create an all-round better listener experience.
However, there are arguments against any editing of this type. It adds a whole lot of time to the process, making you less likely to be consistent. It’s also nothing more than marginal gains, because everyone does a few ums and ehs. If you’re guilty of some big ones, though, or a guest comes on and stutters their way through a chat, it’s usually worth a bit of time.
If you go ahead with it, bear in mind that you certainly can “over-edit” your podcast, and many producers are guilty of this. Good editing should be completely unnoticeable, so don’t feel you need to remove every single ‘um’. This especially counts if you find one attached to a word, and removing it just sounds unnatural and jarring.
Stick to removing sections that can be easily pulled out without sounding obvious or disrupting the conversation pace. Editing should be more akin to clipping a shrub with secateurs than hacking away with a chainsaw. Often, less is more.
2. Avoid Double-Intros
Ever hear a podcast episode where the presenter introduces an interviewee, right before they cut to the interview and proceed to introduce the interviewee again? This is pointless, repetitive and takes up valuable minutes of your listeners’ lives.
There’s a rule in radio where a presenter’s voice should never transition into another clip of their voice. You can learn from this if you want to sound more polished, and more professional.
If you’re recording a separate intro for an interview, end it with something like “so I asked [guest name] what she though about [subject]…” Here you simply state the first question you asked in the interview. Then, cut everything out of the start of the interview and dive straight into their answer to that question. This can make everything flow a lot smoother, and avoids repetition. Your listener might not even realise this above a subconscious level, but techniques like these aren’t meant to stand out and be noticed.
3. Use Noise Reduction Liberally
Just as in editing speech, noise reduction shouldn’t be applied in a heavy-handed manner. If you have a bit of background noise – tone of the room, or ‘noise floor’ of the recording – it often sounds better left alone than with too much noise reduction.
Overused noise reduction can really kill the quality of your speech, and create a horrible watery sound in the background between. If you’ve ever heard a show where the presenter sounds like they’re underwater, then they probably used too much noise reduction. Assuming it’s not the critically acclaimed “Dolphin Trainer Today Podcast,” that is. The underwater burble can be really distracting to your listener, and often far more distracting than the original noise.
There are also situations where you are far better leaving in the original background noise than trying to apply noise reduction. If you have recorded an episode or interview outdoors or at a conference, the ambience and crowd noise in the background should be seen as part of the character of the clip. There’s no way to remove this type of variable sound anyway, so allow your audience to enjoy the atmosphere.
Noise reduction is a great function, but pick and choose your battles with each audio file. Always ask yourself ‘is this necessary?’
4. Set Music Volume Appropriately
When you look at your waveform on screen, you get a pretty good view of where things are loud, and where they’re quiet. The waveform can deceive you at times though, especially when it comes to things like music.
If you have a piece of intro music peaking at the same level as your speech, the music will almost certainly sound much louder to the listener. The reason for this is that there’s so much more happening in a music track than in a simple piece of spoken word.
Many podcast producers don’t lower the volume of their intro music when they mix their show, because they look at their waveform and guess that it’s the same volume as the spoken part. What usually happens to the listener is that they’ll lower the volume of their device to accommodate the intro music, then have to turn it back up once the speech starts.
Experiment with lowering the volume of your music, and listen back without looking at the multitrack. Adjust the levels accordingly until it feels well balanced, and go with that in your final mix.
5. Listen Back to Your Show
Following on from the previous section, make sure to listen back to your show, at least every few episodes. Because we edit our podcasts visually, the waveform often tricks our senses (setting music volume levels, for example). To avoid this, you should really be listening to your show away from the computer.
In order to do this authentically you might think about how the majority of listeners will listen to your show. Stick a provisional mix down onto your phone, and listen back through earbuds. Use the equipment that most of your listeners will be using in order to emulate their experience.
To make it even more realistic, try listening back in certain locations to help decide if you’ve got your volume levels correct. This might:
- In the car
- Walking along a busy street
- On the bus or train
If all sounds fine in those locations, then your episode will be good to go. If anything is too loud, too quiet, or a bit jarring, then you’ll notice it without being tricked by how the waveforms look.
It’s far better that you notice issues during your own test listen and fix it then, rather than have your listeners complain about it afterwards. Yes this adds some time to your production schedule, but it’s worth it.
Looking to Improve Your Sound Quality?
Recording good clean source material is the best way towards creating a great sounding podcast. But what is “good” audio, and how do you go about recording it? These are the topics of discussion in our next article, How Do I Make My Podcast Sound Better?