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9 Ways to Improve Your Podcast

By: WhisperRoom™

December 15, 2020

Two men sitting at a desk and recording a podcast

You’ve launched your podcast and have several episodes under your belt. The content is great and your listeners and fans are growing each week. As your number of listeners continues to climb, you’ll want to make sure that the quality of your show also continues to raise the bar. Listed below are several methods that will help improve your podcast.

1. Find a Quiet Recording Environment

Find a quiet recording environment where you can record comfortably for lengthy periods of time. Neighbors, children, pets, and household noises can devastate your production. To combat these interruptions, it’s wise to implement a moderate level of soundproofing in your studio to keep background noises and interruptions from creeping into your episodes. Unwanted noises can ruin the listener experience, interrupt the flow of the show, and harm your reputation for success.

Quiet Places to Record

You might not be ready to invest in a prefabricated sound booth or perhaps you don’t have the necessary skills or equipment to construct a DIY vocal booth. Thankfully, with a little thought and proper planning, you can still choose the best location to record.

The quintessential room for recording podcasts on a lean budget is a small space that has plenty of absorbent material (proper sound treatment, sofas, and curtains) and minimal reflective surfaces (windows, TVs, mirrors, etc.).

Here are some other budget-friendly options:

  • A closet – although it’s not perfect, the hanging clothes will help with sound reflections and you can close both the bedroom and closet door to help make a better noise barrier.
  • In the garage – many garages are separate from the house, this offers you a good place to start building out a permanent podcast studio. You’ll likely need to treat the space to help combat reverberation issues.
  • In your car – believe it or not, your car is a great place to record if noise problems are your main issue. Additionally, you can position towels, blankets, or pillows over the windows to help absorb the soundwaves. In reality, your car won’t be a good long-term studio, but it can offer you a spot to quietly record when a quick fix is needed.
  • In a friend or relative’s home – if your house is too noisy, consider recording in the spare room of a friend or relative’s home.
  • Afterhours at your workplace – depending on the nature of your work and your relationship with your employer, you might be able to record when the building is quiet. Consider an early morning recording session before your colleagues arrive or after hours when nobody else is in the office.
A man recording at a desk in a quiet spot in his house

2. Create a Captivating Show Intro and Outro

The intro and outro of your podcast are vital for hooking new listeners. If you don’t have a catchy intro, improve your podcast by adding one. Let’s take a deeper look at the importance of your podcast’s intro and outro.

Podcast Intro

A captivating introduction for your podcast is an excellent way to start each episode. This is the first thing that new listeners hear and it might arguably be the most critical piece of audio you include in the show. An exciting podcast intro paves the way for an entertaining show and tells the listener everything they need to know about the podcast, the host, and the episode’s topic.

When done right, this message will encourage your listeners to engage with the content and listen through the rest of the episode. Most importantly, this gives you an opportunity to hook first-time listeners by letting them know what your podcast is all about.

Podcast Outro

The outro of your podcast needs to be equally as compelling as the introduction. This is your chance to persuade the listeners. Encourage them to tune back in for the next episode, subscribe to the show, or take action on your website. Whatever your call-to-action is, make sure to spell it out clearly during the outro of your show.

The Pod Sound School further explains why you need a great intro for your podcast.

Krystal Proffitt walks you through the process of making an outro for your podcast.

*TIP: Listen closely to a few popular podcasts and observe how their intros and outros are structured.

3. Use Music and Sound Effects

Captivating music and clever sound effects will help shape the tone of your podcast and add another layer of audio to help stimulate your listeners’ ears while you improve your podcast.

Where to Add Music and Sound Effects?

A podcast’s intro should almost always include music to help queue the episode. It will help tie your intro together and set the mood for the episode to begin.

Next, you’ll want to include music in your outro. For similar reasons to the intro, this will add a nice layer of sound to help you wrap up each episode. Additionally, you should use music when your podcast segments into a new section, a guest is introduced, or a podcast sponsorship clip is about to play.

You should also become familiar with using sound effects throughout your podcast. Using creative sound effects sparingly throughout each episode can help emphasize a point, add humor, and can even become a signature sound in your show.

Royalty-Free Music & Sound Effects

It’s critical to acquire royalty-free licenses to use in your podcast to dodge paying royalties every time an episode is downloaded. Here are several resources that offer royalty-free tracks that are ideal for podcasts and YouTube videos: Purple Planet, Incompetech, Pond5, Freesound, Free Music Archive, and PremiumBeat.

4. Run a Live Podcast

A live production of your podcast can be a great way to engage with your audience and give your show that “on-air” feeling. Hosting a live show promotes natural conversation and can spark some entertaining moments that would never happen off-air. However, this may not be the best fit if your show just launched or if you’re still working out some technical kinks.

If you have a decent fanbase of dedicated listeners, this could be a fun new approach to an episode. Give it a try sometime and you might find a new way to interact with your fans.

An "on-air" sign next to a microphone

5. Prepare Your Guests

While there are a handful of different podcast formats, the most popular structure is an interview-style show. In this format, the show’s host asks a series of questions that steer the conversation around a particular topic or theme.

The interview-style show greatly depends on your guest’s ability to entertain listeners by answering questions and telling attention-grabbing stories. If you fail to prepare your guests for an engaging discussion, your show will likely suffer from boring content. To keep that from happening, let’s look at a few things you can do to properly prepare your podcast’s guests for an interview.

Research Your Guest

It’s crucial to know who your guest is before you host them on your podcast. Spend plenty of time getting familiar with their past works.

Read their book if they’re an author. Become acquainted with their music if they’re a musician. If they have an expert opinion, become fluid with their research and recent publications.

You might even be able to find another podcast that they’ve been featured on in the past. This will give you insights into their sense of humor, rate of speech, and whether or not they answer questions clearly or go off on tangents.

Don’t Ask Lame Questions

This might seem like a no-brainer, but don’t ask surface-level questions. You want to steer the conversation with rich questions that your guest can unpack with their insights and expertise. By digging deeper with questions that get your guest talking, the discussion will begin flowing in a natural manner. Prepare a list healthy list of questions ahead of time and you’ll set yourself up to be a great podcaster.

*TIP: Avoid “yes” or “no” questions and focus on “how” and “why” questions. By asking “how”/”why” questions, you will get your guest talking and avoid dreadful short answers.

Share Questions With Your Guest Ahead of Time

After you have narrowed down your list of questions, it’s beneficial to share them with your guest prior to the interview. This gives them time to organize their thoughts and properly prepare for the episode. Additionally, you can also share information about your listeners, the format of your show, the date it will air, and how you plan to promote the episode. This step of preparation will help you create better content for your show.

Briefly Chat Beforehand

If you and your guest both have the time, it’s helpful to have a brief chat before the show. This allows you to answer any additional questions about your podcast, discuss the technical process for the interview, and become somewhat acquainted before the podcast recording takes place. This also gives you a chance to find out if there’s anything that your guest wants to talk about or not discuss on your show.

An infograph with tips for preparing guests for your podcast

6. Make an Outline to Follow

Having a detailed outline for each episode will help you keep all of your ideas centralized around the episode’s topic. An outline allows you to strategically research your topics, name your episode, appropriately prepare your guest (if you’re interviewing a guest), and think through your questions and findings. Proper planning and detailed outlines will help you improve your podcast by keeping you organized.

A roadmap for each episode will keep you on track and help you plan your show’s schedule. As you become a seasoned podcaster and your personality and content start to radiate, an outline may become less important to your workflow.

TIP: You can prepare a weekly outline or plan ahead for several episodes at once.

7. Be Confident

Confidence is a key ingredient for finding success as a podcast host. A confident host is able to control his/her environment, maintain an optimistic spirit, and keep the energy high. New podcasters might not have the same confidence as a well-established host, but there are techniques and resources that will help you boost your confidence in no time.

Listen to Other Podcasts

Listen to your favorite podcasts and pay attention to the confidence level and overall energy of the host. If the host demonstrates a high level of confidence, try to mimic the way they communicate.

Get Involved in Forums, Workshops, & Online Events

There are plenty of online resources that will give you insights into industry trends, equipment reviews, and discussions. The podcast industry has hundreds of workshops, classes, and online events that will help you improve your abilities and improve your podcast. It’s important to develop your skills by learning about all the new gear, techniques, and tips from other podcasters.

Knowledge is Power

You’ve probably heard the saying “knowledge is power”. In the case of podcasts, this is most likely true. The more you know about a topic or industry, the more confident you’ll be at having an engaging conversation around that talking point. Do your homework in all aspects of your podcast.

8. Try a New Microphone Technique

There are numerous microphones and tons of different recording techniques available to podcasters. You probably own several different microphones that you’ve experimented with, but it’s easy to have tunnel vision and create a bad habit with your technique. While a new microphone won’t instantly improve your podcast, knowing how to use it correctly will definitely help you out. Let’s take a look at two simple techniques that will give you a new sound.

Proximity to the Microphone

Physical proximity to the microphone will affect your tone and levels. Different microphones will have various suggestions for how close you should be when recording.

There is no fixed rule for this. Try experimenting with how close or far you are from the microphone while recording. You might be surprised by your findings!

Positioning the Microphone

A microphone’s relative position to a speaker will also influence your recordings. A microphone positioned horizontally to the mouth is usually considered to be in the default position. You can get a brighter sound by lowering the microphone and tilting it upward towards the mouth. Likewise, you can accentuate the low-end of the voice by aiming the microphone downward towards the mouth.

9. Spend Time in Post Production

The amount of time spent editing a podcast will be different for everyone. A first-time podcaster might spend hours working in post-production, while an established podcaster’s process will be much more streamlined. Thankfully, you will become more efficient with each episode that gets worked on.

To begin, you’ll need a reliable DAW (digital audio workstation) that allows you to adjust volume, remove audio clips, blend together audio segments, and add layers like music or sound effects. Let’s examine the post-production process in three steps: editing, mixing, and mastering.

Editing

The editing process is where your story comes to life. This is the time to trim your audio clips, piece together a tasteful flow for the show, and rearrange the raw recording to make an ideal listening experience. Improved editing skills will certainly improve your podcast.

Spend time listening to the unedited recording and take notes on anything that sticks out. Lengthy pauses, “ums” and “ahs”, and chunks of conversation that don’t add value to the episode should be the first to go. However, it is important to not overdo it on your edits. You’ll want to be mindful to keep the human element of the conversation natural sounding.

  • Trim down audio clips
  • Rearrange clips to tell a story
  • Add music, sound effects, and other pre-recorded layers (intro, outro, & sponsors)

Mixing

The mixing process is where you balance your track levels, reduce background noises, add EQ, compress the audio, and bounce the final mix down to a single track. Spend time in this stage of post-production to make the tracks mesh into a single track that sounds good to your ears. A properly mixed episode will help improve your podcast and allow your fans to have a pleasant listening experience.

  • EQ & compression on each track
  • Adjust individual track volumes
  • Bounce a single stereo track that’s ready for mastering

Mastering

The mastering process is where the audio track (that you mixed) is shaped into a final version that will be ready for online distribution. More compression gets added to the track and a limiter is usually added. A properly mastered track will meet loudness standards and retain a good sound when further compressed by distribution partners for streaming.

  • Final compression
  • Track limiting for loudness
An infograph with tips for working on your podcast in post production

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