Gear. When I say ‘Podcasting 101’ many podcasters think about the gear. And there are so many blog posts about podcasting gear. So many questions posed on Reddit and in the handful of very active, dedicated Facebook groups on which podcast equipment is most recommended.
Gear is important. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the #1 thing new podcasters should be focused on.
The rise of podcasting right now makes me think about the Jerry Seinfeld Show, the episode where the focus is on car reservations.
Jerry makes a reservation ahead of time and later arrives at the counter to pick up his car…which is unavailable. This doesn’t make any sense to him, and he says something to this affect:
“You know how to take a reservation. You don’t know how to hold a reservation. And really, the holding is the most important part. Anyone can take a reservation…”
That’s how I feel about podcasting. Anyone can publish a podcast, but engaging an audience is really the most important part. And there are some crucial things you need to know if you’re starting or have just recently launched your first podcast.
But first, as a service to you, I’m going to provide you with a healthy list of podcast training resources that you should consider because they’re totally relevant to this conversation:
There are numerous, very expensive podcasting tutorials and courses
Rainmaker’s Jerod Morris and Jonny Nastor, hosts of Showrunner, the podcast, also lead the Showrunner Podcast Course. It’s a $645 course.
John Lee Dumas, the man at the mic of Entrepreneurs on Fire — the man everyone references as the most successful podcaster around — hosts Podcasters’ Paradise. It’s phenomenal and it’s $1,950.
Cliff Ravenscraft, widely respected as the godfather of podcasting and previously known as the Podcast Answerman, periodically opens up his Podcasting A to Z Course. It’s $1,999.
Alex Blumberg, the award-winning reporter and producer for This American Life has made Power Your Podcast with Storytelling available on CreativeLive. It’s $99. This is the only course on this short list that I’ve taken, and it’s incredible. Can’t recommend it enough.
The bigger point here is that you can spend a lot of money on gear, and a lot of money on podcast training courses that will get you setup.
But here’s what you first need to come to grips with about podcasting
If you’re in this to make a difference, not just satisfy your own curiosity, there are some realities you need to face:
No one is going to listen to a show with no real angle, and no story to tell.
No one is going to listen to a show with no personality or flair.
No one is going to remain loyal to a show with spotty frequency.
There are enough articles telling you that you should start a podcast. Podcasting as an opportunity and a phenomenon are both astounding. But I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t rush to do it, as there’s a harsh reality you have to face.
You'll never want to manage your podcast any other way
Here’s what they don’t tell you about podcasting
1. You’ve got to bring something new to the table
It’s really hard to get a show to stand out already. Yes, you can line up guests, interview them, slap an intro on it, and spin it into your RSS feed. Folks, anyone can do that. There are so many interview shows out there already.
At Freelance to Founder, we’ve got a model that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I interview entrepreneurial guests who have an interesting story to tell — they’re not just a celebrity name, and we don’t setup the show to pitch their wares. I deliver that story as a narrative episode. it’s a sort of audio documentary over the course of 24–35 minutes.
We move you from their past to the present, and we ask them to look ahead to their future. We layer in music — and this is a work in progress, admittedly — to give the show a little bit of a pace to it.
Whether you go the narrative route, or you boldly publish a one-person show with no guests, or you stick with a traditional interview, you better bring something new. And I’d highly discourage you from ‘winging it’ as the new think you’re bringing to the table.
2. It’s harder than you think to captivate listeners
I listen to dozens of podcasts. I’ll devour about 8–10 new ones every week to hear show formats, host personalities, and interview styles. Say what you want about the limitations of traditional radio, but you can always say this about successful radio hosts:
They know how to talk to you as though you’re right there with them, in the room, one on one. They know how to grab your attention. They know how to handle guests. And they know how to incorporate benchmark features into their shows to hold your attention, and to generate ongoing loyalty.
These things are skills. Just like public speaking is a skill. Many may do it, but the pros are pros for a reason.
On the other hand, podcasting is the Wild West right now. All the rules are being broken, sometimes purposely, but oftentimes naively.
If you’re going to succeed with podcasting, you’re going to have to really connect with people who aren’t there in front of you. It’s a skill that can be learned, but only if you actually practice it.
3. Editing can be the death of you if you’re not on the ‘good enough’ bandwagon
Unless you’re Michael O’Neal of the Solopreneur Hour, who spends very little time on post-production and yet publishes highly engaging shows, you need to invest time in editing, but not go overboard on it.
If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself spending three hours editing a one hour show that should have taken 15 minutes at most, as you eliminate every “uh,” every stutter, every pause. Podcasting has that advantage over radio — the ability to reduce distractions. But you’ll be tempted to go overboard and there’s no measurable payoff for perfect diction.
Ready to quit podcasting before you begin?
I don’t want that to happen. I actually want more quality shows out there. And you may have the personality, expertise, or talent for interacting with guests that we need more of right now.
In our case with Freelance to Founder, we’ve taken some key feedback points from past seasons that we’re incorporating right now and into future episodes.
Don’t let that happen to you either.