No matter what type of content I create, I always have the audience in mind. Creative people are passionate about the things they produce, but you can't let that excitement override your responsibility to remember your audience. This is especially important when creating a podcast because you want listeners to keep coming back (or subscribe) to your show. Here are some simple audience-driven tips to remember.
It all starts with audio quality
There is probably nothing that will make a listener turn off your show faster than bad audio quality. If they have trouble understanding you, what's the point of listening? Now, let me follow that up by saying this doesn't mean you have to go out and buy the most high-quality (and high-priced) microphone out there. Granted, if you can spend a few hundred dollars on a high-end mic and mixer, do it. If you can't, just make sure you get something that makes you clear enough to understand.
When I launched my first podcast, I didn't have the money to spend on the expensive stuff. So, I went searching for an acceptable, affordable alternative. Of all places, I found a podcast mic in the music/guitar/karaoke section of Target. It's the Samson Q2U USB/XLR microphone that comes with headphones and a mic stand.
Here is a promo for my geek podcast. You can hear how the mic makes me sound.
The best news...I've recommended this mic to other people in other states and they have found this mic at a Target store close to them. It's around $65 there, and it can be even cheaper online.
Don't forget that the audience is with you
If you're producing a podcast where you're the only host, it's hard to forget that you're speaking to the audience. However, it can get tricky for podcasts with multiple hosts.
When I produced on-air fundraising breaks for public radio, we would always have at least two people in the studio pitching. Occasionally, talent would get off-script in a way that risked making the listener feel like they weren't part of the conversation, but instead just being forced to listen to two people talk.
Occasionally I will hear a podcast that opens with the hosts just talking to each other - no introduction or greeting, they just start talking about random stuff. It sounds horrible! Plus, if your podcast title and description tell the audience that you're going to talk about something specific, you better get to the point before they bail on you.
I think people sometimes think they have to sound like a wacky morning radio crew in order for the podcast to sound legit. So, they will open the show with just random banter. I would warn against this. Sometimes people are drawn to podcast to get away from commercial radio and radio shtick. Your random banter better be awesome enough where you just know they won't turn your show off.
It's not uncommon for a podcast listener to pick an episode that will cover a set of topics that interest them. So, if you spend the first few minutes just randomly talking about the pizza you ate last night or laughing at each other's "funny" habits, the listener may get tired of waiting for you to get to the point. This brings me to my last tip.
Edit, edit, edit and edit some more
Though people do it, I don't recommend you record your podcast and then just post it. Take some time and tighten up conversations and tweak segments. In fact, find ways to insert bumpers or stings to break up longer conversations that cover multiple topics.
There's nothing wrong with occasionally getting sidetracked or randomly steering off-topic. That happens all of the time when people are talking. However, you have to get back on-topic at a reasonable time so that the listener doesn't think you forgot them and the topics they want to hear.
Take time to listen to your show as you edit. Put yourself in the listener's shoes and determine when you think certain conversations are running too long. Take the time to self-edit and delete comments that aren't as strong as others in order to keep the flow of conversations strong as possible. The audience doesn't always have to hear everything that was said.
Consistency and flow are more important. Make the strongest, most engaging conversation you can by editing. It's a huge benefit of a pre-recorded show. Take advantage of it!
Please note, when I say keep the audience in the conversation, I don't mean you have to constantly address them during it. Granted, you can address them by welcoming them to the show, thanking them for listening, or maybe even ask a question.
I simply mean don't forget them. It's important to remember them when you plan, record and edit the show. Audiences recognize when you've cared enough to think about them while producing the show and they'll appreciate you for it. If you do this, they'll feel like they're part of it. After all, I've had people tell me they talk back to us while listening to Assembly of Geeks in the car.
That's the kind of experience you want to give your podcast audience.