I believe podcasting is one of the most powerful tools available to build your brand and your audience. And when it comes to creating a great podcast, the real magic happens when you’re recording.
Over several years and hundreds of episodes, I’ve uncovered several crucial tips that have helped me improve my craft and produce podcast content that keeps people engaged and coming back for more. And I wanted to share those tips with you!
Without further ado, just click on the video above, or read below for my top 10 tips for recording a killer podcast episode!
#10: Watch Your Mouth!
This tip is really important—be consistent with the position of your mouth relative to the mic when you’re recording. If you drift away from the mic or even look away briefly, that will reflect directly in the sound quality of your episode. I’ve recorded hundreds of podcast episodes, and I still forget this sometimes! The key is to stay consistent throughout the whole recording. It can help to have a cue to help you here, so I always remember to have the tip of my nose or the tip of my lips touching the pop filter when I’m speaking. That’s how I know the sound quality will be the same throughout the entire episode. It takes some practice, but you’ll get used to it!
#9: Stay Out Of the Red
This tip has to do with your sound levels. Your levels will show up as a little scale in the application you’re using to edit. Usually this is a series of bars that go from green to yellow to red, depending on how loud you are. There’s one basic rule of thumb here: Do not go red! You don’t want to record in the red—because once you go red, you can’t go back. You’re much better off recording in the green and the yellows, because it’s easy to go back and bump up the levels in your software later on if you need to.
The best practice here is to try and get as close to red as possible without actually going into that range. This’ll give you get a great volume level without distorting the sound. If you’re using a portable sound recorder, it can be a little bit easier to control the levels, as the recorder will usually have a button or knob you can adjust on the fly to tweak your levels. But if you’re recording into software, it might not be as obvious how to adjust your input levels. So make sure to identify ahead of time where to do that in whatever application you’re using. Then, before you start recording, run some tests to calibrate your levels. Speak naturally, record a couple of run-throughs to see where your levels are running, and adjust accordingly. And remember, don’t go into the red!
#8: Keep it Consistent
One of the most common questions I get is “How long should my podcast episodes be?” This is actually a pretty common question for any sort of publishing platform, whether it’s a book, a blog post, a video, or a podcast episode. The simple answer to all those questions? As long as it needs to be. How much time do you need to get across your message? There’s no magic number, really. It all depends on what kind of content you’re going to produce, and on your style, too. There are plenty of great podcasts out there that are just three to five minutes long. And there are some podcasts that are longer—twenty minutes, thirty minutes, sometimes even an hour. You know your audience and the type of content you’re putting out there. Whatever show length you feel is right for you and your audience is the right answer.
That said, whatever show length you decide on, my main piece of advice is to stay consistent. You don’t want to record twenty minutes with one episode, five minutes the next episode, and then one hour the next one. Getting into a nice rhythm will be helpful for you, AND for your listeners so they know what to expect and know how much time to allot for listening to your show each time.
#7: Grab Them With Your Intro
I definitely recommend having an intro. It’s great for branding purposes, but there are different ways to approach it. And again, just to reiterate, this is your show. You can do whatever it is that you want to do with it. You have a lot of freedom here.
Now, as with any sort of presentation, whether it’s a blog post, podcast, video, or even a live presentation, the best thing you can do at the beginning is to tell your listeners or readers what they’re about to experience. This helps them understand what to expect, and gives them something to look forward to. For a podcast episode, you could even include a little teaser of the show’s content, to get people intrigued about listening all the way through. If you haven’t heard the SPI podcast before, I start each episode with a voice over saying, “This is the Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn, session number [X],” followed by some intro music. Then I spend about a minute going over about what I’m going to talk about and who I have on the show as a guest that episode.
The next thing to think about when it comes to your intro is music. Music can be a great way to set the mood and “grab” the listener right off the bat, but you also need to be very careful. The last thing you want to do is get in trouble for using music you don’t own, and to which you don’t have the rights. The key here is to look for music that’s royalty-free, which means you have the right to use it for any purpose. There are different variations of royalty-free music, so whenever you find something you like, make sure you go over the terms and conditions on the site where you found it. You can even contact the support team of that site to make extra sure you’re allowed to use the music for your show. It’s better to be safe than sorry here! Thankfully, there are lots of sites where you can find great royalty-free music. I got my music from istockphoto.com. Even though it’s mainly a photo site, they also have a music section. There’s also soundsnap.com, and you could do a search on Google for other royalty-free music websites.
#6: Charm Them With Your Outro
I’ll keep this one short and sweet. In addition to your intro, your outro is very important. And frankly, I see a lot of podcasters missing the ball on this one. Remember, your outro is the last thing people hear and remember when they’re listening to you. So put it to good use. How do you do that? You provide a call to action. It’s as simple as that. Keep the engagement going. The listeners who have tuned into you for the entire length of your episode are primed for you to tell them how to take the next step, whether that’s to subscribe to your list, purchase something, or even just leave a review or subscribe, which is helpful for your rankings in iTunes. Whatever that call to action is, it’s so important to have it in there.
Now, you can keep the call to action the same for every episode if you want to, but I actually recommend changing it up each time, just so that people who listen to other episodes have different options for how to follow up with you. Maybe they already subscribe to your email list, or they’ve already left your podcast a review, so you want to be sure to give them something new.
#5: Wow Them With Your Website
It’s important to direct people from your podcast back to your website. Why? Because people can’t click on what they’re listening to! It’s really smart to remind people to come back to your website, because that’s where all the action happens.
The best place on your website to direct people to is your show notes. Your show notes are a collection of links, summaries, an episode transcript, and/or other helpful resources related to a specific episode. Show notes are a great resource for your audience, because they provide an alternative to memorizing all of the great stuff you mentioned in your podcast episode. Instead, a listener can just come to your blog and find it all in one place.
What’s the best way to direct people to your show notes? Add a mention or two in the episode audio, telling people to come to your website and directing them to find the show notes for your podcast episodes. The outro is a great place to do that, but consider adding reminders elsewhere in your show, too. In my case, visitors to SmartPassiveIncome.com can click on “Podcast” in the navigation menu and scroll down to find the show notes for a particular episode.
If you wanted to make it even easier, you could get fancy and use a redirect. If you have a WordPress blog, this is actually really easy. I use a plugin called Pretty Links to do this. It’s one of my favorite plugins, because it allows me to take any link, no matter how long and ugly it is, and turn it into something pretty and much easier to remember. With my episode show notes, for instance, the URL on my blog might be something unruly like smartpassiveincome.com/spi001-introduction-podcast. If I mention that particular URL on the show, it’s going to be really hard for people to remember. But using Pretty Links, I can set it up so that when people go to smartpassiveincome.com/session1, they’ll get redirected to the long URL with my show notes. Super easy! And I’ve used this system for a while, so my listeners are used accessing my show notes with this format.
Finally, this goes without saying, but when you direct people back to your blog or your show notes, make sure you leave a good first impression. Do something to get them to come back for more. You collect their email addresses and get them to subscribe. Again, the blog is where all the clicking action happens.
#4: Say Yes to Segmentation
My next tip is to break up your show into different segments. This is an especially good idea if you are going to produce a longer show, say, in the forty-five-minute to 1.5-hour range. It’s totally fine to have longer episodes like this, but if you do, you have to be a bit more careful about how you break up the content so it’s more organized and digestible. Think of it like reading a book. If a book didn’t have any chapters at all and was just one huge chunk of text, it would be a pain to read. Having chapters and sections and paragraphs lets the reader know what to expect so they don’t feel overwhelmed, and also gives them room to breathe—some space at points to reset a little bit.
It should be the same for your podcast episodes. One of my favorite shows is Internet Business Mastery. There are many reasons why I became hooked on this show, but one of the main things I loved about it was they broke up their relatively long show into different segments. They started with their intro, where they talked about what the show was about, the episode number, and things like that. Then they did a short personal piece where Jeremy and Jason would just chat for a little bit. Then they would go into the featured segment, and at the end they would mention a short tip or resource. Between each of these segments, they’d have music to denote each new section. They used this structure in every episode, so it helped set expectations each time you listened. So, if you’re going to be producing a longer type of episode, think about breaking your episode into different chunks to keep your listeners listening and give them room to breathe a little bit!
#3: Forget the Fluff
This tip is simple: minimize the fluff. And what is fluff, exactly? It’s the extra stuff people talk about that doesn’t really have anything to do with the focus of your episode, that’s not going to be helpful to your audience—that’s just a waste of time, basically. What counts as “fluff” is going to be different for every audience, so the key is to think about it from your listeners’ point of view. Ask yourself, what do they want to listen to? They want to listen to stuff that’s going to help them, of course, so you want to get the meat of your content as quickly as possible.
That said, personal stuff is also pretty important, because that’s what people can connect to. That’s why I include a lot of personal stuff in my show. I talk about my kids and my family, as well as my hobbies and things I like to do, because that’s what helps me connect on a deeper level with my audience beyond just the content I produce. A lot of people come up to me in conferences and tell me stories about their personal lives before they talk about anything business related. So, the personal stuff and the stories, that’s what people remember and what lets them connect with you. But you don’t want too much of it. For me, the right amount is one or two little personal things at the beginning of the show or toward the middle. Just use your common sense. I’ve listened to shows in which the first ten minutes was about something I have absolutely no interest in, and I stopped listening. So be careful.
#2: Avoid Over-Editing
My next-to-last tip is to not edit too much! You’re gonna make mistakes when you record. But it’s really easy to notice them all, because you’re the one recording them. When you’re producing your shows, it can be really easy to edit too much, to hear all those mistakes and want to go in there and try to connect everything—to slice and dice and splice everything. Don’t do that. It’s a waste of time, and the more you rely on editing, the less you’re gonna actually improve as a person behind the microphone. You’ll have to do a certain amount of editing, for sure. You’re going to have to edit in your interviews. You’re going to have to edit your intros and jingles and things like that. And yes, there will always be a couple of clear mistakes in the middle of your recording that you’ll need to edit out. Fix those. But don’t try to make it “perfect.”
So trust me here. Don’t go too crazy with the editing. If you just force yourself to do it without editing too heavily, you’ll find it actually helps you improve in your craft. I’ve become such a better speaker behind the microphone, partly because I force myself not to edit my shows and rely instead on improving my craft of speaking. It will happen over time. It won’t be overnight, but you’ll get better. If you go back to my very first podcast episode, well, it sucks. I don’t like listening to it. And even if you go back to my first videos, I dare you to, because they’re just terrible. I cannot listen to them without cringing. But over time, I’ve gotten much better, and it’s because I don’t edit my shows too much. It just improved me so much.
#1: Have Fun!
The last tip here is to just have fun! Podcasting is amazing. At no other time in history have we been able to produce a show from the comfort of our own home or even on the road, something millions of people can listen to and listen to you, and it’s just so amazing. It’s such a wonderful time and opportunity, and the more you have fun with the process, the more your audience is going to pick up on that and have fun with it themselves. And here’s the thing: once you’ve produced a large number of shows, you’re going to reach a point where you’re just not having fun anymore. I’ve reached that point myself, and every podcaster I’ve talked to has reached that point where they just say, “Oh. I gotta record another episode . . .” But when you hit that point, just think about when you first started, and think about the possibilities. Because podcasting has the ability to open up so many doors. It has for me. Just remember why you’re doing it in the first place, and try to just have fun with it. If you find you’re getting bored with it, add something new, or try something different for a little while.
Well, those are my top 10 recording tips to help you improve your podcasting! I hope you find them helpful. If you’re thinking of starting a podcast and need a helping hand to get things off the ground, go to HowtoStartaPodcast.com and access my free 3-day mini course that’ll walk you through everything you need, step by step, to get your podcast up and running.