Starting your own podcast is hard. Making your podcast better is even harder. And a lot of advice out there is too vague. How do you make it more interesting? How do you identify your target audience? So we asked 14 successful podcasters one question: What’s a podcasting tip that most people don’t think about? Here’s what they said.
Nicole Drespel, co-host of InBox
For guest-centric podcasts, figure out a balance between being a good host (focusing on the guest, not making it all about you) and also making it a little about you. Because the guest is only there for one episode, so if you want people coming back, they need to know who they’re coming back to every week.
Eric Eddings, co-host of The Nod
Ruthlessly edit! People are listening to more and more podcasts, so every second they are listening you’re fighting for attention. Listen back to your recording and jot down every moment you got bored, distracted or confused. Then cut those parts out first. Focus on giving your audience the best moments and literally ignore the rest.
Also consider order: Do the points of your interview/conversation/show build to a satisfying conclusion? Rearrange it so they do.
Anna Sale, host of Death, Sex & Money
Before you record your first tape, finish this sentence: “People will want to listen to my podcast because ______.” Most podcasts start from the creators’ personal passions, which is great! But in such a crowded podcast landscape, it’s important to follow that up with a clear argument about what will be different, special and engrossing about what you’re making and why it will be worth your listeners’ time.
Levi Sharpe, sound designer of Roommate From Hell and former producer of Lifehacker’s The Upgrade
Even if you hire people to help you, you will always be held back creatively if you don’t take the time to learn how to do a bit of every aspect yourself, including the technical aspects. Become proficient at an audio editing software, and get a decent grasp of basic equipment, such as the differences between types of mics, and learn some best practices of recording. Otherwise you might not even know what to ask for—or that you can ask for something—or you might create unnecessary struggles for your team.
Emily Morse, host of the Sex With Emily podcast and Sex With Emily on SiriusXM
Podcast listeners are extremely engaged audiences and like most successful relationships, it helps to be vulnerable. I’ve found that when I share my own challenges, even on an advice podcast, it allows the audience to connect on a deeper and more relatable level.
This also allows my guests to settle into an interview where they feel comfortable to share their own stories about the human experience. This process creates more teachable moments and inspires the audience into taking action in their own lives.
Maurice Cherry, host of Revision Path
If you’re using a tabletop microphone, don’t hit the table!
There’s a reason radio shows have microphones on boom arms: It prevents the microphone from picking up the vibrations from the table. Every time you hit the table, the microphone picks it up quite loudly.
Julie Shapiro, executive producer of Radiotopia
Focus on a story, topic or issue you are deeply passionate about, and be prepared to eat, drink, live and breathe that topic for the foreseeable future. And maybe to not sleep very much.
Jason Oberholtzer, founder of Charts & Leisure, producer of Longreads and Distributed
Produce with common podcast listening conditions in mind: washing dishes, in the shower, while exercising, on a noisy commute. People don’t listen in pristine environments so information needs to be clear, concise and easy to hear. That should influence both technical and editorial choices.
Phoebe Judge, host and co-creator of Criminal and This Is Love
Everyone should get close to the microphone. Just doing that can make a night and day difference.
Nate DiMeo, host and creator of The Memory Palace
Please write. And I don’t say that because my podcast is all written. Even shows in the venerable genre of Two People Talking About Stuff become so much tighter, so much more listenable if you take the time to write an introduction to the conversation to orient the listener. Tell them where they’re going. Make them want to go there with you. And then get going.
Matt Stroup, co-host of InBox
It’s fine to have a little preamble before your show starts, but make sure you’re giving the listeners what you’re promising sooner rather than later. Too much pre-show rambling can be annoying to a listener. Don’t just include it because you don’t know how to start your show.
Bill Conway, co-host of The Hard Times Podcast
Record at least 5 episodes before you go live, have them banked and ready to go. It will make things easier for you when you need to start publishing on a weekly basis.
Eric Nuzum, producer of TED Radio Hour, Invisibilia, and Where Should We Begin? and author of Make Noise
Know your audience. And get specific. If, for example, you have a passion for beekeeping and want to start a podcast about beekeeping. Who are you talking to? Grizzled veteran beekeepers? Those interested in starting a bee hive? Those are two very different podcasts.
Simon Tillotson, producer of In Our Time
It’s not all about the latest episode. Make the most of your archive. Flag up what listeners have missed if they’re new subscribers—if you choose strong content, they’ll thank you for it. And don’t forget some decent biscuits for your guests afterwards (as well as tea or coffee).
Our question was inspired by Redditor RevEnFuego, who asked a similar question on r/podcasting and got great responses. RevEnFuego included their own:
Listen/watch interview shows. Watch Dave Letterman’s new special, listen to Stern or Maron. Listen to what they say and how they interact with people. Don’t steal their style, but notice what they do that make YOU want to keep listening.
Our favourite tip in the thread comes from redditor tsunaminoal:
If you’re doing a double-ended show, recording separately but chatting over Discord/etc, hold your headphones over your mic and ask the other person to clap 3 times. In post, this makes syncing your tracks super simple.
Read more tips on Reddit, and tell us your own.