The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Podcast

Starting a podcast - The beginner’s complete guide to podcasting as a hobby or business

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Do you have a passion for something? Want to share it with others? Then podcasting is the perfect way to connect with a worldwide community of people who have similar interests.

Years ago, only a radio station host or well-known celebrity could broadcast “on the air.”

But nowadays anyone can speak their mind through podcasting.

Starting a podcast is easy

Whether you're in business to sell products and services, or you're a member of the local arts activity community, podcasting gives you a loud voice with long reach.

Starting a podcast is easy, and we’ll show you how to do it in a few simple steps. You can start today, and the audience will grow quickly as you add new episodes.

But I could never do a professional radio show by myself…....

At ZenCast, we've helped many people launch and grow successful podcasts. Here are the usual reasons why people think they can't podcast –

“I have a funny voice.”

“I don't have the technical skills to record and share audio files.”

“I can't afford to buy the right equipment.”

“I have stage fright.... I can't talk to a group of strangers.”

Sound familiar?

No worries, in this article we'll walk you through the easy steps to become a podcaster. And, we’ll resolve the doubts and fears that you may have.

Before diving into how to podcast, let's take a quick look at the reasons why you should do it.

Podcasting is important, and it's also easy

Even if you haven't been listening to podcasts yourself, most people already are.

For example, in the US more than 51% of the population (around 165 million people) listens to at least one podcast regularly. And, nearly one million people are active podcasters themselves.

In Australia, it's around the same proportion – There are about 3.5 million active listeners.

That's a lot of ears, and there's plenty of room for new podcasts.

Podcasting must be rewarding and easy, otherwise all those people wouldn't be doing it.

Naming your podcast

At ZenCast we're often asked for advice about how to name a podcast.

Here we'll explain how to choose a winning name for any organisation

SEO for your podcast name

If you're podcasting for a hobby, you don't need search engine optimization.

But if you're putting on a show for any business reason, or if you want to make it easy for searchers to find your not-for-profit organisation, then your name should contain appropriate keywords.

You can use SEO keywords in the name as a strategic move as long as the meaning is clear and it fits your brand.

The keywords should be words that make people think of your niche, but without using the words podcast, podcasting, podcaster.

The same name as your business, or…..

If you're podcasting for income, always include your business name for best branding.

… anything to get attention

In contrast, let's assume your show is a hobby and you're simply looking for more ears.

For creative names that don't need SEO keywords, simply use any name you like the best.

Avoid using “p” words in the name

It's easy to find a memorable name. 

Yet, it's more difficult to find a name that tells listeners – and readers – exactly what your podcast is about, without actually mentioning the “p” word (podcast) in your name.

Everyone already knows what they're listening to – or reading about. 

That's why it seems redundant or amateurish to reflect podcasting in the title unless a show is specifically about it.

Chew on a name before choosing it

To choose the right name for a podcast, we recommend taking about a week to think.

Try this – For the first few days, write down each potential name that pops into your head..... Then spend a couple of days narrowing the list down to the 3 best candidates.

By the seventh day you should have a clear idea of which of those short-listed names is the best overall.

Get a competitive advantage in business

Whether they're local or international, businesses are harnessing the power of podcasting to reach new audiences with less competition – and create more intimacy in relationships with customers.

If you're looking for fresh leads and more sales, you probably already know that podcasting is more effective than blogging because spoken words engage people better than written content.

When was the last time you tried to cook dinner while you were reading a blog article?

A podcast connects you with listeners even while they're multi-tasking. That's why it's time to start a podcast if you have a business.

What you'll need to start recording

Let's look at the equipment you'll need for podcasting. If you're lucky enough to have a large budget, there's plenty of expensive audio recording equipment available.

But you won't need very much money to start a podcast.

Instead, you can begin simply by using the bare minimum equipment.

First buy or borrow a good microphone

A good quality microphone is all you need to start. Later on, when listeners love your shows and the subscription base grows, just reach out and ask subscribers to send you enough money to buy better equipment.

That's the awesome power that podcasting gives you.

Good microphones are easy to find, with prices starting at around $60.

USB mics work well if they use so-called dynamic technology that's “front firing” and has good “rejection” capability. 

That's a fancy way of saying the microphone will pick up your voice crisply while ignoring unwanted surrounding noise – like the typical hum from household appliances you may be using right now.

If your podcasting budget is minimal, the Audio-Technica ATR2100 is the microphone for you. 

You can plug it into your computer right away with USB, and if you do choose to use a mixer in the future, it offers an XLR connection as well.
If money is less of an issue or you have higher production standards, the Rode Podcaster is a great pick.

Before you start recording

If you're sitting there with an itchy finger ready to push the Record button..... Stop!

Here are a couple of decisions you'll need to make before recording anything.

Podcast format

There are many different types of formats. Some podcasters have one-man shows, others rely on a cohost, some interview guests, others have a call-in program.

  • Single-host shows
  • Cohost episodes
  • Call-in programs
  • Authority interviews
  • Hybrids including any or all of the above
  • Documentaries (e.g. travel and tours)

It's tempting to do a solo podcast by yourself (everybody wants to be the boss!) but at ZenCast we usually recommend that you spread the weight around a bit.

It's worth noting that the majority of long-term successful shows are based on more than one person.

As mentioned in our article on How to Quickly Reach 1,000 Listeners, we recommend that you focus on the authority-interview format.

Maybe it's a motivational factor, or maybe it's because a rotating schedule of authority guests are the surest way to deliver fresh new value each week.

Whatever the reasons, you'll find very few solo shows can attract ever-larger audiences and maintain momentum over time.

By hosting and interviewing a variety of lively, knowledgeable guests you’ll always give your audience plenty of valuable information and entertainment.

Make an outline or script and stick to it

You already know from listening to “talk radio” shows that it's easy to a topic drift unless you plan each episode well, and follow the plan.

There's nothing more irritating to listeners than hearing unscripted chatter that strays far off-course from the supposed topic or title of an episode.

If an episode doesn't deliver the value that its title promises, your audience will punish you by clicking off. 

Ouch! 

If you've planned a day trip to the beach and all you're wearing is a skimpy bathing suit, you wouldn't suddenly detour and go on a hiking trip to the mountains, would you?

Of course not. The same is true for podcast shows. 

Success requires the right preparation and follow-through to avoid uncomfortable exposure.

Changing your show's topic without warning anyone means wandering into uncharted territory. It hurts your credibility, confuses your guests, and – worst of all – it pisses off your listeners.

It's better to stay on topic and stick to your script.

How to allot the time: What to say, and when to say it

At ZenCast new podcasters often ask us “How should I structure the time in an episode? What should I say, and when should I say it?”

Below we’ve outlined a proven effective time schedule for a good 20-minute podcasting session.

The ideal podcast length is about 20 minutes 

The average length of highly successful podcasts is about 22 minutes, and successful lecture series such as the TED Talks have shown that the average human attention span is about 18 minutes.

For typical a twenty-minute episode, here's a good time schedule:

  • Intro: 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Greet & introduce guests: 1 to 2 minutes [lead into topics]
  • Topic One: About 5 minutes
  • Topic Two: About 5 minutes
  • Summary & conclusion comments: About 2 minutes
  • Call to action (CTA): About 1 minute
  • Closing music: Up to 2 minutes

Music for your intro and finale

It's very helpful if you play a brief instrumental music clip to begin and end each episode. Use the same “signature” clip each time.

That way your audience will come to associate the music with your brand, even if you later diversify into other podcast types. Keep it simple, and make sure it echoes the mood of your podcast.

For example, if your podcast is focused on a laid-back topic, then a slow tempo is best. 

But if your area of interest is something more dramatic or edgy, then you're likely to choose intro music with a faster tempo. 

There are several ways to use music. You could use it as a lead-in for a few seconds, then fade it out as you begin speaking.

Or, you can play your clip softly in the background during the entire introduction. 

Use the same music clip or a slight variation when you end your show, too.

You've probably noticed that major radio and TV shows also use their theme music when returning from advertising breaks. 

Later you'll be able to easily find and edit any “dead airtime” out of the final recording.

Introduction to listeners

Have you noticed how every TV and radio show starts out with a set introduction? 

It’s always safe to assume that a given listener doesn't know who you are or what your show is about when they first listen to an episode of your podcast. 

Always repeat the basic information at the beginning of each show. That way you'll have a solid foundation to build a relationship with listeners.

Here are some good intros:

“Hello, I'm Jack Jones with ABC (organisation or company). [Podcast Name] is a show about [overarching theme]. Today we'll be talking about XYZ (topic)...”

How to present topics

To hold the attention of an audience, most shows should have a couple of topics, or perhaps three or four. It's best if these are interrelated.

Perhaps the first topic can present one viewpoint, and the second topic will offer a different “take” on the same issue. 

Or, you could present several similar topics in segments, with each discussion logically leading into the next.

Sample intros for a 20-minute show:

Topic intro for a two-part issue discussion: 

“Hello, I'm Jack Jones with ABC (organisation).... [Podcast Name] is a show about [overarching theme]. Today’s topic is XYZ (issue), and we'll be looking at both sides of the problem. First we'll consider (one potential solution for the problem). Then, in the second half of this episode we'll look at (other solutions, or the contrary viewpoint). Stay with us while we dive into this important issue!”

Topic intro for authority guest interview:

“....Today our guest is Joe Smith, the world's leading expert on shark attacks. During the first part of our show we'll talk about recent shark sightings along the coast, and later we'll discuss how to protect yourself if you're in a small boat and notice a shark fin circling around you....”

Saying goodbye the right way

If you use these recommended time segments and stick to the planned outline or script, your episode will flow smoothly to a natural conclusion. 

By giving listeners valuable information together with a bit of entertainment value, your subscription list will grow quickly.

Giving good value to listeners is the only way to increase your audience.

Before ending each session, it's critically important to take steps to ensure that you've given the best value and built a relationship with listeners. 

As each episode nears its end, you should recap what listeners have heard – or not heard. These are your summary and conclusion remarks.

Keep in mind that people are often distracted for a few minutes here and there, even if they've listened to the full episode.

So, during the conclusion of each show, briefly restate the main takeaways that you want your audience to remember. 

Mention the bullet points of your initial outline, or repeat a very brief summary of each topic.

Of course, you should also thank any guests, and re-invite them to a future episode while you're still recording. That way, they'll feel obligated to return and dispense even more of their wisdom to your audience.

Call your listeners into action

You should also take a little time to promote your podcast. Mention one or two topics for upcoming episodes.

Finally, to ensure your own success you must give listeners a specific call to action (CTA) telling them exactly what you want them to do next.

Now is the perfect time to ask your listeners to do whatever you wish. If they've enjoyed and benefited from the show, they're likewise obligated to help you in return.

The call-to-action can be something basic, such as “If you wish to learn more about [topic], send us an email.”

But it's far better to call your audience into action in a specific way that brings you a direct commercial or organisational benefit.

For example, if you're a business owner then tell listeners to buy your products and services, like this:

“Thanks for listening to today’s episode. As the manager of STW Ltd I'm often asked to show our (merchandise) to home owners here in NSW. I’ll be happy to demonstrate how it works. For a free demonstration, simply call me on (phone number)....”

Or, if your podcast is focused on local community issues, then the CTA can be something like this:

“If you're concerned about this issue as deeply as I am, then I urge you to call your Senator and give him an earful right now....”

The power of podcasting

As a podcaster you have plenty of power to inform and educate people, and you also have enormous influence on their actions. 

As your subscriber list grows, you'll receive rewarding feedback from individual listeners and learn how your shows have helped them. Use your influence wisely!

Choose your recording location

Now that you have some ideas about what to say and how to say it, the next step in podcasting is to record your episode. 

Ideally, the location would be a real studio designed for audio recording. But that's too costly for most of us. 

Instead, with a bit of preparation you can achieve great results working with the space that you already have. 

Make an effort to avoid spaces with flat, hard surfaces. They cause reverberation, which reduces the quality of recorded sound.

Furniture, carpets, curtains, and clothing-filled closets can all help to absorb sound and soften reverberation. 

At ZenCast we often recommend using a walk-in closet as your recording studio because it's quiet and private.

You can cover bare walls with drapes, mattresses, or eggshell foam if you have it. 

Regardless of a room’s size, as long as you use a good microphone and minimize any flat, reflective surfaces, the sound quality will be good for podcasting.

Set up your mic

As we mentioned earlier, any good-quality USB microphone will work well. 

Or, if the budget allows it, you can buy an XLR microphone.

XLR technology is used in professional audio recording applications. The cables have a circular connector with 3 pins. 

This technology delivers a balanced audio signal with less noise from electrical interference.

Whichever type of mic you use, the next step is to connect to the port on a computer or audio recorder. Plug it in, then select the appropriate audio input settings in your software.

That's all you need. Now you're ready to record!

Talk directly into the microphone

Remember the last time someone on a phone call or Skype conversation told you to “talk louder”? 

You've heard it before – Talk directly into the mic. 

Unlike an ordinary phone call, during a solo podcast you'll need to be aware and correct the issue yourself. 

The best way to this is by wearing headphones so you can self-monitor the audio quality.

There's nothing more irritating than recording a “great” episode, but then discovering later that your voice fades “in and out.”

With a couple of minutes of testing, you'll quickly figure out the optimal positions for your mouth and microphone. 

Use a mirror to keep your voice lively

We recommend placing a small mirror in front of you while podcasting. That way you'll quickly notice if you've shifted out of position while speaking. 

As telemarketers have learned, looking into a mirror while speaking also helps keep your voice from sounding monotonous or “wooden.”

Talk at a normal volume in an even tone with a relatively slow speed. Avoid raising your voice too much, because the strain can make it sound squeaky. 

Don't worry about volume – If you're using a good mic in a quiet room, your voice will be loud and clear to listeners.

For the best audio quality with remote guests, make a “double-ender” recording

Skype and other online platforms offer group calling features that allow you to connect with guests or co-hosts in remote locations. 

Still, even if they’re using good microphones, you’ll probably find the audio quality of remotely-recorded guests isn’t very good.

A double-ender recording means that you and your remote guests or co-hosts will each record separate audio. It offers great sound quality because you'll eliminate noise from telephone or Skype connections.

The trade-off is that you'll have a bit more work during the editing process, such as transferring the files and lining up the clips.

The double-ender process is simple:

  1. Each participant records separately, using their own software or recorder
  2. Everyone uploads their individual recordings to the server, where the person doing the post-production work can access those files
  3. You can use audio-editing software to line up those individual tracks, and perform any other post-production work such as leveling or sweetening
  4. Then export the completed file and finish by performing any other normal tasks for your podcast episode, such as adding ID tags and show notes

After the recording session

Once you've recorded an episode, it's easy to use free or low-cost audio-editing software for post-production tasks like adding music and editing out glitches. 

We recommend Audacity if you're using a Windows computer, or GarageBand for a Mac system. 

Write the show notes

You’ll need descriptions for your episodes, which are called show notes. They’re essential for marketing purposes because they drive listeners to share your podcast with others.

Use this simple checklist to write great show notes:

  • Plan each episode based on a written outline, and recap that outline in your show notes
  • Grab attention with a catchy title and opening line
  • Include quotes, either from you or guests
  • Use eye-catching graphics or images
  • Link to valuable information sources
  • Make the text skimmable and easy to read
  • Consider the idea of including a written transcript of the entire show
  • Use a memorable closing with a strong call to action (CTA)

The above are basic suggestions for writing your show notes. In other articles we'll provide more in-depth information and tips about how to use them as a powerful marketing tool to build an audience quickly.

Upload and manage your podcasts with ZenCast

After recording and editing, most of the work is done. The last step is to write your show notes and upload the episode to ZenCast. We’ll take care of the rest.

Takeaway

The takeaway is that anyone can afford to podcast. And, it's very rewarding. 

You'll have plenty of enjoyment and satisfaction, and it can also be highly profitable in a financial sense. 

By connecting with like-minded listeners you can spread your ideas, experiences and opinions as widely as you wish.

All of us here at ZenCast welcome you into the fascinating world of podcasting. We're available to answer your questions and help you be successful with your podcast.

Have a question about podcasting? We're here to help!

Ask us a question about podcasting 


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