Top 10 Podcasting Mistakes of All Time
Now that I have a video section on my main page I’ve been perusing a lot of podcasts, and time and again I’m seeing podcasters making the same common mistakes.
As a former music engineer/producer I’m familiar with proper recording techniques, and I thought I would offer my 2 cents worth so you can make your next podcast look even more professional.
There’s nothing worse than watching an embarrassingly amateur video that has otherwise good content. The sad truth is is no matter how great the content might be, if it looks or sounds bad nobody will watch it.
1. Improper Microphone Technique:
This is probably the most common mistake of all. The microphone that came with your computer or your webcam might not be good enough.
When using a microphone close to your mouth be careful with things like popping your Ps. There is nothing more irritating than listening to the constant pop-pop-pop as your breath overwhelms the microphone. To stop it use a windscreen and/or a headset with the microphone slightly offset from the corner of your mouth so that it is not directly in the line of fire of your breath. That way noise from your breathing can be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.
Another issue is banging the microphone. This will happen if it is touching your mouth, a piece of clothing, or if you are using a handheld microphone and moving it around. Of course you can always put the microphone on a stand, but unless it is a good one and close enough to your mouth you run the risk of the video sounding flat (i.e. all mid-range and no highs, lows or dynamics).
You might find that using a multiple microphone technique will give the best result (especially when recording more than one person) so experiment to find the optimum that works for you.
2. Bad Sound and Acoustics:
Think of the difference between singing in your bathroom as compared to in your bedroom. Hard surfaces on the walls, floors or ceiling will create an echo-chamber. Trust me when I say you don’t want to hear reverb on your speaking voice. Save that for your next album. Instead, you want to record in what’s known as a dead room — i.e. lots of drapes, carpeting, wallpaper etc. that will absorb sound instead of reflecting it.
But neither do you want it to sound muffled. Keep the microphone close enough to your mouth to get a clear sound, but far enough away so as to not pick up any annoying noise (read number 1 again).
Again, you are going to have to experiment a little to get it right. Ok now, all quiet on the set … take 20!
3. Improper Framing of the Shot:
If you are shooting video think of it in the same terms as making a portrait. We’ve all drawn pictures or used a camera and taken still shots of friends and family, and shooting video is no different. Your face and body is the most important part of the video and it should therefore be framed prominently in the shot. Or in other words you should be the center of attention.
If you are just shooting yourself, a headshot and shoulders is probably good enough. But if you are shooting with another person or have a gorgeous body that you want to show off, well… you get the picture
4. Background and Lighting:
You don’t want your background looking messy or distracting to your viewers. It should be clean with neutral colors so that all eyes will only be on you and your message – not looking at what is going on in the window behind you.
Lighting should be indirect and as natural looking as possible, and the source should be coming from the front. Not too bright so as to wash out your face, or too dark and foreboding leaving shadows either.
Tip: Use one of those small, spiral-shaped energy-saving light-bulbs in a swivel lamp-stand. Put it off to the side in front of you and facing the wall so that the light is indirectly reflected at you off the wall. If you still need more light you can also use a ceiling light but you don’t want it too strong leaving shadows and overpowering the indirect light source from the front.
5. You don’t follow a Script:
It’s always good to have a general format of what you want to say prepared beforehand. Keep it simple with just headlines that you can fill in off-the-cuff as you speak.
If you don’t have a prepared format you run the risk of meandering throughout your speech. Do that and you will quickly lose your audience. After all, they clicked on your video based on what you promised in the title.
So stick to the topic. There’s nothing more annoying than someone going off on a tangent and not delivering as they promised.
6. Your Script is too Polished:
Neither do you want your video to be overly scripted so as to lose its spontaneity (especially if you are interviewing or having a conversation with someone else). It shouldn’t come across as a polished sound bite from a CNN broadcast. Or in other words it should sound conversational, natural and not stilted.
7. Reading Notes:
Nor should you be seen looking down or off to the side at your notes. Keep your face pointing to the camera at all times, and your notes should be out of view and as near the camera as possible.
Tip: You can use your computer screen like a teleprompter with the webcam sitting on top of it. Use large fonts so it can be seen easily. Heck, if it’s good enough for George W…
8. Your Voice and Facial Gestures are Boring!
Engage your viewers by making it appear like you’re talking directly to them. Animate yourself and change your voice intonation, your pace, tone and volume. Like I said, podcasts should sound more like a conversation and not a stuffy newscast. Nuff said.
9. Your Podcast is too Long:
Rambling on will dilute the impact of your message and bore your viewers. Most of us suffer from ADD one way or another. This principle is no different than why you should not be writing posts that are too long in the tooth.
Show some respect for your viewers time and get to the point of your message and then sign off. Or if that isn’t possible, then split your video into 2 parts (or more). Do I hear sequel?
10. Let your Personality Shine Through:
Again, this is no different than from writing. Find your voice and be yourself. So what if millions of people are going to see or hear you? Ok, so maybe that wasn’t what you wanted to hear, but consider this – you can always edit your podcast before uploading it onto the net. Or you can just delete it and start all over again.
Smile, you’re on candid camera!
So relax and enjoy yourself. What are your experiences as a podcaster? Do you have any mistakes, horror stories or tips that you can share with the rest of us?