What Not to Do When creating a podcast
I always wanted to create a podcast, having devoured ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’, ‘The Tim Ferriss Show’, ‘Trained’ and ‘School of Greatness’ for ages. I felt it would be a cool project to embark on (which it is, do not get me wrong there! I have learned so much, and created so many connections) – but it is much harder than I expected. Do not record podcasts when the audio is below-par.
My idea was to start a podcast about the intersection between curiosity, learning, education, sports and self-development…that focused on high performance and the rich stories, lessons, and meditative reflections on each high performers’ journey. Good idea, right?
I had the contacts and the network. I created the appropriate questions with the assistance of my co-conspirators Conor Gavin and Ciarán Dunne. I felt I had a grasp of the content I would want to focus on, to curate what people would want to listen to and stay listening to. But the sound quality in the early months was not good enough for where we wanted to bring the show.
Do not start a show for radio without impeccable sound! Sounds obvious now doesn’t it? But I learned it from trial and tribulation.
I mean here I was preaching about high performance, about being the best version of ourselves, about striving for the top for a show for people to listen to, and there were parts of the episodes where the audio quality was not optimal.
And these were authors, thought leaders and international stars in sport. I had recorded calls over WhatsApp initially as it suited the guests, it made it easy for them to have the chat and these were people I knew predominantly from my sports medicine work. Set high standards for optimising sound quality, do not fall prey to the easy out. Do not record or publish if the quality isn’t spot on.
A Workshop That Could Have Been Better
I remember running a workshop based on life lessons for business from sport, and what both worlds can learn from one another, with the content driven from my podcast. Picture this, halfway through the on-site workshop, that they had paid for, I start a clip from one of my episodes with an international rugby player. Everyone stands up, moves in with one ear and tries to listen, but can’t make out every word. It was disappointing. Do not let that happen to you. Do not start a podcast without the sound infrastructure in place.
I started the podcast with standard equipment, nothing fancy, a blue Yeti microphone being the main capital investment. But I didn’t speak to someone in the business about the nuances and technicalities of running such a project early on. However, I did seek advice after a few episodes around possible pitfalls, what to avoid, learnings, how to mitigate certain things.
Do not think you can do this without some advice and suggestions from someone who has been there, failed, learned, and done it well. Don’t start a podcast show without some guidance from a mentor or expert. You can try to learn on the fly but if the audio isn’t great, that can reflect in a way you do not want or deserve.
A good friend of mine approached me after about 10 episodes and said, “your audio isn’t of the standard it needs to be. People will struggle to hear all the stories and may even contemplate unsubscribing”. That was a body blow, but totally preventable. He was right. I was wrong thinking I had it all worked out. His advice was well worth listening to. It made an impact, it was valuable.
I had bought several books on radio production, creating podcasts and how to make viral audio content; ‘How to make great radio’, ‘Storycraft’ and ‘Out on the wire’ being the main ones. Did I read them before I started? Of course not! That would have been too easy, and sensible! That set me up well, to struggle a little with the audio side from the start. I did not even know the right online platform to use for remote conversations. I have read them several times over at this point now, and it has paid in dividends!
Podcasts rely on quality sound – quality being the key. The best podcasts have the best sound. Do not make a podcast without getting it spot on. Research the best in class – the best practice, environment, setting and kit.
I have learned about that now from personal experience and learned from my mistakes, but I wish I knew this earlier. There’s no doubt that having now developed and leaned into audio optimisation, post-production editing, improved platform hosting software (shout to zencastr), better questioning, more active listening, and refined and deep preparation that our podcast is now gaining traction. And we continue to land amazing guests, stories and life lessons.
If you want to start a podcast, invest in sound from day minus one. Buy good kit.
Speak to the podcasters and producers of this type of content. Put plans and strategies in place. Read about what it takes to be successful. Understand the process is invaluable learning for the end result. Do not just wing it! Do not do that!