So you’ve done it! You’ve decided to launch a podcast. Congratulations! You’ve decided on your topic, picked your platform, designed a super cool logo, and now you’re ready to record. Whether your podcast is about the endless ways to prepare potatoes (you wouldn’t be the only one, btw!), a review of the world’s noteworthy political news stories, or the tried and tested ways to succeed in business, sooner rather than later, you’re going to have to make that great idea a reality by record your first episode.
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Your first episode is important. It’s your entrance into the podcasting world; it’s what will get your initial listeners hooked, and just as in real life, first impressions matter! This article aims to help you plan for that all-important first episode. As you will see, putting a little extra thought into the planning stages will go a long way to making the recording of your first podcast a successful endeavor.
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Step 1: Get the Right Equipment
Before you can record your first episode, you’re going to need some equipment. Most importantly, a laptop, PC, or tablet and a mic! You’re going to want to spend a little time researching the hardware setup that will best suit you, as sound quality is obviously very important to a successful podcast. Poor sound quality, harsh noises caused by plosives or fricatives (think words with “p’s” or “s’s”) or simply sounding too loud or too soft can be very off-putting to your listeners. You could have amazing content, but if your audience finds your sound quality poor or irritating, they most likely will not be tuning in to your next episode.
The most common hardware set-up, due to its relative simplicity and ease of use, is a USB mic (popular choices include the ATR2100 or the Blue Yeti) plugged into a laptop or desktop computer. You can also simply use your smartphone or tablet and their onboard microphone to record, but you will have to put in a little more effort, particularly in the editing phase, to ensure that you achieve high-quality audio at the end. Of course, if you are looking to have a great-sounding podcast, then it is worth considering a bigger investment into a high-quality microphone to set yourself up for success.
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Another handy piece of equipment is a pair of quality headphones. Not only do headphones help keep you focused during your recording by minimizing auditory distractions, but they will also help you pick up on any audio issues during the recording, which can then be fixed right away. It would be incredibly disappointing getting to the end of recording your podcast episode only to discover you were speaking too softly, or that the mic was picking up distracting background noise, thus ruining the recording. Two popular headphones amongst podcasters are the Audio Technica ATH-M30x and the Sony MDR-7506.
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Step 2: Find the Right Software
At this stage, when we talk about software, we’re talking about recording software not just editing software. The type of podcast you are recording (i.e. solo or an interview, for example) may influence your choice of recording software. Audacity, an open-source, cross-platform audio software, and is a very popular choice. Not only is it free and easy to use, but it offers a variety of recording and editing features, including a multi-track recording option, which is great if you’re conducting an interview on your show.
Other popular choices include GarageBand (now offered for free for all iOS and Mac devices), as well as Adobe Audition, however, this software does come at a price. Again, when you are looking for the best-sounding quality podcast, investing in audio editing software or a team to do it for you can be worth it in the long-run.
There are also apps for both iOS and Android users such as Zencaster, SquadCast, and Ringr, which are used to capture quality audio when doing telephonic or long-distance interviews. These audio files can then be easily exported to your editing software of choice.
Step 3: Set up the Right Location
Now that you have the equipment you need and have selected your preferred software, you need to choose the location of your recording. On the surface, this may not seem like a big issue, particularly if you’ve bought a USB mic and some quality headphones. But your location can actually have a massive impact on the final sound quality of your recording. Choosing the right location to record in can also make your editing job much easier!
So where exactly is the best place to record from? If you’re not quite at the point of booking a studio (yet), what you essentially need to look for is a quiet room, and in particular, a room that has a number of furniture items in it, as these items will help absorb the sound. By breaking up the sound waves, this furniture, such as a carpet or a couch, helps prevent a lot of echo from making its way onto your recording, which is one aspect that you won’t need to adjust in the editing process. Essentially, the best rooms in a house for recording are the ones that are carpeted, have curtains on the windows, and have a fair amount of furniture in the room.
You should also try to pick a room that receives the least amount of outside noise from things like traffic, birds, construction, etc., to prevent these from disrupting your recording. This, in conjunction with your equipment and software, will result in clean, crisp audio for your first podcast episode.
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Step 4: Plan Your Episode
Now, there’s just one final step left before you can record – planning! It may be very tempting to think that just being well-informed about your topic is enough. However, even if your podcast focuses on a subject you have buckets of knowledge on and tons of passion for, you should still consider planning out your episode.
How you decide to plan is up to you and the style of podcast you’re hoping to achieve. Some might find it beneficial to write out an entire script for each show. This can be helpful, especially if you have a lot of content to cover and you want to get certain points across. However, if you are not careful, reading a script word for word may make your show sound too rehearsed and unnatural, which can be very uncomfortable for your listener.
On the other hand, no plan at all may cause you to ramble, or jump around between topics, which can also be frustrating for your audience. A happy medium is therefore needed. Perhaps writing an outline for your show will prove most successful. This will help keep you on track, and at the same time, allow you to create a natural, conversational tone and flow. An outline will also take considerably less time to put together than a full script, and may then be more sustainable in the long run. The key is to find what works best for you and stick to it!
Planning tip #1: During the planning of your first episode, it may also be helpful to plan the direction, or arc you will cover in your next few episodes. This will help create coherence and continuity for your show.
Planning tip #2: When creating your outline (or script), it can be really beneficial to include the places where you might consider adding some sound effects. Sound effects help add color and dynamics to audio, but can also be used to change topics or signal a new segment in your show, without you having to explicitly explain the change.
Once all the above is in place, you’re ready to start recording your first podcast episode! Your equipment and software are set up, you’ve created a great space for recording, you have a plan, now hit that record button! Remember, the more effort you put into your planning and set-up, the better quality podcast you will produce. This also increases your chances of gaining a loyal fan base from the beginning of your podcasting journey.
Bear in mind also that spending time in the pre-recording phase will help save you time in the editing process. Look out for our next post, which will give you some great strategies for faster podcasting editing!
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