I’ve touched on this in previous blogs, but intimacy is crucial to presenting a good podcast, and it deserves a more expansive discussion.
During podcast production, you should have two goals in mind.
-You want the guest to forget you’re recording.
-You want the listener to forget they’re not part of the discussion.
Some technical concerns before we get into the deeper stuff. The sound of the space is crucial. Before you record your first podcast, do some test recordings to make sure there isn’t too much room tone. In this case when we talk about room tone, we’re talking about the amount of reverb and echo in the space. Another way of thinking about it is can I hear the walls? If you can judge the size of the room by the sound of the recording, this is bad. Part of creating intimacy is taking the listener out of a physical space (there are exceptions to this), and bringing them into a realm of pure thought and connectedness. We want the voice close. Reverb and echo tend to push the voice away. Anyone who’s worked with a very reflective sounding recording knows that it doesn’t matter how loud you make it, the voice always sounds far away. The easiest way to fix this is to record in a studio. If that isn’t an option, try applying materials that will absorb these sound reflections like rugs, large furniture, and heavy drapes. Your mic will have an effect on this as well as some are more sensitive than others. More on that in the mic blog.
My background is radio. In many ways, podcasting is essentially old-school radio. And one of the first things we learned in radio school was that you are talking to one person. Audio only media tends to be an independent experience. People rarely listen to podcasts in a group. In fact, over the decades, media consumption has increasingly become an independent experience. So you can imagine my reaction when every YouTube video I hear begins with the words, “Hey, guys!” How arrogant to address a faceless mass of followers. Even worse is when the YouTubers will give a name to this unseen crowd.
“What’s up (channel name)-Nation?!”
“Hey, all you (patronizing moniker)s!”
One of the great things about both podcasting and radio is that it almost demands intimacy just due to the nature of the medium. TV shows tend to have dozens of people working in front of, and behind the scenes to bring you content. Even many YouTube channels that feature one person often rely on others for shooting, editing, effects, etc. Radio and podcasting are typically one or two people putting their voice into a microphone which goes to your ears, with virtually no one in between.
Try to imagine your ideal listener. Maybe it’s someone you know personally, or maybe it’s someone you’ve imagined based on the subject matter and what you know of your audience. Either way, find that person, keep them in your mind during all stages of production, and communicate with them.
Whether it’s podcasting, radio, audio branding, or any combination of the three, you want to build a relationship with your listener. You want to bring them on the journey, and you want to build their trust. You can’t do this if you’ve reduced them to the role of a follower. They’re not an unseen follower. They’re a cherished friend, and you’ve been looking forward to speaking with them.