Starting a podcast is where it’s at right now. Why wouldn’t it be? You have the ability to create entertainment using your own unique voice and toss it into the iTunes store for anyone to access. This medium in particular satisfies a need for increasingly elusive real conversation, it can be a way to learn new things or ways of thought, and it’s accessible everywhere. No matter what your intentions are, it can be daunting to get started if you’re not familiar with audio equipment or spending time thinking about “content”.
A podcast can be as little or as much work as you want it to be. Want to just plug a lavalier mic into a phone from wherever you are and talk about whatever you feel like for 30 minutes and post it un-edited? Perfect. You’re good. Want to create something with a format, have guests, and sprinkle in some editing? Let’s go.
The startup is the hardest part because there are so many options and so many ways to go about it that you can psyche yourself out and get overwhelmed. Don’t stress. All you have to figure out is what’s going to be best for you.
Personally? I was looking for an easy, two mic setup that could travel anywhere with me in a backpack and still sounded, looked, and felt decently legit.
So, I’ll give you the details on my setup and why I chose it. You can certainly make due with a little less but, hopefully, this’ll help you get the gears turning on what’s right for your vision.
Equipment and Hosting
1. Audio Recorder – Zoom H4N Pro
I opted for getting a small audio recorder instead of recording directly into a computer. I didn’t want to bring my MacBook Pro with me and didn’t want to be nervous about it malfunctioning and cutting off a recording halfway through. Throw an SD card in and you’re good to go (I use a 16GB). It takes batteries or you can buy an optional AC adapter. This little magic device has built-in mics that work great, but pick up a lot of the environment. So, I opted for 2 XLR mics that just pop right into the bottom of this bad boy.
You’ll see two words a lot: Condenser and Dynamic. Condenser means more range and high frequencies, so they also pick up more room noise and detail. Dynamic means it won’t pick up as full a range of audio frequency and you might have to sit a little closer to it, but it’s better at not picking up what’s going on around you. I chose this dynamic mic because I record in uncontrolled environments on the reg and they sound pretty damn good for a reasonable price. The mic comes with a small stand, but I’d suggest getting something a little more solid. We’ll get into that in a minute.
If you’re looking for a decent USB, plug-and-record mic, I’ve also got a CAD U37. It records pretty loud, but the sound quality is solid.
3. Foam Ball or Pop Filter
You’re gonna need one or the other to reduce or eliminate hearing all the popping sounds we create when we speak. A must.
Foam Ball – Cheaper. Pop it on and go. I use these for pure convenience. They cut out higher frequencies and wind. I also prefer them because they don’t block the face of the person I’m talking to and vice versa. Gotta keep it intimate, ya know?
Pop Filter – I also have these. Technically, they allow for crisper audio to come through, but that’s not my main concern for a podcast that’s traveling in my bag and could end up anywhere. You can get small ones that attach to your mic stands or ones that latch onto a table. Your pref.
4. Mic Holder – BLENDX Mic Suspension Boom Arm
You’re gonna need mic support because holding them wouldn’t be fun and you’d end up dealing with the sounds of hand shuffling. I like these because they’re bendy and let you lean back and get comfy if you’d like and can adjust to all sorts of heights and seating positions. They fold up, come with small pop filters, and even a holder for your iPhone if you’d like to record your session or have your phone up there for reference. They’re meant to hook onto a table edge, so make sure you have access to something they can get a grip on.
5. Editing program – GarageBand
Even if you’re not doing any editing of your podcast convo itself, you’ll still need a place to record the file into and save it as an MP3. Where you at, Mac users? You probably have GarageBand and it’s a great podcasting tool. There are podcast presets that will automatically make your file sound better and making adjustments is a breeze. Plus, it has music loops for you to use if you’re looking to toss in some intro, exit, or transition music.
No GarageBand? No prob. I hear Audacity is the go-to for free, open-source audio software.
6. Headphones – Sennheiser HD 202 II
I like to wear headphones so I can monitor the audio for any problems, but also because there’s something about having the other person’s voice directly in your ears that helps to keep you focused and block out the rest. There are a million headphones out there, but these Sennheiser’s are what I’m currently working with. I bought an audio splitter because the Zoom H4N only has one headphone input. With the splitter, both me and my guest are able to listen in.
7. Podcast Artwork
Aim for simple, eye-catching design and make sure your podcast’s name is in there. It has to be a JPEG or PNG file. Minimum 1400×1400 pixels and max 3000×3000 pixels. Don’t wanna mess with it? Neither did I.
I gave my good friend @dallasdraws an idea of what I was looking for and he put mine together for me. (He also designed that good lookin’ diamond logo that you see on this site!)
8. Media Host
Someone’s gotta store all that data you’re about to record. A media host is built to do that and create a little something called an “RSS feed” for you. You’ll need one of those to submit to iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay Music etc. I use LibSyn because of how long the service has been around and how simple my posting is. Through some easy setup, I hit upload one time and my podcast goes to iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay Music, and TuneIn. Facebook and Twitter get posted to AND it even creates a video version of my podcast to post to YouTube so that people can listen there. Tip: You can easily get a month free by searching for promo codes. I also considered Podomatic as a simpler, possibly more intuitive alternative. You can start with a free plan with this host and it’s very user-friendly.
So, there you go. That’s what I use for now and it’s doing the trick. Hopefully, that gives you an idea of what you might want to get yourself going. Below is a pic of what my setup looks like if I’m recording with someone at home. Shoutout to the candle and aromatherapy combo. I know what you’re thinking: “Does she really have water, coffee, AND wine at her disposal?”
Yes, I do.
A few other tips:
Research your podcast title. It’s easy to agonize over picking a name for your podcast and, trust me, I definitely did. I use my name in mine because it connects to all my other social media and this site. Decide if that’s something that’s important to you. I suggest Googling your title before you make the final decision so you can make sure that it’s not already associated with someone or something else.
Learn some basic editing. Highly suggested. Knowing that you can splice up and correct some audio if need be takes off a lot of pressure during the recording session. Do it live. Fix it in post. At the very least, learn to add a compressor to your recordings to even out audio levels and prevent uncomfortable peaking.
Pick a format…or don’t. Long, short, or go with the flow. Any of these work for podcasting. Short is good because people’s attention spans can struggle sometimes. Long is good because people get looser when they talk for extended periods of time. If you’re podcasting about some realness, long is a great option. OR…just go with the flow. It’s your world. If some call for short episodes and others for longer ones, then let it be. I record short ones when I’m solo and longer ones with guests. The ability to edit unnecessary dead space or interruptions will come in handy especially if you record long form, but still want to keep the convo flowing for the listener. I also record my intros and outros separate so that all my guest needs to do is sit down and chat with me while I handle those details later. Decide what works for your format.
Accept that listening to your own voice sucks. Yeah, you’re probably gonna cringe a little in the beginning, but it’s all good. Get used to listening to your own voice and take the opportunity to realize ways that you can improve your speech and limit your crutch words. We all have them.
Try not to talk over each other. It’s a good practice in listening, makes editing simpler, and is easier on the listener’s ear.
Know your drink limit. Nervous or just like to loosen up with your guest and have a beverage? Great. I love it. Just know how much you can have before you get so loose that it gets off track. Suddenly, you’ve recorded an hour of nonsense. Find the bev balance.
Make peace with technical difficulties. Don’t stress over it. Podcasts have been deleted and corrupted all around the world. Bad audio has happened to everyone. It’s bound to happen, but just do the best you can and roll with it. The beauty of podcasts is that people aren’t terribly picky about perfect sound quality.
Google is your friend. Not sure how to do something? Don’t fret. Google it. “How do I get my podcast on iTunes?” “How do I add a compressor?” “What’s the best way to title my podcast episodes?” It’s all out there to help you. Use it.
Find the value in each guest. Have an idea of what topics you should touch on with each guest, but feel free to let the conversation go where it wants to. Ask the questions a listener might be thinking. Genuinely listen and let them tell their story. There’s something to learn from everyone and it’s amazing what people will say if you just give them a chance to do so with a non-judgmental ear.
Keep doing it. Not all of them will be perfect. In fact, there’s a good chance none of them will be and THAT’S the thing about podcasting. It doesn’t have to be about perfection. It can just be about listening to people talk in a natural way. Learn from each one you do and commit to continue putting them out on, ideally, a consistent schedule. Practice makes perfect….wait…
Have fun with it. Relax. You’re working with a great outlet for people to get to know you and putting something out into the world. Almost every person that I’ve podcasted with has expressed a nervousness about how they’ll sound to people, been worried about how many times they said “Um”, or that they said something stupid. None of it’s stupid. It’s us being ourselves in a conversation. It’s also a reminder for me that we’re all our own worst critics.
Be you, Boo Boo.
There it is, ya’ll. That’s my way of getting content out there and, hopefully, that helps you if you’re thinking about getting one started.
Make it yours.
Head over to my Podcast page to listen to my weekly podcast, “We’re All Human with Courtney Diamond” or just click here. Subscribe and leave a nice comment if you enjoyed this post or enjoy what you hear. I’d really appreciate it.
Thanks and happy podcasting! 😉