Doing it for real
You’ve learned the basics and test-driven the process. Now, let’s record your first episode.
Where to start?
As we covered previously, the best place to start is with your most-recent blog post. If you’d rather pick an upcoming one, you can do that, or maybe one that’s already proven popular with readers, or seen high engagement.
If you have a newsletter and you don’t use something like Substack or Ghost to run it – ie: you use MailChimp – there probably isn’t much value in recording an old newsletter issue, so maybe work on your next one. However, if you do preserve your newsletter issues as blog posts, pick one of your favourites – or your most recent – to start with.
Top and tail
The episode you record will vary slightly from the blog post you’re reading. With the written word, it feels normal to read a title, maybe a subtitle, then the full body of text. Podcasts are a little more conversational, so it might be good to help you and the listener settle in, and get comfortable.
It might feel weird to just read the title of the blog post, and you probably won’t have to, since you’ll use that as the title for your episode. But having a short subtitle, summary, or some other form of inviting introductory text, will help set the tone.
In this particular example, the title of the post is conversational, so it works as an opening line. From there we move straight into a short sentence designed to hook in the listener or reader, enticing them to listen or read on.
What follows is a pre-packaged intro that appears at the beginning of each episode of Ear Brain Heart. As you become more comfortable with the medium and with podcast editing, you might want to do this yourself – with or without music – but we’ll skip that for now and go straight onto the content.
After the intro is the full text of the blog post. There are moments where a bit of performance is called for. If you feel up to it, you can add a bit of spice to your words through the way you deliver certain words, but that will depend on the gravity of your subject, and how comfortable you already are with public speaking. Don’t feel like this is something you have to work towards just yet. For now, we’re just aiming for a nice, warm, friendly sound, that captures your essence.
After the main body of the episode we end on another pre-packaged piece of audio, that covers all the calls-to-action we might want. Again, as you progress, you might want to record this once and paste it into each episode, but for now, a good way to end is to remind the listener that they can find much more content like this, as well as find out how to work with you, by visiting your website or emailing you (remember to read the website or email address aloud and in full). Why not try something like this?
You can find more ideas and insight to help grow your business, at example.com. Find me on LinkedIn @myusername, or Instagram @myotherhandle.
Quick note on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn handles: although we often see the @ symbol next to a name, this is not part of your username, it’s just a convention we use to mean “we’re talking about his person”. So don’t fall into the trap of saying “at @” (“at at”). Just “Find me on Twitter at mytwitterhandle” is fine.
Reading web addresses
If your website is easily found through search engines, by for example typing your name, you might want to lead with that, rather than reading out a web address. Do whatever feels natural to you.
Reading out web addresses can be tedious, but it’s important to get all the bits right when you’re saying it out loud.
- Of course you can dispense with all the “http://” stuff, and you can probably get rid of the “www.” prefix if you’re already using it.
- The .com (or .co.uk, .org, .net etc) is a vital part of your web address, so remember to include it (some people forget).
- All the dots and slashes need to be read aloud too. (Sometimes people miss the slash).
- There’s no such thing as a “forward-slash”, so you only need to say “slash”.
- Backslashes don’t exist on the web, so there’s no need to differentiate
- You may feel more comfortable with the word “stroke”, but we all understand what “slash” means, so it’s best to stick to reading web addresses in a way we can all understand.
- You can also save syllables by referring to a hyphen as a “dash”.
- Unless something is very wrong with your website, everything is lowercase, so you don’t need to say it. For the most part, if people use capital letters, they’ll still get to the right place.
- “All one word” is inferred. It’s rare for people to type spaces in web addresses.
- If your web address is long and confusing, consider using a free link shortening service (like Bit.ly).
This all seems like a silly set of rules and assumptions, but the more syllables you save, the less tedious and difficult-to-type the address will seem.
Finally, if someone gets lost when typing your address into their web browser, they’ll most likely be taken to a Google page which will help them get to where they need to go. Many will simply type your address into Google anyway.
Silence is golden
Whenever you start or stop, leave a few seconds of silence for the room to settle around you. If you put down a coffee cup or adjust your mic and then go straight into a recording, you’ll end up with bits of reverb at the beginning of your audio that will sound weird.
Similarly, don’t reach for the mouse or the spacebar as soon as you’ve finished reading, however eager you are to get out of there! Leave a few seconds of silence, then make your move. That way, your audio will end cleanly.
Dealing with mistakes
Some people stumble more than others, but almost all of us do it to some degree. If you find yourself fluffing a line, here’s what to do.
Stop, take a breath, then roll back two sentences or phrases (a phrase being a chunk of a longer sentence that has punctuation at the end). Keep recording, then pick up from the sentence before the one you fluffed.
When we’re reading aloud, we sometimes put pauses in at different points, maybe just before a comma or just after the next word. When that happens, your edit will come out sounding strange, with one word oddly loud for no reason. But by rolling back to the previous sentence, we ensure we’ve got a good run up at the whole sentence we fluffed.
If you have a long post to read and you don’t intend to listen back to the whole thing while you’re editing, you can signal to your future-self that you made a mistake by leaving a beat of silence, then clapping close to the mic, leaving another beat, and then carrying on. You’ll see the space and sudden burst of sound when you come to edit, so the first thing you can do is jump to those edit points, remove the mistakes, and then do all the volume-setting and compression.
Some more tips
If you find that your writing feels a little stiff when read aloud, consider making a few tweaks. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on the fly, have a listen back to your recording and see if you can make some adjustments to the text, then go for another reading. More formal language tends to sound stilted when read aloud, and we’re going for a close connection between you and your listener; we don’t want to hold them at arms’ length.
You might find this style influences your blog writing, which is a good thing, as there’s often little need for formal language, even in professional contexts. We’re just one human communicating to another human, after all.
Getting the energy right
Finding the right energy to deliver your words can be tricky if you haven’t done it before. The energy you bring to a closed-room reading of text is different from what you’d bring to a conference talk. Try and imagine you’re in bed, and someone’s reading a bedtime story to you… but one that’s meant for grownups! The pacing will be slower than normal human speech, and is perhaps a bit softer than you might normally speak.
Imagine you’ve never said these words before
An acting trick which, if you can adopt consciously you’ll find quickly becomes habit, is to try and imagine the words you’re saying are occurring to you for the first time. You’ve never said these words before; you’re just thinking of them now. That doesn’t mean that every sentence should sound like someone yelling “Eureka!”, but it will help you find that space in the Venn diagram between performative and conversational speech.
Don’t try and sound natural
The best rule however, especially if all of these feel daunting, is just to say the words that are on the screen, or on your paper. If you don’t feel like you can perform them, don’t. Just say them. The more of this you do, the more natural it’ll feel, and you’ll probably find yourself subconsciously and independently utilising some of the tips above.
But don’t overthink it – trying to sound “natural” is a great way of sounding like a weird robot!