But sadly, like most things in life, creating amazing audio content ain’t always that easy. It takes planning and practice.
These eight tips will help get you started…
1. Make sure the sound quality is high.
When it comes to audio, it’s tempting to only think about talking, instead of how the talking will sound to others (which is more important, in the long run.)
Sound quality can make or break how your content is received by your audience. So make sure yours is strong…
- Use a mic: If you’re doing a one-off experiment, you could probably get by using your computer’s built-in mic. But beyond that, having a good microphone (or headset with a microphone) is important. (I have a Blue Snowflake and a Yeti and use a Plantronics headset.) Using microphones for podcasting, Skyping, Google Hangouting (Yeah, I know that’s not a verb) will improve the quality of all of your conversations.
- Use a phone with a solid connection: If you are recording audio content via your phone (or calling in to record a webinar, podcast, etc.) make sure you are ideally using a land line and/or a phone that has a headset and mic. Using your cell phone in a coffee shop or airport should really only be done as a last resort.
- Stand up: I find that standing up (and walking around, if possible) while talking gives my voice more energy. If you have the means to record this way, I highly recommend it. If you choose to sit, watch your posture and make sure you’re using proper breath support so the sound will be strong and clear.
2. Control your environment.
Make an effort to control the sounds in your environment before you start recording. For me, that checklist includes…
- Unplugging all other incoming phone lines, so I won’t be interrupted by phone rings.
- Hanging a sign on my door so I won’t be interrupted by doorbells from FedX or UPS.
- Feeding my dogs some gigantic rawhide bones so they won’t bark while I’m recording.
- Turning off the sound on my computer so the audience won’t hear any alert beeps from open chat windows, Twitter, Facebook etc.
- Telling my husband not to call me during the time frame in which I am recording, so I can avoid call waiting beeps on the line.
Taking these little precautions can help you avoid any big ambient noise distractions.
3. Follow an agenda.
Like our face-to-face ones, recorded conversations can often wander all over the place. Many podcasts consist of 10 minutes of great insight, buried within 50 minutes of folks chit chatting about whatever crosses their minds.
To avoid this, before you record anything, create an agenda for your recording and make sure everyone who will be participating sees it in advance. This shouldn’t be a script, just an outline of the basic bullet points you want to cover or the questions you’re thinking of asking.
The goal of this agenda is to remind everyone that all content we produce should have some sort of purpose and specific audience in mind (even if that purpose is just to entertain people.) Keep that purpose and audience in the front of your mind the entire time you are recording.
People tend to interrupt each other in conversations. In person, we can rely on nonverbal communication cues to get back on track. But in a recording setting, those interruptions can make the conversation much more difficult to negotiate and follow.
So, when you are creating audio content, try to make concessions for interruptions by using a pregnant pause after you finish each sentence or thought (rather than just taking a quick breath.) If another person jumps in during your pause, then the conversation can naturally volley over to them. If they don’t, you know it’s okay to continue talking.
This choppier flow may feel stilted and awkward at first, but stick with it. Ample pauses and breaks will allow for greater participation among all speakers and ultimately make your conversation easier to follow.
5. Telegraph your next move.
If you are being interviewed in an audio recording, give the interviewer “coming attractions” in your sentences to telegraph what you intend to do/say next, so he or she will know when to ask follow-up questions.
- “Well Sam, there are three things that companies could do to record better audio content…” (Now your interviewer knows that you intend to say three things and can say, “Let’s double back and touch upon that third thing,” if you get off track and start rambling after number two.) or…
- “First, I would say that companies should prepare an agenda…” (Now your interviewer knows that you intend to say multiple things about agendas and won’t ask you an unrelated follow-up question after you finish your first point.)
6. Roll with the punches.
Once I was a guest on a radio show ostensibly to talk about social media. But when I was patched in live on air, the first question the host asked was, “Did you know that Anderson Cooper was gay?” (Social media had been abuzz that day with the news of Cooper coming out of the closet.)
While the question came at me out of the blue and threw me for a loop, (Not because I didn’t know the answer, but because no one had ever asked me my opinion on Cooper’s sexuality before) it did make for a more relevant, timely and interesting conversation than if the interviewer had asked me something boring like, “So tell me, why do people like Facebook?”
Unscripted moments like this can often lead to the best audio content. So don’t be afraid to go “off script” sometimes and/or roll with the punches when someone asks you something surprising.
7. Get a transcription.
It’s a good idea to get your audio content transcribed for a number of reasons…
- You can post the text file with the audio file to increase engagement, shares and search traffic. (Some people prefer to read. Others prefer to listen. This way, you can cater to both.)
- You can re-purpose the content and use it in other ways. (Like writing a blog post to further explore a question posed during the recording, etc.)
- It gives you an additional way to review the content of your recording for quality control.
8. Review and analyze.
No matter how much it pains me, I sit and listen to every piece of audio content I’ve produced or contributed to — in its entirety – after I’ve recorded it, to review the quality of my work.
Even though it can suck, hearing yourself talk too fast or use the word “um” copiously is the most effective tool for training yourself to stop doing those things. Plus, it allows you to cherry pick quotes or smart exchanges to use for your own marketing efforts.
Combine your analysis with the preparation and practice tips outlined above, and you’ll be well on your way to creating amazing audio content.