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A podcasting renaissance? No doubt!

orange purseLately everyone’s talking about the podcasting renaissance.

I must inform you I was aware of this trend earlier than anyone else, thanks to The Claire Index. Unknown to most prognosticators, The Claire Index (TCI for short) reveals emerging trends in both fashion and technology based on my 20-something daughter Claire’s tastes. Stay with me here!

You see, about three years ago Claire came home from shopping with a bright orange purse. I thought it was a joke. Who wants to walk around toting a fluorescent handbag?

Apparently a lot of people.

About six months after my daughter’s purchase, I began to notice fashionably dressed women in New York and Toronto carrying bright orange bags. So, Claire was on trend. Again. (She owned half-leather, half-fabric pants before anyone I know. Ditto Lululemon yoga pants. Oversized men’s sweaters. You get the idea.)

A couple of months ago, Claire waltzed into the kitchen and asked, “Have you been listening to the Serial podcast? It’s amazing! And did you hear the Alec Baldwin podcast where he interviewed Jerry Seinfeld?” (She knows I’m a fan.)

I spun around in my chair. “Claire, YOU are listening to podcasts?”

“Sure,” she said. “I even bought the app for This American Life because I don’t want to miss any episodes.”

I may have rubbed my hands together with glee. If it were possible to buy stock in podcasting, I would have called my broker immediately.

Yes, I knew the popularity of podcasting would go through the roof. The TCI told me so.

Do you need hard evidence? Edison Research reported in April 2014 that 39 million people had listened to a podcast in the previous month, the highest number on record.

A recent article in New York magazine also confirms the trend. “What’s behind the great podcast renaissance” explains some of the reasons behind the surge in podcast popularity, including the ease with which people can now play episodes in their cars.

Week in and week out I’m witnessing renewed interest in podcasting in my own universe. People who used to ask, “What’s a podcast?” are now saying, “Hey, maybe it’s time we developed a podcast for our business.”

For those of us in the podcast game since Year One (OK, 2004 or 2005), this rebirth is welcome and not surprising. After all, we recognized the value of podcasting almost a decade ago, when producing and consuming podcasts was a lot more complicated than it is today.

Are you seeing the podcasting renaissance in your world?

If you want to learn more about podcasting, I invite you to check out my
top blog posts about podcasting
as well as my podcast episodes about podcasting.

Equipment for podcasting in a noisy environment

Kaotica Eyeball

When I started podcasting in 2005, I was able to carve out a space in my office to accommodate my audio needs. With a bit of trial and error, I came up with a setup that worked for me and produced a pleasing sound for my own podcasts and those of my clients.

Fast forward to August 2014 when I moved to a condo in downtown Toronto where both my home and office are located. Even with the windows closed, noise intrudes. To top it off, a fan system that circulates fresh air throughout the high-rise building cannot be turned off within the suite. So I wondered: How could I record and produce audio in a less-than-pristine environment? Would I have to rent a studio to record?

Enter the Kaotica Eyeball. I discovered this handy solution just a few days after I moved. A client had hired me to produce recordings for them at their offices, and had smartly purchased the Eyeball in anticipation of several audio challenges in their building. The Eyeball’s acoustic treatment worked like a charm to isolate and channel my voice directly to the microphone.

How does it work? You simply insert your microphone inside and then add the pop filter that comes with the Eyeball. You may need to adjust your distance from the microphone and your audio settings to get things just right.

Since that day at my client’s office, I’ve purchased my own Kaotica Eyeball, and it’s allowed me to record audio even when the fan is humming and the occasional motorcycle screams by outside. Well worth the investment of $200.

The Kaotica Eyeball will fit many microphones. I have used it successfully with my ATR 2100. Forget about using it with your Blue Yeti, which is too big.

A happy solution to a vexing noise problem!

For more podcasting tips, check out these two posts:

 

Recap of TEDx Toronto, plus advice for speakers

I applied for a ticket to TEDx Toronto on a whim and then found myself getting excited about attending. Some are surprised to discover you must submit an application to become a “delegate” at a TEDx event. These are independently organized TED-like conferences, but on a smaller scale than the famous California gathering.

Kudos to the organizers of TEDx Toronto for running the day smoothly at the lovely Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street. From the moment the Toronto Symphony Orchestra played the opening notes of Ravel’s Bolero, I was a TEDx fan. Music was used nicely to break up the day, with performances later by Choir!Choir!Choir and Maylee Todd.

But what about the content? I especially enjoyed the talk by Keith Vanderlinde, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. With beautiful photos and eloquent words, he showed us what it was like to live at the South Pole for a year. His use of humour was perfect and his delivery was well paced.

Nav Bhatia was a surprise to me. Billed as the “Raptors Superfan,” he spoke about his experience as an immigrant who happens to be Sikh, and how he made his mark in Canada and continually gives back to the community. He is succeeding at changing peoples’ perceptions of Sikhs, he says.

Child activist Rachel Parent is passionate about healthy food. She leads a campaign to have genetically modified foods labeled in Canada. How hard could this be? Pretty hard, it seems. Rachel is one to watch. For a teenager, she is a fabulous speaker.

John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star, is concerned about voter apathy and a lack of engagement by young people in the political process. I enjoyed listening to him speak about media today; what a great communicator.

Jamil Jivani of the Policing Literacy Initiative, a group with new ideas to improve police services and community safety in Toronto and abroad, grabbed our attention with his story of growing up in a bi-racial family. A brilliant young man, he is another one to watch.

Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden spoke from the heart about how his mother supported his efforts in sports, and how he found his own ways (sometimes unorthodox) to learn and excel.

My favourite of the day was comedian Sabrina Jalees, who talked about coming out as a gay person to her Indian/Swiss family. Sure, she’s hilarious, but her insights were also perceptive and thought-provoking.

I don’t want to forget to mention the emcee, Drew Dudley. Hands down, he was one of the best I’ve ever seen, seamlessly seguing between speakers with the right balance of insight and humour. When I heard about his original TEDx speech, Leading with Lollipops, which went viral and transformed his career, I looked it up. Well worth watching, here.

As you can see, when I attend a conference I consume the content from two perspectives: the ideas themselves, and how they are delivered. You can have the most amazing message, but if you’re not a skilled speaker, you’re not going to communicate it.

Eileen Chadnick

With my friend Eileen Chadnick at TEDx Toronto

Unsolicited advice for speakers

Here’s my unsolicited advice for future TEDx speakers:

  • Be authentic. Show your vulnerability.
  • Slow down. Yes, you’re probably speaking too quickly.
  • Don’t fear pauses. Use them for emphasis.
  • Share stories; don’t dazzle us with too many facts and figures.
  • Don’t try to communicate too many ideas. Three is plenty.
  • Be sure your message is crafted to be heard and not read. One speaker in particular seemed to have memorized what sounded like an article. Content like this is hard to follow and bores the audience.
  • While you are practicing your delivery, make a video of yourself so you can evaluate your body language and your voice. Beware of a singsong cadence that goes up and down in a regular fashion, and starts to irritate listeners (well, me, anyway).
  • On a technical note, you don’t have to be so obvious with the clicker; you certainly don’t need to aim it.

You can watch videos of all the 2014 TEDx Toronto speakers online.

The news release is not dead

The news release is not dead. So said the panelists brought together by CNW on the topic of “State of the Media 2014.” The speakers on October 3 in Toronto were Simon Houpt of the Globe and Mail, Amanda Lang of CBC News, Edward Keenan of the Toronto Star and moderator Steve Ladurantaye of Twitter Canada.

I’ve captured the essence of the discussion in the Storify below, but here are my own key takeaways:

  • Most journalists do not want you to call them. Email instead. Several on the panel said they never listen to voicemails; the red light on the phone flashes forever.
  • Speaking of email, never ever put “re” in the subject line of an email to fake a previous exchange. Simon Houpt in particular will hate you forever!
  • Do personalize your email with a “Dear …” salutation, but be sure you get the name right!
  • The media wants you to provide voices who can give context to stories. According to Amanda Lang: “If information helps give us context, it’s important. Maybe not today but in the future.”
  • Personal relationships between journalists and PR people are more important than ever.
  • Amanda Lang said the news release is still effective today if the news is important. “We still rely on wires in the newsroom,” she said. Simon Houpt agreed that “stuff on the wire carries more weight than a news release on your corporate website.”

CNW says they will be publishing a video of this panel, so watch their website.

Thoughts after one month with a standing desk

standing deskWhen I moved from a house in Oakville to a high-rise condo in downtown Toronto, I knew I’d be reconfiguring my workspace from scratch, and one of the things I wanted was a standing desk. You know, because sitting is the new smoking, right? I was fortunate to find the perfect piece of furniture for my standing desk – a “Bedford” unit from Pottery Barn that fits nicely in the so-called “study” in my condo. (I would love to speak with the person who comes up with these fanciful names.)

Also, I should add that I’m 5’6” tall, and the height of the desk is right for me. A taller or shorter person might have to make adjustments.

These days I’m spending about half of my working day at my standing desk. The rest of the time I move over to a lower surface and rest my haunches on a chair. While on phone calls, I tend to pace.

As I write this, it’s 10 p.m. and I’ve just come home from a delicious yoga class. After all that stretching and flexing, it would seem like a shame to park myself in a chair. So, yes, I’ve become accustomed to standing; it’s almost my default position.

During the day, just as I did in Oakville when I worked at a traditional desk, I make sure to stretch and walk around at least once per hour – grab a cup of water or a mug of herbal tea. When I was first establishing this habit, I turned on the time announcement function on my Mac. When it said, “It’s ten o’clock,” that was my cue to move.

Here are a few observations after one month with a standing desk:

I don’t get as tired as I expected.
Just as exercising at the gym in the morning gives me energy, so does standing at my desk. At times it’s my feet that get sore, not my legs or back. I may have to invest in shoes with more padding or perhaps a cushiony mat to stand on.

I’ve lost a few pounds in the month since the move.
I don’t know if I can attribute this weight loss to the standing desk or to the amount of walking I’m doing. I was concerned that I’d grow chubby from not traipsing up and down the three flights of stairs in my Oakville house, but I’m walking – and standing – more overall since the move. Having sold my car, I rely on foot power and the Toronto Transit Commission to get around.

I’ve become much more aware of my posture.
When I owned my big old L-shaped desk in Oakville, I caught myself – many times – in an awful slouch. Worst posture ever. Now, when I stand at my desk, I’m aware of the placement of my body, the alignment of my spine, the position of my shoulders and the weight balanced on my feet. I’d say my posture has improved as a result of using a standing desk.

So: increased energy, weight loss and better posture. What’s not to like about a standing desk?

In the comments, please let me know of your own experience with a standing desk.

 

 

 

Don’t fall behind on social media

I wasn’t surprised to see yet another news report on the lack of social media skills by many businesses. Just today I communicated with a workshop leader – well respected in his field – who admitted his website is woefully out of date, he doesn’t know how to use social media, and can’t even accept online registrations to his events because he doesn’t understand how.

Don’t think for a minute that this skills gap is common only among sole proprietors and small businesses. As this CTV News report says, Canadian business in general suffers from a lack of social media savvy.

When I conduct my Hands-on Social Media Workshop, I usually find a mixture of solo practitioners, people from nonprofits, and corporate types, all of whom want to get up to speed with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and more. By the end of the day, their comfort level grows and they’re more confident about integrating social tools into their strategy.

My next session is October 24 in Toronto. Join us?

The Hands-on Social Media Workshop returns to Toronto

Hands-on Social Media WorkshopReady for fall? Most of us in the Toronto area are dealing with hot humid weather, so fall should seem like a relief. If you’ve been struggling with understanding social media, my next Hands-on Social Media workshop  may also be a relief to you.

I’ve been running this workshop for a few years (although I update it every time). Many of the people who attend say they’re fed up with trying to figure out social media on their own. Or, they’ve been hoodwinked by some of the “social media snake oil” people out there, who promise fame and riches if you’ll just let them manage your Twitter feed.

In our small hands-on group, you can learn, ask questions and get expert tips. By the end of the day, you will be much more confident about moving forward with social media in your life and your business, and you will be able to make informed choices about which tools might be best for your particular needs.

Here’s what the workshop offers you:

  • A comfortable environment where you can ask questions and get honest answers.
  • Advice about developing a strategy for using social media in your communications and/or marketing.
  • Up-to-date information about the latest social media tactics and tools.
  • Tips to help you be more productive with social media (including the intelligent use of automation tools).
  • Suggestions for resources to help you keep learning about social media, because it’s constantly changing.
  • Networking with other smart, friendly people.
  • A delicious gourmet lunch.

I hope to see you on October 24!
Eventbrite - Toronto Hands-on Social Media Workshop

Marketing with social content

If you want to use social media to expand your marketing reach, knowing how to retweet or post to a Facebook page won’t help much. To achieve success, you need a vibrant personal brand, a marketing strategy and a process for producing and sharing great content.

At the first Professional Independent Communicators meeting of the fall season, we will cover this topic by discussing:

  • Thinking like a publisher and developing a strategy
  • Why you need to blog
  • Finding and sharing great content
  • Helpful tools, including Delicious, Buffer, TweetDeck, Slideshare and Paper.li
  • Streamlining your workflow so you don’t spend all day tweeting

This meeting is geared towards both independent communicators and those who work in organizations. For a taste of what the meeting is about, listen to this short podcast featuring PIC director of programming, Jane Langille, and me.

Details:
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
6:00 p.m.
Metro Hall, 55 John Street, third floor, Toronto
Seating is limited. Please register in advance.

Professional Independent Communicators (PIC) is part of IABC/Toronto. Our group meets regularly to provide professional development, networking and business development opportunities that address the particular needs and interests of independents.

How I locked myself out of Twitter

lock iconAfter lots of noise in the news about stolen passwords, WordPress hacks and other online hazards, I decided last year to set up two-step authentication on many of my accounts. This seemed like a smart thing to do.

After setting up verification on Twitter, for example, I wouldn’t be able to log into Twitter on my laptop without entering a code that Twitter would send to me via SMS. This certainly increased my feeling of security.

Similarly, I have Google Authenticator set up for some of my blogs, so that I can’t sign in without grabbing a code from the Google Authenticator app on my iPhone and entering it with my usual login name and password.

You may see where I’m going with this.

Let me preface this description of my bone-headed error by explaining that I’m in the midst of packing for a move, so everything I own seems turned upside down. In the maelstrom, I thought I was very smart to proactively change my mobile phone number to my new area code, and let my family and friends know the new number.

Unfortunately, I didn’t let Twitter know.

Yes, I, who should know better, found myself locked out of my own Twitter account because Twitter, bless its heart, was doing what I asked it to do: send an SMS to my mobile phone number. My old mobile phone number.

The good news: I was still logged into Tweetdeck on my laptop, so I was able to tweet as usual. I just could not access any features of Twitter.com.

It took two weeks of emailing Twitter Support to solve this problem. A seemingly endless series of automatically generated support replies kept sending me instructions to “reset my password.” Of course this was followed by a prompt to enter the code they’d just sent – to my old phone.

Finally, I was able to rattle someone’s cage at Twitter Support so I could delete my old phone number and add the new one.

I don’t blame Twitter. This was my own fault for not thinking about WHERE I had used my mobile number as a source of verification. If I ever change my number again, I will first disable any two-step verifications I’m using, then add the new number.

Which leads me to the Google Authenticator app. I hope I never lose my iPhone because I’ll be locked out of my blogs without a plan B. Here’s a helpful post about how NOT to get locked out when using two-factor authentication.

Bottom line: Don’t be so quick. THINK, then act.

Photo copyright: piren / 123RF Stock Photo

The podcasting tip sheet

podcasterOver the years I’ve created many resources around podcasting. In this post, I’ve gathered together some of my most useful tips. Please leave a comment if you find these helpful.

Podcasting definition
A podcast is an audio file that can be shared on the Internet, and played on a desktop or laptop machine or on a mobile device. By nature a podcast is serial and requires an RSS feed, whereas a plain audio file stands alone.

Preparing to podcast

  • What’s the purpose of your podcast?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Have you decided on a format?
  • Do you have the software and hardware you need?
  • Do you have a name for your podcast?
  • Do you have iTunes-appropriate album art?
  • Are you going to write a script? Be careful of over-scripting

Suggested hardware

  • Mac or PC with sound card
  • Microphone
  • Earphones, headset or headphones
  • Portable digital recorder (optional)
  • iPhone or other handheld device with recording capability (optional)

Suggested software

  • Audacity with LAME encoder (free) for Mac, Windows or Linux
  • Garage Band (Mac only)
  • Adobe Audition (PC and Mac; pricey but feature-rich)
  • Levelator or Auphonic, which evens out the voices in your podcast; do not use for music!
  • ID3 Editor (Mac or Windows), optional, to add tags to your file, making it appear properly in iTunes and other players

Optional but suggested resources

  • A blog or other content management system, which enables simple podcast publishing; WordPress bloggers have access to many podcasting plugins (I recommend PowerPress from Blubrry)
  • An account at Libsyn or other hosting service
  • An account on SoundCloud, not for hosting, but for distribution

Minimum gear needed to podcast
Built-in microphone, Mac or PC

Better gear for a podcast
Headset/mic combo, Mac or PC

Best gear for podcast
Microphone, headphones, Mac or PC; optional portable digital recorder for field work

Best advice
Learn to use your microphone!

Note: Many smartphones allow you to record audio. If you use the Apple-supplied mic/headset with an iPhone and an app like iTalk, you can get decent quality. Just upload the file to your computer for editing, etc. Be sure to put the phone in airplane mode so your recording won’t be interrupted by calls or texts.

To script or not?

  • Light scripting usually better than tight
  • If you script, mark up and rehearse; learn to sound natural

Remember: the listener has no visual cues

  • Communicate for the ear, not the eye
  • Use simple language
  • Start with a hook to grab the listener’s interest
  • Give auditory guideposts (“We’re going to talk about three things…”)
  • Avoid lots of numbers
  • Use a recap at the end

Read The Podcast Scripting Book for more on this topic.

Why edit your podcast?

  • Get rid of errors
  • Delete excessive um and ah sounds
  • Even out the sound volume
  • Gives your listener a pleasant experience
  • Allows you to include other clips
  • Add music, jingles or sound effects to your podcast

The basics of podcasting using Audacity

  • Plan your podcast
  • Record your audio in Audacity
  • Edit your file in Audacity
  • In Audacity, export the file as MP3; add ID3 tags
  • Upload the file to a hosting service such as Libsyn
  • Publish the file to your blog as an enclosure; this distributes your podcast in an RSS feed (easier if you use PowerPress – just add the name of the MP3 file from Libsyn or other host)

Step-by-step recording and editing in Audacity

  • Connect your microphone to your computer
  • Check system sound settings so that microphone is selected
  • Open Audacity
  • File>New
  • Select input (built-in microphone or line-in or USB mic, whatever you are using)
  • Be sure defaults are set to project rate of 44100 Hz, mono, 32-bit float (keep it simple)
  • “Save project as” and give it a name
  • Hit red button and start speaking
  • Save file
  • Listen to make sure it’s ok
  • To remove parts of the sound file, highlight and delete
  • To move parts of the sound file, highlight, copy, paste (much like a word processor)
  • If using Levelator, export or save file as WAV and then drop onto Levelator application. If using Auphonic, upload a WAV file to be evened out.
  • Add optional jingles and music
  • Save file
  • Export>Format MP3

Note: Do not work with an MP3 file until you are ready to upload. MP3 is a compressed (lossy) format. You want to work with an uncompressed file (.aup, WAV, etc.) until you are ready to upload and publish.

Using Levelator

  • When you do an interview, often each guest’s volume differs. You don’t want your listener to deal with uneven audio levels, so use Levelator.
  • Download the app (just Google “Levelator); choose PC or Mac version.
  • Simply drop a WAV file on the app; it will create a file with “output” in the name.
  • Listen to this file to be sure it is OK, and then proceed normally with your edits.
  • Note that if there is a lot of background noise, you need to remove it before using Levelator. Do not use Levelator if you have music in your file; add music later.

Using Skype for remote interviews

  • Set up Skype normally for a call (voice only; not video).
  • Be sure to set up system and Skype preferences to select your microphone.
  • Use a third-party app such as Pamela or Call Recorder to capture audio; Skype does not allow native audio capture.
  • When finished recording, convert the file to a compatible format if necessary and open it in Audacity to edit.
  • Remember you can also use Skype to dial and record calls with non-Skype users.

Podcasting interview tips

  • Be sure the podcast guest is audio-friendly
  • Do a pre-interview but don’t ask exact questions; supply question areas
  • Discourage guest from reading or sounding stilted in any way; be conversational
  • Be sure the guest knows the technical expectations of the interview; in person, phone, Skype? (See the post on tips for podcast guests.)

Recording in the field with a digital recorder

  • Of course you can also use your digital recorder in your office; some recommend this as a safer option (no worries about your PC crashing)
  • Use the built-in microphone on your Zoom H4n or other recorder or add a dynamic mic
  • Experiment with mic placement
  • Plug in your unit rather than rely on batteries when possible; no worries about running out of juice.
  • Record in uncompressed (WAV) format
  • Be sure to select correct input (built-in mic or line in)
  • Remember to press the red button to record. Flashing red is standby.
  • When finished, press STOP button
  • To transfer the file(s) to your PC, turn on H4n. Then connect the H4n to the PC with the supplied USB cable. Press “menu” on the top screen. Select “USB” and press. Select “storage” and press. IMPORTANT: Before physically unplugging the USB cable and H4n from the computer, be sure to perform the “safely remove hardware” or “eject” function on your computer. You might damage files if you unplug otherwise.

Adding music to your podcast
You can add non-commercial music to your podcast. Find royalty-free music at Music Alley or Shockwave Sound and other royalty-free music sites.

To publish your podcast

  • Add ID3 tags to your MP3 file; this enables listeners to see the name of your podcast and other data.
  • Upload tagged MP3 file to your hosting service
  • Grab the enclosure information and the direct MP3 link names from your hosting service
  • Write your show notes as a blog post to accompany the podcast
  • Add the file as an enclosure to your blog post
  • Publish your blog post

Using iTunes?
The first time you publish, you need to set up your podcast in iTunes. The iTunes site contains step-by-step information. Submit your podcast to iTunes before sending it to other directories. Many directories will request your podcast’s Apple iTunes ID information

Role of show notes and transcripts
Show notes are text files to accompany a podcast, often published on a blog. Show notes can boost your search engine optimization (SEO) and are helpful to people who want to refer to something they heard on your podcast. Show notes usually are published with time codes. Some podcasters publish full-fledged transcripts, which are word-for-word text versions of the podcast. You can use a service such as rev.com to produce your transcript.

 

Related content
My Trafcom News Podcast
Basic equipment and software for podcasting
The Podcaster’s Checklist

 

Do you have questions about the business of podcasting?

book-coverAs you may know, Steve Lubetkin and I are working on a book called The Business of Podcasting. Unlike other podcasting books that delve into the mechanics of creating a podcast, The Business of Podcasting tells you about the business side of the craft: the best business models for making money (realistically!), how to position clients’ expertise through podcasting, how to find clients, legal reviews, IT pushback, and much more.

We will also include chapters on achieving great sound, the kinds of equipment to stock in your studio, and editing techniques, but our primary focus will be on helping you learn the best practices for making money from podcasting.

Steve and I recently recorded a conversation about the book and the topics we’re going to cover. You can listen to it here.

Do you have a question about podcasting? Perhaps something you really want us to cover in the book? If so, you can post your question here on the blog or email Steve and me at co-authors@thebusinessofpodcasting.com.

Yes, you have a voice for podcasting

happy podcaster One of the most common questions I hear from would-be podcasters is this: “I am thinking of starting a podcast, but I’m afraid I don’t have a good-enough voice. I don’t have a ‘radio’ voice.”

Guess what? You do not need a radio voice. In fact, a slick delivery may turn off podcast listeners.

I believe that unless you have a serious speech impediment, your voice is totally acceptable for podcasting. Besides, there is so much more to podcasting than a nice warm vocal tone and crystal-clear diction. Can you research interesting topics? Can you do a good job interviewing people? Can you structure a compelling story? Can you succeed in engaging your listeners?

Of course you can capitalize on your natural vocal abilities by learning how to use your microphone effectively and, if needed, to modulate your voice. Try this: listen to yourself without being too critical. Is your voice a bit high? Try lowering it by relaxing your throat. Do you speak very quickly? You may need to consciously slow down, ensuring that you take time to breathe. Don’t rush. Be careful to not swallow any syllables. Recently I tried listening to a new podcast, but had to hit the stop button because the host kept swallowing words; I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

It’s true that many of us hate the sound of our own voices. Even when other people tell us we have a good voice! How about this: let’s be analytical enough to want to improve, but not so critical that we cringe when we play our own podcast episodes.

What do you think? How important is a podcaster’s voice?

By the way, if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, or improving the show you already have, please check out my upcoming podcasting workshop in Toronto.

Related post:

Voice techniques for podcasters

 

 

Advice for new bloggers

bloggingUpdated August 15, 2014

They say you learn when you teach, and I find this to be true. From January to April I taught Audio Journalism at Sheridan College; I’ll return next winter. This semester I’m at the University of Toronto as an instructor in Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media.

As a course requirement, our students are creating blogs and publishing posts throughout the term. Watching them in action, I’m reminded of my own early days as a blogger, although the social media landscape was a little different 10 years ago, in the pre-Twitter era.

Here is some blogging advice accumulated over the past decade. If you’re a newcomer to blogging, I hope you find it useful.

Blog about a topic you’re passionate about and have some knowledge in. If I did a sports or shopping blog, for example, it would be pretty lame, and likely riddled with errors. You’re more likely to carve out time to blog when you care about the subject matter and you want to help others. That helpful mindset is key.

Know what you want to accomplish with your blog. If it’s just to air grievances or muse about your life, fine; have fun with it. But if you want to generate leads for your consulting business, you need to publish solid, useful content.

Imagine who’s reading it. Who is your ideal reader? Try to visualize him or her in your mind. What kinds of content would your typical reader care about? Keep SEO keywords in mind, but always write for human beings.

Take the time to create an editorial calendar. If you plan several months’ worth of posts, your blog will have some structure and cohesion. Of course you can still add ad hoc content to discuss new developments in your industry or area of expertise.

Be sure your headlines are compelling. You are competing with oodles of interesting content out there, and only your mom or your best friend will read every post just because you wrote it.

Curate. In other words, your blog is not all about you. Refer to smart thinking by others, and add your own two cents.

Add multimedia. Record some audio or video. Include a photo in every post, which attracts eyeballs and also makes it easy for you to pin your post to Pinterest.

Amplify your blog content with social media. Only your regular readers, especially if they subscribe to your blog, will see your new content unless you promote it. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Pinterest and Facebook to share your content socially. With any luck, others will begin to spread the word and your reader base will grow.

Check your stats but don’t obsess over them. It’s gratifying to see an uptick in your numbers, but don’t waste energy worrying that your readership isn’t high enough.  Your overall measurement of blogging success should not just be about raw numbers anyway. Go back to what you were trying to accomplish. Is that happening?

Engage with readers. Do read and respond to comments. This encourages people to return to your blog, and might just build a sense of community over time. That being said, today many comments occur on other platforms – especially Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus – so they won’t be seen on your blog. That’s OK.

Get the technology right. You don’t need to become an HTML expert, but be sure to get the basics right. For example, enable comments, be sure your photos are tagged properly, and embed all your links. (Don’t display http:// within your posts.)

Know your terminology. One last thing, please. A blog is the overall publication. A blog post is an individual entry. Say, “I’ve written a new post today,” NOT “I’ve written a new blog today,” unless you have created an entirely new blog presence.

What are your favourite blogging tips?

 

Related content

How to find and share great content
Why social media without content marketing makes no sense
Top 5 social media questions
WordPress bloggers: The simplest tip for improving SEO
The difference between blog categories and tags

Mesh: Canada’s leading digital conference

meshI’m looking forward to attending mesh next week in Toronto, May 27 and 28. Because of calendar conflicts, I’ve not been able to get to mesh every year, but each time I do attend it’s an experience that charges my brain and reignites my passion for the digital world and the people who make it so vibrant.

The best part of mesh, to me, is the juxtaposition of digital insights and personal connections. Sure, with 38 keynotes by leading thinkers, there’s bound to be a presentation that excites you, but I can guarantee you’ll also make interesting connections during the breaks. The energy in the room and hallways is always palpable at mesh.

Because I’ve been invited to help spread the word about mesh this year, I have a special promo code for you. Use VIPmeshDP when you register, and you will save $100.

Check out the lineup of speakers. Whether you’re interested in media, arts and culture, social trends or marketing innovations, you’ll find something to make your attendance a must.

I hope to see you there.

New workshop! Sound Matters

Have you thought about using audio on your website or blog but don’t know where to start? Have you produced in-house videos that were marred by lousy sound? Is a podcast on your marketing to-do list? Then come to the Sound Matters workshop on July 10 to get your questions answered.

Some of the things we’ll cover include:

  • Why good sound matters in audio, video and other multimedia presentations
  • How to capture the clearest sound possible with the gear you have
  • How to record, edit and produce audio clips and podcasts with both mobile and desktop devices
  • Audio storytelling techniques
  • How to write a script; when NOT to script
  • How to read a script naturally
  • How to marry audio and slides to produce video-like presentations, quickly and easily
  • An overview of popular, inexpensive gear
  • Much more!

UPDATE: Please note this event has been postponed.

Spring cleaning tip for anyone with an online presence

spring

Spring along Lake Ontario in Oakville

And that means YOU! You can do this any time of year, but spring is perfect for checking ALL the links to your various web properties. Go to your profiles on each social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, etc.) and be sure all the links to your website, blog, podcast, etc. are correct. I checked mine and found a few old links!

When you work in communications, it looks bad to display dead or outdated links, right?

Top 5 social media questions

Working in social media and communications, I get questions. Lots of questions. Here are the top five things people ask me, for this week’s marketing tip.

 Clock1. How can I avoid spending an excessive amount of time on social media?
Social media can indeed be a time suck, in two ways. You might find an interesting link on Facebook, click through to the publication, and then spot six more things you’d like to read, then four more, and so on. Before you know it, an hour has passed and you’re not entirely sure why you’re watching a cat video.

At the same time, you will be curating and sharing content. A few tricks can help you save many minutes.

You can streamline your perusal of social media by limiting the time you allow yourself to freely traverse the social media world. What works for me is a half hour first thing in the morning, followed by short bursts of social media goodness several more times later in the day, then perhaps in the evening during my “down” time. TweetDeck is my preferred tool for organizing my Twitter stream so I can see my various lists and hashtag searches at a glance.

As for publishing posts, I love Buffer, which allows me to queue up a bunch of items in the early morning and spool them out during the day. I always caution clients against over-automating, but Buffer can be a very handy tool.

You’ll find more tips in this post on “How to find and share great content.”

2. We hired someone to set us up with social media accounts. But now we don’t know what to do with them.
Unfortunately, some consultants will “set you up” on social media and then leave you hanging. Creating an account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, Pinterest and elsewhere is merely a step in your tactical approach. You need a strategy first.

Why are you using social media? What are you trying to accomplish? How will you measure success? Answer these three questions, and then create an editorial calendar. Only then can you start publishing content. Read my post on “Why social media without content marketing makes no sense.

3. How will I know if my social media efforts are working?
What were you trying to accomplish? Did it happen? Sure, look at the numbers, but it’s not all about likes and retweets. Getting 100 retweets or 500 likes may boost your ego, but if it doesn’t spark any tangible results, what’s the point?

4. Is GooglePlus here to stay? Should I have a presence there?
Over the past few weeks many pundits have pronounced the death of GooglePlus, but I think they’re premature. If you judge GooglePlus as a Facebook competitor, it comes up short. But it was never designed to go head to head against Facebook. GooglePlus is a social layer, and it’s tightly integrated with Google Search. For now, I’d say it’s an important communications vehicle. I especially like its Hangouts and Communities. Check out my interview with B.L. Ochman to learn more.

blogging

5. Do I really need to blog?
Yes, you do. Websites without fresh content are not likely to attract eyeballs. Your blog can function as the hub for your online presence, with your accounts on other platforms as outposts.  You own your blog, so it should be at the core of what you do. Publish on your own blog and then link to those posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, etc. Learn to love blogging! And if you need help getting started, hire someone to put you on the blogging path.

Learn more at my next Hands-on Social Media Workshop.

 

 

The power of storytelling in your podcast

storytellingThis is an excerpt from The Podcast Scripting Book.

Suppose you want to tell great stories with your podcast, rather than conduct interviews. The best communicators share stories, not just facts. Watch just about any TED Talk and notice how the speaker weaves a tale, using rich vocabulary and honest emotion to draw you in and inspire you.

Every podcast you produce may not be a full-blown story, but do consider adding key elements of storytelling to your show:

  • Remember your audience is listening, not reading.
  • Be sure to open with something strong to draw in listeners and give them a reason to play the whole episode. Perhaps start with a compelling question, something like: “Do you know the top three reasons why people hate your website?”
  • Use the “you” word. This can be the most powerful word in your podcast. Remember: you’re speaking with one person at a time, not a big crowd, despite your audience stats!
  • Bring emotion into your story. How did the principal character feel? Whether it’s an employee in your organization, a client or a customer, or you you’re talking about, don’t be afraid to incorporate emotion. Remember: If we don’t feel, we don’t act.
  • Use repetition to your advantage. It’s OK to say something more than once.
  • Read well-written prose, which will help you to become a better storyteller. Some of my favourite storytelling writers include David Sedaris, Nora Ephron and Anne Tyler.

Get more tips like this in The Podcast Scripting Book.

Outline of a typical podcast script

writingExcerpt from The Podcast Scripting Book.

Your podcast should reflect you and your goals. If you’re just beginning to podcast, you may be looking for ideas for structuring your show and your script, if you’re using one. Here are a few to get you started.

Welcome and introduction to the show
This explains quickly what the show in general is about. Don’t be too repetitive here. Some podcasters repeat their name and the show name three or four times. That’s too much! And please, don’t tell us several times how “excited” you are about today’s show. This gets old quickly.

Introduction of the episode topic
What’s the benefit to your audience? Be short and sweet here and give us a teaser so we’ll keep listening.

Topic or interview
If it’s just you talking, be sure to outline your main points so you don’t forget something important. If you have a guest on your show, introduce him graciously and generously, and point out his credentials. Then get right into the meat of the content.

Wrap-up
Because your listeners don’t have visual cues, it’s helpful to wrap up the podcast with a recap of main points. Do you have a call to action? Mention it now.

Comments
I suggest you save promos, comments, “housekeeping items” and other such content for the end. Don’t make me listen to your podcast for 10 minutes before I derive some value from it. Be sure to tell listeners where to reach you via the Web, email, phone, etc.

You may also decide to add musical bumpers between segments.

Get more tips like this in The Podcast Scripting Book.

Podcasters: Be sure to check out Auphonic

Auphonic I just published my latest Trafcom News Podcast episode, called “Eight podcasting truths.” If you’re a podcaster, I wanted to draw your attention to something I mention in the show: a fairly new online tool called Auphonic, which allows you to effortlessly improve your audio quality.

I’ve used it so far for about a dozen files in the past couple of weeks, and it works very well. The Auphonic team offers their service for free and accepts donations, so please consider supporting them.

You can listen to the episode here. I welcome your comments!