Making a podcast can be stressful at times. Here are some tips to reduce that stress and app some polish to your show without putting hours into it afterwards:

Before the “Day Of”

  • Contact any guests and explain how the show will progress. Talk to them about the things you want to discuss, but don’t send them a specific list of questions unless it is absolutely necessary. You don’t want them to script their answers or go on autopilot and start giving a lecture instead of being interviewed.
  • Plan your show. Write up a basic “schedule” for the time you’ll be recoridng. You can adjust it a bit on the fly, but you should have some idea of what you’ll be doing throughout your taping. It may help to make it in the shape of a clock, with wedges for the segments you plan to do. If you want to be really organized, color code your radio “clock,” and write any relevant notes on matching-colored notecards. That way, if you get confused, you’ll always be able to just grab the right color card and get back on track.

Day of the show: Before you start

  • Make sure you have all recorded material you want to play while you’re recording ready (if you add this kind of stuff later, you can ignore this step). If you have intro music, taped segments, or other audio you want to play, put it all in one folder on your computer and cue it up in your software.
  • Unless you are totally comfortable with the your setup, run a test before you start. If you’re doing a phone interview, call a friend (or even your own cell phone) to make sure everything is working. It never hurts to take a few minutes and make sure everything works before you do something for your audience.
  • Make sure the area where you are physically located is quiet and free from distractions. Radio listeners feel as if you are always focused completely on them, and it can be quite jarring to hear someone else walk into the “studio” or to have a pet suddenly interrupt an interview.
  • Make sure you have your schedule handy, as well as any notes, written intros, and any other references you might need. If you are using your computer to show your notes, make sure that all of the files are open and on the screen, preferably organized so when you close one, the next one you need will be right behind it.

Starting your show

  • Be sure to have an introduction prepared, and timed to match any music you are going to play. Better yet, some hosts pre-record the intro, match it with the music, and just play it at the beginning of their show. Either way, you shouldn’t play music for more than a few seconds before you start introducing the episode, and you should make sure that the music fades down so it is much quieter than your speech by the time you start talking. If you want to play a longer track at the beginning, do it after the intro.
  • Within the first few sentences, you should introduce yourself, make sure you say the name of your show, and highlight one or two things you are going to talk about.
  • Make sure you actually start your show within the first minute or two you are on the air. Don’t spend a long time at the beginning promoting your Facebook group or asking for Twitter followers — you can do that during the show, or at the end. Instead, get right into the “meat” of the program as soon as you can. If you want to promote, just give one URL (your blog, website, or other online presence) and get started.

Making the audio make sense

  • Keep segments short. No matter how long your show is, make sure that each component is less than ten minutes long. If it is a long-form interview with one person, make sure you significantly change discussion topics a number of times. People will drift away if you spend too long on one thing. If it helps, try to think of your show as a series of “mini-shows” that all fall under one umbrella.
  • Be aware that podcasting has the potential for tremendous reach. People who aren’t in your target audience can find your show at any time. How? Well, someone may embed your podcast on their site or even download an mp3 and email it to a friend without any explanation. This means that you should strive for a show that makes sense to anyone from any background, even if they’ve never heard it before: If you use a term that is unique to your topic, explain it. If you mention someone or something from a previous show, include a two-sentence recap. People may not be aware of the context of a conversation. Your job as host is to provide that context.

Wrapping Up/Promotion

  • When you get to the end of the show, make sure to leave time to promote yourself. This is where you can give URLs, invite people to subscribe, and ask people to write iTunes reviews — it’s far more appropriate at the end of the show, after they know what it is they are reviewing or signing up to receive. (Yes, this tip is reused from this post.)
  • Tell people when and where they can listen to your show, and how often you post new episodes.
  • Word-of-mouth can be the best marketing, so ask your listeners to tell their friends about the show. Remind them about posting Facebook messages, Twitter tweets, and old-fashioned emailing of links — they won’t always think to do these things, after all.
  • Be sure to finish the show and end the recording before you do anything else. Nobody wants to hear you drinking water or eating chips, and you really don’t want your audience to overhear you turning to talk to your husband or wife, or making a comment about being “glad that’s over.” If that happens, edit it out before you post the MP3.

After You Finish

  • When you are done, make sure that the description of the show matches what you actually said. Add tags for anything that came up but you didn’t plan to talk about, and add any URLs mentioned to the text.
  • Promote what you just did online, using Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites. especially if it is relevant to your friends. If an interview went very well, say so, and thank the interviewee publicly on Twitter.
  • Make a few notes about things you can do better next time. If you write them down and look at them before you start your next episode, it will be that much better than the one you just finished.