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What I learnt about podcasting

July 4, 2020

Having created more than 60 episodes of my Scottish Business

Network series, I’ve learnt quite a few things about podcasting – partly from

my own blunders, and partly from speaking to other podcast hosts. If you’re

thinking about launching a podcast series, these 11 tips might help.

1 Content is more important than equipment… When someone starts a podcast

series, a lot of their attention can be consumed by the technology and the recording

equipment. But by far the most important thing to think about is the content. What

makes your podcast different to what’s already out there? Why should people listen

to it? What will make your audience recommend it their peers?

If you create a podcast bursting with genuinely compelling content, people won’t

mind if it’s recorded over a crackly telephone line – we’re all used to that anyway

from our pandemic-prompted reliance on online conversations. So think carefully

about the format, themes and contributors that will bring the podcast to life. Get that

right, and everything else will fall into place.

2 …but you do need equipment too. The first time I was interviewed for a podcast

was by Steve Watson for the excellent Stack indie magazine podcast. I was

surprised that the recording process consisted of him simply turning his iPhone on.

But it turns out that an iPhone (and possibly Android phones too) are excellent for

recording podcasts. I used my iPhone for many episodes but did then upgrade to a

Zoom H4N Pro voice recorder. Then, when lockdown hit and I couldn’t meet my

interviewees in person, I switched to the  Zencastr  platform, which is user-friendly,

free to use up to a limit and provides excellent sound quality (way better than Teams

or Zoom). Another good option is  Squadcast .

Both Zencastr and Zoom (the recording device rather than the digital meeting

platform) were recommended to me by Scotland-based Matt Alder. Matt is host

of The Recruiting Future podcast, which has huge download stats, particularly in the

US – see the link to his excellent podcast blog at the end.

3 Turn the record button on. Often, the best advice is the simplest. Whatever you

do, make sure you press the record button. I conducted a 30-minute interview with

the fascinating Greenock-based entrepreneur Poonam Gupta before she gently

pointed out that I didn’t seem to be recording our conversation.  I was lucky – she

graciously agreed to immediately do the whole thing again. However, another

advantage of switching to an online recording platform such as Zencastr is that you

can see the soundwaves on your screen, so you know whether it’s recording – or


4 Help your interviewee. A lot of people feel anxious about being interviewed – it's

a feeling I've had when the tables have been turned. I think it’s partly because the

interview process is an unnatural way to have a conversation and partly because

some of us worry that we'll ramble on, won't be able to answer a question or will say

something we'll regret.

As a result I usually send the people that I interview my questions in advance. It

makes them feel more comfortable when it comes to the recording and gives them

time to come up with some thoughtful answers. But that doesn’t mean we

necessarily stick to the script. There needs to be scope for spontaneity and, once

they've hit their stride, I will also throw in any extra questions that spring to mind.

5 You’re part of the entertainment. I’ve spent my career interviewing people, so I’m

comfortable with coming up with questions, putting interviewees at ease and

encouraging interesting responses. But the big change for me when recording

podcast interviews was the realisation that I had become part of the entertainment.

You can't just rely on your guests. You have to bring energy to the presentation,

choose your words carefully, attempt to sound vaguely perceptive and possibly even

mildly amusing.

6 Don’t be annoying. When someone is talking to me, I have a habit of chipping in

with a string of ‘yeah’, ‘right’, ‘aha’ etc. That’s okay in the course of a normal

conversation but if you have to listen to someone do that throughout a podcast

episode, it's annoying. In an early episode, I was so enthusiastic about what I was

hearing that I simply wouldn’t shut up. I now try to remain quiet when the other

person is talking. And another advantage with Zencastr and Squadcast is that you

get a separate audio file for each person on the call, so it's easy to edit out


7 Do it live? Prior to lockdown, one in four of my podcasts was recorded live in

London in front of an audience of anything up to 80 people. This undoubtedly adds

an extra shot of adrenalin. In my case, the interview is part of a programme of

Scottish Business Network sessions so I have to stick to a strict timing of 40 minutes.

I keep one eye on the clock to ensure I cover everything I need to, and sometimes

need to gently interrupt my guest to keep things moving along. It can also be harder

to concentrate with so many pairs of eyes looking on and I've found my mind

wandering on occasion.

But a good live interview provides a wonderful buzz and, as well as being great

entertainment for the audience, some of that atmosphere translates nicely into the

finished recording.

Since the arrival of the pandemic crisis, these live events have been transferred to

Zoom, with several of my podcast episodes to date recorded in front of large

numbers of people sitting at home on their sofas. It works really well, although the

quality of audio on Zoom isn't always brilliant.

8 Edit out the bad stuff. Unless you and your interviewees are word-perfect

geniuses, it’s likely that your content will benefit from a careful edit. I import my audio

files to Garageband on my MacBook, but there are plenty of other audio edit

packages you can use. I then listen to the whole recording, editing out any awkward

silences, excessive rambles, mistakes etc. I then record an intro and an outro, as

well as adding my musical jingle, and two short clips from the Scottish voiceover

artist Jenny Dunbar. I'm then ready to export the file as an MP4. If you're looking for

a jingle for your podcast, I originally got mine from  Jamendo , and found the selection

a lot better than other online libraries I looked at (although you do have to pay a

small licence fee). However, I'm very fortunate that the Scottish composer Chris

Tolley has since composed and recorded a new jingle especially for the podcast,

which was a real treat.

9 The host with the most? Podcasts are hosted on a platform that generates an

RSS feed which, in turn is picked up by other podcast services – i.e. you can't simply

load your podcasts up to iTunes, you need a host to create the RSS feed that iTunes

then feeds off.

There’s been an explosion in platforms offering podcast hosting. Like many people

who weren't really sure how to go about it, I chose Soundcloud because I'd heard of

it and used it for posting and listening to music. It's worked fine for me after a bit of

initial fiddling around with the settings but is really better suited to musicians.

Prompted by a recommendation from fellow podcaster Sue Stockdale, I have since

used  Spreaker  for two client podcasts I have produced, and find it a better option.

I upload each episode to my Soundcloud/Spreaker account (you'll need to pay for a

Pro account after hitting an upload limit) and a short summary of the content. People

can access the episode directly on Soundcloud/Spreaker but, over time, numerous

other platforms will pick up the RSS feed without you having to do anything – I've lost

count of the number of platforms that the Scottish Business Network is now available

on. The only platforms I had to manually apply to be included on were Spotify and

iTunes – both were straightforward.

10 Get yourself a podcast buddy. I frequently talk to other podcast hosts to share

ideas and I have a monthly call with the former athlete, explorer, motivational

speaker and previously mentioned Sue Stockdale, who hosts the suitably

inspiring Access To Inspiration. It always gees me up.

11 Keep going. There are a lot of podcasts out there. Unless you’re a celebrity or

already have a massive social media following of relevant potential listeners, it's

going to take a long time to build up an audience. The key is consistency and

persistence. Choose a frequency (mine is fortnightly) and keep pushing them out

there. Encourage anyone who contributes to the episodes to share them to their

followers. And enjoy it. The best part of podcasting for me – far and away – has been

listening to the extraordinary people that have shared their stories with me.

Want any help creating a podcast? Do get in touch.

The Scottish Business Network podcast – six of the best

I present and produce my podcast series in partnership with the Scottish Business

Network (SBN). I highly recommend the SBN as a brilliant forum for networking with

other ambitious business people – it's well worth joining.

As a former journalist, I began interviewing leading business people in front of an

audience at SBN events, and the quality of the interviewees was so high that it

seemed like a good idea to share them more widely. I launched the podcast as a

fortnightly series, with a mix of live interviews and others that I conduct one to one.

I’ve been very fortunate with the fascinating array of people I’ve interviewed. They’ve

all been great – but here are five of the dozens of episodes that stand out for me:

1 For truly thought-provoking insights into the purpose of business, I recommend this

interview with Mel Young, founder of the Big Issue in Scotland and the Homeless

World Cup.

2 Or for the extraordinary achievements of a young explorer and motivational

speaker, listen to Mollie Hughes, who climbed Everest twice and skied solo to the

South Pole before she reached 30.

3 My 50th episode featured the wonderful Poonam Malik, who arrived in Scotland

from India in 1999 with two suitcases, £35 and a British Council scholarship to

Glasgow University. She's now one of the best connected business people you'll

meet, with an astonishingly broad portfolio of roles across science and enterprise.

4 I've interviewed quite a few sports people as part of the series. A highlight was

interviewing David Sole, captain of the last Scotland team to win rugby's Grand

Slam, and now a sought-after CEO coach.

5 There's great diversity across the series, and a slightly different episode came

about when I interviewed the Scottish composer Chris Tolley (mentioned earlier).

From his early days working with Andrew Lloyd-Webber to writing music for TV, film

and his own releases, he has a fascinating story.

6 And a businesswoman who stands out for all kinds of reasons is Dr Marie Macklin.

She has overcome dyslexia and a close brush with death to become an

extraordinary force in urban regeneration – 'rocking the economy', while inspired by

the music of Simple Minds and the symbolism of her gold spray-painted killer heels.

To access all episodes, simply search for 'Scottish Business Network' on iTunes,

Spotify or any if the usual poodcast platforms.

[The pics are from live interviews featuring Sheila Flavell, Chief Operating Officer at

FDM Group, and Brian Duffy, CEO of Watches of Switzerland.]

Recommended links

Matt Alder’s excellent blog How To Build A Successful Podcast is well worth reading.

And if you're interested in talent and recruitment, his The Recruiting Future podcast

is a must-listen.

Christopher Phin is Head of Podcasts at DC Thomson, and has lots of interesting

insights on podcasting. Check out his interviews with Laura Kelly Dunlop for PPA

Scotland's Magazine Stories, Sue Stockdale's Access To Inspiration and alongside

two other highly knowledgeable podcast hosts, Peter Houston and Esther Kezia

Thorpe, in this episode of Media Voices. All three series are also highly

recommended in their own right.

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