In the three years that I've been producing podcasts regularly, I've produced hundreds of episodes. That volume of work allowed me to quickly and consistently see where problems existed on shows.
What I learned is that the easiest, most cost-effective way to improve the overall quality of your show's content is to improve the delivery of its message. If you have great content, then good delivery helps reinforce it. Simiarly if your content also needs improvement, good delivery means you're spending less on editing costs and you can redirect that money to content development.
So in no particular order, here's the three most common problems with podcast host delivery.
Problem #1: Too far from the mic
That microphone can feel pretty daunting at first. Most people know that the thing picks up sound, but not necessarily more than that. Too close, and you can end up sounding distored if the microphone is up too high. Too far away and you sound lost in the room.!["Me with my mouth positioned a hand's width away from my microphone to illustrate proper position"](/images/blog/2018/mic-position.jpg "This is good mic positioning for podcast delivery.")
Fix: Stay at most a hand's width away from the microphone, like in the picture above.
Don't be afraid of the microphone. Get in close. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the closer you get to the microphone, the better your voice and delivery will sound overall. The microphone is a sensitive instrument. If we increase its senstivity to make you sound a certain volume from further away, then it's also going to pick up all the background noise in your recording space. Getting closer means the microphone is picking up more of you, and less of everyone else.
Problem #2: Ums, Likes, Y'knows and other verbal filler
When I got back behind the microphone, fixing this was my biggest challenge.
Some editors and producers go absolutely bananas when they hear these in a delivery because they can hear thousands of them in a week. Either I'm not as traumatized as them over it yet, or I'm more of a pragmatist.
These happen as part of natural speech. You're searching for the right words, thinking on your feet while you're responding to a co-host or guest, or just a bit nervous or distracted while you're trying to manage everything going on as you record.
We put these fillers into our language to give us the mental space to find the next word. Having a few here and there makes a show sound natural, conversational.
But when you use them during a podcast, they detract from your message. They hide it in a cloud of uncertainty. They make you sound less sure of yourself and your topic. Ultimately they just get in the way of what you're actually saying. Editing them out is expensive. Really expensive.
Fix: A silent pause is the answer
Want to sound smarter, more confident, and like an authority on your subject? Of course you do, because we already know you're all those things! And if you want others to know it, then instead of using Umm or like or y'know, just leave an empty pause.
We tend to dislike those empty spaces in conversations. But if you train yourself to pause rather than fill that space with meaningless sound, you make yourself sound much more confident, and the show is easier to edit overall. If a pause is too long, that's really easy to fix. The same recording stacked with filler can be up to ten times more expensive to edit.
Problem #3: Mouth clicks and smacks
Remember how earlier on I wrote about how sensitive those mics are? Well there's another trait you should know about: They're designed to be most sensitive when you're right in front of them.
And that also means that when you smack your lips or click your tongue before you speak, that gets picked up on the mic as if it were a shotgun blast. Now put that sound near your own ears, and you begin to understand how that sound can turn some listeners off.
Fix: Turn your head, drink some water
Lip smacking comes from not being hydrated enough. Have some water with you when you record (a short, wide glass is best as it's least likely to spill). The tongue clicking is another part of our natural speech and you just need to be mindful of it and practice it away in the same way as your Umms and Ahs.
If you listen to a episode from before you start working on these things and compare it to an episode after you've practiced these a bit, you'll be amazed at how much more polished it sounds. And you'll have spent a fraction on editing compared to what you would have before. Please let me know how this works out for you.
What tips have you noticed? What strategies work well for you to mitigate them. Let me know wherever this is shared!