Consider Adding Podcasts to Your Business-Presentation Repertoire – A Ground-Zero Primer

Are you in the type of job where you call meetings to announce and/or explain developments related to your enterprise? Do you invite guest speakers to add perspective or expert analysis? Would you be interested in reaching that same audience, with the same material, at any time convenient for them – including when they are driving or jogging?

If so, consider distributing an audio file.   The audio file is commonly known as a “podcast,” although technically a podcast is an audio file distributed through a specific type of syndication method. (Don’t worry about this; I’ll explain in a moment and use the word “podcast” generically from here on.)

Let me start with the basics. First, know that podcasts are incredibly popular. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the last month has nearly doubled since 2008, with one third of Americans 12 years of age and older having listened to at least one podcast. In 2014, the most recent data I am aware of, more than 2.6 billion podcasts were downloaded. [i]

Podcasts do not require a lot of expensive equipment and can be distributed for free or at a very low cost.

A podcast is usually somewhere between five and thirty minutes long, and often, though not always, includes an interview with a guest. The audio is recorded by the producer of the podcast and the podcast is uploaded to a site where it is “hosted,” meaning that listeners can download it or automatically subscribe to new installments, which are delivered automatically to their computers, smartphones, and MP3 devices.

An MP3 is a highly compressed audio file that because of its small digital size is easy to distribute. MP3 is an abbreviation for “Motion Picture Experts Group Layer 3 Audio,” meaning an agreed-upon method, established by a professional group, for compressing the audio. An MP3 file hosted on a serve that makes is available for subscription is actually what makes an audio file an official “podcast.”  So there. Now you know.

Well-known podcast hosting firms such as SoundCloud and Libsyn are easy to navigate and provide clear explanations of the process. You can also find literally thousands of tutorials for podcast creation on the web.

I mentioned earlier that you don’t need expensive equipment, and that’s true. If you own a laptop you can pretty much engineer the whole process for free using the built-in microphone. You can’t count on audio being recorded in one take, so you need some sort of software to allow you to record and edit the audio. You have many options, and probably have software that will edit audio already installed on your computer, but I would strongly recommend that you download a program called Audacity. It’s free, and while not the simplest program around, it is very powerful and you can generally find the answers to your questions about using it on a variety of Internet forums.

Why do you need an audio editing program like Audacity? Two reasons: First, you need some sort of software to capture the output of the microphone and turn it into the type of file you can use, and second, you need to have the ability to cut, paste, and mix audio to fix flubs, take out extraneous sound, improve the sound quality of what you have, and perhaps add some theme music or other audio effects.

Learning to record and edit audio is an excellent investment of time and (a limited about of) money. What’s particularly appealing about the process is that setting up your own audio studio is the first step in developing your own multi-media mini-empire.   If you venture beyond audio into video, the skills you learned in editing audio will be immediately adaptable to the somewhat more complex video-editing process.

Additionally, good audio is the foundation of good video.   In general, people will tolerate low-quality video but will not countenance poor audio.

In terms of good quality, you can actually produce professional quality audio at home with a modest investment. I produce a variety of audio presentations in a retrofitted closet  and the sound quality passes muster for even the most demanding clients. My Edited Photo of Podcastmicrophone is, in my opinion, one of the best made, and it cost me only about $350. (If you’re interested, it’s a Shure SM7B, and was the microphone used to record the Michael Jackson “Thriller” album.) The computer is a standard Mac laptop, the acoustical padding was a couple hundred dollars, the boom about twenty, and I sunk another $200 or so into amplifiers and cables. That’s less than a grand, total, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the audio produced here is of better quality than from studios were I did voice work in the pre-digital era – setups that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You don’t need this level of equipment for a podcast, although the added quality helps. A headset microphone designed to cancel noise works perfectly well for most applications; in addition to having a highly directional microphone close to your mouth to cancel out room noise, the headset allows you to move around freely and not have to maintain a consistent distance from the microphone.

If your podcast includes interviews, you can use Skype or Google Hangouts to make the connection for free and you won’t have to bother patching a phone line into your system, but wiring in a phone is not a particularly complicated process.

Podcasting is not exactly simple, but it’s not cripplingly complex, either. Developing skills and expertise in this area is an important part of a presenter’s arsenal, I believe. The Harvard Business Review reports that about one out of five business-to-business marketers use podcasts.[ii]





Author: admin

Carl Hausman is Professor of Journalism at Rowan University, the author of several books about media, and a commentator about the role of media and ethics in civic life.

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