Unveiling the secrets of podcasting

Podcasting pastor Amy Meyer shares seven tips for anyone interested in producing their own podcast.

Photo by Kate Oseen on Unsplash

I once had the opportunity to speak with a famous drummer discussing the difference between playing live on stage and recording a piece of music for an album. He described recording a song where he was required to play each piece of the drum kit separately. First, he recorded only the bass drum, then only the high hat, then only the snare, and so on. Everything was edited and dubbed together later to create the finished piece of music. He said, “Usually, a live on-stage recording just doesn’t translate well for a person sitting and listening in their car. You have to create it differently for a single-listener experience.”

As he spoke, I realized the same might be true for a worship service. Personally, I find it difficult to watch a worship service online, and it’s nearly impossible for me to enjoy listening to recorded sermons. After talking with my drummer friend, I wondered what kind of creative planning, recording, and editing might be necessary to take a live worship service and convert it for a solo listener.

Thus began my interest in podcasting and the birth of the “Passing the Peace” podcast. I enlisted the help of my friend, colleague, and partner-in-crime, Nancy McCranie. We began experimenting with ways to relay the message of a particular sermon in an audio format. Rather than simply posting sermons to this podcast channel, we engage in an expansive theological conversation each episode. While our talks usually touch on a recent sermon, the podcast’s purpose is to unpack the sermon, exploring timely issues or topics along the way.

We’re still discovering the best way to translate a sermon into a podcast. With around 30 canned episodes worth of experience, we continue to learn and improve each episode. There are 7 tips that I thought I’d share with anyone interested in producing their own podcast.

  1. Purchase a microphone and pop filter.

Good podcasters use good microphones. While it’s possible to use your iPhone to record, you won’t achieve a professional sound quality. I recommend the Blue Yeti microphone. You can pick one up for around $110. You will also need a pop filter, an inexpensive but necessary add-on that will help reduce unintended mouth and breath sounds as you record.

  1. Record in a quiet environment.

It’s almost comical how everyday sounds that usually go unnoticed can ruin an otherwise great recording. Air blowing through a vent, the hum of an appliance, a ticking clock, and the sound you make when you take a sip of water are some of the sounds no one wants to hear through their AirPods.

  1. Create a sound-absorbing recording space.

In addition to creating a quiet environment, it’s also important to make your surroundings as sound-absorbing as possible. You may be able to hang blankets around the room or use a large cardboard box lined with foam to record. It only needs to be large enough to fit your microphone and your face. I prefer to record in my closet, surrounded by hanging clothes. It’s not glamorous, but it makes for a great recording atmosphere.

  1. Choose software for recording and editing.

For software, I use GarageBand on a Mac computer. Some other great options are Audacity, Adobe Audition, and Logic Pro. You need something to create an MP3 file (or a file you can later convert to an MP3). It’s important to have the option to edit as well. Some podcast hosting sites offer the option of using their web-based software, but I have not had any luck with those.

  1. Select a place to host your podcast.

You might be surprised to learn that streaming services, like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, do not host or store podcasts. Podcasts “live” on a hosting site. From there, they are distributed to places that will stream them. There are many hosting sites from which to choose. They vary based on monthly fees, storage limits, upload limits, and bandwidth, etc. I use Spotify for Podcasters because (right now) it’s free and it has very few limitations.

  1. Edit, edit, edit, edit. EDIT!!!

A good podcast takes time to create. You only have a few seconds for people to decide whether or not they will keep listening, so plan to spend some time preparing, recording, and, most importantly, editing. Unedited recordings are rarely successful in the world of podcasts. Consider your initial recording as the concert version of a song and remember what my drummer friend said, “You have to create it differently for a single-listener experience.”

Another analogy might be a live play. Watching a live play is a wonderful experience, but watching a recording of a live play is less than wonderful. There’s a reason why people go to see movies instead of recordings of live plays. Movies are edited with the viewers in mind. So, edit your podcast with the single listener in mind. Even some very simple editing will help tremendously. You can do this by removing things like long periods of silence, an ambulance driving by, sections that are repetitive or boring, coughing, throat clearing, and filler words such as “um” or “ah.”

  1. Promote your podcast.

There are over 4 million podcasts available right now, and it would be nice if people were able to find yours. So, promote your podcast, like this: “Hey, friends! If you’re reading this right now, then please check out the “Passing the Peace” podcast. Share episodes with your friends, post on social media, and leave a positive review. This will help others find our podcast!

When you are worshipping in person at church, you experience the intimacies of eye contact, visual cues, happenings in the space, and conversations after the service. In addition, you get to participate in the music and liturgy alongside everyone else. My main motivation for creating “Passing the Peace” was to bring these aspects of worship together into a podcast format. Your motivation may be different from mine, but in any case, I hope that these seven tips will help get you started.

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