Last week I held a great panel of content creators who critiqued 4 shows during BlogWorld & New Media Expo. The panel – consisting of Steve Garfield, Rob Greenlee, Mike Cioffi and Mignon Fogerty – critiqued the good and bad. The idea was to improve not only those shows, but also make people think about their own podcasts.
The panel made some great observations. It definitely made me think about my shows. I broke it down to 10 areas of focus. I can then work on each area within the next few weeks and improve my podcasts. In turn, people will interact.
Here are the 10 things you might want to also consider to better your show:
Audio is Important
I have done this, too. You bust your butt getting the video done. You are running out of time, but the audio is not that great. You work at it, but still cannot get the audio just right. With no time left, you just publish it.
I have seen shows with $10 microphones and they end up with good results. An Audiophile might cringe, but the average user would find it acceptable. During the mixing process, you can tweak the sound for a better result.
It’s important to listen to your show and ask yourself – Would you listen to this?
Video is Important
Position of the cameras, changing of angles and other movement keeps people’s attention. If you just have 2 people standing in front of a green screen that makes the background picture flicker, that could make people stop watching.
The average person needs to have different camera angles every couple minutes, or else they loose interest. You can film with one camera stance, then have the computer mixing software angle and pan around. You don’t need 2 cameras, just an understanding that we don’t want to be stagnant.
We are not trying to hide our faces. For $20, you can get a 250 Watt energy efficient light that points right at your face. I should know – I have about 10 of them in my studio.
Of course, lighting can affect the camera and cause a flicker. Therefore, getting the right light is important. If you have enough lighting around you (but not too much light to wash out), the video becomes crisper.
How long is your intro?
We had 3 shows with long intros (over 10 seconds). The consensus was to shorten your intros. One of the three shows, however, I felt was acceptable. I suppose after a few weeks of watching the show, the intro will start to feel too long.
The important thing is to get to the content right away. You need to say the show and the sponsor, but you have 10 seconds before people move on or tune out. Make it pop.
Ever watch M*A*S*H, Friends, the Simpsons or another show in syndication? You may have noticed the intro was shortened – mostly to house more commercials in the 30 minute time slot. I don’t always need to see the full version. I can even create a shorter version and play that, with the longer version for special occasions.
Babble on (a.k.a. It’s really Hoppy) – Scripting
Scripting can add a considerable amount of time to creating a show, not to mention making mistakes when reading from a script. However, you can sound more confident when you do script it. There has to be a happy medium, but where is it?
For a while, I scripted the first half of my podcast. I could pre-plan what I will say and even interweave a commonality to make people think and follow. The second half I talked from the hip, which could be disjointed, especially if you are multi-tasking.
Scripting the commonalities may be the best answer. Read from the script at those times, then improvise for the rest. That can help.
How many people?
Having a show with more than one host brings variety. Having 4-5 people might work, but to do this, each person should have a specific job. Just like a news cast – 2 hosts, weatherman, sports director and 3-4 field reporters.
After all, if you have 5 people babbling (see the previous point) and no structure, how long before you tune out?
Does your show have an Identity Crisis?
Variety is important, but too much variety with no structure and people lose interest. We noted that one show could actually chop their podcast up into 5 and push them every day. So Mondays you would find out about the Geek side of things, Tuesdays would be Tech, Wednesdays could be Comics, etc. etc.
Going back to a News structure – You do have News, Weather, Sports and Special interest, with an opinion section shoved in from time to time. They happen at certain times, so if you wanted to know about the weather, you can tune out until about 10-15 minutes after start.
So plan the work and work the plan. It makes for a better show.
You have a pile of socks behind you, which you don’t want people to see. Therefore, you put a blanket over it. You throw items on the wall and don’t make it look structured.
I always found that your surroundings should be just as interesting as your content. That way people might focus on another area of the video, but they are still focused on the video.
It’s like if you are putting up wallpaper in the Kitchen, you don’t use 3 or more different patterns on the walls. You try to get the same pattern for a uniform look, then put up small trinkets – Clock, white shelves that hold the porcelain cow, rooster and pig. Even a “Welcome to the Kitchen” sign.
Don’t have too many distracting props around you, but have enough that people can be distracted. They might just watch more than 10 seconds.
Does Your Website Spotlight Your Podcast?
It is just as important to make your website work for your show. One show’s website made you select 2-3 links before you even got to the show. Some people will most likely move on to another site and your show goes unlistened or unwatched.
On the same note, you may have the RSS feeds on the site, but people want something more visual. RSS is for importing into readers. Feedburner, for example, has a little more interaction. Especially in Chrome, where RSS feeds come up with a page full of words and no structure.
I always said, if it’s not fun anymore, I’m gonna stop doing it. If I can sit in front of a camera and drink beer with friends, I suppose I would do it. If people see you having fun, they might just come back and see what beer you drink next week.
Just remember – even though you are having fun, being informative and structured is just as important. If you walk the line between the two, you should have a successful show.
I would like to thank the group for their time and I would like to thank the shows for being on the chopping block. I hope the takeaways will help their shows grow.
I learned a lot from this panel. I hope people will notice the changes and come to the show more. That is the goal for me – to entertain more and get more interaction.