I was recently asked by a business associate who lectured part-time at a technical college, to help with a course he was compiling for new start-up entrepreneurs.
His course would be presented in a lecture room format and he wanted to provide complimentary information in the form of 8-10 minute audio clips which the students could download and listen to in their own time.
He asked me if I would provide the audio files – no problem I responded.
After studying his course material, I was able to very quickly compile 5 briefs supporting the corresponding sections in his course.
Now it was time to convert them to audio files.
I had used a Mac previously to record several voice-overs for a Crowdfunding project and they had apparently turned out to be satisfactory for the purpose so, although I was now using a Windows machine, I didn’t see any problems with following a similar approach – my first mistake.
Having mentioned my new project to a friend, who is a bit of a social media boffin, I was advised to download a free programme called Audacity, to ensure I got a reasonable quality for the output.
Onto my Windows machine went Audacity and I spent a morning watching YouTube tutorials about the programme focusing on how to start and stop the recording and how to save the file.
I was pleasantly surprised as to how easy the whole process looked – my second mistake.
Time to record my briefs.
Opened Audacity, bumped the space bar to start the recording and off I went, talking to my PC, and feeling very creative. I saved the first file and then recorded the remaining four. Finished within the hour.
I was now a podcaster and frankly, I was a bit surprised at how easy it was and at the same time slightly amused at why others had appeared to have spent so much time on preparing audio files – my third mistake.
All I now needed to do was index the information, finish the text versions and mail it all off to my “fellow lecturer”.
Fortunately, a little voice reminded me that my social media buddy had recommended that I take a listen to at least one of the files before sending them.
Against my better judgement, I selected Brief One, opened the file and pressed Play.
Hello! Who is this impostor on my audio?
Whoever it was it sounded like he had a mouth full of wet paper. The voice started each sentence too high and then faded off towards the end of the sentence as though the owner was riding off into the setting sun. There were also weird background noises that on occasion sounded positively rude.
Obviously I finally realised it was me but not being a stranger to public speaking, I was shocked as to the poor quality of the recording. I tried briefs 2 and 3 with the same result.
There had to be something wrong with the software, my PC or it was some alien influenced attempt to derail my briefs.
Trashing my rather expensive PC was obviously not an option and so the problem had to lie with the software and by association, my social media “buddy” – he had recommended a lemon!
After venting my anger at him for deliberately sabotaging my efforts, he calmly posed a list of questions which to me sounded awfully technical, for example: did you use an external microphone, did you set the preferences, and did you test the microphone recording level and so on, but the one that did catch my attention was:
“Have you heard your recorded voice before?”
I had done presentations to rooms full of people using a microphone but had never bothered to watch or listen to the recordings of the presentations.
This was, in fact, the first time I had actually paid attention to what my recorded voice sounded like – it was terrible!
Climbing down off my pedestal, I went for audio training with my social media mentor – formally my buddy.
This is a video by Pat Flynn about the realities of Podcasting – maybe something I should have watched before making a complete ass of myself.
My new podcasting mentor patiently took me through the whole podcasting process from start to finish and I quickly realised that this podcasting business was not something casually undertaken. It required practice, learning and patience.
My lessons included the obvious:
- Learn the software properly
- Find the right and cost effective hardware solution that suits you
- Get familiar with compiling a script
- Select topics “within which you could be considered an expert”, in other words, stick with what you know best when selecting material to podcast about
- Practice, practice and practice some more.
However, there were two other aspects of podcasting that I discovered that were pertinent to my situation and maybe so for you.
- I have never had a problem with talking to a hall or room full of people and have been complimented on several occasions on the professionalism of the presentations, especially the lively and animated way in which the talks were given; but talking to myself in a room with no one else around was something very different.
I am not entirely sure but I found in the beginning that I sounded decidedly boring, flat and tended to fade away towards the end of a sentence. I just did not seem able to be as enthusiastic as I know I can be when presenting live.
It took a lot of practice to get anywhere near an acceptable level.
- The second realisation was that I was not used to, or comfortable, with hearing my own voice. Strange as it may sound but it was quite disconcerting in the beginning and I kept trying to alter the tone or accent of my voice to try and emulate what I thought I sounded like.
My daughter finally convinced me that I would have to accept that this was what I had been given and the sooner I accepted it, the better. It was also pointed out to me by a sound engineer that my voice, even with a microphone, would sound different in a large room full of people as compared with a one-on-one situation in podcasts.
Eventually, with lots of practice, I got to the stage where I became more attuned to evaluating the content and more focused on the editing than worrying about how my voice sounded.
Although decidedly more confident in my presentations there will be a lot more practice before I go public with a podcast.
Any my lecturer friend who wanted the briefs?
I had to apologise and withdraw from the project and fortunately, he was able to find a more qualified replacement.
It is worth noting that I have not had a similar request from him since then.
I wonder why?
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Bus image: courtesy of Flickr by Peter Lakos