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Finding my podcast voice

It’s been 18 months since I first launched my podcast, and this academic year I have stepped up the pace with a new episode every week. 65 episodes later… I still enjoy the process of making the podcast and it’s been very, very useful for my professional practice. It’s also a (for me still relatively) new way to sharing my work and I have tried to find the right tone in this medium, tried to find my podcast voice.

In this post, I bring together things I have learnt along the way, and also ideas for what I’d like to try out next:

Getting started: Looking back at the first year on the podcast, the pattern of putting out episodes is erratic. Sometimes I published 5 episodes a month, other times it was only one. They all come out on different days, and the format and duration vary, from below 10 minutes to above 40. Season 1, which doesn’t have episode numbers, has 10 episodes. Season 2 has 21 and currently Season 3 is at 30+. It’s a bit of a mess… However, what matters to me is that I did it. I continued to record and release episodes, trying out different topics and formats, with guests and without. I now feel that I have a podcast, and I have made it part of my professional practice.

Choosing what to talk about: Just looking at the titles of various episodes gives you a clear indication that there are a whole range of topics I talk about. Here are some examples from across the three seasons:

  • 25 hacks to make hybrid work 1% more comfortable
  • A party without a cake is just a meeting…
  • Career transition reflection – 3 months in

Some episodes are focused on coaching, and include more factual/how-to content whilst others are about leadership in hybrid workplaces and others again are updates on my work, celebrating milestones, reflective practice, radio… . The list goes on. What’s useful for me is that the podcast has become a reflection of my practice and leadership. That’s what I am interested in exploring, and it’s been helpful to acknowledge that as I find my voice.

Listening to other people’s podcasts provided all sorts of inspiration and I tried out different things with various episodes to feel out what might work for me. Importantly, it needs to be a topic I am interested in, and it needs to be useful to me. My podcast is a passion project, not something I get paid to do. It’s an element of my open practice and as such it’s useful to others (I hope) but it’s primary user is me.

An audience of one? In the early days of the podcast, it certainly was (an audience of one). I remember how excited I got when someone who could not be family & friends listened! It still makes me happy to hear that someone found an episode interesting or useful and yet I haven’t put a lot of effort into promoting the podcast. The platforms on which the podcast is registered offer all sorts of tools and resources to help you build your marketing campaign and expand your audience, which I must admit I have largely ignored up to now.

It’s an intentional choice on my part to keep the podcast a space to play and experiment with. Just like my blog, I want the podcast to be part of my domain, a page in my sketchbook if you like. I don’t want to monetise it even if I could. I am not interested in it becoming the next big podcast on hybrid working even if that opportunity arose. I want it to sit in the margins. A working, thinking space instead of a polished production.

With an organically growing audience, episodes now attract 30-50 listens on average.

Experiments in podcasting: Since I started the podcast, I have experimented with various projects: I used the podcast to record audio versions of key sections of my book Leading Virtual Teams; I have run two CPD courses using my podcast as the main platform to deliver course content and I have used the podcast to share career transition updates as I started my free-lance venture. It’s certainly been a bit of a mixed bag of approaches and that has resulted in me learning a lot along the way.

I appreciate that it may be frustrating to folks who are looking for regular episodes week in week out on a similar range of topics, and with a similar take on the format and I am sorry if experimenting with various aspects of the show makes it less enjoyable or less useful at times. For me, these experiments have been incredibly useful and rewarding, giving me space to try out ideas and new approaches on the journey to finding my podcast voice.

Things I learnt along the way:

  • Getting comfortable with recording conversations and structuring content
  • Recording intros and outros
  • Writing show notes and providing links to resources
  • Transcripts and automatic transcription
  • Registering a podcast on different platforms

The power of replay: Whilst many people dislike listening to their own voice, and I am not a huge fan of mine either, I do listen back to my own podcast episodes. I find it incredibly useful to replay my thoughts to help me refine my reflections and also to review how my thinking has changed. Just as listening back to a recording of me coaching with my coach trainer helps me identify ways in which I can improve as a coach and also identify what I am doing well and why it works; listening back to podcast episodes is extremely helpful for my professional development.

It’s also a bit nostalgic, particularly in the more personal/reflective episodes. Here I am, celebrating milestones and sharing tips for this and that whilst around me domestic chaos or work problems reign. There are episodes when I clearly had a cold and episodes when I can hear my dog Posey in the background wagging her tail or chewing on something noisy.

A note on the technology: I don’t have much know-how to share when it comes to podcasting tools and platforms. I have a wonderful mic that I can’t connect to my current computer, I use a browser-based, free tool to record my episodes which is just about to go out of service… and I live in a noisy environment where proper recording quality is harder to achieve than I’d like. In short, my set up is makeshift. When I sit down at my desk in the morning between meetings to record an episode, I am afraid there are no ambitions to have a recording set up beyond headphones.

I am fortunate to know many people in the Open Education community with brilliant podcasts and radio shows, many of whom have professional experience in this industry, much better placed to advise on anything technical and I salute them. I learn much from their example, even if that is not always evident in the audio quality of what I produce… .

Where next? I am very excited about continuing my podcasting adventures and I have ideas I want to try out come summer, and a break in my ‘regular’ schedule. I also need to learn how to record my episodes on a new platform, and I am definitely working on getting the good mic connected. Most of all, and regardless of any practical considerations, I am determined not to loose this space for open practice that I have opened up for myself. It’s another experiment in open leadership that has become important to me, and that in itself is a huge reward.

It’s not all about podcasting… there’s a newsletter you can subscribe to as well… (that’s another blog post).

One Comment

  1. It’s definitely a journey, and so good to see you writing up your process the good old fashioned blog way.

    I can imagine its a challenge to do a podcast that is just you talking, my efforts the past few years on the OEG Voices ones are conversational with guests, an all different approach.

    A small trick that sometimes help as you stare at the microphone, from old old DS106 radio friend Scottlo, was the suggestion to stick on the wall behind your microphone a photo of a dear friend, partner, family member, so it prompted you to speak as though you are talking to them. It “sounded” like good advice, I never tried. But getting a voice to a conversational level is what I enjoy in listening to podcasts, even if there are window noises and dogs barking, we live in sounds, not studios.

    I’ve been looking to simplify the process, because I can super detail oriented in editing. Previously, I did a nifty but complex intro that mixed voices together (I believe I had yours in the rotation). I changed that up, in listening to Tech Won’t Save us, I like how they start with a key quote from a guest as an intro, like a sampler that hopefully draws people in to listen. Seems like a good idea.

    Speaking of Tech, my whole editing game changed when I started using – it transcribes (with magical AI) your audio to text, and much of the editing, removing, moving things around you do my text editing, It has some built in features to improve sound (Studio Sound) and can even do some AI to generate redos of portions that were not recorded the best. And you get a transcript out at the end, without paying or sending out to have it done.

    You can have a good go with the free version, some more blabbed about it

    They have added a web recording studio called Squadcast (might be for the version) that works well for remote interviews.

    I love producing podcasts, it just takes me long as I get carried away with finding URLs for show notes.

    As long as its fun, keep at it!

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