Don’t get discouraged when something goes terribly wrong and you’re ashamed to release something you’ve recorded. Try the following tips for handling these potentially embarrassing mistakes in podcasting.
My recent failure
I attended the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES2014) to cover it with The TechPodcasts Network. This was my second time and I had a lot better perspective on what I should cover, how to look for things, and what to expect.
I had a lot of fun, especially since I wasn’t sick as CES2014. In 2013, I recorded only three floor interviews, but I lost two of them and the remaining one wasn’t interesting enough to be my only video. In 2014, I recorded nearly twenty videos and I thought I got some great content and found unique products.
But upon returning home and starting to edit the videos, I discovered that the mic gain wasn’t set properly and all but one of my videos had terrible audio. This was my crisis. Should I release these videos when I’m ashamed of their audio quality?
Since I know I’m not the only one who can mess up so painfully, here are some tips to help you overcome the “podcast failure blues.”
1. Redo, if possible
When it is at all possible, my top suggestion is to redo your episode. Yes, this means more time. But it may actually take less time to fully re-record than to fix all the problems.
This can be really embarrassing to ask a your cohost or especially a special guest for a do-over. Generally, they’ll be understanding, especially when the do-over is so they will look better. If you have to ask for this, be humble, apologetic, and extremely flexible. If your special guest suggests a time, you move heaven and earth to make that happen so you’ll inconvenience them the least.
Sometimes, a redo means losing a magical moment that could only be so genuine on the first take. If that’s the case, you could consider releasing that as a bonus somewhere, or attached to the end of your episode.
There have been several episodes of The Audacity to Podcast that I felt horrible about my presentation of the content. When I redid these episodes, the results were much better and I was glad that I took the extra time.
2. Don’t start with an apology
If you have to publish a “failure,” don’t treat it as a failure. One of the worst opening lines is “I’m sorry.” This will distract your audience by drawing even more attention to the mistakes.
Sometimes, your audience won’t even notice the “failure” or won’t consider it to be that bad if you never point out that it exists. This isn’t dishonesty; it’s pushing the most important thing forward.
Movie mistakes happen all the time (like the storm trooper who banged his head in one of the original Star Wars movies, or the minivan that wasn’t masked out in Gettysburg, and much more). But you never hear the director apologize. You may have not even noticed the problems if no one ever pointed them out.
Remember that your audience will be generally forgiving if this is a rare occasion.
3. Fix it the best you can
You have to press on with what you got, but it’s still embarrassing. This is where you may want to invest the time to fix it the best you can. If the audio is horrible (like my CES2014 videos), try to fix it, enhance it, or at least make the problems less prominent. If the video seems unusable, consider covering it up with secondary or supporting footage (B-roll), even if you have to make it up new (screenshots, slides, video of the item, etc.).
Fixing problems can take a lot of time and they’ll never make “garbage” beautiful again. But they can at least make “garbage” stink a little less.
You may have to partially redo your recording in order to fix a problem. Here are a few examples.
- If your audio was bad but your guest’s was good, re-record just your parts, the best that you can.
- Change your video to a documentary style with voiceovers or primarily your thoughts in studio.
- Release the content in a completely different way. Such as audio if your video was bad, or written if the audio is unusable.
Be careful not to fix things too much so that it seems artificial or you introduce new problems (like the “underwater” sound when you remove too much noise).
4. Skip, if it’s too bad
If it’s completely impossible to redo or fix and it’s far too embarrassing to release, you could consider skipping it altogether. This is the nuclear option that you may not be as necessary as you think.
Before you decide to completely scrap what you have, look at the big picture, give it a day, or get someone else’s opinion.
5. Ensure it doesn’t happen again
No matter how you handle the podcast failure, learn as much as you can from them so you can prevent the problem in the future. This may mean changing the way you do things or adding new steps to ensure quality for next time.
My CES2014 failure could have been avoided if I had done a test video and checked it before recording. Even if you’re confident in your setup and workflow, a short test can always be re-assuring, especially if it’s right before a big opportunity.
You may even need to invest in better or extra equipment in order to prevent the problem next time.
Learn from some of my mistakes and how I changed to prevent them from coming back.
- When I had my first recording-into-my-PC failure (because I did something stupid and overstressed my PC), I immediately bought my external recorder to reduce the chances of failure.
- When I kept repeating the mistake of not pressing my record button, I moved my recorder to a more visible location.
- When my camera’s focus went crazy in one of my videos, I stopped relying on automatic controls and switched to manual. I also often do a short test and check it on my PC before starting production.
- I’ll soon buy “cough buttons” for my cohosts so they can mute themselves if they need it.
Also remember that every “failure” could be a step toward success. If it helped you learn something, was it really a failure? (Check out my interview on Bruce Naylor’s Business Computer Weekly when he asked me about my past failures.)
Have you had an embarrassing podcast moment? How did you work through it and press on? Please comment on the shownotes to share your story!
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