As a podcaster, you probably know how exciting it is to receive a voicemail! It confirms that you have human beings listening and wanting a conversation with you. With some basic editing, these voicemail messages can also be enjoyable for the rest of your listeners.
All of these ideas and tips will apply in any audio-editing software, but I focus on Audacity’s specifics in the audio podcast, so make sure you listen to hear all the details!
1. Listen for valuable content
Never play a voicemail you haven’t already heard and know what the listener has to say. Their voicemail may be special, but you don’t have to play it if it doesn’t work for your podcast episode.
- Is it relevant to your content?
- Is it asking for an answer you’ll have to find?
- Is it addressing content that is far too old?
- Does it provide value to your listeners?
2. Process to sound better
Voicemail may come in through a variety of methods:
- phone call,
- recorded on smartphone app,
- sent through a computer with SpeakPipe or similar, or
- recorded on cheap or professional podcasting gear.
Because of this, the audio quality will differ every time. Try to make the quality the best you can, but don’t try to conform the voicemail to your same studio level of quality. Try any or all of the following methods to enhance the voicemail audio.
- Noise removal—Be careful with this because you could make it sound worse than it already is. I rarely run noise removal.
- Adjust volume—Some voicemail will simply be too quiet or too loud overall. I always raise the volume of voicemails so they’re close to my own volume.
- Compress—This will even out the loud and quiet spots of voicemail so the volume is fairly consistent. This usually isn’t necessary with phone calls. Again, I always do this so their sound matches mine.
- Normalize—Potentially separate from the previous two tips, normalizing will ensure that the voicemail is never above a certain volume level, so they won’t be louder than my own voice.
- Basic equalization—Depending on the quality of the recording, some basic equalization (EQ) can sound a lot better. Even a simple bass boost. But make sure you’re not boosting anything twice by running an effect on the voicemail before you play and then after you’ve recorded.
Of these steps, I only compress and normalize, unless absolutely necessary to do anything else.
3. Edit for clarity, relevance, and brevity
The honest truth is that listeners may be nervous, conversational, irrelevant, or unprotecting of their privacy. Making some basic edits to their audio before you play it in your podcast can make your podcast flow more smoothly, and make the listener sound a lot better.
- Remove excessive verbal crutches like “um,” “uh,” “ya know,” and such. But don’t get obsessive about this; just remove the ones that stand out and are easy to remove.
- Remove private information like school names, phone numbers, or email addresses.
- Cut irrelevant fluff like repetitions, unnecessary lead-ins, or unnecessary side notes.
- Trim silences at the beginning, end, and any time that gets awkward within.
- Do not change their intent! If editing their message changes the meaning of their feedback, this could be a form of slander.
- Shorten if too long, or piece together multiple messages. Google Voice cuts off at three minutes. I like to keep voicemails short, but if something really requires the extra time, piece them together so they sound like a single message.
Make sure you let voicemail-senders know that they may be edited for clarity, relevance, or brevity.
4. Export as uncompressed WAV
Always save the unedited voicemail, and make a high-quality export. This is especially important if you will recompress your audio into MP3, like recording directly to a drive or importing the edited voicemail into your podcast project.
Important tips for handling listener feedback
- Make it easy for listeners to send feedback.
- Ensure listeners know their feedback is recorded and may be rebroadcast.
- Always be respectful to your listeners unless they know to expect otherwise.
- Remember that someone took their valuable time to think of something to say and send it to you. Be grateful!
- Consider a personalized email or voicemail followup to every feedback.
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