Presentation is one of the five cornerstones of podcasting (content, presentation, production, promotion, and P.R.O.F.I.T.), and how you communicate in your podcast can make the biggest difference in whether people enjoy and benefit from your content.
Here are six free and non-technological ways to improve your podcast by communicating better!
1. Listen to yourself
Do you listen to your own podcast after it's published? I suggest waiting at least a couple of days, and listen like you listen to any other podcasts, including the same speed adjustments, same headphones or earbuds, and same environments.
This will help you listen like the rest of your audience. Plus, it can help you notice things that may be distractions that you can work on avoiding or editing out.
For example, you might notice how much you or your cohost(s) interrupt each other. You might hear how often you don't complete your thoughts. You might hear words or phrases you say too much. You might hear that background is an issue—or maybe it actually isn't and you thought it would be.
If you have guests or cohosts, try to focus first on yourself and how you can improve before trying to help others improve.
2. Learn from all feedback
We love the positive feedback! The tweets praising our podcasts, the 5-star reviews, the feedback telling us how much our audiences love our podcasts.
And we also receive some negative feedback.
We need to learn from both!
You don't have to change your show for the people who left or for a tiny portion of your audience. But you should try to learn from every bit of feedback you receive! You can learn what you're doing well and should continue or increase. You can learn what you're doing poorly and should cut or seek to improve. And you can learn what stuff isn't making a difference at all.
3. Become more curious
I generally hate the phrase “If it's not broke, don't fix it.” I think that attitude stifles invention and innovation.
I think the core characteristic behind making great things is a sense of curiosity. This isn't only for interview-based podcasts! Even as a solo host, you can become more curious about your niche, more curious about communication techniques, and more curious about new tools that can improve your podcast, engage your audience, or grow your influence.
And it all starts with curiosity.
Yes, curiosity sometimes leads to more expenses, but it doesn't have to! Sometimes, curiosity can save money! Take my previous episode for example, “Audacity Is Improving Fast! Here Are the Top New Features to Try.” I've already heard from several podcasters and even podcast-editors who are now curious about trying Audacity again, and possibly saving hundreds of dollars every year!
Curiosity can lead you outside your comfort zone, especially talking to or listening to people you might not have otherwise considered. For example, I like to sometimes ask for recommendations for a particular kind of podcast, and then I try some of them. That curiosity has led me to some gold mines in education, inspiration, and entertainment!
4. Expand your vocabulary, but not too much
How do you describe things?
I grew up listening to a children's audio drama series called Adventures in Odyssey. It had a character named Eugene Meltsner (originally voiced by Will Ryan, who died in November 2021). That character was geeky, loved science and computers, and often spoke with big, incomprehensible words. And you can probably guess that he was my favorite character!
You don't need to talk like Eugene—and actually, you probably shouldn't, unless that's how the majority of your audience speaks. Instead, find the balance between using a larger variety of words and maintaining comprehension.
Consider even the word “very” and all the better words you could use instead:
- 150+ Other Words to Use Instead of Very
- Words to use instead of “very”
- 100+ Words to Use Instead of VERY in English
Not only are most of these words still understandable, they are also more descriptive and invoke deeper feelings. It's like adding color to a picture or seasonings to a meal.
So try expanding your own vocabulary, and you can start with simply the words “very” or “really.” After that, you could try other words or phrases that might not necessarily be bad, but could maybe be communicated better or with more variety.
5. Improve your grammar and pronunciation
My parents made me take some speech therapy when I was a kid.
I hated it!
But now, I wish I had worked harder at it.
Since being a teenager, there were two times I started working to improve my grammar and pronunciation—both were the direct response to negative feedback. The first was when someone critiqued one of my first public speeches and he pointed out that I incorrectly said “there's” when I should have said “there are” in reference to multiple items. That small thing launched me into years of trying to learn better grammar, eventually discovering Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips to Better Writing, and even becoming a managing editor for my previous employer.
The second time is much more recent, and came from a negative podcast review that pointed out I was—to the listener's annoyance—pronouncing the name “Emma” like “Imma.”
That was in 2018, but I paid more attention to it a year or so later and realized how many E's I pronounce more like I's, like “get,” “enter,” “them,” and more. I'm actually still trying to work on this, and I accidentally revert when I'm not paying attention or get lazy. And that led me to realize there were other words I wasn't pronouncing quite correctly—or perhaps I should say consistently with my general northern American accent. Like pronouncing “things” and “think” more like “thangs” and “thank.”
(Please do not point out when I mess up, at least not at this time. I probably already heard it and have mentally kicked myself for it.)
I'm not condemning you if you pronounce things with a regional accent. These are inconsistencies I've concluded are incorrect for me.
And to make matters even more complicated, there are some times certain vowels are supposed to be pronounced like different vowels! Like the O in “women” is supposed to sound like an I. And some American English dictionaries even differ! For example, how the A is pronounced in “lav” and “lavalier microphone”!
So to some extent, these issues might come down to a choice of style and what you use as the authority.
The most important thing is to communicate in a way your audience can understand you, even if they might get a little distracted by an accent at first.
6. Conquer bad habits
You probably knew this one was coming! Learn what your bad habits are in podcasting and work to overcome them! It could be crutch words or phrases, like “um,” “like,” yeah no,” “ya know,” and more.
It could also be strange ways that you phrase things, bland responses (like “That's a great question” or “Awesome”), or overly used figures of speech (like “at the end of the day”).
It could also be habits while podcasting, like saying the same unnecessary phrases every time, loudly fidgeting, getting distracted, or making inappropriate compromises.
Life is the best place to train
Whatever things you decide to work on, don't save your efforts only for when you podcast. Train yourself on these things in your everyday!
It's like the question I sometimes see, “How do I stop saying ‘uh' in my podcast?” You stop it in your podcast by stopping it in your life!
You can also use your podcast as training grounds for you to improve these and other areas in the rest of your life. For example, maybe you learn ways to have more meaningful conversations with your husband or wife by training to ask better questions in an interview and listening better to the responses!
In other words, use life to make you a better podcaster, and use your podcast to make you better at life!