For many podcasters, recording isn’t always a breeze. Hey, even experienced podcasters mess up at times since production skills require time to hone.
So, before you record your next episode (or your very first episode), let’s go through the common podcast recording mistakes together. These mistakes are not limited to technical ones that affect the professional quality of your shows. They include production mistakes that can lead to podcasters giving up on their podcast after five episodes or less.
By avoiding these mistakes, you not only elevate your podcast to a whole new level of professional quality, but also create content in your own unique voice and style that keeps your audience hooked and craving for more.
Let’s get started and make sure you podcast like a pro!
Table of Contents
Mistake #1: Lacking a content hook for your podcast
Let me first ask: do you have a friend who usually goes along with whatever suggestions the group would have?
Shrugs his or her shoulders when you ask for an opinion or suggestion?
Always playing it safe with their words for fear of saying something wrong that upsets others?
In the podcasting world, if you are this “friend” chatting away in the earbuds of your audience with comments or opinions that are always sticking to the “safe” middle ground, you are unlikely to gain many followers.
Why? Your audience isn’t tuning in for your companionship. They are exchanging their time in return for something (hopefully) valuable – which could be intellectual insights (especially for interview podcasts), inspiring stories, or simply good storytelling.
If your content is not refreshing, in-depth, or edgy enough, it’s hard to stand out from the myriad of content choices available out there to your audience.
But, don’t mistake this to mean your show should be full of foul-mouth language, whining and dissing, or being overly extreme in opinions just to get attention or to gain followers.
What you need instead is an attractive content hook – a strong value proposition that will draw in your audience and give them a reason to keep listening.
One that establishes the value for your audience to be willing to exchange their time for what you have to say.
For example, content that helps them understand the world in a particular way or gives them a new view or perspective on it.
You can also see the hook as the WHY of your podcast.
Not why you are recording the podcast, but WHY people should be listening and following your show. There’s a big difference here: your podcast should establish its value for your audience and not for yourself.
Have a look at your podcast intro script that you use every episode – Does it contain a strong hook that clearly establishes what value you are offering your audience?
Check out your favourite podcasts and examine what makes people follow these shows – Does it state what “problem topic” it focuses on and what it hopes to solve for you?
If you need more help, check out this podcast intro scripting template to see how you can create a stronger hook for your podcast.
Mistake #2: “Talking to nobody” – Not defining a target audience for your podcast
Whenever I conduct pre-production planning with clients for their podcast concept, one of the key information I need to find out is WHO is the target audience they would like to reach.
Yet, every time I ask the question, I dread the answer. I almost half expect them to say, “We would like the podcast to reach a wide range of audience.”
To paraphrase marketing guru Dan Kennedy a little here,
“When you try to talk to everybody, you are talking to nobody.”
No matter how good your content is, without a clear understanding of who you’re speaking to, you’re essentially talking to nobody.
Taking the time to understand who your target audience is and what they value can not only help you create more meaningful content, but also make it easier to stand out in a crowded podcast market.
For example, if you know what topics and information are most important to your listeners, you can tailor your content to fit their interests and needs. You can also use this information to identify the unique elements that will make your content stand out.
Coupled with a strong content hook, you will have created a unique value proposition that sets your podcast apart from the rest and makes it worthwhile for your audience to pay attention to.
Without a hook or a clearly defined target audience to build a unique value proposition for your podcast, you risk being a generalist and wasting your listeners’ time, so don’t make this mistake.
By taking the time to understand who you’re talking to, you can create audience-centric content that resonates with your audience and helps you stand out from the crowd.
>> A Guide to Defining Your Podcast Audience: Available Soon<<
Mistake #3: Recording in the Wrong Environment
Besides having a strong content hook and a unique value proposition for your target audience, recording in the right environment is crucial for a successful podcast. This means you have to choose a setting that’s conducive to audio quality, has minimal noise distractions, and is comfortable for the speakers.
The biggest rookie mistake is recording in a space with poor acoustics and trying to “fix it in the post”.
Recording in a glass-wall meeting room or a noisy cafe would be bad choices to begin with, as poor acoustics can make your audio sound muddy or echoey – not easy issues to fix – and, in turn, impact how well your audience perceives your content to be.
Assessing the acoustics of a room using your “untrained” ears may be hard. What you can do instead is to record a short test clip and play it back in your headphones to judge the quality for yourself.
If you already have a quiet bedroom, invest in some acoustic panels and/or sound treatment materials to tame the room echo further.
Do not mistake these sound treatment materials as soundproofing solutions. This will not be able to prevent your neighbour’s lawnmowers or the sounds of aircraft from getting into your podcast recordings.
Now, if you don’t have access to a suitable recording space with proper sound insulation, then consider renting a recording studio to record your podcast in.
Given a choice between room acoustics and microphones, I would rather record with my phone microphone in a proper studio than record with a Neumann U87 in a glass-walled office.
Lastly, consider the environment’s comfort level, including the room temperature and the seats your guests are on.
I’ve had clients bringing nice designer chairs for their podcast (to look good), but the creaky chairs made the guests uncomfortable the whole time. The podcast episode ended up with more audio issues that distracted the audience more than any amount of swanking visual aesthetics could cover up.
There are also podcasters who turned the air-conditioning off during recording to reduce the background noise, without considering the fact that guests sweating in their seats would make them want to end the podcast recording as soon as possible.
So, if you care about how well your podcast would sound, make sure you use or rent a recording space that is well-treated, spacious, and comfortable for everyone. Taking the time to find the perfect studio or investing in sound treatment will pay off for your podcast quality in the end.
>> Need a guide to building a recording room at home? Check out this post “What you need for setting up a home recording studio“<<
Mistake #4: Not editing the recorded audio properly
Once you’ve settled on a decent recording environment, it’s time to focus on getting the audio quality right.
It’s a basic requirement for any recorded audio to be cleaned and edited before being delivered or uploaded online. A professional audio editor will help you remove unwanted noises like mic pops, mic handling noises, background noises, loud breath intakes, mouth smacks, and awkward pauses or mistakes. He/she will also be able to help master your podcast to make sure it doesn’t end up sounding too soft in the final master.
If you are handling the audio editing on your own as a podcaster, you can make the editing process easier for yourself by taking extra care during the recording itself.
Firstly, proper mic techniques can help you reduce the amount of mic popping that gets recorded, which, when left unedited, leaves your audience less than impressed with the quality of your production.
As mentioned previously, the perceived quality of your podcast quality is directly related to the quality of your recordings.
A study by USC and the Australian National University shows that audio quality influences whether people believe what they hear — and whether they trust the source of information.
Good audio quality is essential for a successful podcast. Even in the case of video podcasts, don’t fall into the trap of prioritising how your video looks and neglecting the audio quality.
Priortising for audio quality doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money buying high-end microphones. Most of the common podcast microphones on the market will get the job done so long you pay attention to proper mic placement and mic techniques.
As a rule of thumb, you want the microphone to be about 6 inches away from the mouth as a starting point to achieve a clear signal. Anything closer, you have to start paying attention to mic popping. Anything farther, you will start to pick up more of the room noise and reverb.
Check out this article from Buzzsprout to see if you are making any of the mic-ing mistakes when recording your podcast.
Mistake #5: Uploading the recording “as-is” – raw and unedited
A mistake worse than the previous one of not getting the podcast properly edited? – Not even editing it at all!
Yes, there are many podcasts that are simply recorded live streams uploaded as-is. This is something you can get away with if you have a large group of followers to begin with.
But in the long run, when you are focused on growing the reach of your show, you have to rethink your podcast as a content product.
Just like there’s a fundamental difference between a singing recorded live as an audio clip versus a song being produced with attention to details like the song structure, harmonies, progression arcs, etc.
We should approach podcasts with the concept of it being a produced show, with a strong opening that hooks the audience and content worth listening to till the end.
Which means that even if you are recording your podcast live or repurposing your live content into a podcast episode, you could also do your show and your audience a favour and edit away the fluff and tighten to flow of the conversations.
Or else it would be no different from a live webinar or live conversations like in Clubhouse. (By the way, if you are wondering if Clubhouse is still surviving, read: The pandemic drove Clubhouse to a $4 billion valuation that never looked sustainable)
Mistake #6: Unbalanced loudness between speakers
This is a pet peeve of many podcast listeners, where the loudness difference between two persons in a conversation or interview varies so much that you struggle to follow what they are saying.
And especially so when you are listening to the podcast in noisy environments like the subway during commute.
Like this interview with Ramit Sethi on The Mel Robbins Podcast, where the loudness level difference between Mel and Ramit is about 8-10 LUFS.
This is a typical remote podcast recording setup with the guest and host in different spaces and the issue isn’t because of poor acoustics or lousy mics (both are using Shure SM7B mics).
The main reason for the loudness level disparity is because of the different mic gain settings for each speaker.
Mel’s speech level is generally more consistent — which allows for a higher gain setting during recording.
Whereas for Ramit, who is more dynamic in his delivery and can get loud when he’s excited, the mic gain would have to be set lower for the recording to prevent audio clipping or distortion.
Which means to say, even when both mic levels are correctly set for a recording, you will still get unbalanced loudness in the end product – if you do not edit your audio accordingly with respect to their loudness levels.
This reinforces my earlier point that the recorded audio needs to be edited properly and not be uploaded in its raw form for any podcast.
Seasoned pros with lots of experience in front of the mic would have good mic proximity control to know how loud they can go even when they get excited or have a need to shout something out loud.
But for most guests you may have on your podcast, this isn’t something you can have them master on the spot.
Hence, you, as the podcaster or producer, will have to rely on good miking techniques and the post-production process to make up for their lack of mic control.
Mistake #7: Not Wearing Headphones During The Podcast Recording
Wearing headphones while recording can also help many first-time podcasters and guests be more aware of the need to speak into the microphone. A lot of loudness level inconsistencies mentioned in the previous section are also due to guests pulling away or turning away from the mic’s recording sweet spot.
While some podcasters feel that headphones are necessary for the show to look aesthetically like a podcast, the main benefit of wearing headphones during a podcast recording comes from the quality improvement in the recorded audio.
A lot of podcasts these days are being recorded remotely using software like Squadcast, Riverside, or even Zoom. If any one of the guests is recording without headphones, the microphone on their end would pick up the voices of the other participants at the same time, creating unwanted audio echo or feedback.
This would also trigger some form of noise-suppression algorithm in the recording software, which lowers the quality of audio being recorded during the podcast.
But what if your guests aren’t used to wearing headphones and requested not to? (The reasons may include the classic “I’m not used to hearing my own voice“, or the bossy “I’ve recorded many podcasts without wearing one“.)
At the end of the day, it’s your call as a producer whether to insist that they wear headphones, or to manage them during the recording whenever they sway away from the microphones or talk at the same time.
When there’s echo cancellation as a result of audio feedback when two guests talk at the same time (this happens a lot during conversational podcasts), the automatic noise-reduction algorithm kicks in and creates audio-ducking effects in the recordings that cannot be reversed in post-editing. So, watch out against them!
Mistake #8: Over-Scripted or Un-Scripted Podcasts
I’ve encountered marketing agencies who help brands and companies script their podcasts, even right down to every word the guest is supposed to say during the interview.
The end result is often a highly unnatural conversation that your audience can clearly tell is scripted. This makes you appear less than credible and authentic to them.
On the other end of the scale are podcasts where the guests just show up without an idea of the talking points or rundown. What we end up having are podcast episodes that lack a focus and “drift” all over the place in the first ten minutes — which, if left as-is unedited, would see the podcast audience numbers drop off like a rapid cliff.
As a podcaster, it’s therefore important to find the right balance between being prepared and being over-scripted.
The best podcast episodes may come across as spontaneous and informal discussions, but this is the result of extensive preparation and strategic planning undertaken by the hosts prior to commencing the recording.
To ensure your podcast is engaging and enjoyable for your listeners, it’s important to have a plan for each episode.
This should include researching your topic thoroughly, creating a flow of pointers or questions, and holding a pre-production call with your guest to run through the talking points of your podcast. From here, prepare a final rundown for your podcast recording and have it in front of you as a guide.
Even a simple outline with just keywords can help keep your train of thought focused and speak with ease throughout the recording.
This is useful in maintaining spontaneity in your delivery and yet ensuring that you cover the important signposts along the way to the end of the podcast.
Mistake #9: Not marketing your podcast
Just saw this recent post in a podcasters’ community on Facebook:
It’s kind of disappointing when you post a podcast that you feel is a really outstanding and useful interview… only to receive moderate downloads…
Have you ever felt this way as a podcaster?
You may have heard people saying, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ But when it comes to your podcast, simply creating great content isn’t enough.
You need to find ways to get your podcast in front of the right audience and make it stand out in the crowded podcasting landscape.
Think of your podcast as a digital product, and one of the most important things you have to build right from the start is an email list. Keep your list updated whenever you release a new episode.
Likewise, post the updates on every social media account associated with your podcast. Consistently engage with your audience and provide valuable content to keep them coming back for more.
Most social media would require an accompanying visual or video short for your post. Hence, do remember to gather or take pictures, screenshots, and video snippets during the recording for your podcast marketing.
If your resources allow for it, consider producing both video and audio podcasts for the same show. Statistics have shown that six in ten weekly podcast listeners say they prefer podcasts with video, and YouTube (28%) has quietly surpassed Spotify (15%) in the past year to be the most used podcast consumption platform.
Interestingly, I observe that each podcast platform has its own group of habitual listeners with little overlap. Therefore, by making sure you have both audio and video formats made available on different platforms, you will see a far better reach than simply sticking to an audio-only podcast format.
Additionally, be sure not to overlook opportunities for collaborations and cross-promotion with other podcasts or influencers that have relevant and preferably bigger audience size than you. This would be a quicker and easier way to grow your audience than building your show from ground zero.
Lastly, remember to be patient and stay consistent. It takes time to build a following and to grow your podcast, but a solid marketing plan coupled with strong podcast content will ensure you reach your goals.
Don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep you from launching your podcast. You may make some mistakes along the way, but that’s part of the learning process and growth. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can avoid the common pitfalls and make sure your show is reaching its full potential.
Take the time to plan and research, and you’ll be off to a great start.