No one likes listening to a dull monotone voice. No matter how interesting the content is...
You see the voice is like a magnifying glass into our soul. And yeah, I know that sounds pretty deep, but honestly - I've learnt to tell the difference between when someone is truly 'feeling it' and when they're really not. All from just listening to their voice. And after reading this, perhaps you will too...
The voice never lies.
As a host - if you're not feeling up to it, then I assure you that neither will your listeners.
If you thought it was easy as pie being a professional voiceover artist, then think twice. The work that goes into training, warming up, placing the words, finding the right vocal tones even BEFORE we get into the microphone technique and technicals is just mega. (Hell if you're curious, go listen to my good pals Leah and Nic who host The Voiceover Social Podcast with insight into all of this stuff.)
Most weeks I publish around 5/6 podcast episodes a week. One presented by me, and the others are clients. But what surprised me most when starting out as a podcast producer wasn't about the questions people were asking during interviews, or about the technical gear they were using - it was actually the lack of energy that guests and presenters would give to their 'performance'.
Let me explain. The role of a producer is a murky one. Most ordinary folk think we're just the hand in the puppet for the big stars, we book the guests and then the bulk of the magic is done by the presenter - quite simply, we producers are invisible.
But in truth our role is all encompassing throughout every step. Our job is to listen, to be a supportive rock to our presenter's every concern, and of course to know everything about everything there is on the subject being discussed. But increasing, I recognise my job is also about injecting fun and energy into the recording process.
Being a podcast producer is very different to being a BBC radio producer. Many podcast presenters don't have years of broadcast training and a journalism degree to boot. They need much more reassurance throughout the whole recording process - before, during and afterwards. And that's perfectly understandable. I'm happy to help share what I've learnt along the way and hold their hands.
But what they're not always aware of is how on most occasions - their guest is probably feeling the same! They too need some reassurance - both from me the producer, and from you the host.
Of all the things I've learnt as an interviewer and producer over the years is how it's far too easy to put people on pedestals - time and time again, the guest will do this of the host, the host will do this of the guest. But what's really going on in our heads? What exactly are those crazy little voices saying?
"Do I sound stupid? Why is he interviewing ME? What if I say something wrong? Oh god, I forgot my next question!"
Yep, I bet you're nodding away right now. The stuff we'd never dream of saying to our best mates we're often saying to ourselves. And please note I'm not invincible, I still do this - and it's been 15 years since I started out! (By the way, I wrote a previous blog post about feeling the fear and doing it anyway with the help of She Podcasts, you might want to check this out too.)
So how can we distract ourselves from all this overthinking and make sure we are confident, full of energy and passion? What tips and tricks do I confess to using to help stop my cassette tape of overwhelm...? Voila.
How to inject energy into your podcasts
1. Stand up
If you sit down, round a nice table and slumped in your chair - you're going to sound lacklustre about winning the lottery. So stand up - use that core, use your diaphragm. Your voice will sound better, and so will your authority on what you're talking about.
2. Walk and talk
If you're feeling your guest's nerves, if they're holding tight on to their notes on a piece of paper in front of them and if they're not making eye contact - then take your podcast for a walk and talk.
I'm a big fan of recording using handheld stereo recorders over sitting in squeaky clean studios. More about that here.
Shaking up the environment you're recording in will be a welcome distraction, and definitely help you when it comes to step 3... Just maybe try walking in parks and offices, not on roads.
3. Think curious conversations, not interviews
Break out of the q&a/to-me-to-you thinking. Podcasts are different to radio and broadcast interviews. Allow yourself to interrupt, add in the "really, I never knew that" moments just like you would if you were talking with friends in the pub. All these aural signals will help your guest feel at ease too - it'll show them you're listening to what they're saying! And in turn they'll start to relax and their energy will increase.
4. Ditch the notes, and talk from the heart
Scripts are great if you need to get a particular message across but if you can memorise it, if you can say it in your own language and make it 'you' - allowing stumbles, laughs, cats burping and all the normal things that happen in life - it'll come across as much more genuine. When it comes to questions, forget it. Remember step 3 is all about listening and reacting. It's better to focus on three key subjects and a rough structure for the interview, then let the questions happen to you - naturally, as part of the conversation.
5. Do some breathing exercises.
Heck, even do some meditation or yoga if you can before you start recording. Take the time to get your head in the right space, set aside all the madness that life brings and concentrate on the job at hand for the next hour or so.
Put aside all your worries about the tech, the long lists of questions and whether you sound stupid.
And even better - this doesn't cost anything, and doesn't require years of training.
After all you've got a message worth hearing, right?
So make sure your bring your best self to the party in the first place.
Clare Freeman is a podcast coach, producer and consultant to individuals and companies across the world. If you need 90 minutes one-on-one support to get started podcast, book her time online here. For more about her podcast consultancy services read here.