There's that old joke about the New York tourist who asks a local how to get to Carnegie Hall. “Practice, practice, practice!” replies the old-timer.
The same advice goes for podcasting: The way to get better is to practice. Nothing substitutes for hours in the seat, working out the kinks, getting used to the equipment and the process. But there are some tips you can implement to help you ramp up to “expert” status faster:
1. Figure out your goals. It's tough to know what to do to make your podcast better if you're not sure what you're trying to accomplish, so your first step is to figure out what your podcasting goals are. Do you want to get new customers? Do you want to provide information for your existing customers? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert? Do you want to network with others in your field? Determine your goals so you can monitor your progress and see how close you're getting to them.
2. Practice speaking aloud with inflection. One of my favorite ways to practice speaking aloud is to read children's books – to kids! They are a tough audience and will let you know right away when you've lost them (they start hitting each other or asking for juice). By the same token, you know when you've got 'em; they look at you with their mouths slightly agape, totally enthralled. There's not a better audience to test your stuff on, anywhere!
3. Ask for input. After you've recorded a few test podcasts, ask for feedback from colleagues and friends. What do they think of your volume, inflection, and pace? What about the length and topics? If you're recording video, what do they think of your demeanor and setting? Tell them you want blunt criticism (and put your shields up – this is no time for being sensitive!).
4. Document the process. Write down how you create each podcast, including the keyboard shortcuts and tools you use in your editing software. This way you can refer to this cheat sheet over and over again until it becomes second nature. By writing it down, you also may be able to pinpoint places where you can speed up the process.
5. Listen to great podcasters. One of the best ways to learn is to listen to the “masters.” Listen to others in your niche, as well as those in other fields. See what they do, what they don't do, how long they are, how they break up segments, etc. What can you adapt to your own podcast?
Refining your podcasting skills is an ongoing process. Great podcasters know they've never reached their pinnacle of success, and they're constantly trying to achieve the next level of expertise or success. Get used to the “shampoo, rinse, repeat” process; it's your real key to success!