Podcasting Tips

What’s the Hardest Thing to Teach about Podcasting? An Interview With Colin Gray

The Podcast Host is where podcasters can find mentors, online courses, and general resources about podcasting. Their latest update is the launch of a great opportunity for students in Scotland: the Scottish Podcast Scholarship will help one winner produce and publish his or her podcast idea. We wanted to talk with Colin Gray, the founder, to understand what’s behind this interesting and educational project, and the importance of training and learning about podcasting.

You’re an online educator and have been teaching podcasting for over 7 years. In your opinion, and with reference to your background, what is the hardest thing to teach about podcasting to students?

One thing that podcasting students really struggle to learn is the balance between presenter and tech. It’s really common, within our first hour with a client, for them to spend 50 minutes talking about microphones and mixers, and only 10 minutes talking about the content of their podcast. We all know content is the most important aspect, and yet it’s still the most neglected component when we think about planning. Even when we can get clients thinking about content, they tend to skip right to the topics that interest them, rather than thinking ‘audience first’. If you can spend just an hour or two fleshing out your audience, that’s more valuable than almost anything else you can do. Once you know who you’re speaking to – know them in graphic and vivid detail – you can really start to get under the skin of their problems, their pains, their likes, their dislikes. And it’s that knowledge that propels compelling content on your side.
The other aspect is around presentation skills. Far too few podcasters spend time honing their presentation skills. Sign up for a class somewhere, or join toastmasters. Work on your speaking, your voice, your cadence, your style. If you plan to do interviews, work on that skill as much as you can. People entirely underestimate how hard it is to run a compelling interview. 90% of interviews out there are terrible. That’s fine, on the face of it – we have to do some terrible interviews to become good at it. But I hear so many interviewers who aren’t improving in any way. They obviously don’t work on their craft, or even listen to previous podcasts. That’s poor. Deliberate practice is the way to improve and that can be hugely accelerated through groups, clubs and paid courses.

Through ThePodcastHost.com, you launched The Scottish Podcast Scholarship. How will you personally be supporting the student who wins the scholarship?

A big part of the support we offer is the initial planning and design. As I mentioned earlier, far too few people think about their ideal listener, their avatar, their audience persona. Another commonly missed aspect is the return that people expect to get on their podcast – what are the aims you have for it? This needs to be specific and measurable. Only with really tangible aims can you measure progress and keep yourself motivated in those early days when listener numbers are low and feedback is rare. Finally, we look at promotion: how are we going to get this podcast out into the world? A big part of that is in the audience planning. Once you know who you’re speaking to, you start to figure out why. That leads to what, specifically you’re solving, and why YOU are the one to do it. With those details you can put together a marketing message, and figure out exactly where to place it so it’s seen by your ideal listeners.

In your opinion, should universities, and schools in general, take advantage of the growing popularity in podcasting and start teaching students how to go about it?

Absolutely, and some already are. A great example of this is in peer-created content.

Imagine an assessment where the outcome is a podcast (or any type of media) rather than an essay. Not only that, but the podcast is freely available to the world – it’s not shut away, a false creation, generated only for the purposes of examination. Even better, it’s created so that it helps both your current peers AND students yet to enter the course. This is really easy to do simply by allocating students topics to teach their peers, and asking them to deliver the results as a piece of media. We had great results from this, where students would become much more versed in a topic through teaching it, as opposed to just delivering a private essay for a lecturer. The students would peer review the submissions, therefore learning more through the teaching delivered by their classmates, and it generated a huge amount of buzz around the whole topic.

Colin-head-greenbackColin is a founder, podcaster, and online educator teaching podcasting and online business skills. He’s also passionate about mountain biking. You can follow him on Twitter, where he fully mixes podcasting and biking tweets.


A shortened version of this interview appeared in The Podcasting Newsletter, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring all the latest news from the podcasting industry. If you’re interested in receiving it, just subscribe here.

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