Back in the day, which by my standards, was not that very long ago – the perfect performance was achieved by a physical visit to a sound booth (a specially designed soundproof room), in a radio or television studio. Today, the advancements in technology will afford you an incredible opportunity to create a VIRTUAL STUDIO in your home or office, for very little outlay and significant rewards IF YOU follow a few simple rules. Your Podcast, Talk Radio Show, or Video Production can sound like you recorded it in a major studio – all from the comforts of your everyday life.
When I headed up the advertising agency for 20+ years, a trip to the radio studio was a regular occurrence. Today there is less and less reason for you to hop in the car and drive across town or the state. Guest spots and podcast production can be fulfilled on the phone or through a Skype call. But there has to be considerations and preparations for this to truly work, or you risk coming off as amateur hour. Distractions are dangerous as they take your focus away. Noises and transmission quality problems will destroy the quality of your brand quickly, and leave folks wanting less.
Whether you record at your home or your office – you must safeguard your surroundings and the surroundings of your guest(s). If you think in the terms in how it was done before the leap in technology – then you will understand the importance of creating a quiet zone. Here are some examples to watch out for:
- Sniffling, snorting and such should be avoided at all times
- Coughing and hacking into the mic are magnified
- Breathing heavy into your microphone
- Any physical contact with your mic will create unwanted sounds
UNWANTED SOUND EFFECTS
- From your computer, be sure sounds are in off position. If you have software that buzzes or rings to remind you of something, you’ll want to turn these off – including Skype. There is a setting in Skype to turn notifications off while recording – be sure to check this box, and then uncheck the play sound boxes as well.
- Mobile Smartphones and landline phones in the house or office must be completely off. If a mobile phone is on vibrate mode anywhere on the deck or table surface where your mic is or even close by – it will be heard as the mic will pick the vibrating sound up. Always remind your guest to put phones in off position or remove from the room they are taping from. Even without the vibrating sound they will distract the recipient and listeners will know.
- Ringing doorbells or banging on doors. Put signs on doors that you in a quiet zone recording ON AIR.
- Any and all animals. I once had a canary start singing that a guest had in the room with them. The guest removed their dog but never thought the canary would be a problem. Cats, dogs, birds, elephants and so forth – living creatures anywhere near the taping area are a problem.
- Open windows are risky. Sirens, city sounds, bird chirps, crickets in the country; all of these sounds are distractions to your broadcast. Even the a/c unit can be a problem. If you are taping near a vent and the system turns on – it can create a vacuum sound that will impact the production.
- If a siren or unavoidable sound distracts or destroys the taping – PAUSE – let it go buy and then resume. Before you resume, remember where you were at and repeat the question or thought. It is always incumbent upon YOU to keep in mind that the editors who must slice and meticulously edit the show will require the best footage to work with. Keep your composure always and simply repeat the previous question or statement to allow a seamless edit.
- Let your guests speak. DO NOT be rude and continually interrupt. Now of course if you’ve picked the wrong guest – then you may want to avoid certain questions. It is not necessary for you to always agree with the opinions and comments from your guest – in fact it is best NOT to always agree.
- The secret weapon for any successful host is to be AUTHENTIC. Listeners know when you are speaking from your heart and when you are trying to pull one over on them. Your authenticity will be rewarded – as many, too many in fact in media-land do not follow this golden rule.
- When your guest is speaking BE QUIET. Do not continue to say right, right, right… or make sounds of acknowledgement that you agree or disagree. Let the guest speak and then unload your truth. It is a far better listener experience when one person is speaking at a time and DON’T BE SO PREDICTABLE.
- SLOW YOUR WORDS DOWN. Too many hosts speak like they are headed to a five-alarm fire. Breathe Breathe Breathe. Have Fun and Enjoy your time. I look at each guest as a blessing. A blessing that they gifted me their time and attention and that we have this opportunity to share these thoughts, opinions, and occasionally wisdom with the folks.
- The sound of nothingness can often be dramatic. When a host keeps talking and talking and talking without breathing and pausing – it never works. The sound of quietness can actually be quite refreshing for podcast and talk radio. Make your point – pause – breathe (not on mic) – pause – speak – change your tone – make a big point – pause again. Unpredictability is good. Less boring.
- When the host or the guest also have that monotone sound – it is BORING. Get your guest out of their comfort zone – sometimes you have to play with them or rile them up. You can do this without appearing to be crazy. Avoid one level of speak – change your tones so that the highs are highs and the lows are lows. AVOID screaming and ranting like a lunatic – there are plenty of rabid hosts out there who occupy this space of lunacy.
- No more than two sentences to introduce a guest. You can put more in the show notes, but DO NOT waste listeners time. They do not care how many degrees they have and every award and what they had for breakfast. If you have a guest that has a Nobel Peace Prize or Cured Cancer – tell folks upfront. Never save your best for last – use it upfront. If you want folks to stay with you for the balance of the show – you must learn to give them your best upfront.
- Every interview should have minimum of 3 aha questions. These are the big questions that need answering that most other hosts are afraid to ask. Be fearless and ask – while always being a lady or a gentleman. From those 3 questions, lead the interview with one of those top three – do not save them all for the end of the interview.
- You are never going to please all the people all the time – nor should you try. Please yourself. Be respectful. Never laugh at yourself, let others laugh. Entertain folks and leave them learning something new – but always leave them wanting more. YOUR JOB #1 IS TO ENTERTAIN FOLKS!
Recording guests via Skype has become much more reliable than just a few years ago. With a good transmission you’ll come away with a quality and workable mp3 file, but there are times when the planets just don’t line up just right – causing the transmission speed and quality of the broadcast to be impacted. You have to listen – and listen carefully. If it doesn’t sound right to you – then chances are the end product will not sound right either. You can’t control the bandwidth of the guest location, just your own. But you can take other measures to insure a solid performance. For instance, if an echo sound is present – you will need to reevaluate the room and surroundings of both your location and the guest. There are rare times you’ll need to ask the guest to change rooms, or locations all together. If the Skype call to the guest isn’t performing to your satisfaction – you might consider calling their phone line from your Skype connection. Better to be safe than sorry.
Remember that a quality broadcast starts with a QUIET ZONE. If you apply the same respect that a soundproof studio provided to earlier broadcasts – you will be gifted with premium sounding productions. We are incredibly blessed today with the abilities to talk and tape from virtually anywhere in the world compliments of the power of advanced technology. You could not do this ten years ago. So here is how you insure excellence in all of your productions. I call it a MIND-MAP of all possible distractions and interruptions. As you enter the taping room in your VIRTUAL STUDIO – create a mental checklist of every possible problem and remove and adjust your surroundings so that they closely match the quiet zone of the old-fashion sound studio.
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY RECORDING. BREAK A LEG…