Podcasting is all about public speaking, even if you don’t have an audience right there in front of you, or always (like on the radio) know that there are people listening live as you talk. However, the end result of your podcast (hopefully) is that you get to speak to the public about something you care about or are interested in, and that makes it a form of public speaking.
Enthralling an audience is a skill that can take years to develop, and hopefully, as a podcaster, you’re well on your way! However, if you feel like you have not yet mastered the skill, here are 10 tips to take you to the next level.
1. Know your material
This might seem obvious, but the truth is, the temptation to “just wing it” is always there. You might feel like the subject you want to speak about is common knowledge, or (if you’re interviewing someone) that the questions and conversation will flow naturally. But the best public speakers know that preparation is always necessary.
Do some extra research on your topic, even if you don’t actually include it in your podcast. Come up with questions beforehand, and, if possible, try to think of how you could respond based on their possible answers. It never hurts to be a step ahead. The preparation will boost your confidence and prepare you for contingencies you didn’t expect.
If you have a podcast, you’re going to be practicing public speaking pretty regularly. However, you don’t want to wait till you’re all miked up to practice! Practice every opportunity you get. Talk to yourself on your way to work, in the mirror in the morning, or in front of a friend. Think about ways to introduce yourself, ways to end your podcast, ways to introduce the topics you want to talk about and what you want to say about them.
If you think up a really great one liner, say it out loud to yourself to make sure it holds up – you’d be surprised what sounds great in your head but awkward once it’s on your tongue. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be with what you’re talking about and the more confident you’ll sound.
In high school I was on a debate team, and as part of my competition I had to give a speech. I practiced so hard. I memorized every word of my 15 minute speech, down to every last preposition and exclamation. And I was awful. Practice was important, but trying to map my every word, intonation, and exclamation out made me sound stiff and fake.
When it comes time to actually perform, let the words flow naturally. Try not to be too concerned if it doesn’t come out of your mouth exactly the way you thought it would. Don’t try to force your tone or reactions – people will be able to tell. Most importantly, relax.
4. Know your audience
People naturally change their tone, their vocabulary, and their mannerisms depending on who they’re around. This should be true when speaking to an audience as well. Envision one person who really embodies your audience, and then try to speak to them. Are they a stay at home mom, an up and coming businessman, a student? How do they speak? What interests them? What are they looking to you for? Knowing your audience can make a big difference in the way you come across.
5. Slow down
When people are nervous, they have a tendency to speak very quickly. That’s why for many of us, it’s important to make a conscious effort to slow down. Don’t blow through your material. Set a reasonable pace when you start talking, and stick to it. This way you won’t find that what you thought was twenty-five minutes of material was actually fifteen.
In our everyday speaking, we pause regularly, to consider questions, to emphasize a point, or to process what someone else has said. Speaking in front of an audience frequently causes people to loose all those pauses. After all, you know what you’re going to say, you know what’s coming next, so why pause?
Pauses are an incredibly important part of public speaking. Pauses can help emphasize an important point, and give your audience room to consider what you said or to reengage in what you’re saying if they’ve drifted off. Just like my paragraph breaks help you to sort through the information in this article, letting you know when one thought ends and another begins, pauses can help your audience sort through your material. You probably wouldn’t read this article if it were one long blob, and the truth is, if you forget to pause, your listeners might be tuning you out.
7. Work on removing verbal filler
Umm, well, just, like – all these words can be used as verbal filler, words we use to take up space when we just don’t know what else to say! It’s important to try and cut back on verbal filler when speaking for an audience, because this can detract from your perceived authority and make what you were trying to say less interesting than it actually is.
One of the best ways to remove verbal filler from your podcast is to try and remove it (or at least some of it) from your everyday speech. Realize what words you use as verbal filler, and then notice when you say them. Then, instead of using those words, try and pause a little longer to really finish constructing your sentences in your head.
8. Embrace your mistakes
Let’s face it – you’re going to mess up! But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. When you make a mistake, embrace it. Laugh at yourself, make it a joke, and admit that you said the wrong thing. If you say “wave the sails” instead of “save the whales” that’s fine! Let your audience know that you heard it too, and you’re totally comfortable with it. And then move on. Embracing your mistakes makes you sound more confident, instantly increasing your credibility.
9. Remember the takeaway
Most of the podcasts you’re in will have a takeaway – the one thing you want your audience to remember after they stop listening to you and move on with their lives. Whatever that is, don’t forget about it!
Studies have shown that people remember the beginning and end of speeches, books, plays, etc., the best. So start and end with your takeaway, and save your wandering for the middle. This way your audience is much more likely to remember your point, and to feel like your podcast was a coherent whole.
10. Thank your audience
Closing a speech or a podcast can be one of the hardest parts. How do you “play yourself out”? What do you say so your last words aren’t an awkward, “ok, bye…”? When in doubt, thank your audience. After all, you’re there for them, and they are undoubtedly the most important part of your podcast. Without them, you’re just talking to yourself with a lot of sound equipment lying around. Let them know you’re grateful for their time and interest. Say thank you.
Hopefully, these tips help your podcast flow a little smoother. For any podcasting related questions or concerns, feel free to contact us at [email protected]. Thank you for reading!