Forget Toastmasters, improve public speaking through podcasting!

We recently launched a podcast for our gaming blog, and it’s made a real difference in my public speaking. I joined Toastmasters years ago, and while it’s a great tool for some and definitely wins out in the social department, it never cured me of my ums and ahs.

But after three weeks of podcasting, they’re nearly gone. The key here is to edit the podcast yourself. Every speaking stutter during recording is one more edit you’ll have to make later. You’ll also get a really good sense of what your voice sounds like to others and how fast or slow you tend to talk, in case you need to make adjustments there too.

If you want to get started podcasting, here are the basic tools you’ll need:

  • Audio recorder. I recommend the Zoom H2. It records high quality stereo audio, it’s easy to learn and saves your recording to an SD card, which you can pop into your computer when it’s time to edit. It’s also very portable, should you ever need to record something out in the world.
  • Audio editing software. Audacity is free and the v1.3 beta lets you drag audio segments between tracks, which greatly eases editing. Seriously, don’t waste your time with v1.2.6.
  • Leveling software. The Levelator is free; just drag and drop your final exported WAV file and it will even out the sound levels for you. This is particularly important if you mix in more dynamic audio, such as music.
  • Music (optional). You don’t need music, but it does enhance your overall production value. You can find lots of free music at Mevio’s Music Alley as long as you register as a producer and provide proper credit.
  • Podcast feed. To publish your podcast, you’ll need to create an XML feed. Since Apple iTunes has become the de facto standard, I recommend using their podcast feed specs to get started. You can also look at our feed as a guide (DON’T view it in your Web browser; instead right click the link to download and then open it in a text editor, such as Notepad). It’s basically just a text file that describes your overall podcast and each episode you release. Some blog packages such as WordPress have plug-ins you can use to automate feed creation.
  • MP3 tag editing software. Your final podcast audio file should be exported to MP3 format (Audacity requires a free optional plug-in for this, so after you level your audio, open the resulting file back in Audacity and export it again). Once this is done, you may want to tweak the file’s tags and add an image that shows up in MP3 players. MP3tag is free and a quick way to prep your final file for release, or you can do this in iTunes by importing the file and selecting Get Info if you prefer.

That’ll get you started. Record something every week and see if your public speaking improves. I bet it does!

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