Finding Your Voice


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Finding Your Voice, a presentation I did for PodCamp Dallas 2013. Learn how to get started podcasting. If you've been doing a podcast for some time, there's still plenty of great ideas to keep improving your show.

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  • A family emergency prevented me from speaking at PodCamp Dallas 2013. I normally don't add notes to my presentations, but this one is lean (and I didn't get to do the presentation), so a bit about what I said with each slide.
    Here, I asked how many people have been thinking about podcasting. I let them know that my goal is to leave them with enough to do a podcast and provide step-by-step instruction, should they need it.
    For those already podcasting, I let them know that there's something for them in the presentation as well.
    Now you know...and knowing is half the battle :)
  • I kicked it all off letting people know that I know my voice has little range and that I sound...slow. It's always bothered me a bit, but echoing in my head, it's not so bad. But when I first HEARD my voice recorded, it was terrible...
  • In the 70s, my sister and I thought it would be the best thing ever to get my over-sized Star Wars comic book, divide the roles, and record ourselves reading it out loud – like a radio drama. We'd play it for friends and family and they'd all be impressed.
    We bought a new tape because we were so sure this would be great. We recorded a side, rewound the tape, and...
  • We hated the way we sounded. For me, I hated my recorded voice so much that I vowed never to have my voice recorded again!
    I held true to that vow until my junior year in high school...
  • Some friends wanted to form a punk band as a joke. I ended up writing lyrics and...singing! Through three versions of the band (I'm the only original member), I sang. And...again...
  • I hated the sound of my recorded voice. So...I started doing my own thing: writing. I'm a tech writer by trade and write novels on the side.
    By first novel is about a family traveling cross country in a possessed station wagon. (Stick with me, this all makes sense in a moment...)
  • The novel was well received, but passed by agents and publishers because they didn't know how they'd market it. So I set it aside and worked on other things that saw publication. bothered me that a novel went nowhere.
    In 2006, a friend told me to podcast the novel. He introduced me to Escape Pod and Scott Sigler's podcasted fiction. I told him I couldn't do it. He thought it was a matter of could I give away a novel for free? But I was fine with that; since I was published elsewhere, I knew I wasn't a bad writer. I just hated the sound of my recorded voice.
  • In 2010, after a layoff (and after thinking about podcasting my first novel for 4 years), I did it: I recorded myself reading my first novel and released it as a podcast. This was a big thing for me...not JUST because I hated the sound of my voice, but also because...
  • I'm dyslexic! I would rather have given this talk in my underwear than read two sheets full of text before the audience. Fortunately for them, neither of those things happened that day.
    But even with things I've written, reading out loud is hard for me. I have some history with this...
  • Sophomore year in high school, our English teacher said we'd be reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I'd loved ALL Shakespeare that I'd read to that point, and knew nothing about Julius Caesar, so I was excited. Until our English teacher said the two words that terrified me...
  • We'd be reading Julius Caesar OUT LOUD!
    This meant we'd all rush to the Cast page and choose roles. I immediately looked for the walk on role that said something like, “Hark, Caesar comes this way!” but was called on early. So I looked down, and picked a role...
  • Brutus!
    I figured a person names Brutus couldn't play too big a role in the play...
  • Of course, he's the main character!
    This meant reading—out loud—in front of the class each time Brutus came up in the play. In a style of English not tuned for the modern ear. All while friends poked me with pencils, trying to make me fumble even worse. But...
  • I did it! I made it through reading Julius Caesar out loud without dying. Just as I made it through reading my first novel out loud, despite hating the sound of my voice and battling dyslexia. It just meant reading some lines 10-20 times and spending 12-14 hours editing 15-20 minutes of reading.
    But something remarkable happened...people in other states and countries emailed me to tell me they liked the podcast. No biggie to me—it's not great literature, but it's a fun story. The thing, though? People wrote me to tell me how much they loved the way I read the book! They loved the voices I did; they loved the actual recording!
    I share this story because...if I can do it, you can, too! No more excuses!
  • Speaking of excuses...I get that there are sometimes valid excuses for not doing things. During talks like this, speakers tend to be like professional wrestlers, shouting, “JUST DO IT!!! NO EXCUSES!!! GET UP AND DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” But I don't make that assumption. The woman running the register where I get lunch once a week works three jobs. She's a single mother. She means it when she says she has no time. I've cared for a dying relative and know sometimes you have to wait. But it's a safe assumption that everyone present for the talk was able to spend a day at PodCamp Dallas 2013. It's a safe assumption that those not podcasting who planned to for some time were bogged down with excuses. So that was addressed...
  • I've already covered this: I was scared. I get it. I was scared of Scooby Doo as a kid, even though I knew the monster was Mr. Johnson from the farm in a mask. But until that mask came off, it was like Schrodinger’s Cat: it could have been anything. But I got over it.
    As adults, we can all look back at things we've overcome. We do something that scared us and it becomes less scary. Soon, it's not scary at all; it might even become the norm, this thing that once terrified us. Again, if I can do it, anyone can. No reason for fear.
  • This is the biggie. The woman I mentioned at the sandwich shop...I'd believe her if she said she didn't have the time. But if you watch more than a handful of hours of TV each week, you have the time! I won't say “No TV!” – if that's how you chill out after work, cool. But if you watch HOURS of TV, it's not a matter of having's a matter of priority. Watching TV is more important than podcasting. No problem if you're good with that, but don't say you don't have the time when you're online all the time, watching hours of TV, or playing through video games all the time.
    The time is there; your priorities aren't.
    Cut back, and you have the time!
  • I couldn't hook up mics to a mixer and set it all up for recording a podcast. We use a basic, portable recorder for Men in Gorilla Suits. (Here, I showed how it's used. Go to for a big tutorial.)
    With something as basic as a Zoom H1 or Zoom H2n, complex gear is no longer an excuse!
  • The Zoom H1 can be purchased for less than $100 on Amazon. The Zoom H2n for roughly $150. A Libsyn account for storing podcast files is $5 - $20 a month. You can find annual hosting for a fair price.
    It's possible to use your smartphone for podcasting, or get a recorder for less than $100. No longer can you say the gear is too expensive. I'm a single income household probably near the bottom of earnings among my friends. I was able to save and swing it. You probably can, too!
  • As a writer, my fear is knowing I'll die with so many ideas never realized. But if you're a podcast that feeds ideas. If you talk about movies or sports...each week, you have something to talk about – you don't have to make it up from scratch like Shawn and I do for Men in Gorilla Suits. But even if you do...friends will make suggestions for shows. Strangers will, too! A friend recently gave me ideas for 6 shoes he wants to hear. If one of Shawn's friends did the same, that's three months of shows we didn't have to think about!
    If you're talking about something you love, you'll never run out of ideas. So...
  • Now for those who are already podcasting (although it can help new podcasters, too). I should call this section Expanding Your Voice, because it's more about getting existing podcasters to think of new things they can do for their shows. I've taken part in close to 60 shows...and I was speaking to people with hundreds and, in some cases, over 1000 shows behind them. So I wasn't in a place to tell them how to improve on that level—they could have been helping me!
    But I believe in improving things, so I provided a way out of the rut of...
  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it! With something like Coke, that's true. When they changed the formula, many hated it! Don't fix that, but still...they could improve the means of getting Coke to people.
    Most people who say “If it ain't broke, don't fix it!” are comfortable with an outdated process. They might be sooooooo used to that old method that they can't see how much easier it can be to do whatever it is they do. Maybe things aren't broken, but...
  • There's almost always room for improvement! Again, I'm not going to tell people with more experience what to do, but I will suggest this...
  • As a tech writer with a background in aviation and software, I work with things that are not broken. But...we improve things and processes with Continual Improvement Processes (CIPs). A CIP can be 3 – 10+ steps, but 3 – 4 tends to work best. There are many different steps, but...once a quarter, look at an aspect of your show you want to improve. Make a plan to make the improvement and do it. Then, step back and evaluate if you succeeded.
    Keep doing this: one little thing every 1 – 3 months. By year's end, you'll be amazed by how easy and better things are when you don't look at a huge list and try to tackle everything at once.
  • Whether you're doing an audio or visual show, consider a video introduction you can share with people to show who you are and what you do. In my example, the Bad Dice podcast was used. (It's a show about a tabletop game called Warhammer.)
    This audio show out of England made a 4-minute video on an iPhone to show their process and who they are. It's light-hearted and fun; people like it. More than that, endears you to the hosts and is an easy-to-share thing you could use to show people what it is you like about the show if you're a fan.
    Doubting this can work? Well, I don't listen to these guys in England (been years since I played Warhammer), but here they are, an example on a slide at PodCamp Dallas 2013!
  • Each week, Marc Maron posts a preview of a show. It's as much a reminder to listen as a sneak peek. In this case, on August 23, he posted a 1-minute clip with Michael McKean. It's a reminder of the show going live on August 26. Just a sound clip and image on YouTube.
    We tried this with Men in Gorilla Suits. 45 second – 1:30 clips of the show with several images that changed, telling a story. (Here's Shawn talking about almost pooping in John Glenn's spacesuit:
    We haven't done a preview for awhile, but when we've done them in the past, we saw a 15% - 20% increase in downloads. Don't know if that would still be the case, but it doesn't hurt to try.
  • It's amazing how many podcasts selling a product or service don't have a mailing list/newsletter. Sure, you broadcast your services with each episode, but I can tell you about a book I have coming out, and by the time you get home, it's not a priority to order. But...with a mailing list, I can reach people who WANT to get my stuff, and they can buy the book with a click.
    We don't have a mailing list for Men in Gorilla Suits, but it's a good example of how people mean to do things, but get caught up in other things that take priority to buying your thing or services. Make it easy for them to do what you want with a mailing list!
  • If you're in a rut and record audio online, try a Google Hangout. If you're all about 3-minute videos, try a longer bit of audio.
    Don't be like a desperate hockey team switching up the lines to the point of chaos when trying to shake things up, but sometimes when we're coasting along with a process we know well, trying something new gets us thinking differently...even about what we're already doing!
  • Help Others. It's just good! But if you wonder what's in it for you, here you go.
    I used to be a billing analyst. We got a new system and a HUGE user guide that didn't pertain to us. I figured out how to do our thing in the new system and wrote a training module. Soon, other departments showed me what they did and I wrote for them, too. I became a tech writer by helping others.
    As a trainer (in addition to tech writing), I forced myself to actually REALLY learn my stuff. In the things we do, we sometimes take the easy way...even cheat the system a bit. But when you pass knowledge on, you don't pass on bad habits.
    Helping others forces you to help yourself, too!
  • Almost done: I leave you with three things...
  • What we do all goes out. We broadcast. Whether it's audio or visual, we take our thing and shove it into the world...sometimes rather loudly!
    It never hurts to shut up and...
  • What we do all goes out. We broadcast. Whether it's audio or visual, we take our thing and shove it into the world...sometimes rather loudly!
    It never hurts to shut up and...
  • Listen! It's amazing how many times I see comments left on sites by people that never hear from the site owners. Sure, if you're huge, you can't reply to everything. But I'm talking people with a handful of an audience that they...shout at, but ignore.
    If you're a Gary Vaynerchuk fan and you have a chance to meet him right as a fan approaches, you pay attention to that fan. Listen! I started out writing comic books and once listened to a guy tell me all about licking his cat that morning because the cat woke him up by licking his nipples. I know, because he told me. In great detail. But...this guy bought everything I'd done to that point, and no one was more happy to see us at the convention than him.
    Listen to the cat nipple guy!
  • Finally, and this goes against all you normally hear at things like this, IS all about you! People say it's all about the audience, and is in ways. But if 3 people do a tech show and the first two are matter-of-fact (even boring), but providing details're doing your own thing...THAT'S the show that matters. That's the show that sounds more genuine because you're putting the one thing nobody else has into it: yourself!
    Nobody else is YOU. Use that to your advantage. Be yourself, lead from your heart, and you're on to something wholly your own!
  • Thank you!
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