I have always loved writing. I took every English class available in high school and college. I arrived in technical writing as a volunteer. For three years, I wrote technical directions, training materials, and software tips at The Standard before being promoted to a Systems Specialist role.
In recent years, I was fortunate to work on two large highly-skilled technical writing teams. I found it was common for writers on my teams to be a bit introverted when speaking to their peers across the organization. When I attended local DITA and Write the Docs networking events, I watched very talented and creative writers struggle to overcome their shyness, to find their voice.
I was a shy kid and teen, writing more than speaking. I broke out of it thanks to my mom and a local community theatre group. Acting roles and lessons helped me build the confidence I needed to speak in front of others. I became a receptionist immediately after high school at a local newspaper. While I was studying journalism, I learned how to use my voice to soothe agitated callers and greet anxious strangers. Later in life, I used my voice to launch quickly and naturally into my software trainer career. In recent years, I moved my voice online, switching my career focus to video and eLearning production.
Thanks to all of these experiences, I am a technical writer with a voice. It is rare to find others who understand and share my interest in both voice work and technical writing.
I was delighted this week to find a talented writer with a voice. I found Jeanne Faulkner through LinkedIn. Jeanne is a “writer, author, editor, writing coach, podcaster, voiceovers, advocate, registered nurse and then some.” I thoroughly enjoyed Jeanne’s podcast titled Raising Money-smart Kids exploring how and when children can learn financial responsibility and budgeting, a critical life skill.
There is a place in this world for writers with a voice.
In the last few weeks, I have been exploring podcasting for myself and others, so this blog is to share a few tips with you about the first stage.
I have been producing audio for videos for a number of years. Personally, I am interested in seeing if podcasting might be a good channel for producing fast, high-quality, cost-effective eLearning.
In my project, I am working with two teams of people who are new to audio production and podcasting. So today, I will share with you some of the things I’m sharing with them as we travel down this road.
To start, we need written content, a script, a set of interview questions, a person to interview, a theme or topic. Some people can start with an outline, and make things up as we often hear in a webinar, live radio show or live podcast. Others have a formal message to convey, so they do better with a carefully curated written script.
In all of the cases I am working with today, we have good ideas for content based off blogs, training webinars, and live events. We are simply using podcasting as another way to share our message.
For today’s example, I wrote a short speech about Dr. Pat Selinger for PDXWIT.org for their October Happy Hour. So, I simply reused that speech to create this sample podcast.
Microphone and Sound Booth
To start, a quality microphone make a big difference. I learned this lesson the hard way. You get what you pay for in microphones. A poor quality mic increases one’s editing and recording time. A few years ago I spent about $150, and I own a professional Blue Yeti mic with pop filter. I am doing a prerecorded podcast that matches my video work, so I have my sound booth (version 3) set up in my office closet complete with padded walls and ceiling. The sound booth cost very little. It was mostly a matter of gathering things around the house to make a padded space to eliminate echo and ceiling noise. Closets full of clothing are an easy way to start.
Sound Editing Software
To keep it simple, I used my familiar video editor, TechSmith’s Camtasia, to produce this file. There are other software solutions for sound editing that I will explore in later blogs.
Music helps the listener in so many ways, giving them auditory cues as well as bringing emotion to the audio. Professional podcasts often use music as cues in their show, and some may use sound effects to add additional interest.
Sometimes, I find it helpful to restrict music use in an audio track, to only use it to cue the listener, in order to leave the narration clear and crisp. This technique can be especially important if you have a wide variety of listeners from many geographic regions.
In this sample, the topic is light, and I wanted to add emotion. So, I placed the music throughout the audio.
TechSmith provides royalty-free music snips, so I listened to a number of them until I found the right match emotionally for the topic. Then I brought the music track into Camtasia, and I carefully edited it down to the right length to match the narration listening for beats and music cues.
I’m an amateur keyboard musician, and a long-time music lover. So, I’m sensitive to how the music sounds, and I want each fade and increase to happen at a time pleasing to the ear. It is a little detail, but one which increases the quality of the audio experience.
Producing the File
Once I had all those pieces in place, I rendered the file in an audio-only format M4A, a process that is much faster than producing a video file. There is some debate in the podcast world about MP3 files vs the newer M4A files. My tool, Camtasia, no longer produces MP3 files, so naturally I went with what I had, M4A format.
There are more details in producing a file I will cover later. For example, the actual file size is determine by the quality you select in production. I’ll speak to those topics in a later blog, because one’s choice of media server can help with these choices.
Publishing the File
Today, I published the audio file within my WordPress blog as a simple sample. I have recently upgraded this blog to a paid subscription that eliminates ads. Upgrading also allows me a small amount of audio and video storage.
That is not the end of the story on publishing podcasts. There is much more to say about preparing the file, publishing podcasts on a media server, and distributing them, also voice recording and audio tips. So I will return to blog more on those topics soon!