Podcast Tips for Beginners: Q&A with Anna Renault

Have you secretly dreamed of being on radio? Or are you a blogger or journalist looking to reach a new audience?

Either way, podcasts offer an alternative to traditional broadcasting, allowing you to share your expertise and bring on guests to discuss topics of interest to you.

The ProfNet Q&A team recently sat down with author Anna Renault to discuss the basics of starting a podcast.Author Anna Renault shares podcasting tips for beginners

What made you decide to start a podcast?

After retiring from a 32-year career, I’ve done a number of things — a small poetry business, columnist for my local newspaper, and writing books.

My first book, Anna’s Journey: How Many Lives Does One Person Get?, connected me with some awesome people who led me to BlogTalkRadio, where my journey is continuing. I love to talk, and I love to share information.

I decided that through an Internet-based radio show, I could share a ton of information about a ton of topics. All shows are recorded and people can listen to the podcasts 24/7. The shows are an awesome way to raise awareness, share information, meet great people, learn new information, and to have fun in the process.

What type of equipment is required for the podcast?

The basic equipment that I use is a computer with a built-in microphone and an Internet connection. Initially, I did buy microphones and headsets but at that time, my computer did not have a built-in microphone. I have also called into the radio show and used my cellphone, so I would talk and then my guest would talk. For this type of show, I didn’t need any other equipment.

What type of guests do you bring on during your podcast?

On Wednesdays, three times per month I host shows that feature medical professionals from MedStar Health, a health organization in the Maryland/DC area. I often also have medical professionals from Mercy Medical Center. Other days, I interview book authors, small-business professionals, nonprofit group representatives, special events coordinators, and anyone I feel has a great message to share with my listeners.

How many guests do you usually have on your show?

Often my show has only one guest. I have had a few shows where I have had multiple guests.

Where do you find your guests?

Guests are found through various groups, as well as networking and online search, such as Facebook. Sometimes listeners will suggest guests who have something to share. The public relations offices for MedStar Health and for Mercy Medical Center arrange for those professionals to visit my show.

How do you deal with technical difficulties during a show?

My worst difficulty was just last week when my computer would not load the studio board due to technical difficulties, and I had no way of bringing the guests live on air. It was a bummer. Other technical difficulties have included having a vehicle accident knock out electric service and phone service, so I was knocked off the air, but my guest was still live and kept talking until I was able to reconnect. There is a help line at BlogTalkRadio that is very helpful whenever technical difficulties arise.

What are some ways you promote your show, i.e., social media, magazines, newsletters?

I promote my show on social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. I also write for my local paper The Avenue News, Examiner.com, and ReadersRockmagazine.com. Other forms of promotion include word of mouth, emails, and asking guests to promote the show through their networks. Both MedStar Health and Mercy Medical Center also promote the shows featuring their guests.

What are some challenges of running a podcast?

Challenges! Wow — many, beyond the technical issues of loss of power and computer glitches:

  • Guests who want to monopolize the show, but I make it clear prior to the show that I use a question and answer format.
  • Guests who don’t call in on time or do not call in. I try hard to research specific topics so that I am comfortable filling dead-air time or covering a topic at least briefly if a guest does not show up.
  • Guest and host can trip over one another when doing the show on the phone vs. in-person. I love doing face-to-face shows. You can read the guest’s reactions to questions, but doing them by phone allows you to remain at home — no worrying about bad hair days and no expense to travel somewhere.
  • Determining your listening audience. How many men vs. women? What age groups? And what their primary interest might be.
  • Being tuned into your own calendar and shortcomings. Be prepared for your own life’s problems — illness, schedules running late, forgetfulness. Be committed to your guest once you have scheduled air time for them.

Do you have any other tips for someone looking to start a podcast?

Go for it! It is an awesome journey. Learn the technology to access a show and have a plan of action. For example, do you want to do one show per day, week, or month? Have a commitment to your listeners to do shows when you say you will.

Do your best to find guests that will interest the audience you want to target. Carefully track your guests and don’t overbook.

Always have a back-up plan for every show. Determine whether or not a reschedule of the show is necessary; decide whether or not a show went totally wrong or bad info is included, and whether or not the episode must be deleted.

Can you recommend any resources for someone looking to educate themselves on running a podcast?

BlogTalkRadio has a number of resources for its shows’ hosts. Use them. Talk to other hosts. Listen to other podcasts to decide how you want your show to sound.

Polina Opelbaum is a community services specialist with ProfNet, a service that helps connect journalists with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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