Become a Pod Person

IT USED TO BE EVERYTHING WAS DONE BY PHONE: recommendations, reservations and referrals. But now those r-words have switched to i-words such as iPods, iPhones and customers saying "I want more." Podcasts offer the best way to give clients ideas for new places to visit and also provide you with opportunities to promote your business. Quick Tips

First of all, we need to look at what you'll need equipment-wise. Phil Windley, executive producer of Linden, UT-based IT Conversations, says that your computer is actually a good-enough recorder, so you're saved that start-up cost and you can even download free recording software such as Audacity for much of the grunt work.

The mixer and microphone are another story, however. "I recommend a Behringer mixer for $50 for proper sound quality; those cheap microphones at Best Buy won't do it. You need something that adds chamber to your voice and has good range, and if you decide to do interviews you want two mics so you don't move one mic back and forth." Samson, Stageworks and Alesis offer affordable models.

After you've finished your recording, then the real work begins, says Windley. "Post-production editing is key and depends on how fancy you want to make it. Audacity is again an easy program to use for this. There's a difference between the format for all of production work and the format for distribution—mp3s are great for distribution but use a different compression technique, so every time you save it there's a loss of quality. You want to go with a lossless format so you can turn them from wav files into the mp3s that everyone likes to play from."

You can have a well-versed production and still end up with a flat podcast if you don't bring energy, enthusiasm and—above all—entertainment value to your show. "People love protagonists and antagonists and a stated problem that is solved by the end of the podcast," says Windley.

"The host needs to watch out for making this into a commercial or people won't be interested. Pick and choose your moments. Say in the beginning of the podcast that the show is brought to you by who you are and what your company is. You can also bring in another travel agent during the show and, by stating who they are and what they do, it's an advertisement that flows into the show instead of taking the audience out of the moment. You can also make a mention of a product you have, but casually and only once or twice."

Another mistake Windley says podcasters make is trying to make the show sound "too NPR": "There should be a good pause in between sentences, and if there's a knock at the door, take it out of the show...but you have to be yourself. Audiences always prefer sincerity to being overly polished."