Welcome back to another episode of “Smarter Podcasting”, my podcast where I shared tips and experiences for beginner podcasters.
I’m Niall Mackay, the founder of Seven Million Bikes Podcasts.
Back in 2019, I started my podcasting journey. Like any beginner, I didn’t have a guide or a rulebook — it was just me, my passion, and a microphone. I had to figure things out on my own, learning as I went. In that process, I made a bunch of podcast mistakes.
“Nobody’s perfect. We all learn from our mistakes.”
Today, I want to share those mistakes with you, so you don’t have to go through the same learning curve. These mistakes are just like lessons that I’ve learned through my personal experience and funny stories during my podcasting journey.
Let’s start now to see if you’re making these mistakes too.
Number 1: Forgetting to Hit the Record Button
The number one mistake that I have made, and one that I just made again recently, is forgetting to hit record. There is no worse feeling as a podcaster than realizing that you have finished an episode only to find out that it was not recorded. It is a frustrating experience that can easily be avoided.
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a checklist and making sure to press record before starting your podcast. Learn from my mistake and never forget to hit that record button.
If you usually forget this important step, you should prepare yourself a “starting a podcast checklist”. Note down steps, types of equipment, or anything you think you can forget on the checklist.
- Detailed Steps for Foolproof Podcasting:
Break down the podcasting process into detailed steps on your checklist. From setting up your equipment to hitting that record button, leave no room for forgetfulness.
- Equipment Double-Check:
List all the necessary equipment. Microphones, headphones, recording devices—whatever you need, it deserves a spot on the checklist. That way, you won’t be searching for missing cables when inspiration strikes.
- Record, Confirm, and Reconfirm:
Highlight the record step and add a confirmation sub-step. Did you press record? Confirm. Did you press record again? Reconfirm. It might seem redundant, but it’s the secret sauce to avoiding heartache later.
Number 2: Not Using Headphones While Recording
One of my early mistakes was not using podcast headphones during podcast interviews. Wearing headphones allows you to hear exactly what the microphone is picking up, which is often more than what your ears can detect.
This is the story that made me realize the importance of a pair of headphones.
I learned this the hard way when I was using a Blue Yeti microphone and every time I picked up a glass of water with ice, it was clearly audible in the recording. If I had been wearing headphones, I would have realized the issue and adjusted accordingly. So, always remember to use headphones to ensure the best audio quality for your podcast.
Why do podcasters wear headphones? Let me tell you the benefits:
- Real-Time Awareness:
Hear what your audience hears. Whether it’s a subtle background noise or an unexpected interruption, headphones provide real-time awareness, allowing you to course-correct on the fly.
- Quality Control:
Identify and eliminate unwanted sounds before they become permanent guests in your episode. Headphones act as quality control, ensuring your podcast is a polished auditory delight.
- Post-Processing Precision:
Armed with headphone-acquired insights, post-processing becomes a strategic art. Fixing potential issues with precision and intentionality becomes second nature, enhancing the overall quality of your podcast.
- Listener Satisfaction:
When you use headphones, you’re not just podcasting; you’re curating an experience for your audience. By fine-tuning your soundscape, you elevate the listening pleasure for your audience, ensuring they remain captivated by your content.
Number 3: Choosing the Wrong Microphone Setting
When you’re recording external microphones, please double-check that you select the right one. Can you believe that I recorded an episode using the internal mic of my laptop instead of my Blue Yeti microphone?
This resulted in poor sound quality and a lot of frustration during the editing process. It is crucial to double-check and ensure that you are recording into the correct microphone, as the default setting may not always be the one you intend to use.
Before you hit that record button, take a moment to ensure that your chosen external microphone is indeed the star of the show. It’s a small pause that can save you from the heartache of discovering an internal microphone cameo during editing.
Add this step to your checklist, too – Select the right microphones.
Number 4: Not Preparing Guests for Video Recording
If you plan to record a video during your podcast interview, it is essential to inform your guest beforehand. For celebrities, KOLs, or anyone who wants to be good-looking in front of the camera it is important to let them know beforehand. I was interviewing a local celebrity and forgot to tell them, this caused them to become angry and frustrated, as they had an image to protect and were not camera-ready.
Respecting your guests and communicating clearly about the format of the interview is crucial to avoid any misunderstandings or discomfort.
Remember, the more transparent and collaborative your approach, the more comfortable and prepared your guests will feel. A well-informed guest is not only more likely to enjoy the process but will also contribute to a richer, more engaging podcast episode.
There are some other things you should discuss with guests beforehand to avoid misunderstanding:
Communicate the estimated duration of the recording session and emphasize the importance of time management for a smooth experience.
- Technical Setup
If you’re recording a remote interview, provide step-by-step instructions for any virtual recording tools. Test the guest’s audio setup in advance to troubleshoot any potential issues.
- Questions and Script
Share a detailed outline of the podcast questions, allowing for feedback or input from the guest. Encourage spontaneity and let them know it’s more of a dynamic conversation than a rigid Q&A.
Number 5: Choosing Condenser Mic
Condenser microphones, heralded for their sensitivity and versatility, aren’t without their share of drawbacks. At first, I used a condenser mic to record an interview and placed it between me and my guest. But it turned out that it picked up not only our voices but also all the sounds in the room, including background noise, traffic, and other distractions.
Condenser Mic – Disadvantages
In less-than-ideal acoustic environments, condenser mics might amplify the room’s natural reverberation. This can result in a less crisp and defined audio quality, making post-production efforts a challenging endeavor.
Condenser microphones typically require phantom power to operate. This reliance on external power sources can be limiting in certain situations, especially for on-the-go podcasters or in setups where power access is a concern.
Dynamic Mic – Advantages
Dynamic microphones with XLR connections excel in isolating sound sources. They capture what’s right in front of them with precision, minimizing the pickup of unwanted ambient noise.
They are versatile and often preferred for live settings. They can be a solid investment for various podcasting scenarios beyond the studio.
Therefore, for podcast interviews, I advise you not to use just one condenser microphone because it can pick up other noise.
- If you know how to record a podcast with multiple mics, equip at least 2 condenser mics, 1 for each
- If not, you should try a dynamic microphone.
- Studio Environment: For controlled studio environments, where ambient noise can be managed, the condenser duo might be your go-to choice.
Opting for dynamic XLR microphones might involve a higher initial investment. Additionally, you’ll need an audio interface or mixer with XLR inputs. While this setup provides superior sound quality, it does come with a more intricate equipment setup.
Number 6: Recording with a Single-Track
Recording multiple tracks is a crucial step that I initially overlooked.
When recording single-track only, every sound from every microphone is mixed together. No mute means no disappearing acts for unwanted noises. Moreover, every little sound like background noises, chair creaks, or unexpected surprises—are loud and clear. Listeners might get distracted, and your podcast loses that polished feel.
By recording each microphone on a separate track, you have the flexibility to mute or adjust individual microphones during the editing process.
This is particularly useful when dealing with background noise or unwanted sounds. Recording multiple tracks allows for greater control over the final audio quality and ensures a smoother editing experience.
Select the Right Software
Choose recording software that supports multi-track recording. Popular options include:
- Adobe Audition
Number 7: Phone Distraction
Leaving your phone on during a podcast interview can be a major distraction.
When there’s a notification or message, you will naturally look at it and forget what you’re talking about with your guest. Or even worse, there’s a sound or phone ring that spoils your entire recording.
To avoid these incidents, remember to mute, or put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. Do the same for your guests, ask them if they’re willing to do so. By eliminating potential distractions, you can ensure a seamless recording session.
Number 8: Microphone Placement
Lastly, I learned the importance of talking directly into the microphone. When using a dynamic microphone, like the one I currently use, the sound is only picked up when speaking directly into it.
If you move too far away or turn your head to the side, the microphone will capture less sound.
- Wearing headphones
Again, don’t make this mistake. Wearing podcast headphones allows you to monitor your audio and ensure that you are consistently speaking into the microphone. This simple adjustment can greatly enhance the overall sound quality of your podcast.
- Boom arm
I usually use the boom arm for interviews. As I and my guest are talking, we tend to laugh or move our heads to the side, and we forget that we’re not talking directly to the microphone. Therefore, using the boom arm allows us to move the mic with us.
Podcast Mistakes – Conclusion
Podcasting is a continuous learning process, and mistakes are bound to happen. However, by sharing my experiences and the lessons I have learned, I hope to help you avoid making the same mistakes. Remember to always hit record, use headphones, select the right microphone, communicate video recording with your guests, choose the appropriate microphone type, record multiple tracks, eliminate distractions, and talk directly into the microphone.
By following these guidelines, you can enhance the quality of your podcast and provide your listeners with an enjoyable and professional experience.
Niall Mackay: [00:00:00] I’ve been podcasting for years now, and in that time, I have made so many mistakes. So today, I want to share my biggest mistakes that I’ve made during my time podcasting so that you don’t make them too.
Niall Mackay: My name is Niall Mackay, the podcast guy. I’m the host of Smarter Podcasting and the founder of Seven Million Bikes Podcast.
Niall Mackay: And even though it’s my full time job, it doesn’t mean that I still don’t make mistakes. So the number one mistake that I’ve made, and you won’t believe this because I have literally just made the same mistake right now. The number one mistake is don’t forget to hit record.
Niall Mackay: You’re actually hearing me doing the second take of this episode because I pressed record on the pod track and I forgot to press record on the video and I go to check it and it’s not recording. This doesn’t make me sound good, but it’s not the first time that [00:01:00] I’ve done that.
Niall Mackay: I don’t know if there’s a worse feeling in the world as a podcaster. When you finish an episode and you go to look at the recording device, whichever you’re using, whether it’s online or a pod track or an audio device, and you realize that it’s not recording. I cannot tell you how frustrating that is.
Niall Mackay: And I remember during the pandemic when I was doing all my interviews online. Even though I knew it had recorded, I remember getting in a panic every time when that episode finished and Zoom would tell you that it’s loading or whatever it was called. And you’re like, Oh my God, please work, please work, please work.
Niall Mackay: Did I do it properly? Did I do it properly? And as I’ve just given you an example, I forgot even today, even though it’s written in my notes. The number one thing to do is press record. So don’t make the same mistake that I do. Have a checklist, have it written down. I really need to have it written on my forehead.
Niall Mackay: I’ll have it written right here so that you never forget to press record when making your podcast. There’s no bigger mistake.
Niall Mackay: [00:02:00] Number two, my second biggest mistake was not using headphones in the beginning. When you use headphones, you can hear exactly what the mic is picking up, which is way more than what your ears can pick up.
Niall Mackay: When I did one of my first ever podcast interviews, I was using a Blue Yeti microphone, And it was sitting on the table between me and the guest. Now, I had a glass of water and ice just like this.
Niall Mackay: And every single time I picked it up, all you could hear was that in the microphone. I didn’t notice it in real time. If I’d been wearing headphones like I am right now, I would have heard exactly what the microphone was picking up, and I would have realized immediately, stop drinking water with ice. now you may also have heard my glass go down on the desk there.
Niall Mackay: You might not because I’m going to do some post processing with studio sound, but maybe you heard it that time. Every single time you put that [00:03:00] cup down on a desk, then that may also be picked up by the microphone as well. So, make sure that when you do have a drink when you’re podcasting, that you don’t have ice in it.
Niall Mackay: that when you put it down, you put it down gently, and ideally don’t put it down on a desk or a table where the mic is attached like mine is right now, And then you’ll be all good.
Niall Mackay: Alright, mistake number three, and I’m not covering myself in glory here at all, but as well as making sure you press record. Make sure you’ve selected the right microphone. I made an episode that I found so interesting about live music here in Saigon.
Niall Mackay: We finished the episode, we said goodbye, and I was so excited to edit it. When I went to edit it, the sound was awful, and I could not figure out why it sounded so bad. There’s no way with the microphone I was using at the time, which was the Blue Yeti, and even though there should be a lot of background noise, the quality should never have been that bad.
Niall Mackay: And then I realized… [00:04:00] It had recorded from the internal microphone on my 2010 MacBook Pro, not the Blue Yeti, even though it was between us and we thought we were talking into that. So when you do set up your interview and you have your equipment ready, make sure that you’re recording into the microphone you want to, because the default might not be the microphone that you’re using.
Niall Mackay: Number four. So, if you are doing a video recording, make sure you tell your guest beforehand. I made that mistake when I was actually interviewing a quite well known celebrity here in Saigon and I forgot to tell them that we were going to be doing a video. When they showed up and they saw the equipment ready to record, they were pretty angry because they have an image to protect.
Niall Mackay: They were not camera ready. Respect your guests and make sure you tell them that they’re going to be doing video because it is completely different to doing audio only.
Niall Mackay: My fifth biggest mistake was using a condenser microphone. So I already [00:05:00] mentioned the Blue Yeti, and it’s a USB microphone. Blue Yeti is made by Logitech. It’s a good microphone, and it’s recommended a lot for podcasting, and I’m not too sure why. So a condenser microphone is going to pick up all the sound.
Niall Mackay: Now that’s good if you’re interviewing somebody, for example in your home, and you want to put a microphone between you to pick up both of your voices. The quality though is not going to be that good. It is going to pick up both your voices and pretty clearly, but at the same time, it’s also going to pick up all that white noise in the room as well.
Niall Mackay: It’s going to pick up the traffic outside, any banging, knocking, any children that are screaming, any dogs that are barking, all of that is going to be picked up by the microphone as well. As you can see, I now use a dynamic XLR mic.
Niall Mackay: And if you go back to my last episode, you’ll see this is the Maono PD200X that I just did a review on. This microphone has a cardioid pickup pattern. It only picks up noise [00:06:00] right in front of it here. It’s not picking up any of the noise from the room.
Niall Mackay: I’m in a living room with shiny surfaces everywhere for the noise to bounce off of. I have glass doors, it’s completely untreated, no sound panelling. If you go back to that video, even before I turn on studio sound type of post processing, the sound is still pretty good.
Niall Mackay: Then when you do that extra editing, it literally sounds like you’re in a studio. That’s only possible with a microphone like this. So my biggest regret in the beginning was not starting straight away with a dynamic microphone that was just going to pick up each of our voices.
Niall Mackay: The problem is it does mean you’re going to need more equipment if you’re doing XLR like I am, you’re going to need an audio device like the PodTrak P4 to plug into, or if you’re doing USB, you’re going to need to make sure you have enough USB ports and most of all, you’re going to need two microphones instead of just one.
Niall Mackay: but it is worth it. I would absolutely recommend if you’re having a guest, don’t do the condenser [00:07:00] microphone. The sound is not going to be good. Make sure you get yourself some dynamic microphones. You’d be better spending the same amount of money on two cheaper microphones than one, condenser microphone.
Niall Mackay: Now, number six, a mistake I made was not recording multiple tracks. When you record multiple tracks, it means that you can mute one of the microphones. Now, some of my clients that I’ve worked for have had squeaky chairs, so every time they move, you can hear the squeak of the chair. Now, thankfully that was on two tracks, so I was able to delete one of them, and then the listener is none the wiser because they don’t hear it.
Niall Mackay: But when you record only one track and all the sound is coming through that, you can’t delete any sounds from one of the microphones. And I’ve done this before and it caused me such a headache having to cut out little bits here and there to try and cut out just one microphone. So make sure you always record individual tracks and especially online as well.
Niall Mackay: Go into the [00:08:00] zoom settings or whichever program you use and make sure that it’s recording individual tracks. Trust me, this will help you so, so much producing good quality audio.
Niall Mackay: Now, number seven is a common mistake we all make, and nobody should be doing it these days, is leaving my phone on. the middle of an interview, your phone starts to ring or audibly buzz and vibrate. Make sure you put it on Do Not Disturb. Unplug the doorbell if you have to.
Niall Mackay: Make sure you put it on Do Not Disturb, ask your guest to do the same as well, and so you’re not going to get interrupted during your recording, and it’s going to ruin the flow of your interview.
Niall Mackay: And last one, number eight, the biggest mistake I made, and again, because I didn’t wear headphones, was not talking into the microphone. When you get a dynamic microphone like this one, I told you the sound is all picked up right here. As soon as you start to move too far away, or you turn your head to the side, the microphone picks up way less sound. [00:09:00] Now, if you don’t have headphones on, you’re not going to notice that.
Niall Mackay: When I take these off, my voice sounds the same here as it does here. When I have headphones on, when I do this. I can hear immediately that it’s not picked up.
Niall Mackay: So coupled with wearing headphones, make sure when you are using your microphone, you’re talking directly into it. If you are working with a client and I’ve worked with clients where I spend most of the episode that I’m producing continually, just moving their face because it’s really natural when you’re talking to talk like this and move about.
Niall Mackay: but you need to remember yourself or remind the clients that you work for that this isn’t a natural conversation as such and talk into the microphone properly. So those are my eight biggest mistakes that I’ve made in my years of podcasting. I’d like to think I’m perfect but I’m not and we all make mistakes but I’m telling you these so you don’t make them as well.
Niall Mackay: I want to hear what your biggest mistakes are. There’s a link in the show notes that you can leave me a voice message and I’ll select the best ones and play it on a future episode.