Will Rice is a podcaster and voiceover artist with 15 years of experience as an on-air radio personality and commercial voiceover actor and producer. His podcast Pro Voice Guy Podcast is a "podcast about podcasting" and talks about what it takes to write, produce, and publish a successful podcast.
I asked Will for his thoughts on "voiceover work" and how podcasters can improve the quality of their voices and recordings.
The difference between "voiceover work" and podcast hosting...
Let's start with the similarities. With both, you need to start with clean, noise-free audio. Being a voiceover artist made that part of the crossover a bit easier for me.
Besides the technical components of recording great sound, podcasters, like voiceover artists, should work on excellent delivery. Clear diction, decent breath control, and avoiding distractions like popped p's and mouth noise can make the podcast much more enjoyable to listen to.
Where the two areas diverge is in delivery style. Voiceover artists need to master a lot of different types of delivery for various clients and project. On a podcast, you just need to play the part of you. That's the best part.
The biggest mistake podcasters make when recording themselves...
The most significant podcast problems start right at the recording.
As I listen to podcasts with audio quality issues, I can picture what's going on. The biggest problem I hear, even more than low-quality microphones, is the recording space.
When you listen to professional-level podcasts, that great sound isn't just from a great mic. It's likely because the podcast is recorded in a sound conditioned room. These spaces are free from background noise and are treated to remove echo and reverberation. Echo and reverberation in the room create a hollow sound. And, if it's too bad, those sound waves bouncing around the room make the speech difficult to hear.
What are some basic things podcasters can do to sound better on tape?
Most podcasters don't have the resources to have a room professional treated, nor are they ready for the expense of a sound booth. But there are a lot of ways to improve the sound of a space.
Hanging heavy blankets on the walls, putting more furniture in the room, and putting down carpet can make a big difference. When all this is impractical, solo podcasters might find a drastic improvement by moving their setup into a closet with lots of clothes in it.
Once you have the space under control, it's time to think about a microphone. There are a ton of resources out there on selecting the right mic for your budget and setup. If you're using the microphone built into your laptop or iPhone, an upgrade will make a huge difference.
How can a podcaster be more confident and comfortable on the mic?
Practice. I started my career in radio. When I was in college, I took as many shifts as I could get on the college radio station and I recorded every single one. At first, listening back was painful. But as I listened, I could hear what I didn't like and work on changing it.
Back in my professional radio days, I had a weekly air-check with my program director. She would listen with me a correct and critique. But she would also point out what I was doing right.
If you have a trusted friend or colleague to listen and offer input, that is great. If not, keep doing it and keep listening. You'll get better and more comfortable.
The "Radio Voice" - How important is it?
Great voices don't mean great podcasts. Great content does.
It isn't about making your voice sound better. It's making your overall podcast sound better.
As an example, one of my favorite podcasts is Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell. I don't think anyone has every accused Malcolm Gladwell of having a great voice. However, he's a great storyteller.
What can podcasters do to improve their delivery?
Practice. You can do a lot to improve even if you don't have a coach or someone else listening with you. Some of the most important work I do as a podcaster and a voiceover artist is listening. I spend a lot of time listening to other podcasts. Also, because I specialize in voicing commercials, I listen to a lot of commercials. I'm annoying to ride with because I scan through radio stations trying to find commercials.
Find some podcasts that you feel sound good and try to hear what they're doing. Don't just try to mimic their style. Instead, try to find a way to incorporate the good stuff into your style.