Hello, podcast guest!

There are many guides and how-tos out there for people who want to make podcasts. But what if someone's invited you to be on their podcast, and you don't know what you're supposed to do?

Don't worry. This page is designed to help guests like you, and that's why the show host has sent you here. We'll help you get ready for your appearance, and show you how to record your “end” of the conversation so that you sound great.

Rule #1: Don't Panic!

Podcasts are an informal medium, and sound best when the guests are having a real conversation, rather than talking in sound bites. So you don't have to be 'radio perfect' — in fact, being too slick can sometimes be a bad thing. Podcast listeners want to hear the real you, and they want you to enjoy yourself. If you're having fun, they'll love listening to you.

4 Steps to Sound Great

These tips will explain how you can take part, and help you get the best sound quality.

The vast majority of podcasters use Skype to make their shows. If you don't have it already, download it for free here and create an account. Next, ask your host for their Skype username. Add it to your Skype buddy list, and tell them your username in email as well, just in case.

Use an external microphone if you have one. If you don't have an external microphone, use a headset, or your iPhone earbuds. If you don't have those either, you can use your computer's built-in microphone — but this should be a last resort, as the sound quality will be poor.

If you expect to appear on even a couple of podcasts per year, it's probably worth buying an external microphone. You don't have to spend a fortune; there are many basic $50 models available that sound good, and undoubtedly better than your computer's built-in mic.

Wear headphones or earbuds during the Skype call. You'll hear yourself more clearly while you talk, and it also prevents your microphone from accidentally recording your host's voice, because...

You only need to record your side of the conversation. Your host will take care of everything else. All you have to do is set up your microphone to record your own voice to an audio file (see below). When the call is finished, your host will ask you to send them that file (probably using Dropbox), and then they'll edit everything together so it sounds like you're having a conversation in the same room, or a studio.

In fact, you may not even need to do this step. Some shows record the Skype audio directly, as you're talking. If that's the case, you can ignore Step 4... but you should still wear headphones, to avoid feedback and audio bleed.

How to Record Yourself

If you're a Mac user, good news: you can use the built-in QuickTime Player app to record yourself. The following video shows how to do this:

If you can't see the video above, click here to view it on YouTube.

If you're a Windows user, things are a teensy bit more complicated, because first you'll have to download Audacity, a free audio application.

Once you've got Audacity on the computer you're going to use, you're ready to record. The following video shows how to do this:

If you can't see the video above, click here to view it on YouTube.

Remember: the most important thing is to relax, and have fun.

If you still have questions, don't hesitate to ask the show's host. They want you to sound great, so don't be embarrassed. Nobody is born knowing how to record audio to a computer!

(P.S. For the geeks)

If you expect to appear on a lot of podcasts; or you've been bitten by the bug and want to start a show yourself; or even if you're just a big old geek and want to know how the veterans do it; then these links are for you.

Jason Snell of The Incomparable writes about podcasting methods in the following articles.

Why you might want to give podcasting a try
How Jason records his shows
How Jason edits his shows

Dan Benjamin of 5by5 also has advice for you. NB Dan's guides are more generally aimed at those intending to make serious, higher quality podcasts.

Dan's Podcasting Equipment Guide
The Podcast Method, a show all about making podcasts

Veteran podcaster Marco Arment (who also created the popular podcast app Overcast) has an extremely comprehensive Podcasting Microphones Mega-Review that covers most of the popular and recommended mics on the market, complete with audio samples.

© Antony Johnston. Last update 2016-09-23