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One episode at a time: Things we've learned about podcasting

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

As of today we are officially celebrating one year since the launch of The Teacher Think-Aloud Podcast. And as a podcast for reflective practice, we thought it was only right to pause and … reflect on our journey thus far. We have learned so much about ourselves, each other, and of course, podcasting, that we decided that it was also prime-time to launch our blog and share all of these findings with you.

The first tip might seem obvious: be authentic. People want to connect with you as much as they want to connect with your content. Don’t be afraid to let a little “you” shine through- it might be what sets you apart from others.

Of course, bringing your most authentic self to the table isn’t all there is to it. It’s equally as important to define a clear, motivating mission for yourself. Something that can sustain you through the hardships—because success will not happen overnight. There are going to be a lot of moments of frustration over the course of your journey, and it’s helpful to return to what inspired you to take on this endeavor initially.

We emphasize the importance of finding meaning in what you’re doing because this is not something that will occupy just a little bit of your time. We each probably put a solid 10 hours of work into this per week, which may not sound like a lot, but when you’ve got other jobs, this “little project” will take a dent out of your free time.

And a large portion of your time will be devoted to building an audience. It will take FOREVER. Initially, there will be a lot of excitement about the launch of your podcast and audience members will engage with you, but that engagement will fluctuate and perhaps even dwindle over time, so you need to learn to be okay with the “dwindling”. You can’t take that personally; people have other things to do besides respond to your Instagram polls.

And generally speaking, marketing is hard, especially when your focus is niche like ours– not everyone can relate to what we share, and our target audience happens to include some of the busiest, most underpaid people in the world.

Speaking of being underpaid, podcasting is not something that will generate income right away. This is not a “get rich quick” scheme. When we got into this, we were pretty naïve, and we thought that we’d be able to create revenue through advertisements. It turns out you actually need a lot of listeners for that to be true. So unless you have a massive following, don’t bank on this being an immediately-lucrative endeavor. See what we did there? Hehe.

But the good news is that starting out with fewer resources gives you an incentive to explore other fun ways to diversify your offerings and potentially drum up income in other ways (think donation drives, workshops, resources, and swag). Get creative!

And on the subject of creativity, make sure you provide a structure that will allow your ideas to flourish. Creativity is like a seed. It needs sunlight and water, but also a pot to grow in. In other words, creating quality content requires structure and careful cultivation. Define a space for idea generation and think about how you are going to tap into your creativity in a productive way that fits your lifestyle and routine.

We also think it's key to be open to new ideas and formats: just because you started with a particular format or process, doesn’t mean that you are married to those things. Be fluid and flexible as you continue to learn and grow.

We believe that everyone can start a podcast, but not everyone who does so produces a quality podcast from a production standpoint.

Taking advantage of our time together and recording through the heat wave in Seattle last year. The cat food was key in acheiving optimal sound quality ;)

We put a lot of effort into figuring out how to get our sound and editing right. For example, Shey has recorded from remote campsites and noisy cities with vendors hawking avocados and overzealous dog-neighbors, and everywhere in between. And that’s hard to edit out! Spare yourself the frustration of multiple takes and do soundchecks. (Listen closely to our episodes and let us know what random noises you hear! We’ll send you a free sticker if you can locate dogs barking in any of our episodes.)

One of the greatest lessons, and an area that we both feel we kicked a** in, really, is that choosing the right partner is essential. We chose well. Ha, but really… this is true for so many reasons.

First, we maintain equally high standards and a certain level of accountability. We’re transparent about our expectations and work hard to avoid letting the other (and ourselves) down. We also have learned to recognize when we need to “pick up the slack” for the other. It doesn’t happen that often–we both hold up our end of the bargain–but it is comforting to know that the other is there in a pinch.

When you start any project, you can anticipate the highs and lows, but having a solid partner to navigate the occasional challenges and frustrations with makes everything seem just a little less bleak. And on the other side of the coin, it’s nice to have someone with whom you can celebrate the little wins.

A podcast is born! Anna and Shey share a virtual brindis to celebrate.

But perhaps the best part about choosing the right person to share this journey with is feeling comfortable to bounce half-baked ideas off of one another without fear of judgment. This is all an experiment, afterall.

Starting a podcast also makes you build skills that you never thought you would need. We’ve learned how to cram our scattered thoughts into a cohesive, scripted episode, to ad lib more confidently while recording, to piece together our recording into a seamless listening experience (we hope?), to meaningfully engage with our audience on social media, and so much more.

We recognize that there’s always room for improvement, but we’ve realized that we’re more capable than we had given ourselves credit for.

Nearly a year later, we share our process with aspiring ELT podcasters at TESOL 2022.

Over the last year, we’ve come to discover that podcasting is a great way to explore our field in a meaningful and profound way. The conversations that we have as we work through our ideas are some of our most stimulating, and we always end up with nuggets of inspiration to carry with us. It seems almost impossible at this point that the ideas would ever stop flowing.

So, readers (hey, first time we get to call you that- how fun!) if you are thinking about starting a podcast, but fear is holding you back, take a moment to pause and try to locate the root of that fear. Is it fear of failure? Fear of over-commitment? Fear that you just don’t know what you’re doing? Maybe it’s a combination of all three. We want to encourage you to go for it- either you will find your way and it will be an incredible avenue for growth and development, or maybe you’ll decide it isn’t for you… you never know unless you try. And trust us when we say, people aren’t paying that much attention anyway! ;)

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