What I’ve Pondered from Podcasting
Andrew Oslin, Guest Writer
We began laying the foundation of the podcast in September. Teammates and I from cross country (such as Nich Sarysz) had been wanting to collaborate on an audio project for some time. It would be a good experience with the process of producing and working collaboratively, as well as a lot of fun. After practice we would often discuss suggestions on ways to execute it. We wanted something simple – something free-flowing that would not only entertain any listeners, but also teach them something along the way. By discussing our ideas daily, we nurtured the sprouting project through its early stages, and with a little time and patience, the Irrelevant Opinions Podcast was born.
The underlying philosophy behind Irrelevant Opinions is centered around exploring outlooks different from our own as individuals. We worked at this by sitting around a tabletop microphone, each prepared with an irrelevant opinion on any topic of our choosing. We call this opinion an “I.O.” The idea of sharing something deemed unimportant sounds like an oxymoron, but the whimsy of sharing a sentiment that seems totally random at the time can spark some very active dialogue. It can be as simple as claiming that bread is underrated, or it can take on a larger, more complex form, such as pondering the problem of the rising cost of college.
From here, our rotating cast would transition into a number of additional segments with a focus on humor, usually titled with a (non-clever) pun such as “Take Your Nich” or “What’s the Plandrew?” For a while it seemed that our podcast was morphing into a variety show, veering into the realm of comedy and satire.
After a few weeks of recording sessions along with many botched attempts at capturing high quality audio, the Blue Yeti microphone (meant for a single person), which we checked out regularly from the O’Grady library, saw daylight more and more often. However, even though our intentions were good it became clear that we were missing something crucial with the execution.
One of the first lessons I took away is that podcasting is a continuous learning process. You have to be willing to experiment and make mistakes, because it takes time to develop a polished product. When it came down to the numbers, we had released a few episodes that seemed reasonably well done, and we had a blast while accruing double-digit views. But if we wanted to market our show into something people would listen to without any prior personal connection, we needed to seriously reimagine our format and unite it with a clear purpose.
Sometimes you must separate yourself from your work. It is a worthwhile decision to take all criticisms constructively, and from an isolated point of view it becomes easy to see where improvement lies. After receiving feedback from a few of our listeners, it dawned on us that the segmented format felt disjointed. It did not seem like a seamless, cohesive podcast. The aspect that really exemplified our discussions and theoretically made our setup stand out from the rest was the unstructured nature of the beginning of every episode thus far. This was the time designated to giving our I.O’s, which usually spanned about 10 minutes of anything from flowing conversation to heated debate. Because we had done the first three episodes the old way, we found ourselves in the habit of coming up with up new and interesting segments instead of honing in on what made our show unique. Nich and I realized this and sprung for a drastic change.
We brainstormed well past midnight on one dreary occasion, hashing out a stream of ideas. We came to the realization that the entire podcast should be centered around our “irrelevant opinions” – a move now as glaringly obvious as the titles of books while scanning through library shelves. After all, we aimed for a productive discussion that ended up being funny; not due to a comedy focus, but as a natural result of friends spending time in the same room.
As a result of the revamp, we became more relaxed, and we recorded completely unscripted. We put together spontaneous special episodes with only two of us talking, playing off one another in an outside setting like the back patio of a coffee shop near closing time. One of our most recent releases, “Amazon, Bucket Drummers and Not Using the Oxford Comma,” exemplifies the revised outlook with its looser composition. Our main returners now arrive prepared with an “I.O.,” as well as research, and a short list of topics to bring up during the ebb and flow of conversation.
There is always someone who is willing to help. They may be a person with years of experience in the field and have gone through trials and tribulations that require more life experience than you have accumulated. Often times the most difficult part is finding them. We have significantly improved our audio quality while producing our most recent episode, because we were fortunate enough to have a class with someone who is an audio engineer, and we shared with him our passion for the podcast medium. He volunteered his expertise and decided to work with us, using it as an opportunity to improve his recording and editing skills while giving us insight into improving both our audio presence and the basic fundamentals of preparing for a session.
It is also crucial for quality to use the highest-end equipment you can reasonably gain access to. The sound quality of Irrelevant Opinions recently jumped from tin-can status to a rich, full-bodied tone because of our audio engineer’s magic box of equipment. Whether it be art supplies, specific tools, or a respectable recording device, becoming proficient with better equipment in your projects helps bridge the gap between good intentions and excellent execution.
From this evolution process of building the project purpose and continuing to improve our podcasting skills arose a newfound wisdom: experiment with reckless abandon, but expand on what you feel deep within; this is the driving motivation either of a project or any endeavor. What idea keeps you up, wondering about at night? Where do you envision yourself taking it? All you need to do is make the leap to try it out and make subtle improvements along the way. After all, you never know where the river of creativity will take you.