I love podcasts, but some can be so frustrating. The “some” I am talking about are those where a lecture or presentation was recorded.
With a simple Q&A session, the problem is the speaker not repeating the question from the audience. Repeating the question is good practice anyway, as pointed out by Ken Molay in a recent webinar. For the questioner, it is proof that the speaker comprehended the question. For podcast listeners, the question gets heard!
Any dialog in the audience during the Q&A is often lost on the podcast listener. Here I can understand that it is difficult for the speaker to repeat all the ideas discussed between two or more people in the audience. If audience participation through dialog is a big part of the event being recorded, I think more microphones are called for.
In some ways, that might be why it is nice to leave any discussion to the end of the lecture. That way, the podcast listener can hear the bulk of the message and then skip the inaudible parts in one step.
I have a great example of the situation I am discussing – unfortunately. The Tech Writer Voices podcast with Susan Burton, executive director of STC, was something I looked forward to hearing, and I was quite excited when I saw there were 90 minutes to listen to. What Susan Burton said was very interesting, and it seemed as though the audience enjoyed the event, too. They had a lot of lively discussion, all of which was lost on me. There were huge gaps where I strained in vain to hear what was being said in the audience. I sat with my iPod, turning the volume up and down throughout the entire 90-minute recording, which was quite tedious.
It was also painful. I turned the volume to maximum to hear (often in vain) someone in the audience, but I had to be attentive to when to turn down the volume before Susan Burton began to speak again. Otherwise, my eardrum received a painful blast.
This was such a disappointment, and I feel it is something podcasters must consider when recording such events. Do not depend on the speaker to think about the listening experience. Not everyone has experience with these recordings yet. At least, not at the less expensive level where the only recording microphone is the one attached to the speaker or somewhat fixed to the table in front of the speaker. The podcaster could encourage people, if the surroundings allow it without too much difficulty, to come up to the microphone to talk. The speaker should be taught to repeat the gist of the question before answering. Hearing vague mumbling followed by a clear “Yes” and nothing else is quite a frustrating listening experience.
It was a huge effort to listen to this podcast, but I did it because I wanted to hear Susan Burton. I met her back in October 2006, just when she began her job with STC. I have a very good impression of Susan as not only a nice person, but also an extremely competent director, the kind that STC really needs. There is a lot of cleaning up and modernization to do in many areas of STC, but she has some great ideas and is very motivated for success. I have faith in her and her reach her goals. I also look forward to participating in the efforts needed to achieve those goals. Podcasts are one (excellent) way of getting the STC message out to all members of the organization. Thank you to the Suncoast chapter and Tom Johnson for making this possible. I do appreciate the effort. I hope that next time is less of a strain!