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I see podcasters make lots of mistakes, and it’d be easy for me to make a list of mistakes to avoid, but I decided to make it a little more personal today. I want to talk about some of the mistakes that I’ve made.

I’ve made so many mistakes, and I keep making mistakes. But I’ve realized that some of my biggest mistakes or failures have turned into the greatest wins of my life. Now I believe that the only mistake you should be afraid of is inaction.

Franklin D Roosevelt said, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Allowing the fear of making mistakes to prevent you from taking action is what you need to avoid.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins

  • Focus on giving a gift to your audience. Make the experience about them.
  • It takes time (years) to learn audio equipment and post-production. Do the best you can right now and keep publishing episodes.
  • Break longer episodes up into multiple topics. Try to make shorter but better shows.
  • Listen back to your recordings to identify your vocal tics and mistakes. If you don’t know what speaking mistakes you’re making, you can’t work on fixing them.
  • Be ok with saying “I don’t have the answer to that right now, but I will try to find it.” No one expects you to know everything.
  • Don’t waste time arguing with people on the internet.

Show Notes:

Mistake 1: Being Selfish

  • 2:53 I made this mistake when I first started podcasting. Back when I was the co-host of the seanwes, I was not focusing on providing something valuable or interesting to my audience. I ended up leaving the show after some of the listeners wrote in to complain. In retrospect, that was a mistake. If you want to be successful as a podcaster, you need to focus on delivering something that your audience is interested in.

Focus on giving a gift to your audience. Make the experience about them.

Mistake 2: Having Crappy Sound Quality

  • 4:49 This is something most people go through. When I started, I got a decent condenser microphone but I didn’t really know how to use it. I didn’t know how to set input gain levels and I wasn’t using a pop filter. I was recording in my dining room which had a bunch of echo. It just didn’t sound very good.

It takes time (years) to learn audio equipment and post-production. Do the best you can right now and keep publishing episodes.

Mistake 3: Episodes That Are Too Long

  • 6:26 I’ve made this mistake many times. I’ve tried to cover too much in a single episode. If you have a really big topic or you’re trying to cover multiple topics every episode, consider breaking them up into separate episodes. If you do an episode that is too long, your listeners might start to lose interest, or they might not be able to follow the thread.

Break longer episodes up into multiple topics. Try to make shorter but better shows.

Mistake 4: Being Bad at Talking

  • 7:37 If you want to hear how good (read: bad) I was when I first started, you can go listen to episode one of the seanwes podcast. I was pretty bad at talking; I used a lot of filler words, I rambled, I said “like” like a hundred times every episode. The worst part is that I thought I was good at talking.
  • 8:50 You just have to practice more. Fake confidence until you make it. Slow down. Breathe a little more. Watch some videos about speaking from voice coaches like Roger Love.

Listen back to your recordings to identify your vocal tics and mistakes. If you don’t know what speaking mistakes you’re making, you can’t work on fixing them.

Mistake 5: Imposter Syndrome

  • 10:49 Ever feel like an imposter? I have. You might feel like you don’t know enough, or you might actually not know enough. If you’re going to podcast about something, you should have a pretty thorough knowledge of the subject, so spend time doing research. Find out what your audience is interested in learning about. Spend time writing about your topic. Writing will help you feel more confident. Confidence will also come with time, as you answer questions and have conversations with people.

Be ok with saying “I don’t have the answer to that right now, but I will try to find it.” No one expects you to know everything.

Bonus mistakes:

  • 18:02 1. Forgetting to hit record. You won’t make this mistake more than once or twice. Coming up with a system or a pre-show checklist can help.
  • 18:43 2. Typos in show notes and admin errors. It happens sometimes. Don’t beat yourself up about the minor details. If you can’t hire someone to proof your show notes, slow down a little and review them carefully before you publish them.
  • 19:34 3. Negative feedback. If you do something like podcasting long enough, eventually you’ll get someone who doesn’t like what you’re doing. It’s very easy to get angry or depressed when faced with negative feedback, but that isn’t going to make the situation any better. My friends Kyle Adams and Cory Miller (who do the excellent Invisible Details podcast) recently did a whole episode about dealing with feedback, so go give that a listen. Note: that episode will be out April 23rd, 2016.

Don’t waste time arguing with people on the internet.

  • 21:54 4. Never launching your podcast, working on it indefinitely. Your work can only ever be a snapshot of the moment. You can’t make something that will be perfect forever for everyone. Few people expect perfection, and everyone has a different idea about what perfect means. You might think that you’re releasing crap, but it could be exactly what someone else needs. You’ll never know unless you put your work out there. Don’t let perfectionism keep you from putting work out regularly.

Q&A:

  • 25:15 Cory McCabe asked: How should you treat mistakes that cannot be fixed? I’m a filmmaker, so in a final product like a film, some things can’t be re-done.
  • 25:29 You just have to choose your battles. I’ve learned to be ok with little mistakes, and like I said earlier, everyone has a different opinion about what makes something great. Some people are going to like the little imperfections, some people might hate them and think your thing is crap. That’s just how it is.
  • 26:02 Keep your eye out for the biggest mistakes, fix them, and then decide which mistakes you can live with. At some point, you have to say, “this is good enough” and put your thing out and start working on the next thing. Remember, it’s a snapshot of where you were at that moment in time, and you won’t get better unless you keep making new things.