8 min read

How to start a podcast the Adaptavist way

Ryan Spilken
Ryan Spilken
Wed, 16 Dec 2020 Podcast
How to start a podcast the Adaptavist way

Podcasts continue to be a popular, relevant, and growing medium despite all of the changes in the world. If you're considering starting a podcast for personal or business reasons, you may have some questions. Through experience, I've learned quite a bit about how to produce, share, maintain, and grow a podcast channel from scratch. Perhaps what I've learned over the last three years of podcasting can answer some of your questions and set you down the right path while creating your own show. 

In this blog post, I'll cover the history (briefly, I promise!) of the Adaptavist podcast channel and I'll share some top tips that we've learned along the way. We'll also take a look at the tools we use and the process we follow to get our shows out to our wonderful listeners.

A little bit of history

Sometime between December of 2016 and February of 2017, Adaptavist's Head of Education Matthew Stublefield and I, after doing some digging around for a podcast dedicated to Atlassian and finding nothing of consequence, decided we should just make one ourselves.

I have experience in audio production from a youth spent in music and the arts, and Matthew is an avid podcast listener, so we figured that alone was enough to make a podcast happen. We had a few chats and decided to jump right in after a minimum of preparation. We outlined what our purpose was and what sort of stories we wanted to tell. Then we set a date to record and we were underway.

This leads us to our first top tip, and it's about preparation.

When considering launching a podcast, some preparation is essential but try not to get too far ahead of yourself, and remember that change is truly the only constant. This is where you're beginning, not where you'll end up; we'll touch on that more later.

At some point, you just have to get started, and to that end here's a checklist of what I would do if I were launching a podcast today:

  • Take time to think deeply about your topic.
  • Write out some broad themes that cover the entire show, not specific episodes. This helps focus the show on what really matters to you and your future audience.
  • Reflect on those themes for a day or more and adjust them as necessary.
  • Make a plan for the first few episodes.
  • Consider what cadence of releases you can keep up with. Bi-weekly (or even monthly) is a great place to start!
  • Set dates and times to begin promotion, launch the series, and to review your progress.
  • Define what success looks like. Be reasonable; you're probably not going to have millions of listeners after only a few episodes. A few years of consistent episodes might get you close to that goal though...

Adaptavist Live: The Atlassian Ecosystem Podcast launched in March of 2017 with our creatively titled "Ep. 1 - The First One". It wasn't perfect, and we acknowledged that right up-front. However, the die had been cast and we were off.

We were taught a lesson very early on: Be like Spoon and turn your camera on!

The first episode required heavy editing because Matthew and I kept our cameras off, thinking “This is an audio-only podcast, so no faces necessary!” We were so young and naive then. We actually ended up unintentionally talking over each other and generally making a mess.

As it turns out, one of the best ways to alert your co-host that you have something to say is to visually indicate it with a look or a raised hand. If your podcast is a solo endeavor, you can skip the camera, but if you plan on featuring a co-host or guest, fire up the ol’ webcam and smile wide.

After that first episode, we added cameras and went on for the rest of 2017 making episodes about users of the Atlassian tools outside of the development space when possible. We had a lot of fun, but for the podcast to truly deliver on its potential, we had to change.

In December of 2017, Adaptavist CEO Simon Haighton-Williams suggested that we try an experiment with our show: de-prioritise stories of individual users and attempt editorial reviews of news from around the Atlassian ecosystem. And, add another perspective/voice to the show; two bearded dudes is "almost too much of a good thing, lol."

Enter Brenda Burrell, and with her came the format of the Atlassian Ecosystem podcast show that we've produced since 2018.

Since those humble and slightly auspicious beginnings, the podcast has passed 100 episodes, collected over 1000 plays a month, and has added a second show that hearkens back to the early, interview-heavy days of our infancy: Team Titans.

The glue that keeps the ship sailing? Clarity of purpose, fantastic working relationships, hot beverages, and Trello.

The Adaptavist Live Trello board.
The Adaptavist Live Trello board. If this board could talk (and make bad jokes), we wouldn't need to record at all.

Don't sweat the tooling too much

A lot of people love to talk about the gear that gets used to produce a podcast, and I am no exception.

However, keep in mind that obsessing over the tools and forgetting about the reason that you started a podcast will take you down a dark and fruitless road. The substance of your episodes will always matter more than your choice of microphone. Still, I would love to talk about microphones all day. Let's not go there.

Here are the essential tools we use to make podcasts, with a few notes on each:

  • External microphones
    Don't get too hung up on these, and don't go overboard buying a mic either (at first). There are several great options available for around 100 US dollars, like the ever-present Blue Yeti mic. Even your smartphones' wired headset will generally give you better sound than your laptop's mic (if you don't move around too much).
  • Headphones
    Recording with another person and no headphones on is a potentially noisy affair. Headphones cut a lot of that trouble off at the pass.
  • Webcams
    (see the previous section to know why we use our webcams).
  • Zoom Web Meetings
    I use Zoom's "Record a separate audio file for each participant" function to capture everyone's voice on a separate WAV file, which then gets brought into...
  • A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
    I use Apple's Logic Pro X (Although any number of audio editing software is available to you for free, like Audacity or Garageband).
    The DAW serves as my editing canvas, where I fix the sound of our voices and cut out all the stuff you don't want to hear. We've also taken to having some interstitial music between segments, and this is added in the DAW file.

    TIP: Make a template project with baseline audio settings for each host in whatever DAW you use, and then copy that every time you have a new episode. Trust me, it'll save you a lot of time.
  • The Aeropress portable coffee maker
    The Aeropress delivers unbelievably high-quality, consistent coffee, even with inexpensive beans, and it's such a clever device too!
  • Techsmith Camtasia
    This was originally where I did all of the podcast work from recording to editing to exporting, but once Zoom added the separate audio feature, we moved into a DAW. Camtasia records the session as a backup now.
  • Trello
    This template is based on the real one we use to make our Atlassian Ecosystem show and is free to copy and use as you like.
    When I found Orah Apps Board Export tool, I got really excited, because copy/pasting articles out of Trello and formatting them for distribution in our show notes was a major time-sink in my podcast workflow. This app virtually eliminated that headache by allowing me to pull down the entire column of links at once as a spreadsheet file.
  • Distribution
    To distribute our podcast to all of the major streaming services and the internet at large in one go, we use Soundcloud Pro, but there are a number of other options to choose from.
"Obsessing over the tools and forgetting about the reason that you started a podcast will take you down a dark and fruitless road."
Ryan Spilken - Adaptavist Podcast Host / Producer
Ryan Spilken
Adaptavist Podcast Host / Producer

A quick word on distribution: all of the work that you've put into creating your show will slip away into the ether if you don't put it out for people to listen to. Cast as wide a net with this as possible, and then don't forget to let people know that it's out there. Don't spam people on social media, but also don't be afraid to cut a section out of your episode and share it on social before an episode comes out.

Promotion is useful and necessary, but in the long-run consistent and focused output will do more for your show than Facebook posts ever will.

It took us until mid-2018 to fully standardize on what tools worked best for us and get into the groove of recording as a trio. Along the way, our podcast creation process emerged.

Podcast Production: Process, Flow, Trello, Repeat

After several years of making the Atlassian Ecosystem Podcast, we've crafted a process which we more or less follow to make each episode. Ultimately, this is the last tip I have for you: your process will evolve as you continue to make episodes; don't be afraid to change things up. Take note of what's working for you and your team and disregard what isn't.

And now, without further ado, here's a rundown of how we make the Atlassian Ecosystem Podcast. Some elements here have some flexibility in them, because that's agile, right?

  • At any point between episodes, we add relevant links to news articles we come across to our team Trello board's "Articles" column.
  • On either the Monday afternoon (or Tuesday morning) before the episode is recorded, I open a list of sites we maintain in our "Resources" column and scour those for updated information. Each update gets a Trello card in "Articles."
  • The Zoom session we record the shows on typically begin with a good bit of witty repartee to get us into the right vibe before we "discuss what we're going to discuss."
  • We assign stories between us and put them in order in the "This Week" column in Trello.
  • A few minutes of note-making and further joking ensues.
  • Brenda and Matthew (or Danny Coleman, who is filling in while Matthew is on leave) remind me to turn "record" on.
  • We do the episode, talking through the stories, sometimes veering off into rants and raves. This is where most of the episode "stingers" are found. Stingers are little funny bits of dialogue that I drop in after the episode ends. Some of them are pretty hilarious!
  • If there is a guest slated, their segment is typically cut at a time that is convenient for them, and we mark the spot that the interview will be edited in by, you guessed it, joking around.
  • We wrap the episode and exit the Zoom call.
This is what Episode 105 looks like in Logic Pro X.
This is what Episode 105 looks like in Logic Pro X. At a glance we can see who's talking and where the music snippets come in and out, as well as the "stinger" at the end of the episode.

Editing podcast episodes

I try to edit our recordings the day after the session. Here's that process in brief:

  1. Create a new "session file" from my template in Logic Pro X (or other DAW! No judgment here!)
  2. Import the audio files downloaded from Zoom and place them onto their appropriate tracks in the session.
  3. Edit!
    Trim the episode to cut out mistakes, off-topic tangents, and bloopers. My favorite one gets "cut and pasted" at the end of the file for the stinger.
    Insert guest interviews and advertisements (if you choose to accept advertising, that is).
  4. Music gets inserted between segments.
  5. Check that all the audio is in the right place, more or less.
  6. Export the episode as a 256 Kbps .mp3 file. You could do a .wav, but no one has ever complained about our sound quality or bit-depth.
  7. Upload to Soundcloud.
  8. It's time to create the show notes!
    I use Orah Apps Board Export app to download the "This Week" column of our Trello board as a spreadsheet file. Want to see it in action? Check this out.
  9. Schedule the episode for publication.
    TIP: Listeners prefer a routine date and time for when your new episodes come out. It's a little something to look forward to at a regular interval for them!
  10. Invariably watch as Atlassian releases major news after we record but before the Friday when the episode goes live (sadtrombone.com).
  11. Work with our social media team to post and let our audience know that the episode is live.
  12. Rinse and repeat.

Keep on creating (the key to podcast success)

And that's pretty much all there is to it! It seems like a lot but starting your own podcast, be it for work or fun, can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Ultimately, I've learned that the real key to podcast success is to keep making episodes of your show, and keep making those episodes better by thinking about what (and how) you're doing. Listen to the advice of the people you've asked to get involved.

Don't forget your listeners in these considerations either, and don't forget why you started making a podcast in the first place.

I hope this encourages you to try your hand at podcasting. If we can answer any questions you have about podcasting, reach out to us on social media (@Adaptavist). See you next time on Adaptavist Live!

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