No. 081 Professional Podcasting Tips for Pristine Production (and Hosting Hacks)

What are Jonny’s “4 D’s of Pristine Production?” You’ll find out in this week’s episode of The Showrunner.

We begin this episode by discussing the how and the what of podcasting — and more importantly, which one we place a greater emphasis on. (You probably won’t be surprised by our answers.)

Then we dive into Jonny’s 4 D’s, which cover:

  • The type of mic you should choose
  • How to hack your room to get better sound
  • Why preparation is king
  • And thoughts on delegation … which is a good thing, just not too soon.

And then Jerod adds a few D’s of his own. 🙂

Listen, learn, enjoy …

The Show Notes

Professional Podcasting Tips for Pristine Production (and Hosting Hacks)

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free, 14-day trial at

Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?

Welcome back to The Showrunner, the podcast for people dedicated to creating remarkable audio experiences for their audience. This is episode number 81. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I will be joined momentarily — as I always am — by my reluctant storyteller of a co-host, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur.

This episode is brought to you by Audible, more on them later. But if you love audiobooks or have always wanted to give them a try, you can check out over 180,000 titles right now at Jonny, we are coming up to the end of 2016, approaching 2017. We’re ending 2016 with a bang with a three-part series. We did part one last week in which we talked about how you can systematize better in 2017. Next week, we have another special episode planned to end the year. This week we’re going to talk about a topic near and dear to your heart that you planned for us and put together. I’m excited about it.

Jon Nastor: Yes. Why am I a reluctant storyteller? How, why, where am I a reluctant storyteller?

Jerod Morris: Because.

Jon Nastor: Where is this coming from?

Jerod Morris: This was ten minutes ago. We were testing out the audio on Zoom to see if we wanted to record over there. I needed some good audio for you and I told you to tell me a story and you said, “I don’t have any stories.” But then you went on to tell me a great story about Midroll.

Jon Nastor: Okay.

Jerod Morris: Maybe not a great story, but a story about Midroll.

Jon Nastor: Wow. Midroll is the sponsor of today’s episode. No, they’re not. That’s true. I didn’t recall me saying I don’t have a story. That’s terrible. I shouldn’t say that, because I do obviously have good stories.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you have stories. It’s all good man.

Jon Nastor: It’s the reluctance to tell a good story.

Jerod Morris: That’s right. But you are not a reluctant showrunner by any means. We know that. Today we’re going to talk about some ways to become better showrunners in 2017. Specifically, we’re going to talk about tips for bettering hosting, better speaking, and better mic skills in what we are calling … Jonny?

Jon Nastor: Professional podcasting tips for pristine production and hosting hacks.

Jerod Morris: Such great alliteration. It’s beautiful, it really is. All right.

Jon Nastor: That was written just for that.

Jerod Morris: That was great. All right, let’s do this.

Jon Nastor: All right, so we learned last week … Remember the intro, all that great alliteration that I did?

Jerod Morris: And enunciation.

Jon Nastor: And enunciation. Last episode we talked about systematization of your show and why it’s essential to taking your show from just being a podcast to becoming a show, and you becoming a showrunner yourself. With today’s topic, I think that all that systematization really doesn’t matter too much if you don’t hone your hosting skills. I think that this is the basis of it. If you don’t have this, then there’s nothing to systematize, and you should probably come back to this episode.

Understanding the “How” and the “What” of Professional Podcasting

Jon Nastor: In thinking about this episode, I was trying to think about the technical side and then the other side, which I couldn’t find a name for it. I actually sat here looking at this for a while. There are the two sides to, as I’m going to call it, professional podcasting — or as we like to call it on the show, showrunning. They are the “how” and the “what,” is the best that I could come up with. The “how” is that technical side. Sometimes we get stuck in that side — the mics, the editing, the soundproofing of our rooms. Jerod in his closet recording with all the clothes around him.

Jerod Morris: That was 75 episodes ago.

Jon Nastor: That, to me, is the “how.” That’s how we do it. But it’s not really what we’re doing. The “what” is that content, the research, the listener journeys — these are all things that … You can go back and listen to full episodes about listener journeys, content, and research. I like to say that those are … Well, I’m not even going to say, “I like to say.” Those to me are more important. The “what” is really important once the “how” is at a baseline. But I know that it’s not the same for every showrunner, and it shouldn’t be the same. Obviously if you’re running a show that’s more story-based and very heavy in editing, then that “how” is really essential to bringing the “what” in the full way.

I understand and I appreciate that us — you and I, Jerod, plus everyone out there listening — all showrunners are going to assign different weights to either side of the how/what equation. To get this started, Jerod, I want to know your thinking behind it. You can take it from either The Showrunner or else your own show, The Assembly Call, if it’s different. I’m not sure, it might be. But what is that ratio, and how do you weigh the “how” and the “what?”

Jerod Morris: I think the point that you brought up about context is very important, because the context is key. How they answer this question on This American Life or Radiolab is going to be a lot different than The Showrunner or The Assembly Call, there’s no question. That is important. For me — I do The Assembly Call, which is a post-game show, our show which is a discussion show, Digital Entrepreneur is an interview show, Podcast on the Brink a lot of times is an interview show — it’s conversational and it’s typically around a specific topic. People are coming to these episodes looking for information about a specific topic, not necessarily to be entertained by the ambiance of the audio. There’s not a whole lot of complicated music, sound effects, transitions, and all of that.

For the context of my shows, the “what” is a lot more important than the “how.” That is a decision that I’ve come to very intentionally. If people go back and listen to the very first episode of The Showrunner, we did a lot more with audio and music and all of that stuff. I think at that time maybe our vision for where The Showrunner might go had a little bit more to do with the “how” than the “what,” but we’ve focused much more on the “what” as we’ve gone here.

To me, it’s 80/20. I focus a lot more on the content part of it, the research. Planning a good, succinct, useful episode. But still making sure that the audio hits that minimum level of quality. It’s funny, because I was listening to a new show … I get on these kicks where I get sick of all the podcasts I have so I go subscribe to a whole bunch of new ones just to try out some new ones. I’m going through them, and there was a conversation that I was really interested in. It was a conversation about parenting tips and I was really interested in it, but the audio was so bad that after five or six minutes I was like, “I can’t do it. I really want to hear what they’re going to say, but I just need to go on and read a transcript, I can’t do it.”

There is a line where no matter how good your content is, this is audio, it’s got to be good enough. But I really feel like the biggest benefit is coming from the content and the information. That’s always where I’m going to focus the majority of my time and my effort. But you can’t do it so much to the point that you don’t reach that minimum level of quality.

The Importance of Baseline Audio Quality

Jon Nastor: Yeah, I think that’s probably why I almost forget about it. Like you mentioned, we don’t have the fancy cuts and all that. I don’t have that in either of the shows that I’m on. I do to a point with Hack the Entrepreneur, but it was literally set up within the first 20 episodes. I really honed that in and now we just stick to it. Now it’s just me making sure I keep up that 80 percent of quality for the audio.

Because you’re right, if it drops below that — which gets hard sometimes when you have a guest on your show who might not be set up as a professional podcaster. You do have to work with that. You can work with that, again, within the “how.” You can edit better, you can do things to fix things, you can make sure you use proper technologies to record. Hopefully even set your guest up for success by making sure they’re in a good room with a good wi-fi connection and stuff. Those are all things that we should focus on.

Jerod Morris: What’s interesting about that too with the guests … ? This episode that I was talking about before that I couldn’t listen to anymore, the reason why is because the host and the guest audio was terrible. If the host’s audio had been okay — even for the 30 to 45 seconds when she was asking the questions and then it goes over to the guest for five minutes — I could have done that. I literally could have done that.

It’s just a weird thing. It’s like listening to a show where all the audio is terrible and it doesn’t even set you up in the beginning with nice clean audio to welcome you nicely into the house — is how I look at it. It sets up a bad … from the beginning, and I just couldn’t do it. You can get by if your guest’s audio is — now you don’t want to, obviously, you want that to be as good as possible. But you can get by if your audio is good and at least orients people around some good audio. I don’t know if you find that, but as a podcast listener that’s how I always end up feeling.

Jon Nastor: Yeah, I think that probably comes from radio.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Jon Nastor: Lots of radio interviews where they have people on part of a story. Their audio can be terrible, noisy. They’re out somewhere and things are going on, they’re not in a professional studio. But as long as it’s going back to the, “Oh, this is based around a professional and a professional sound,” then it’s cool.

Jerod Morris: Okay, but what’s interesting about that … You and I, we’re old enough that we grew up listening to radio. We’re oriented in that way. Newer generations who didn’t grow up listening to radio and all they know is clean audio, I wonder if they feel the same way, or if even if guest audio is bad if they shudder at it? I wonder if we need to put ourselves about 15, 20 years younger and see how other folks feel? That may be how we feel about it, but I wonder if people who didn’t grow up with radio feel the same?

Jon Nastor: That’s true. I guess we wouldn’t know that. I know that it skews lower, that people below a certain age actually don’t start listening to podcasts. I think our higher age bracket listens to more podcasts — at least to my show, definitely.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: I would think that that’s because we came from radio.

Jerod Morris: I would think so too.

Jon Nastor: We just wanted to be able to listen to it on demand.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: Because that’s just how we want it now.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: But we still wanted the format that we grew up with, because we like it, and we enjoy it, and we know we get stuff from it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. I guess, to answer that question, it’s just important to know your audience. Know what they like and what they’ll put up with.

Jon Nastor: Always.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, where do you — the “how,” the “what” — what’s your percentage? What weights?

Jon Nastor: I think I’m even going to go even further to 90/10.

Jerod Morris: Whoa.

Jon Nastor: That’s because I know and trust that my audio is at the right level. I don’t do my own editing. I use call recorder every single time. I use Skype every single time. I have a format of doing the recording setup and I know that it hits. I cringe when I go back to the first 30 episodes that I edited myself and I thought I was really good at, but they sound awful because I just didn’t know what I was doing.

But then I outsourced it — I systematized the process like we talked in the last episode — and then I figured out how to get somebody else to do it who was way better. Now that I trust him to be doing my episodes, I can completely almost put it out of my head. It’s like 90/10 of what I’m thinking, but as a show itself and as a production, it’s probably 50/50. Because I know that it’s just as important, but it’s no longer my job to make it that good and pristine.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Hey, you prepared four D’s to pristine production for us. You ready to go over those here in just a minute?

Jon Nastor: I did. I believe they’re called the four D’s to pristine production.

Jerod Morris: Oh yes, the over-enunciation, we love it. Next week you’re going to be my over-enunciating co-host.

Jon Nastor: Excellent.

Jerod Morris: All right. Real quick, before we get to that. This episode of The Showrunner is brought to you by Audible. Offering over 180,000 audiobook titles to choose from, Audible seamlessly delivers the worlds of both fiction and nonfiction to your iPhone, Android, Kindle, or computer. For Showrunner listeners, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free, 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check them out. To get started right now, visit

Now, why would you want to use Audible? Well, say that you are getting ready to do a podcast recording with your co-host and he asks you to tell him a story. You say, “Well, I don’t have any stories. I don’t like telling stories.” You’re not a storyteller. Let one of the 180,000 storytellers on Audible tell you a story. It could be the War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which is one of my favorite books, or any of the other many titles there. If you want to brainwash your children in the car, but you don’t want to tell them stories yourself, you can …

Jon Nastor: It’s all coming back today, isn’t it Jerod?

Jerod Morris: That’s right.

Jon Nastor: A whole years’ worth.

Jerod Morris: That’s right. Let the professionals tell the stories when you don’t want to. Download your free audiobook today at Again, that’s

Jon Nastor: Now, before we get into the four D’s to pristine production, on this show — and especially throughout 2016 as we’re looking back over the year — we like to pull back the curtain for you. I just want to tell you that this is one of the first episodes we’ve ever done with video on.

Jerod Morris: It’s true.

Jon Nastor: It’s different now, seeing Jerod staring at me as soon as I look up from either reading, or when I’m just thinking and talking and I look over and there’s Jerod staring at me. It’s slightly off-putting, but it’s also quite cool.

Jerod Morris: Okay, do you think it’s a coincidence that we’ve had much better back and forth in this episode? I think we might want to start doing this on a move-forward basis. This is much more conversational than most of our episodes.

Jon Nastor: Especially in that last one. Man, you really just …

Jerod Morris: Where you would not stop talking.

Jon Nastor: I just wanted … This is part of our “how,” this is part of our technical right now. The way we’re doing this is we actually decided to do it on video and it’s cool.

Jerod Morris: It’s interesting how sometimes the “how” can bleed into the “what.” Because I think the “how” … Obviously part of the content, especially on any type of discussion podcast, is the warmth of the conversation and the feeling that people get when they listen. I think if we can have more interaction and it’s better in that sense, the two can really work together well, is what I’m trying to say.

Jon Nastor: Right, it’s true.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Four D’s to Pristine Production

Jon Nastor: Well let’s close the curtain again, because it’s weird back here sometimes. The four D’s to pristine production. These are really on the “how,” I’m going to say. They are essential. We want you to get it to a point where it’s either you’re 80/20 or you’re 90/10 — whatever you want it to be. Where you can basically almost forget about it because it’s good enough, it works well, and now you can systematize it and focus on the “what,” which is really what’s going to bring you an audience.

The four D’s. The first one is dynamic. Dynamic versus condenser. This sounds really technical and like I know what I’m talking about, but it doesn’t go very far beyond this. Dynamic versus condenser — these are two types of microphones you can buy. I’m not even sure if there are other types, but dynamic and condenser are the two big ones. The Heil PR40 that Jerod and I are both on are dynamic microphones. There’s the Audio-Technica ATR 2100, which is about a fifth or sixth the cost of the Heil, but also really good.

The reason why I want to push people to use dynamic microphones is because the condensing microphone picks up every room sound around you. I think this is why you, Jerod, struggled at the beginning with having to go into your closet, having to go everywhere to get sound. I was literally travelling. I would be in different places and I would just set up this microphone. It didn’t matter what was going on in the apartments around me or outside, it was just, “Well, Jon’s in the studio again.” When I wasn’t, at all. I was literally just plugging into a laptop. That’s because the condenser — which is like the snowflake, the snowball that lots of people use — They sound good for your voice, but they also pick up every single noise around you.

This is, to me, the ultimate podcasting hack. If you are looking to get the new microphone — it is Christmas, you can treat yourself maybe? There’s a ton. It’s not just the Heil PR40, which is a more expensive microphone, or the Audio-Technica. There’s hundreds, if not thousands of different kinds. But when you are making that decision, really look to get a dynamic microphone. You do have to speak closer to it because as soon as you start pulling away it just cuts you off. That’s how it doesn’t pick up your sound.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, so this is me right now talking right into my Heil PR40, and this is me now leaning off to the side. Just a little bit off to the side. Could you tell the difference? Could you tell the difference there?

Jon Nastor: Yeah, we could barely hear you.

Jerod Morris: Oh.

Jon Nastor: I could see you, I could still see your shoulders. He was barely off.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, this microphone basically revolutionized how I work. I’m still in the same very echoey room — if you go back and listen to old episodes of The Showrunner — but the difference is night and day.

Jon Nastor: It’s amazing. You don’t even have a pop-filter on.

Jerod Morris: No, I don’t. I’m rebelling against the pop-filter.

Jon Nastor: That’s why I’m doing all the enunciations and pronunciations, because he’ll pop into the microphone.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, well …

Jon Nastor: That’s D number one, dynamic versus condenser. Stick to dynamic. If you can never remember the two, just remember Jon and Jerod’s four D’s.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: D number two, dampen your room. This is kind of tied to that, but maybe you aren’t ready to get a new microphone. You can dampen your room. You can speak into something soft. Jerod did this for hundreds and hundreds of podcast episodes across numerous shows before he had the proper microphone. He would either talk into … He was facing towards his closet with soft clothes or he would be right in the closet sometimes with his fiancé at the time. All different ways …

Jerod Morris: Those were fun episodes.

Jon Nastor: Yeah. Just think about a recording studio, they typically have soft walls. Even a carpeted room as compared to hardwood floors and stuff makes such a difference. If you can even throw down some rugs or some blankets around you, it does help a lot. If you’re finding echo in your room and if you’re hearing that back in your head, trust me, your listener is going to hear that and it’s going to get too annoying to even listen to. If you can’t go dynamic, make sure to focus and dampen your room till you get the good quality that you want.

Jerod Morris: Yep.

Prep to Make Your Conversations Seem Effortless

Jon Nastor: D number three. This is where we start moving into the “what.” This is to do your prep work. I looked back in episode — what was it? I have it here. Episode 58 on May 11, 2016. I’ll link to it in the show notes. We went over how to plan engaging interviews. This, to me, is professional hosting. You have to do your prep work. We all love to make it sound like we’re just going with the flow, that we’re just having a conversation off the cuff. That’s the ultimate goal you want it to sound like. But the only way to do this is to research your guest, define the topic, get some baseline questioning, and then figure out what journey it is you need to take your guest on so that your listener gets what they need to out of the episode.

I do this with Hack the Entrepreneur by clearly defining my opening question and my ending question. Depending on where the conversation goes, I know that I have to get from the beginning to the end in a logical sequence for my listener. Then I can work the conversation to fit and hit the points to get there. It’s absolutely essential. Trust me, the more it sounds like you are just going off the cuff and going with the flow, the more research you’ve put in on the backend. Please don’t be one of those people who are just like, “No, I’m just going to not learn anything about my guest first. I’m just going to learn it all there,” because it doesn’t make for a good conversation, it doesn’t make for a good show, and it doesn’t help your listener get to where they need to go.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, and I would add to that. Even if you’re not doing an interview show, doing prep work is still important. For The Showrunner we had — I don’t know how many shows we did this for, maybe 10, 20 — where we just showed up and talked about a topic. I think things got a lot better when we started outlining, having this here, the four D’s to pristine production. We don’t script everything, obviously, but we have a pretty basic structure that we follow, which really helps.

I’ve even started doing this on The Assembly Call, which is obviously a very free-flowing show, because you can’t really prepare that much when you’re watching a game and talking about it right away. But I have a run sheet that we go over, which has my intro, has the ad-reads, and has certain segments of the show so that I never mess up or get tripped up or miss something.

That ability to host and give off the impression that I’m always in control of what’s going on — that’s because I’ve prepared what’s going to happen next. Yes, we’re going to fit in these impromptu topics, but we know right where they fit in within the show. Now that we’re actually doing a radio show in Indianapolis, that’s been another lesson in the importance of prep work, because on that we have 48 minutes and we have to divvy it up into four different segments.

The times got to be really precise. When you only have that little bit of time and you’ve got certain topics that you want to get in and out of and then some ad-reads in there, you’ve got to be very precise. We go through, and some of that I will actually script. Now, I’ll read it over three or four times so that when I deliver it on the recording it sounds natural, but there’s a lot of preparation that goes in there.

By scripting it and by choosing my words carefully, I can say in 45 seconds what it might have taken me two minutes to say off the cuff. That delivers something better to my audience. It’s all about the prep work and putting in the time to make sure that you give the best and most concise explanation of whatever it is that you can.

Jon Nastor: Yeah. If I was able to or if I was allowed to pick a hack for these episodes, it would be what you just said right now where you want to give off the impression that you always know what’s going on.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you do.

Jon Nastor: I know. It’s so awesome though, to hear it actually vocalized. “You want to give that impression. You don’t actually want to know what’s going on at all times, you just need to give that impression as a showrunner.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah, well you do. Look, to give that impression you do have to know, so I suppose that’s maybe being a little bit too self deprecating, because I do know what’s going on.

Jon Nastor: I know you do.

Jerod Morris: The reason why is because of that preparation.

Jon Nastor: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: I guess what I should say is give off the impression that I know what’s going on totally. “Oh man, he just sat down and I can’t believe he’s coming up with this stuff and everything’s so organized.” What they don’t see is I’m looking at a run sheet that goes almost minute by minute where we’re going next, what we’re doing next, and filling it in as we go.

Jon Nastor: Yeah, exactly. That’s the whole impression of going with the flow, just like, “I’ll just see where the conversation goes.” When that works really well there’s a run sheet in the background and there’s something being followed, it’s not just somebody sitting there just making it up as they go and knows nothing about their guest.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: Trust me, it’s just not how it works. But it’s how it appears to look. Yeah, use that advice. D number four, this goes well with last week’s episode and the first part in this three part series, which is once you’ve figured out your 80/20 rule and you’ve got your audio to the right level of production, then if you can delegate your production. Should just be delegate your production since we’re looking for D’s. Delegating your production is something that will allow you to take that 80/20 and change it into 90/10 if you want. You don’t even have to worry about it and the production level.

Jerod and I are lucky we have Toby in the background that gets to edit this for us and make it sound beautiful without us doing it. As long as we get it to a certain level and then we hand it off, it all comes together. I get to do that with my show as well. It takes it off of my plate and gets me to focus on the “what,” which really then elevates the show and the showrunning of it to that next level. Of course, you can’t do it right away. It took me 30 episodes, getting my first sponsor, and then being able to do that. When you can and if you can, you’re going to listen to that episode before — the systematize — and then delegate your production out.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t start delegating — even if you can — in the beginning. I would do it yourself so that you learn some of the basics of editing and you get a frame of reference for how long something takes, how difficult something is. Sure, there’s going to be people like Toby that can do it probably 15 times better than you can, which is how I feel when he’s editing our stuff, but I can do it. I know how to go in and do it, and that’s a good place to be in because if something happens and that person … Your audience on Wednesday morning doesn’t care that your editor didn’t show up on Tuesday night. They care about getting their episode. What happens if the person that you’re delegating to can’t do it? You’ve got to be the failsafe. You’ve got to be the one to step in at the end.

The basics of what it takes to get your show out to your audience, you should know how to do all of them. Both so that you can delegate effectively, so that you can gauge quality and how long something takes, and so that in worse case scenarios you can step in and do it. Because sometimes you have to if you want to keep your schedule and if you want to keep that show going.

Definitely delegate when you can and take that next step, but I would really urge people not to jump to that step too quickly. Hopefully you’ve had a great 2016 and you’re ready for that step, but if you’re a new showrunner listening to this, 2017, the first few months, maybe best for you to learn. Really dive into those elements that you want to delegate, learn about them, and then delegate them a little bit later once you know them.

Jon Nastor: Exactly. The four D’s to pristine production. I’m going to add a fifth D really quick, but let’s just wrap it back up. Dynamic versus condenser when choosing your microphone. Number two is to dampen the room to get that nice studio quality. The third one is do your prep work. Do the research. Do the work to set it up so that you sound like you are just going with the flow. Then four will be, if you can, delegate your production. Then we’re adding this fifth one, as Jerod just added so well, to do it yourself first so you get the idea of how it’s done. Get your hands dirty with it and work with it, because it will actually make you better on the other end of recording to show what it takes to fix certain errors and mistakes that you make on the recording side. That’s it, that’s our four D’s to pristine production.

Jerod Morris: How about number six? Dominate. When you do these you will dominate. Then, number seven, demand the email addresses of your audience members at the end of your episodes, as we’re about to do right now. Go to Showrunner.FM and join The Showrunner. Get our weekly newsletter, stay up to date with everything that is going on — especially in 2017, which will be an exciting year. You’ll see it. Go to Showrunner.FM. There’s a place to input your email address right there. We hope you do that. We look forward to you doing it. And we look forward to talking with you on one more episode in 2016 next week. It will be a fun one.

Jon Nastor: It will.

Jerod Morris: It’s a surprise topic, we’re not going to reveal it yet. You have to show up next week and we will reveal all to you, and Jon will tell a story, maybe.

Jon Nastor: Reluctantly.