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African American Businessman Listen To Music With Headphones In Modern Coworking Space, Adult Business Man Relaxing On Brake
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No, Your Podcast Does Not Need Music

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
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We have all been misled.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of music added to words—energetic beats accompany sportscasters sitting around a desk discussing today’s best players; melancholy tunes reinforce the haunted eyes of abandoned dogs and cats; classic rock gets viewers moving with their morning news crew.

Those examples along with the availability of podcast creation tools with libraries of audio clips make all of us think that words must be supplemented with sound and that we must be multimedia pros. Drag and drop and voila—we are now as slick as the big-time television shows!

Except that musical additions are not necessary; in fact, they often diminish the message.

I made a 90-second video to demonstrate this statement. The first 45 seconds is the original clip made by ATD; the second is the same clip modified with sound I added from Garage Band’s sound library. Listen the video here. Which version allows you to focus more on the point being made? Does the music enhance or distract?

If you feel you must add sound—and that’s a big “if”—consider the following tips.

Think about the big picture.

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In a half-hour instructional video, the video creator used a 20-second music clip set to loop over and over for the entire length of the video. That means we heard the “song” 90 times. I’m sure it seemed like a pleasant jingle when it was chosen but after the fifteenth repetition it became decidedly unpleasant.

Think about the mood.

Don’t randomly select audio and don’t simply choose music you like. Music can set a mood. Maybe smooth jazz doesn’t fit the mood you are trying to create. The pictures of neglected puppies and description of their plight in the commercial I mentioned above fit the sad background music. What type of music will add to your message? Is your message inspiring? Cautionary? Humorous? Select your music accordingly.

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Think about the volume.

As I mentioned, it is easy to drag and drop a soundtrack. Unfortunately, the dropped soundtrack has a default volume—and most often, that volume is quite loud. In many videos I have seen, loud music makes it difficult to concentrate on or even hear the speaker’s words. Even professional podcast creators get this wrong (as you can see here). With whatever podcast creation tool you use, find the volume control for each track. Lower the volume for the music until it becomes background music—way-in-the-background music.

Think about no music.

You don’t have to add music to your podcast. Listeners won’t be disappointed. If you have a tight, well-created message, it will stand on its own. If you are making a feature film, sure, use music to enhance certain scenes; but notice that even Academy Award–winning movies do not have a nonstop score. Sometimes, we are supposed to focus on just the dialogue. Trust your speaking ability. (If you don’t, you aren’t ready to record a podcast.)

Bottom line: Never value style over substance, the trendy over the tried-and-true. Speak well and your words will impress without help.

Check out Own Any Occasion for more ideas on how to boost your communication.

About the Author

Erik Palmer is an author and consultant from Colorado. In his previous careers, he spent time as a floor trader on a Chicago commodity exchange and managed a commodity trading office for a major Chicago brokerage firm, becoming the company’s national sales leader. Palmer moved into the classroom and became an educator. He was the teacher of the year in one of the nation’s top school districts. Now in his third career, Palmer brings his unique experiences to his work as a consultant, speaker, and author. He is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences for educators, educational leaders, and training professionals. He has led workshops across the United States and around the world. Palmer focuses on communication skills. He shows adults how to communicate well in business and social situations with an emphasis on teaching leaders how to become more effective speakers.

Palmer’s most recent book is Own Any Occasion: Mastering the Art of Speaking & Presenting. Other book include Well-Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students; Digitally Speaking: How to Improve Student Presentations with Technology; Teaching the Core Skills of Listening & Speaking; Researching in a Digital World; and Good Thinking: Teaching Argument, Persuasion, and Reasoning. Palmer is a program consultant on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Into Reading and Into Literature language arts programs.
You can follow Erik on Twitter (@erik_palmer) or contact him through his website www.OwnAnyOccasion.com.

2 Comments
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I agree abut the music during a podcast. I also think the cartoon drawing trend during a voice over is over used. Occasionally to illustrate an important message that has a good visual element is ok, but not 30 minutes of drawing (or more) while you are trying to listen as well. I recently viewed a 30 minute video with continual drawings and had a headache by the time it was done. I wouldn't watch it again and wouldn't recommend to others!
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Some salient points to note:
* Get the delegates buy in yo be trained.
* Ensure accountability.
* Create a support network.
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