Let's record a podcast over Zoom

Hi! You’re about to be a guest on a podcast that is recorded over Zoom. To make sure you sound your sparkling best, we’d love you to record your side of the call. We’ll be recording our side too, and we’ll also record the call within Zoom as a backup, in case something goes wrong.

Why we’re doing this

Podcasts recorded over Zoom don’t sound as crisp and clear as we’d like. Plus, if someone’s wifi goes flakey, the listener will hear that… which is distracting. The more we can sound like we’re in the same room, the better the listening experience will be.

Before we start

Please wear headphones. When recording over the Internet, our mics pick up what our speakers are playing. So as your guest is speaking, your mic will pick up their words, about half-a-second later. Zoom will try and do its best to cancel it out, but it doesn’t sound great. It’s something we’ve come to expect from online video conferencing calls, but when you’re listening to a podcast, it can become really distracting. Plus, removing those audio artefacts makes the editor’s job a lot harder! 🙈

By wearing headphones, you cut out that noise, because your mic will no longer be picking up the host’s voice from your speakers.

Pretty much any pair of headphones or earbuds will do. If you have the choice, it’s better to go with wired ones rather than Bluetooth ones, as Bluetooth causes an extra bit of delay, which can disrupt the spontaneity of the chat. But really, anything will do in a pinch!

Before the call

Get yourself nice and comfy, with a glass of water if it helps. Let anyone who might be sharing the space know that you’re recording a podcast, and don’t want to be disturbed.

If you have curtains, it can be a good idea to close them, so that the sound of your voice doesn’t bounce off as many hard surfaces.

Please put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode, and close any apps on your computer (like Slack, Mail or WhatsApp) that make a noise.

And relax. You’re not under interrogation, so enjoy yourself. 🙂 If you need to stop and restart a thought halfway through, just say “let me start that again”, and the editor can cut around it.

Now, the not-so-scary guide to recording your side of the call

The process of recording your side of the call involves a few steps, but isn’t tricky. Just follow the guide below for your particular platform (Mac or Windows), and you’ll be fine.

If you’re not sure whether you’re on Mac or Windows, look for an  (Apple) logo on your computer. If you have one, you’re running a Mac. If you don’t, chances are you’re running Windows. If you’re on a ChromeBook, check out this guide on installing Audacity on your device, then follow the Windows instructions from step 2 onwards.

Recording your voice on a Mac

Screenshot showing a macOS desktop with the QuickTime Player audio recording window

  1. Launch QuickTime Player from the Finder. You’ll find it in the Applications folder.
  2. From the “File” menu, select “New audio recording”.
  3. Click the downward-pointing arrow next to the circular Record button, and select your microphone or audio interface from the dropdown list.
  4. Speak directly into the mic, and you should see the level meter above the Record button indicate the level of your audio.
  5. Click the circular Record button to start recording.
  6. The button will turn into a square. Click it to stop recording.
  7. To save your recording, from the “File” menu, select “Save”.
  8. Save the file to your Desktop.
  9. Once saving is complete, you can close QuickTime Player.

Recording your voice on a Windows PC

Screenshot showing Audacity running on a Mac

We’re going to be using a free piece of software called Audacity. It’s reputable and trusted by tens of thousands, and you can uninstall it afterwards if you want.

  1. Head to https://www.audacityteam.org and click the “Download Audacity” button. Install it, and open the application.
  2. In the dropdown indicated with a little microphone icon, make sure your mic or audio interface is selected.
  3. The dropdown next to it should read “1 (Mono)”. If it says “2 (Stereo)”, change it to “1. Mono”.
  4. In the dropdown indicated with a little speaker icon, make sure your headphones the “Built-in” or “Default” output is set. If you have headphones plugged in to your mic or audio interface, select that device instead.
  5. You can use the slider indicated with a little speaker icon to set the volume level in your headphones.
  6. Use the slider indicated with the microphone icon to set your mic or audio interface’s input level. If you’re using a USB mic, set this to about 0.75 (otherwise the setting will default to the maximum of 1).
  7. Above the sliders, you’ll see an area that looks like a ruler. Click it and as you speak, you should see a level meter indicate the volume of your voice.
  8. Click the round Record button to start recording.
  9. When you’re finished, click the square Stop button (next to the triangular Play button).
  10. To save your recording, from the “File” menu, select “Export”, then “Export as WAV”.
  11. Save the file to your Desktop. If you se an “Edit metadata tags” window appear after clicking “Save”, just click “OK” (you don’t need to enter anything).
  12. Once the file is saved, you can close Audacity. It will ask you to save the project – you can ignore that.

After the recording

Please send your audio file to your host or producer, using WeTransfer (or another service as directed by your host/producer).

  1. Open https://wetransfer.com in your browser.
  2. Enter the email address of your host/producer in the “Email to” field.
  3. Enter your email address in the “Your email” field (if you’ve not used WeTransfer before, you might be asked to go through a short verification process).
  4. Enter the name of the podcast in the “Title” field.
  5. Click the large + button near the top of the “Upload files” box, and select the audio file from your desktop.
  6. Click “Transfer” and wait for the upload to complete.

Other links to explore

Interested in making your own podcast?

I have a course on developing your own podcast, and one on editing audio in Descript, an audio editor that works like Google Docs.

This guide is provided by podcast producer, consultant, and coach Mark Steadman, of Origin, and was last updated on September 9th, 2022.