A HISTORY DEGREE IS NOT A NECESSITY IF YOU PLAN ON STARTING A HISTORY PODCAST, SO DON'T LET THAT STOP YOU. INSTEAD, SOME PRINCIPLES AND GOOD HABITS NEED TO BE ADOPTED RIGHT AWAY, AND SOME THINGS OUGHT TO BE AVOIDED FROM THE GET GO AS WELL.
In the last part of this section of the History podcasting platform we were introduced to this idea, and now we conclude it here.
You don’t need a history degree to start a history podcast, is the news I left you with last time, before adding that your podcast needed to be FAD, FAD being of course an acronym for Fun, Accessible and Digestible. We didn’t quite get time to see what I meant by digestible, so in part 2 of ‘you don’t need a history degree’, we jump right into what I meant exactly.
No, a digestible podcast does NOT involve eating history…
How much do you know about the topic you’re about to present? Are you something of an expert, or as much as you can be by just reading a whole lump of stuff? Are you confident that if someone asks you a question about said topic, you’d be able to answer them, and then tell them where you got your answers from? Well then, you sir/madam are pretty much qualified – when can you start?
Hold on a minute Zack – that’s it? I don’t need a degree? I don’t need to fill out one of those form things that says I’m sane/a good person actually/not going to lie my head off?
No, you don’t, and do you know why? Because history podcasting is its own police force, and if you’re spewing absolute crap in your show, I will find out about it, and I will send Liam Neeson after you.
It’s funny that Liam Neeson should come up actually, because to start a history podcast you do not need a history degree, all that you need are a specific set of skills…and a whole load of patience! To make your history podcast content digestible for people, and to keep it in line with FAD, simply remember this golden rule – if you had to explain your podcast episode’s contents to a layman/laywoman, would they understand what you were talking about?
Actually, your parents/relatives are a pretty good indication of this. Think about it – they like you, have time for you and want you to do well (I came from a nice family), and I would wager that most of your listeners would feel the same. In the WDF newsletter I talked last week about how to test your podcast – I asked the question if your podcast was played in front of strangers, would you be embarrassed by the prospect of them hearing it? Well now I ask a similar kind of question, except more along the lines of ‘would they understand it?’
History podcasting isn’t just about knowing the facts, it’s about presenting them in such a way that maintains interest, promotes engagement, and gets people searching for more, hopefully more history podcasts! If you want to initiate these positive feelings, then you need to put yourself in the shoes of the people that would potentially listen in. You have at some point been one of these people, and if you’ve found a history podcast that you DO like, then odds are you found one that you didn’t like.
Since the person’s voice is the first thing you are introduced to, maybe you judged them from the get go because of that voice, and maybe you’re REALLY hoping now that people don’t do that to you, since there’s more to you than that raspy, whiney, guttural tone which nobody can quite explain. Whatever it is, you’re going to have to release a history podcast with your voice in it at some point, and when that happens, it is important to follow some unwritten rules, let’s call them does and don’ts.
- Introduce yourself, and thank people for listening or welcome them to the show, in the beginning of each episode.
- Provide a clue as to what you’ll be talking about in the beginning of each show, as well as what you talked about last time, and at the end, what you plan on talking about next time.
- Make the episode fun, either by bringing in an interesting anecdote to liven up the story, or by getting into it yourself and showing your passion; sometimes personalising the characters also helps – you could give people nicknames, but don’t force it.
- Ask for feedback, and if you are told that you’re leaving a load of people behind, pull up a bit – if nobody responds to that call to action, then assume that nobody is SO bothered by your pace/approach that they felt the need to moan.
- ...bombard your audience with information, names or your problems.
- ...talk down to your audience, but on the other hand, don’t…
- …assume that they know certain details – there is an art to explaining what may seem to you like an obvious fact without coming across as a dick.
- ...go on massive unrelated tangents; keep it tidy, or make a blog for your tangents if you cannot hold them in.
- ...present your opinions as facts, and if you do, find someone else who also has that opinion so that you don’t look like a dogmatic so and so.
- ...forget to recap characters/terms etc. if the content is detailed;
- don’t try to be funny for the sake of it, forced humour is the worst humour, unless it’s sarcasm, then it’s the absolute greatest (was that sarcasm?)
- don’t try to be someone you’re not – if you do then podcasting will quickly get exhausting. Just be yourself, and if people don’t like what you do because of it, then consider whether or not you may in fact not be a nice person.
So when creating a history podcast episode, you should always remember FAD, but you should also remember that your product is out there and will be held up to scrutiny, and sometimes when you least expect it. You could be called out in an email, which you can at least ignore if the sender is obnoxious or smarmy, which I do on point of principle. On the other hand, you could be called out publicly, on Twitter etc., and be forced to respond.
The best way to survive this intense assessment process, since who knows whether your uncle or a Cambridge PhD graduate in history is listening, is to make your show as academically watertight as you would if you were writing an essay or college paper as you Yanks would say.
"Oh good grief, that doesn’t sound like much fun…"
Don’t worry, you don’t need a footnote after every sentence and no, it doesn’t have to be as hard as that class in college you hated! If you’re unsure about how to reference, or what needs to be referenced, then make sure to check out our referencing guide developed especially for this very purpose!
Before we do anything let’s take some easy steps here, and hit you with yet another acronym. You’ve heard of FAD, of course, well while your podcast should FAD, it should also be *drum roll please*… UPAT.
Right. Ok then.
UPAT is handy I swear, because it reminds you that in everything you do, it’s important that you
Understand the content, and the major issues involved. Crazy as it sounds, many a podder, eager to begin and excited to learn more, starts the episode before they have really grasped what’s at stake. Take your time, and start when you’re ready and confident in the knowledge you’ve acquired.
- Present the content it in a way which makes it easier to understand – sometimes this involves condensing or compartmentalising certain aspects of the subject matter, and making it easier to remember.
- Your work should also be Accountable; if you wrote it, I should be able to ask why you wrote that, and who else wrote that. If it’s your opinion, you should present it as such.
- Watch your Tone: it can be hard to sound enthused all the time when you’re reading what amounts to a well-researched essay in many respects. It’s vital that you don’t become a lecturer, because that isn’t what you are – you’re a friend to the people that are listening, and how would you talk to a friend, even with a topic such as this?
So no, you don’t need a history degree, what you need is a history podcast that is...
FAD [Fun, Accessible, Digestible]
and one which follows the principles of
UPAT [Understand the content, Present it appropriately, be Accountable with your research, mind your Tone of voice].
It is very true that FAD and UPAT blend into one, but so they should, because you’re not creating either a show with no clear purpose, or a podcast so restrained it sounds like a straitjacket – you are a history podcaster, and you mix the two worlds together, so that casual listening experiences and learning history are your two jams.
That is the greatest position you can possible be in as a history podcaster, and as we’ve seen, you absolutely do NOT need an expensive piece of paper in order to begin (although all history graduates are definitely welcome!).
Still in need of help? Well that’s good news! Next time we’ll have, for the first time ever, a guest blogger on the HPP, and he’ll be telling us all about the importance of asking for help from your fellow history podcasting colleagues, why more people should do it, and why you should keep on doing it even when you’re old and wise like me! I hope you’ll join me for that but until next time, thanksss for reading history friends and patrons, my name is Zack and I’ll be seeing you all soon.
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