What is one new technology that almost everyone is using to learn outside of the office?
There are podcasts on almost every subject out there, available on multiple apps, through websites and direct e-mail push, and even on big-name music delivery sites. If your learners are interested in a topic, they are sure to find a podcast (or five) that gives them the content they’re looking for.
One benefit of podcasts is that they can deliver the information users want to their phone or e-mail every time there is a new episode. They can also “binge-listen” to thousands of hours of past episodes. Listeners are only limited by time, their internet connection and the storage space on their phones.
As a training professional, wouldn’t it be great to deliver the content your learners need to be successful at their jobs in a format they already like to use? Launching a podcast for your training programs doesn’t have to be intimidating. Most organizations already have the equipment they need to record them. Here are a few tips on how to get started, even if you’re on a tight budget.
Most training organizations already have a microphone that they use to record web-based training, but if not, a good microphone can cost under $150. A quick search on the internet will provide a lot of reviews on inexpensive microphones for recording podcasts. These microphones are typically also easy to use.
To augment the quality of your microphone, you’ll need a sound room. Look for a conference room that is out of the way, without a lot of traffic or hard surfaces. If there are hard surfaces, cover them with fabric (temporarily or permanently) to help deaden sound.
Use Audio Editing Software
There are many free audio recording and editing software options out there, some of which are professional-grade. Check with your information technology (IT) department; there may already be a recording and editing program on your computer or at your company.
If there are ambient noises in the room where you record, like a vent blowing or a clock ticking, try to remove those noises whenever you’re using the room. If you can’t, capture the room noise for the first one or two seconds of the recording, and then use the audio editor’s noise reduction and amplification features to remove those sounds from the entire file. Most audio editing software options offer these features.
Think about how the podcast will fit into the learning culture at your company. Is it typical to have music in videos and other training materials? If so, find intro and outro music to use as the speaker starts talking and as he or she closes each podcast episode.
There are many options when it comes to formatting your podcast, from lectures and storytelling to interviews and conversations. Think about the content and the audience. Which delivery method is the best fit? If the podcast is about the company’s strategic plan, an interview with a high-level leader may be a good way to format it. If it is about product changes and nuances for salespeople, sharing the changes along with a conversation on how to use them with specific client groups may be useful.
How will the learners access the material? Will they be salespeople listening between calls or in their hotel room after a full day of meetings? Will they be office staff listening at their desks? Keep these considerations in mind when determining the length and depth of content. Sometimes, going deep on a small portion of a topic is a better use of the learner’s time than going broad and long. Remember, learners will likely be listening while doing other things (driving, checking their e-mail, etc.).
The Hard Part
Now comes the hard part: Once you have created the podcast, you have to deliver it to your learners. The best format for podcasts is an MP3 file. At some companies, there is an employee intranet where you can store the file and share it with all of your learners. Sometimes, it may be accessible only on a laptop when connected to the company’s virtual private network (VPN). Sometimes, it may be accessible on a mobile app that’s available to the learners 24/7. Mobile apps are often the easiest option, and they usually come with reporting capabilities so you know who accessed the content and how often.
If an employee intranet is not available, another option is to put the podcast on a shared drive. A challenge with this method is there aren’t usually records or reports of who accessed it.
Finally, if neither of those options is available, you can email the file (provided it’s a fairly short podcast — under 10 minutes — and the MP3 file is small — under 50 MB) as an attachment to the learners. This option, like the shared drive, doesn’t usually offer reports. It also can take up a lot of e-mail server space, so it’s best to consult with someone in the IT department before making any decisions. They may even have ideas on delivery methods that you didn’t consider.
Podcasts aren’t always the best option, but they are another tool in the training tool kit. Do some checking around with your learners to see if there is an appetite for podcasts and to find out what they listen to. Then, plan a short series of podcast episodes to gauge interest. You just might find that podcasts are a fun and modern way to present content to learners.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article used MP4 instead of MP3. The article has been updated to clarify.