Improving Your Podcast: The Crutch
There are a lot of tips for improving your podcast. In this post, I am going to share something that you can get rid of to improve your podcast: the crutch.
What is a Crutch?
What is a crutch? For this post, I am talking about a word, phrase, or sound podcasters (or anyone who speaks to an audience) use when they need a moment to think about what they will say next. Verbal crutches come in all shapes and sizes, but any of them can have a negative impact on the sound of your show.
I first learned about verbal crutches back in my radio days. I sat down with my program director every week to listen and review segments from my show in what we called an "aircheck." Quite often, as part of the session, she would instruct me to remove a word or phrase from my vocabulary. She said that I was using those words as a crutch. Instead of adding any value or meaning to what I was saying, I was merely using those words whenever I needed to pause and think of what I was going to say next.
Crutches are not only superfluous, but they can also get annoying. At first, You might not notice them in your recordings but, but now that it has been brought to your attention, if you listen back after reading this post, you might notice your own.
Common Crutches for Podcasters
People are pretty inventive with crutches, but here are some popular examples. Many podcasters just starting out go with the most popular versions which aren't really words at all.
Popular Crutches for Podcasters
Don't feel too bad if you use these generously. You are not alone. These are popular with more than podcasters. Even experienced speakers will throw these in, especially when they are nervous or answering tough questions. When editing podcasts for others, these are the most common words clients ask me to get rid of.
Many speakers quickly learn to get rid of these most basic sounds. Practice and experience help us grow more confident and slowly eliminate the "umms" and "uhs." However, we replace them with more advanced crutches.
Intermediate Crutches for Podcasters
"You know what I mean?"
None of these phrases are inherently wrong. It is not the phrases themselves but, instead, how we use them. You can tell by listening back to your recording. When you say, "You know?" is it something that you said purposefully, or did you add it in to give yourself a pause to get to your next thought?
Advanced Crutches for Podcasters
When I was on the air every day, much to my program director's dismay, I got pretty creative with crutches. When doing live radio, there is usually a lot going on. While I was talking, I might have been listening in my headphones for the traffic reporter to be ready, trying to cue up the next song, and trying to find the notes for the live spot coming up. Sometimes I just needed to speak on autopilot for a moment. That's where "advanced crutches" come in. I could say, "It is 6:55 am." But, as I was trying to figure out what was coming next, I might have said, "It's coming up on 7 o'clock, 6:55 right now, five minutes before the top of the hour." That gave my brain a whole bunch of time to think while I was talking. However, it is just not a great use of words.
“So, what do I say instead?”
If you decide to get rid of those crutches, what are you supposed to say instead, especially when your mind is trying to catch up with your mouth? Try this: nothing.
Saying nothing takes practice. Most people naturally detest silence. This is especially true for people new to speaking into a microphone. But, as you might have noticed, there are some people who don't include pauses wherever and whenever they are talking. But give it a try.
One way to do this is to write your favorite crutches on a post-it note right in front of you with a line drawn through those words. I promise you, it will feel awkward at first. But, when you need to take a mental pause, try just pausing instead.
Here is what you might notice. At first, you may sound a little awkward because just trying to avoid those words is going to use some brain power. This might cause you to stumble more or need more time to think about what to say next. Once you get more comfortable, you will likely notice that you have more pauses in your recording. Don't let that worry you.
When I am editing podcasts and removing "umms" and "uhs" I don't always edit out their space in the recording. I might edit out 20 "umms" and end up with a recording that is the same length? Why? Removing those "umms" and replacing them with silence creates a little pause in the recording that sounds perfect. Human speech naturally includes pauses.
Just listen to some professionally produced podcast and pay attention to the pauses. You may notice that pros pause more than you noticed before.
As you practice, you may notice that your pauses get shorter. That is because, eventually, your brain will no longer have to pause first to remind you "don't say 'umm.'
Now For The Bad News
Once you eliminate your most common crutches, you will likely find new ones. You probably won't even notice unless you listen back to your recordings with a critical ear.
A couple of weeks ago, I was editing my own podcast, and I realized I was saying "right?" quite a bit. I had added a new crutch. So, I deleted almost all of them. However, as much as I like editing, spending time cutting that word out of my audio over and over isn't time well spent.
Just a little more bad news. For most people, this can be difficult. Honestly, when you first try to do this, you may decide after listening back to your first attempt, that you want to go back and re-record it. That's okay. It will be good for you in the long run.
Now the Good News
Working through this is going to make you a better podcaster and a better speaker in general. Most listeners won't even notice that you have crutches. They won't be able to name the reason that your show is sounding better. But it will sound better. That means that people will have a better chance of truly connecting to your content and that is what it is all about.