How to Create a Podcast for Your Weekly Meeting
Sometimes it can seem that the amount of excellent content created and presented for weekly meetings can go to waste when it’s only accessible once. Podcasts are a great way to record and make available audio and video content from your ministry.
Podcasts can include either video or audio, but since I’m most familiar with audio, that’s what I’ll be addressing here. You can create a video podcast in almost the same way—for an example, Northern Arizona University has a video podcast of their weekly meetings.
Before we talk about any technology, we have to ask the most important question: Why? Why would you want to podcast your weekly meeting? There are a few important benefits of podcasting. You may want to share it with others who couldn’t be there, either because they are too far away or they would normally come but had a scheduling conflict. Or some people may want to hear a message more than once, or share it with their friends. At InterVarsity’s national office we podcast our weekly chapel service and messages from our national conferences.
The equipment needed to record your first podcast is fairly simple: an audio recorder (a microphone of some sort) and a computer with editing software and an Internet connection. You’ll also need a website to host the files.
Step one: Record the audio
Just about any MP3 recorder or digital voice recorder (DVR) will do the job. DVRs range in cost from as little as $30-$40 to $300-$400 and up. You can also buy microphones that connect directly to a computer; be careful, though, because not just any microphone can be plugged into a computer’s microphone jack.
The most important quality variable is to get the recorder as close to the speaker as possible. Within 1-3 feet is ideal; for instance, place the microphone on the lectern in front of the speaker. Another option is plugging the recorder directly into the audio stream (if you have a P.A. system) through a headphone jack or similar audio connection. If you choose to plug straight into your sound board, make sure to watch the input level closely so you don’t get distorted audio.
Step two: Download the audio to your computer
Getting the audio into the computer should be fairly easy. Some DVRs plug directly into the USB port; other recorders have removable disks (like an SD card) that can be removed and placed in a card reader connected to a computer.
Step three: Edit the audio
You may be able to record the audio exactly the way you want it, in the correct format and starting and stopping at the proper times. But more than likely you will want to go back and edit the recording, making sure it starts and ends at the proper time and that the quality is what you expected it to be. You also may want to remove certain portions of the program, or boost some of the levels to make it easier to listen to.
There’s a free, easy-to-use audio editing program called Audacity that you can download for this purpose. Audacity will allow you to adjust the timing, volume, and even the file type—you’ll want to export the final file to MP3 to prepare it to be uploaded. For a short video tutorial that shows you the basics of editing your podcast audio in Audacity, including adding an MP3 plugin to Audacity, removing noise, and trimming the ends of your audio, view How to Create a Podcast by Tinkernut.
Intermission: The Big Choice
This is the most complex point in moving from a collection of MP3’s to a real podcast. You now have to find a place to host your MP3’s online, upload those files, and find a tool to turn a list of MP3’s into an actual feed. The remaining steps will teach you the basics of uploading your files and creating a podcast feed; however, they’re complex, and you might just prefer letting a service do it for you.
There are plenty of for-pay podcast-hosting services, but here are a few free podcast-hosting-and-feed-burning services that we have not been able to test. Your mileage may vary with these services; please leave any thoughts in the comments:
OK, so if you’re still reading, you’ve decided to move forward with self-hosting your podcast.
Step four: Upload the audio
When the audio is ready you need to post the audio file online. You’ll need access to your web host, whether it’s a traditional web host you’ll access via FTP or a free web host like Google Pages. If you do need FTP to access your servers, take a look at the freeware program Filezilla for free FTP access.
Now, however you’re getting it there, upload your files to your server. You’ll probably want to put them in a special “podcast” directory of your site, to help keep it organized.
Step five: Create the podcast feed
At this point all you have is an MP3 file hosted on a web site. You can link to this file for people to download, but they can’t subscribe to it as a podcast quite yet. You now need to create a feed file—just like RSS—of the various episodes.
If you want to create your feed by hand, Apple posted a detailed guide on the specifications for an iTunes-destined podcast feed. Also, Podcast411 has an extensive introduction to the Podcast feed here.
Another (easier) option is to use a content management system (blog software) along with a podcasting plugin. Here’s a great tutorial on Using WordPress to Publish Your Podcast, and another on Using Blogger to Create Your Podcast Feed.
Step six (optional): Submit the podcast to directories
If you want to help people discover and subscribe to your podcast feed, you can submit it to podcast directories online. There are many options, but your best starting place is probably the iTunes Store. See Apple’s article How to publish a podcast on the iTunes Store.
These are the basics of getting your meeting audio online as a podcast. For more specific details on any of the steps, just Google the individual pieces, or leave your questions in the comments.
(photo from Flickr user notfrancois)