Tag Archives: podcasts

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite-sized chunk at a time!

Recently I listened to the last CD of the audio book ‘The Elephant to Hollywood’, the latest autobiography from Michael Caine. It was a requested Christmas present and I decided on the audio book rather than the hard copy or Kindle version for a number of reasons.

  • Pink elephantI have hundreds of books and just rarely get the chance to read for pleasure these days (something I have to change);
  • I spend a lot of time in the car or in hotels and at the end of a day’s training my eyes are too tired to read;
  • Michael Caine was reading his own book which was the selling point to me as it would certainly bring it to life;
  • I had previously bought his last audio book (then on tape back in 1993 and enjoyed that one too);

It was something that I listened too in snippets each trip I made a long or short trip. However long the trip, it sped by listening to his distinct tones. I laughed out loud and cried in places. I love driving anyway but looked forward to my longer trips so I could hear more.  Although at time it was clear that he was reading it because at times there was a little less fluidity to the narration, on the whole it was pretty much like listening  to the stories as if being recounted from memory with the help of notes.

When the last CD came to an end I could have listened to it all over again and probably will because as often happens even when listening to the radio, I zone out at times and don’t actually listen to every word.   Maybe some extract of the story sparked a memory or it took me back to one of the films. So the next minute or so the voice just became background noise.

Some weeks after finishing the audio book, I wouldn’t be able to recite it back to you or even give you details of what was said in a particular chapter.  However, certain things will trigger memories of parts of the book and they became clear in my mind again.

Then I began to reflect on my experience and thought how closely it linked to listening to podcasts for learning and what we could use them for.

Firstly, if you are planning on a monologue, I think it’s essential for it to be more along the lines of story-telling.  For example, someone could share a little anecdote about how celebrating a colleague’s birthday in the staff room complete with birthday cake and candles literally sparked a full blown fire evacuation, two fire engines and lots of fire crew.  Yes, folks it did actually happen – I was there – and no it wasn’t me!  Not only would it be an amusing story to tell but something to use as a learning discussion point.

Keep them short.  Even though the audio book took a while to get through it was divided up into CDs and then chapters on each CD.

Separate into topics.  If the podcasts are, say, 20 minutes in total, divide it up into easily digestible chunks.  Not only will it make it easier for the listener to navigate and revisit but it’s quicker to download and manage smaller audio files than larger ones.

Try and go for a more conversational style piece such as an interview or a simple discussion between two or more people.  We tune out to a single voice much more quickly which is why I think I might have ‘zoned’ out at times even though I found Michael Caine’s story-telling fascinating.  Think about why we like listening to the radio.  Afterall, it’s been popular for decades.

Why not go for more of a reporter style podcast.  For example with some creative writing and some keen amateur dramatics people involved you could report on an ‘incident’  where the reporter might have been one of the first at the scene.  Yet another good starting point for a learning discussion.  Here’s an interesting example.  Can you guess what incident the reporter is covering?

A simple briefing:  podcasts could even be used purely to introduce the programme or provide some background behind an initiative.

Really, if you just think about how radio is used, your podcasting world is your oyster and very easy to include in your solutions.  There’s plenty of audio recording software out there.  Try Audacity which is free.  You’ll need to also download Lame with it if you want to convert into MP3 files and it has a really good selection editing tools.

There is a little more to it of course but I’ll explore those at a later date.