Podcast feedback sessions: What to expect from an air check.
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
It's an intimidating process, asking for feedback. Especially if you're like me and you spend far too long laying your soul bare through the creative process of creating a podcast, only to have someone come through and rip it all to shreds. But feedback is important, and nowhere is it more important than in the vacuum of a podcast. So often we get caught up in the production of our podcasts that it's useful to have someone on the outside to provide a listener's perspective. An air check is designed to give you that perspective.
After all, even Tiger Woods has a golf coach.
What's an air check?
Simply put, an air check is a structured feedback session for your podcast, like a coaching session. The actual term 'Air Check' comes from the radio industry, where a Program Director (the person in charge of what goes to air at a radio station) will sit down with presenters and producers of each show to go through what worked and what didn't. Whilst it sounds like an intimidating process, a good air check will be a friendly, constructive conversation about how your show can improve.
Don't be fooled: It's different from merely asking your Mum for feedback in that the person conducting the air check will (hopefully) be someone who knows a thing or two about broadcasting. They might be a radio host, a professional podcaster, or someone who has worked in the media, and likely gone through quite a few air checks themselves! They will take a listen to your show and provide you with a few things to start doing, stop doing, and most importantly, keep doing (because you will be doing some things right!).
How does an air check work?
Firstly, you'll provide one or two episodes to your air checker to take a listen to, ahead of time. They'll go away, take a listen to those shows and make a few notes ready for your air check.
During your air check, they'll then sit down with you to go through your podcast. Were you talking too fast? Was there a segment idea that could be improved with a few tweaks? Is there a problem with your audio? A good air check should be able to identify all those problems and more. Ideally, in your air check, your checker will play you the bits of your show they're discussing- to jog your memory and really make sure you understand what you can do to improve.
What should your air check feedback cover?
A good air check should strike a balance between things that you have identified you'd like help with, as well as things that you might not have thought about yet. But feedback will usually cover most, if not all, of the following:
Perhaps you go up at the end of every sentENCE? Perhaps you speak too fast, forget to breathe, or maybe even forget to drop the name of your show every once in a while? A good air check should be able to identify those issues and give you some tips and tricks to improve.
If interviews form part of your show, a good air check can help you identify if you're getting the most out of your guests' expertise or not. They might suggest additional lines of questioning, clarify what to focus on, or tell you how to re-phrase your questions to get better answers.
Was there a segment that went on too long? Or maybe you moved on too quickly and didn't give your segment room to breathe? A good air check will help you strike a balance to keep your listeners engaged and listening right the way through.
Editing, audio production, microphone technique, anything that can help you improve is on the table.
How often should I get an air check?
Professional broadcasters will do it once a month, but that's probably overkill for anyone but the most serious of podcasters. At least twice a year would provide you a good benchmark to keep yourself on track, with the added bonus that your air checker will suggest some things to prevent the show from getting stale and keep everything fresh.
If you're just starting your podcasting journey, it might be a good idea to get a good dozen or so shows under the belt before your first air check at least. That way you can iron out the basic kinks first by yourself, then bring in the professionals later on when they can provide the most value.
How can I find someone to do an air check?
There are a few podcast places online that will happily take your money for a stream-of-consciousness critique of your podcast, but in order to get value for your money here are the things you should be looking for:
Someone with professional broadcasting experience, ideally in an audio-only medium like pocasting or radio. But at least someone who's had some formal media training or broadcast experience.
Someone who is willing to listen to your needs and goals- sure your air checker might have 20+ years of experience in the commercial FM radio industry, but if you're creating an in-depth interview podcast then the fast-paced style of commercial FM radio might not be what you're going for. Have someone who's willing to work with you to create the show YOU want.
Someone who can tell you what's wrong, AND how to fix it. Anyone can take pot-shots about what they like and don't like, but the genius is in how to change the issues. Preferably they should provide written feedback.
Someone you trust, and who will hopefully deliver any negative feedback with a smile and good humour. Podcasting's hard enough as it is, sometimes, so a little encouragement can go a long way!
What if I don't like the feedback from my air check?
It can be hard to park your pride at the door and hear feedback you don't want to hear. But sometimes there may be some feedback that you genuinely believe in your heart of hearts that is incorrect. At this point you may be faced with a decision- take the feedback on board or ignore it, trust your gut and keep doing what you're doing?
Like you might go to another doctor for a second opinion, you may encounter an air checker that doesn't really vibe with the creative vision you've set for your podcast. In that case, take a look at the feedback the people from your target audience provide (if you don't have an audience yet, this is the time to ask a friend who fits your audience profile). Is it similar? Is it way off? If not, you may want to find another air checker.
To sum up:
Hopefully you should realise by now that asking for feedback shouldn't be the intimidating thing that some people make it out to be. Instead, a good air check can help you retain those listeners longer, and create an overall more effective, slicker podcast, that's more fun to both record and edit!
As you can probably guess by now, Jet Streamer offers an Air Check service as part of our Navigator consulting package. If you think that might be the right one for you, you can get more information about what we offer here.