Methodologyland Podcast: Being a Podcast Host in ELT with Harry Waters, Host Milica Alice Vukadin

Hello, my dear colleagues! Welcome to the Methodologyland podcast transcript from our episode 0. This episode is done in collaboration with ELT-Consultants and it will also be published on their website. The purpose of the 0th episode is to help ELT practitioners explore the idea of leading a podcast and becoming podcast hosts. ELT-Consultants will be launching their own podcast soon, so pay attention to their podcast page!

About our speaker

Harry Waters has been buried deep in the TEFL world for over 14 years. He is a trainer for the Eltons award-winning Pearson and BBC Live Classes project. His passion for teaching and obsession with the planet led him to create Renewable English, and do teacher training and design courses. Outside of work, he is a devoted dad and husband to the two most wonderful ladies alive (in his opinion of course). Explore Renewable English to learn more about Harry!

Episode 0 summary: Being a Podcast Host in ELT

0 episode topic: How to be a Host of an ELT Podcast: Ins and Outs – This episode is supposed to motivate you and we want to start from 0 because our goal is to motivate as many ESL teachers to have their own voice and share their own experiences in a podcast format! We broke it down to easy steps, had a few laughs and giggles, and hit microphones without faces in the middle of the conversation (well, I did it, Harry knows how to turn his head properly) so get ready to hear us chat tomorrow!

Being a podcast host in ELT

[00:00:00] Alice Milica: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Methodologyland podcast. My name is Alice Milica and I will be your host in this crazy journey of teaching ESL to young and very young learners. Now, this episode is not our first episode. This is our zero episode if we can call it that way. Today we have an amazing guest, an amazing teacher, and an amazing father before all.

Let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Our first guest is Harry Waters from renewablenglish.com. He has been teaching for over 14 years. He is a trainer for the ELTON’s award-winning Pearson and BBC live classes project. His passion for teaching about the planet led him to create Renewable English and do teacher training and design courses and do so many great things outside of work.

He’s a devoted dad and husband to the two most wonderful ladies alive in his opinion, of course. I can agree because I know Harry’s family, so they are definitely lovely! Welcome, Harry!

[00:01:20] Harry Waters: Hello, thank you very much for having me. Thank you for saying those lovely things. It’s actually 15 years now as a teacher.

[00:01:27] Alice Milica: Oh, sorry! I don’t wanna take a year from your experience!

[00:01:31] Harry Waters: It’s okay. It’s a full decade and a half, you know. Oh, wow. I can count it on both of my hands and a whole foot as well. I’m upgrading to the next foot next year.

[00:01:41] Alice Milica: Oh, wow! I’m still in my, first decade! I’m still young I mean, in the profession, as you can say.

In this first episode, we want to discuss something unusual. We want to discuss, how can you host a podcast related to ELT as an ELT teacher. We are going to try and just portray different kinds of podcasts, dos, and don’ts, and just share our personal experiences with podcasting in ELT.

Life radio shows as a popular type of podcasts

Harry, I would like you to start with, your radio show. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? Because I think that’s a very specific kind of podcast.

[00:02:35] Harry Waters: It is! You know, as you were my second-ever guest on that show. Way back, that was full of 50 episodes ago. I think today is number 52!

It’s fun! It’s a part of Teachers Talk Radio, which has teachers from all lines of work from all different countries, teaching all different things, just given a platform to speak on about the most important issues that we feel are around in teaching. My show is the Twilight show on Wednesdays. You can tune in at 6:00 PM, British Summertime. What we do on there is I look for issues that I’m particularly interested in friends are interested in and my fellow teachers are interested in. I try and find somebody who is, you know, either an expert in that field or has, experience living that side of teacher life as it were.

We’ve talked about all sorts of different things. It’s just brilliant and it’s so organic because we don’t have like a strict list of questions. All of our guests were just trying to kind of go on and, you know, go with the flow and ask questions and have fun.

[00:04:08] Alice Milica: Yes. I’ve been, a guest in his first episode and I can’t agree more!

Organic podcasts and real-life conversation from real teachers and real classrooms is something I would put as a number one tip to teachers who would like to try out podcasting. I have read a lot of things online – everything pretty much sounds overwhelming. We can separate podcasts into the ones that are more scripted and into the ones, as you said, that are more organic.

And then again you have those that are live as in Teacher Talk Radio, where people can tune in. I love that part people can write and you have this type where we are chatting privately, but even though we are chatting privately, my decision was not to edit. Why? Simply because when I listen to podcasts, I want to see and hear real people and real teachers and their mistakes and their fears and thoughts, and whatever they have to say.

Communicating with the audience on a personal level

I don’t want to just hear someone reading an opinion article because I can read that by myself. So, when it comes to me personally, I always like podcasts that are down to Earth that can communicate to you as an equal. Harry, what do you think about this? Are you more for scripted ones, the live ones or non-scripted unedited, but not live like this one, for example?

[00:05:46] Harry Waters: I’m all for the organic, whether it’s live or not. I mean, the live one has that extra edge that, you know, you really can’t go wrong. You can’t say anything really bad because at that moment, you know, there have obviously been issues with, with a fragrant language, which isn’t as easy to remove, so the organic ones are for me, definitely. Now there are some brilliant ones out there that have been scripted obviously, or, at least, you know, loosely, loosely scripted, with the questions sent beforehand with preparation and stuff like that.

They’re good and you learn some very focused questions, but for me personally, if I’m out walking the dog, I like to have one that’s just me listening to a couple of people chatting away and not something that I’m particularly studying about, especially because podcasts are kind of an evolution of radio shows and radio shows were something where you listen to two people chatting, while you’re driving the car. You are, as you said, taking a walk, so it’s very natural, it’s very friendly. You feel very close to the speakers.

Milica Alice: Yes! I agree that there are also a lot of great podcasts that are scripted. I do have a few in mind, like Cult of Pedagogy. I’m gonna link it down below. Harry’s TTR is absolutely non-scripted and live, but I do agree that we need a certain structure. So even for this relaxed chat, there are certain things that I wrote down as a host, and I want to discuss them with Harry.

If the conversation takes us in another direction, I’m gladly going to go there. This is how I view the position of the host. Now I want to go over some content guidelines. I have written this article for, um, guests, but I think tons of these things can be applied to, um, hosts. I want to go through them and see what you think about each one.

Focusing on topics you are passionate about

The first one is only to discuss topics you’re passionate about. I think this is rule number one is a host. What do you think, Harry?

[00:08:14] Harry Waters: Yeah, I think it it’s really important to, at least now I really do think you should be passionate about it, but at least at the very least interested in and want to learn more.

I wouldn’t say that at first, with a lot of the guests I’ve had, I was certainly definitely passionate about what they were talking about but throughout the podcast, throughout the chat, I could learn from them and I could feed off their passion from it. So, you know, for me, it has to be like a strong interest, at least if not passion. I hope that after the podcast, it will have developed into a passion. Most importantly, it’s something that your listeners are passionate about. Even if I’m not, involved fully in one of the topics, If I know that people that are going to listen are, and I’m interested as well, then that would be the only time I would say, don’t only go for your passions.

[00:09:16] Alice Milica: Yes, I absolutely agree. This is a great perspective because, when you’re a host, of course, your position is to host, and your guest is the central focus, right? You should always prioritize the topics your guest is passionate about.

I think it’s maybe 60% guest, 40% the host. You mentioned niching down. I do think this is very important in ELT because it’s so vast, it’s huge! By niching down and selecting one area, you’re going to have a more reliable audience. Now, this is different in your case, you’re doing a live show, one with a lot of different kinds of teaching niches.

Niching down to a specific area of ELT

What do you think about niching down to a specific area of ELT and establishing your podcast from there?

[00:10:19] Harry Waters: I think that it’s a great idea. As you said, it’s a bit different with TTR, with the show that I do. It’s a bit like I try and look at all of the niches as it were.

I look at the people who maybe have a podcast within their niche. I’d like to refer back to one of the shows I had with Martin Bloomfield. It was all about dyslexia. That’s another one of these topics that I wasn’t passionate about before, but I’ve become much more passionate about and certainly more understanding.

The fact that Martin has that niche and he does have a podcast, it’s really important to be able to get those specific ideas across.

[00:11:03] Alice Milica: I definitely agree, since you are on the radio, it’s like every radio there is, you’re going to cover different kinds of topics and there are a lot of other shows on the same radio. If you’re doing it on your website or your social media, whatever way you want to organize it, then definitely niching down would be the best thing, in this case, is why I called this episode a zero one, because it’s not a niche. It’s about helping teachers with podcasts and how can they help them become better persons and teachers.

Prepare, but not overprepare

Another tip: Prepare, but not overprepare!

[00:11:50] Harry Waters: Ah, yes. Oh, 100%. You mentioned a bit earlier about when you contact people and for me, it’s a very similar process every time, with the guests that I’m speaking to. I prepare by looking at their website, I’ll look at the area that they’re involved in and I’ll have a quick, a quick look about it, but I’ll send a sort of two or three topic areas that we’re going to talk about.

In the show, two or three areas that I would be comfortable and confident giving my own opinion on as well. But as you say, if that takes you down a whole new avenue, then fantastic. And again, I refer back to that chat. I did it with Martin Bloomfield. My jaw was on the floor throughout. I was learning so much. and it didn’t go according to the the plan that we’d sent at all, but it was one of the most natural shows and I just learned so much.

[00:12:53] Alice Milica: I also think this is connected to something we constantly use as a catchphrase or a mantra in the classroom –  less is more, or the students remember how you made them feel, not what you taught them. I think the same can be applied to a podcast, even if you’re a teacher you’ll remember what was fun. Was it interesting? It’s a bigger chance that you will learn something if it was interesting if the people sounded passionate. I think not overpreparing is very important.

Keywords as script

Maybe, when you prepare, as I prepared now, I just had a few lines, maybe even just a few keywords. I do think that’s more than enough. What about you?

[00:13:44] Harry Waters: Yeah. Um, a few keywords, and I like to write down three questions that I have as backup questionS, just in case it gets a bit quiet – if it isn’t going exactly how you’d hoped.

Now, I’ll be honest in the the 52 different shows that I’ve done so far, I’ve only reverted to the questions two or three times. When somebody’s passionate about something, it’s not hard to talk to them about it. When you’re choosing your guests and the people you’re going to speak to it’s Incredibly easy to get them passionate, to get them going. When you’re asking them about what they’re doing, you shouldn’t really need much more, but do take in two or three backup questions.

[00:14:37] Alice Milica: Yes, definitely. Let me just… Oops, for a second, I hit my microphone! It happens! So yes, I would like to continue quickly because we have very little time left. We do not want to take too much of your time. I want to go over some technical things. Again, we have discussed some that are related to the content, but now I want to mention a few that are technical. Number one is choosing a good title.

From ELT to marketing your podcast

Why? You have the final goal for people to download the mp3 file of your podcast. If they download, they’re going to come back so it’s shifting from ELT to marketing.

I want to read two sample titles that I’ve done and I want you to tell me, what do you think. Which one is better? Which one do you like more? Which one will make you hit the download mp3 button?

Let’s try number one: Using Storytelling to Promote Whole Child Development and not Just Language Learning With Very Young Learners.

Number two: Very Young Learners in Storytelling, Whole Child Development above Language Learning.

[00:15:52] Harry Waters:  Well, the second one’s much snappier!

[00:15:54] Alice Milica: Yes, exactly! It sounds more fun.

The second one sounds more intensive, more practical and it sounds passionate. Try to lose the words that sound dry, that are not practical, I think that’s very important.

Do you need a summary and a guest biography?

Another technical thing that we should not forget is to ask for a third-person biography, right, and maybe a summary of the episode. How do you do it? Do you write it or do you ask your guests to write it?

[00:16:38] Harry Waters: Uh, for the bio, I ask my guests to write it, because obviously, they know themselves. I don’t tend to give them a long introduction. I maybe put that on the social media stuff. What I tend to do is maybe do a sentence and then let my guests introduce themselves, which is something that I started doing, and it seemed to really work because otherwise, I might miss something.

I just I’ve started handing it over to them, but I do use their bio for social media. And a summary – I’d like to just have an idea of where it’s going to go. Just maybe two lines, three lines somewhere.

[00:17:24] Alice Milica: Yes, exactly. I do think, out of those two, or three lines, one should try to solve a problem. It should pose a question. Concept idea, even make a statement that sounds relevant or, or just worthy of conversation. Also, my personal tip is to ask the guest that in this short biography include the keywords, and make the biography connected to the topic. Because for example, if it’s about young learners, I want to see this experience in the biography because that’s going to make me come and listen. I’m going to skim it as a listener, so I think the biography should be written from the perspective of the episode.

The 3 podcast bombshells

To finish off before we go to technical, requirements, I have three bombshells, so I’m just going to say a few words and I want you to tell me, what do you think?

Number one, no sugar coating.

Number two, be yourself.

Number three. Keep going.

[00:18:39] Harry Waters: In terms of no sugar coating, I think you have to be very careful depending on the view of the episode. For example, if we are talking about, I don’t know, helping eco-anxiety in teenage students, let’s say that’s the focus of the episode.

You’re going to need to look at the super negative side of things, but you also need to look at how to get around it. Whereas if you’re looking at climate change with young learners, in terms of the actual lesson preparation and you do need to sugarcoat it and focus way more on the solution side of things.

In terms of the podcast, maybe when you’re looking at solutions-based ideas… I don’t want to say sugarcoat because it’s not exactly sugarcoating, but not to be as harsh as maybe you feel because some of us feel harsher about certain things than other people.

[00:19:46] Alice Milica:

Yes. I absolutely agree! What I meant with no sugar coating is to stay realistic, to discuss real problems, because I think, often, we’re going to listen to a podcast that doesn’t have to be realistic teaching – it sounds made up, and it doesn’t sound relatable (we know classrooms are not perfect). When I say no sugar coating, I mean, discussing real problems as frankly, as you can, of course, there are certain limits.

Keeping going and ignoring grammar mistakes

You cannot talk about certain things so publicly online, we shouldn’t go into politics, of course, it’s a teacher podcast. I mean, we know these things, right? We should try to be tolerant and stay in the realm of teaching. Also, be yourself and keep going. It’s 100%. What about keeping going? When I said keep going, I meant, uh, mistakes and what to do with them.

[00:20:44] Harry Waters: Oh, of course. I like to laugh it off. If you got this original idea, laugh because we all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty of mistakes on the show. Admit that you’re wrong and show that. Again, we’re humans! Carry on if there’s an enormous mess up. I was careful not to use the F word. If there is an enormous mess up, then if it’s recorded, then, of course, go back and edit it out if it is something terrible, but obviously don’t stop, keep going, go back to that later and deal with it later.

[00:21:27] Alice Milica: Especially if you’re just starting. Small grammar, mistakes, sentence structure, things like this. Honestly, they don’t matter so much, as long as you’re not completely scared, as long as it’s not a complete disaster, meaning you don’t have any sentences with meaning then my suggestion is to give it a pause, practice a little bit by yourself, read out things out loud and try to do it another time.

Don’t obsess over making it perfect. We know teachers are perfectionists. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it should be insightful, so don’t focus on the tiny mistakes.

Your voice does NOT SOUND TERRIBLE

To finish off this portion, your voice does not sound terrible. It does not. I think that’s the fear a lot of teachers have. What do you think, how did you get used to listening to your own voice?

[00:22:30] Harry Waters: I don’t, I don’t ever listen to it again afterward. I can’t do it. I can’t do it.

I’ve been told I have a nice voice. I’ve been told I have a voice for radio, but I cannot listen back. I mean, there are times when, of course, I want to re-listen a part of the show for what a guest has said. I’ve done other podcasts with people and they’ll send it back and say, Hey, do you want to check this? Make sure it’s okay. And I’ll just say, If you’ve listened to it and it’s okay, then it’s okay. I trust you. I find it really difficult to listen back, but I have had people tell me that I don’t have a terrible voice.

[00:23:08] Alice Milica: Then this is exactly what I wrote. I wrote a bonus opinionated tip: Don’t replay your podcasts.

We know that you can always do better. Self-reflection in teaching is a real thing. I do it through writing articles, but I’m a perfectionist. When you make mistakes and when you listen to yourself, you’re not going to focus on the amazing conversation. You’re going to focus on this grammar mistake you made, and it’s going to ruin your whole experience and just make you less confident.

I think feedback from the listeners is important if you’re just starting out. It just depends on you. I don’t listen to my talks or training or shows, I just can’t do it. I think this is bad advice because you should listen to it. We never promised good advice. We promised tips, so yeah, that’s a disclaimer.

[00:24:12] Harry Waters: I mean, it would make perfect sense to listen back at least to one or two to check it out, but as I say, a lot of other hosts, can’t listen to their own voices unless they’re editing.

If you’re editing, then you have to listen to your own voice – you have to go through, you have to check. If you are editing your podcast, you might be forced to listen to your own voice, so you better get used to it.

[00:24:35] Alice Milica: Yeah. If you are editing! I’m going to share a free, uh, audio program that you can use to edit easily. Check out:

As Harry said, try to edit out only bigger problems if you have whole portions that sound bad, but cutting sentences – you don’t need to do that now.

Mind your surroundings

Technical guidelines, mind your surroundings. Now, you can hear Harry just muted himself, because we had a doggy in the background, which is so considerate. The noise cannot usually be edited. It’s sometimes intertwined with the audio itself. Sometimes when you edit, the audio becomes terrible, and the voice becomes distorted. Noise editing is time-consuming, costly, and sometimes not possible.

It’s normal to have some noise. If your child is crying, if your dog is barking, I don’t think a teacher will mind as long as you’re not on the street. Um, Harry, any thoughts?

[00:25:45] Harry Waters: Not a good idea to do podcasts in the street. Once did one, I was waiting for a train. I did one sitting in a cafe and it didn’t sound well. I was outside the cafe and the sound was terrible. The plates clanking, the men laughing and, and, you know, coughing after smoking quite so much. It wasn’t the best. Definitely find a nice closed space.

[00:26:21] Alice Milica: Definitely! By joining from a noisy place or not being ready, it’s a form of not respecting your host and even your audience because they invested their time and you could have spent this time with the family, but you’re going to listen to this episode.

Equipment and digital programs used for recording and editing

The final part is the equipment and digital programs used for recording. I’m going to link it down below. Now we are using something called Clean Feed it’s free, and it’s very good for recording because it’s only audio based.

As the name says, it’s really clean. The audio sounds much better than if you use any other apps. Again, it will be linked.

The second part is equipment. Now, this is difficult. I’m torn. Okay. Equipment is important, but not having perfect equipment should not stop you from sharing your opinion.

I constantly get questions: What should I buy? What should I purchase? I have a sentence that I copy-paste for this. I’m going to read it out. The concept of affordable varies from country to country. I cannot share any specific links or brands or suggestions for microphones or headphones simply because what’s affordable for me might not be affordable for someone else.

No gatekeeping!

That’s another form of gatekeeping. Personally, I just view it as gatekeeping because whatever sound you have, if you’re joining from a place where you just cannot afford the equipment, don’t let it stop you. I think in this case, just come and say, I’m joining from this location and currently I don’t have higher grade equipment, but I want to share something very, very interesting. I think if you come up with this idea, your audience will feel respected. You warn them, it’s going to be noisy. It’s going to be scratchy. They’re going to tune it out because you said it.

[00:28:29] Harry Waters: I mean, if like, you know, as you mentioned, the affordable thing if you do only have a phone and a set of headphones with a microphone attached to them, there are podcasts that are made like that. So yes, it can be done. Don’t let the equipment be an excuse for sure. I’m gonna be honest with you now. I lost my lucky headphones recently. They weren’t exceptional. They cost like nine euros or something. It wasn’t a huge amount. I was devastated though. Cause I’d done 50 podcasts with them. They’re gone now,  and I had to replace them with some plug-in headphones and I didn’t want to spend a fortune, so the headphones I have now are from a second-hand shop and the microphone I have, I also got second-hand, but it wasn’t expensive.

It was, it was, it was 14 or 15 euros and as you say, affordability is different everywhere, but in total 16 euros for my equipment is, I think, pretty reasonable.

[00:29:36] Alice Milica: I definitely agree. The room also has a lot of impact on your sound if you’re using Clean Feed, which is again free again, we are not promoting anything sponsored here in this episode, we’re just stating what we are using at the moment. I would definitely like to hear more voices from other continents, from countries that are in development, because they have perspectives that maybe you and I don’t have because my experiences differ from yours. I think podcasts are a great low-resource way to share your thoughts.

You can do it, teacher!

There’s no video. My room is messy. I don’t have a perfect background. I am shy. I cannot show my face. This is your chance. Share your voice, wherever you are, regardless of the brand of your microphone.

That’s my final technical requirement.

Harry, I want to thank you for joining, I think this was more of a tutorial for teachers, but we did share a lot of opinions. Do you have anything else to share, uh, to a teacher who wants to start a podcast, but they’re barely there? They’re still not certain.

[00:31:04] Harry Waters: Definitely think about it. Before you approach your guests, think properly about what you want from them and what they can provide for the show. Don’t just get guests on because they’re the only people you can get on. Do try and have that focus, but yeah, definitely go for it.

[00:31:26] Alice Milica: Yes! Harry, again, thank you so much. I was so happy to have you today. Again, now we are getting tired. It’s a 30-minute mark. Another tip would be, to go for 15 to 20 to maybe 30 minutes. I wouldn’t suggest longer than that unless you’re pretty experienced with public speaking because I also got a little tired at this point.

If you want to explore, Harry’s website or his work, we will link everything including his episode. You can take a look, listen and see how he does his thing. That would be all from Methodologyland!

[00:32:10] Harry Waters: Bye, bye!

To conclude

We hope this episode motivated you to think about starting your ESL podcast. We need more teacher voices, now more than ever, so don’t let technical issues or anything similar stop you. We always say: I am not ready now. Let us remind you of a very famous quote: If not now, WHEN?

The perfect moment is now – you will improve as you keep recording and keep learning! Let us know what do you think about this topic and our episode in the comments below!

Some useful links mentioned in the episode

  1. Harry’s website, Renewable English
  2. ELT-Consultants upcoming podcast
  3. Harry’s Teacher Talk Radio Show – Go here and type ‘Harry Waters’ to listen to all of his episodes!
  4. CleanFeed – the platform we use for recording
  5. Audacity – free audio editing software

Editing credits

The podcast is edited by Miloš Vukadin. We suggest Audacity for beginners, but this episode is edited in the latest version of Cubase. You can contact Miloš if you need an audio editor or a music composer at: [email protected]

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