Behind the Streams: David Savage of Tech Talks Podcast

In this installment of our Behind the Streams blog series, we spoke with David Savage, host of the popular Tech Talks podcast and respected conference host for the Harvey Nash Group.

Tech Talks offers honest insight from growing tech companies and industry experts. Since its launch in 2017, David has interviewed more than 200 technology leaders and was recognized by Computing.co.uk as 2018’s Digital Ambassador of the Year. We recently caught up with David to talk about his podcasting setup, his approach to interviewing guests and his editing process.

How did the podcast start and how have you built your audience?

Tech Talks started as a passion project off the side of my desk. I was in a full-time role as a sales manager. My job was to build client relationships, and I felt that there was a more interesting way of doing that.

I realized from listening to people talk at tech conferences that they didn't share as much as they could. A podcast felt like it was a safe environment to have those conversations and share more insight.

I went to my existing clients in my sales role and asked them to be the first guests because obviously, I had nothing to show. Once I'd released five or 10 episodes, I had a portfolio, so I could approach people and say, “I've got this podcast series, it'd be great if you'd like to be a guest.”

What is your current podcasting setup?

My current podcasting setup is a Blue Yeti X USB microphone. We record interviews using either Zoom or Squadcast, depending on whom I'm talking to.

Right now my go-to for recording remotely is Squadcast, given the pandemic. Before that, when it was in person, I literally just plugged the mic into my laptop, straight into Audacity. If I'm recording remotely, I'll import the file into Audacity for editing.

David Savage recording an episode of Tech Talks with a Blue Yeti X USB microphone.

How has your setup evolved from where you started?

I first started recording using my phone on top of a stack of paper towels to try and act as a dampener in echo-y rooms. I've always used Audacity as editing software because I'm not a professional sound engineer, but I was able to get some easy setups on there. Although it looks like it was built in the 80s, it's pretty easy to get your head around.

My original setup was very low-rent. I didn't have any money to spend on this—it was a passion project that was supposed to take five percent of my time, so I had to make do with what I had available to me at the time.

How many different things did you try before you settled on your current setup?

We tried lapel mics and those little plug-in mics on the bottom of the phone. I never really settled on one thing where I thought, “This is great.” We were very lucky to build a relationship with Blue, and once we started using their equipment, it did exactly what we needed it to do.

I think the gain control on the Yeti X adds a different dimension—that was always lacking from other equipment that we used. You stick a lapel mic on someone and you'd forget if they had a beard that it would be rustling up against the mic, or a garment would be rubbing up against it. And typically they were really cheap. They break quite regularly, and then you’ve got to get a new one.

How does the Yeti X USB mic help you get the sound you’re looking for?

My sound is something that I have improved over time. Yeti X gives me the flexibility to work in ways that a professional studio setup can’t. This microphone gives me a range of settings that allow me to capture good audio and improve the listening experience for our audience.

The Yeti X delivers good audio pretty much anywhere, in a way that cheaper lapel mics or my phone can’t. I can record in a busy café and use the gain controls to make sure that I'm not picking up too much background noise. Yeti X allows me to capture good audio in a range of different environments without having to diminish the quality of the show.

What were the challenges you faced when you were first setting up your podcast?

Never having done a podcast before, you just do some stupid stuff. At first, I didn't back up files. I remember I had five interviews on a phone and I hadn't backed up everything to Dropbox, which I do immediately now.

I got a new phone for an upgrade around Christmas time and wiped my old phone without thinking about it. All of a sudden, I lost five interviews. I had to go back to people and say, “I'm really sorry, could we rerecord?”

"I don't do a lot to the audio in Audacity, which means that if we're going to get good sound quality, it comes down to the microphone in the environment."

What important tools do you use to make editing and broadcasting easier?

Audacity can work wonders, so I actually don't touch the audio file too much. I get rid of a bit of background noise using noise reduction tools. I run it through an equalizer to make it sound cleaner and crisper. And then run it through a limiter.

I don't do a lot to the audio in Audacity, which means that if we're going to get good sound quality, it comes down to the microphone in the environment. If I realize that we’re in an environment not going to work, then I'll try and shift the time or location to get it to work.

Last year I spoke at 26 conferences as a keynote speaker or moderating conversations on a stage. I love to take the Yeti X with me in a backpack and pop it out on a table and say to someone, let's grab a beer and record for the podcast outside or whatever else.

What resources did you use to learn how to improve the quality of your content?

I'm very lucky—one of my colleagues is a sound engineer. Derek has volunteered hours and hours of his time to helping me over the years. Having someone that you can go to and say, “Have you got some advice you could help me with?” They're invaluable people to have around you.

YouTube was another massive resource for me. For Audacity, there are all sorts of different things that I was like, “How do I do that?”

I will say that the Blue Yeti X is fairly intuitive. I've never really had to read anything about that. It's got the four settings on the back and the gain control on the front. I’ll play around when I start an interview with someone and try various settings to see what sounds best.

What processes do you wish you could do faster or more efficiently?

Social support for the show. For a little while, I played around with automated responses on things like Instagram and LinkedIn, but it did really stupid things like introducing me to people I already knew. It sent a message to my ex-girlfriend on LinkedIn. I hadn't spoken to her for about three years. It was absolutely mortifying.

So I would veer away from anything that's automated on social. I believe that good social is authentic, credible and in your own voice; therefore it takes time. Of course, I'd love to be able to speed up those elements, but at the same time, when you put the time and effort into it, you can be quite proud of the accounts that you build up.

David Savage recording an episode of Tech Talks with a Blue Yeti X USB microphone.

What platforms are you using to distribute your content?

SoundCloud is the platform that we use and that pushes it out to Apple, to Spotify, to Google Podcasts, et cetera. It was one that Derek knew because we'd used it for work, so we went for it.

What advice do you have for streamers who want to build their audience?

Be authentic, be credible and be passionate. Don't do something because you feel that you should do something—do it because you really want to do it.

That's a really important message. I think if you want to build an audience, the only way they're going to engage with you and identify with the show is if they can see an element of their passion in what you're doing. I like shows where people are honest and give honest opinions. I think that only comes if you're doing something that you really care about.