Speech #2 - May 25, 2006

If you watched MTV in the late '80s and early '90s, you're probably familiar with Adam Curry, the veejay with the big hair. These days you'll find Adam on the World Wide Web, as "The Podfather." Along with another software pioneer, Dave Winer, and with important contributions from many in the field, he helped devise the technology we now know as "podcasting."

Now let me geek out for a bit. Podcasting can be defined as the automated distribution of audio and video files via a specially formatted file called a "feed." They are made available using a software program called an aggregator to a personal computer. Optionally, it can then be transferred to a portable audio device such as an iPod. These feeds are selected for subscription by the end user based on personal interest, and the subscriber may view and hear "episodes" at his or her convenience. Ok, enough of the geek speak. Think of it as a Tivo for Internet media.

While audio and video files have long been available on the Web, it was the advent of Podcasting in late 2004 that spawned a new sub-industry and hobby for many Internet users. I was a bit behind the curve myself, not really getting involved until June of 2005. About that same time, Apple released a new version of iTunes, its popular music player software, that supported the receipt of podcasts and opened the door to thousands of new podcasters and many more podcast listeners.

Podcasts cover a variety of topics, and represent a wide variety of presentation techniques. One can find podcasts ranging from straight musical programming to discussion of political issues to in-depth study of favorite television shows. Many often feature listener feedback, sometimes in the form of e-mails read "on the air" and even more often, from voice mail services and self-recordings. There are thousands of podcasters worldwide and many thousands of podcast episodes have been produced. While an elite few have reached cult status and are wildly popular, most cater to a smaller audience and many focus on a small niche interest.

It may not be surprising that a medium that grew out of technology would itself be the focus of that same technology. In fact, there are a number of podcasts about podcasting, not only focusing on the technical aspects of recording and online distribution, but also techniques in editing and improved presentation. Toastmasters is often cited as a valuable resource to prepare oneself to be a podcaster. It was indeed my own interest in podcasting and in becoming a podcaster that cemented my decision to pursue Toastmasters.

So if Toastmasters is a recommended resource for podcasting, are there podcasts about Toastmasters? As a matter of fact, I've discovered that there are only two. Both originate in the United States. From Sara Marks in Massachusetts we have "Um, Er, Ah ... A Toastmaster's Podcast" (please don't count those in my crutch words tally) and from Judd Spitzer in Florida, there's the "Titusville Toastmasters Podcast," sometimes called the Toastcast. Sara, as Vice President Education for her club, focuses on educational and editorial topics, while Judd, as Vice President Public Relations, generally podcasts speeches, training events and often, complete meetings. Both began podcasting in mid-2005 and together have produced about 25 episodes.

Judd also produces an occasional video podcast, usually a taped club meeting. Video podcasts are becoming more popular in general. With inexpensive yet capable consumer video cameras and easy to use production software, podcasting has given many budding TV producers a chance at developing and making available their short and long form dramas, documentaries and sometimes video for just plain fun. I'm not immune to the lure. I podcast my community cable TV show, in addition to other video material of my own.

Could Capital Communicators Club produce a podcast and be the next big thing? Could all of us be podcast stars? It's certainly possible, and it doesn't take a lot of specialized equipment to do so. A video camera or even a simple microphone and recorder are all that's necessary to get started. After recording and editing the audio or video file and uploading the result to a server, it can be on its way to anywhere in the world. We may not become Adam Currys, but the potential for making an impact to other Toastmasters is a real possibility.

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