It was getting late into 2018 and I hadn’t done much more than think about starting a podcast. I’d established doing so as a goal that year and as the summer came, and then went, that goal was in jeopardy of dying from inaction. As we entered fall, the thing I’d been waiting for showed up at my office one day. He called himself Dave Mastovich, the no BS marketer, but to me he became the embodiment of the confidence giver and accountability partner I needed to get my podcast butt in gear.
Dave wasn’t in my office that day to see me. Not specifically at least. He was the speaker for my TEC group. He spent the morning talking to us about the importance of no bullshit marketing for our businesses and complaining about the temperature in the conference room. Which was legit because I couldn’t figure out how to control it. It had a mind of its own that morning, moving from way too hot to way too cold, as if the controls meant nothing to it.
It was our impromptu discussion at lunch that became the catalyst. Dave told me that he had a podcast – I said that I’m thinking about starting a podcast – he asked when – I said soon – he called bullshit on that [it’s what he does after all] – and we settled on a pact that I would have my first episode recorded by the end of October.
3 years and 225 episodes later, I remain thankful to Dave for giving me the push that I needed to get my podcast off the ground. I continue to listen to his show as well because every time I do I get value and think of him telling me that he naturally runs hot anyway that day when the temperature in the conference room was soaring.
As you might expect, I’ve learned a thing or ten about podcasting over the past 3 years. Learned might be an overstatement, a too strong and certain word for the experience. Learning might be more appropriate. That feels better. I’ve learned and am learning a lot going through this podcast journey.
Here are the top 10 things I’ve learned about podcasting
1. Just Do It – If you’ve been ‘thinking’ about doing a podcast – like I was for a while – the fastest way to move that from a thought to an accomplishment is to simply do it. Getting a podcast off the ground is easy and there’s no way for you to know whether you like it without simply giving it a try. BTW, getting a podcast going is the easiest part of the journey – and it’s zero risk.
2. Competition – There are something like 2.5 million podcasts in the world. If that sounds like a lot of competition to you, that’s good because it is a lot of competition. The good news, though, is that many podcasts included in that total are no longer producing new episodes and the world is a big place. The podcast world is like a mountain and very few podcasters are at or near the summit. Most are at base camp, or somewhere lower. Breaking away from the competition takes time, effort, delivering value and a differentiating message – and maybe a little luck, just like it does in every industry.
3. Sound Quality – Sound quality is one of the biggest positive differentiators that makes a BIG difference. A good microphone and a quiet room are the 2 tools that largely solve the quality sound challenge. When guests are similarly equipped, it makes for a high quality recording. I’ve made many sound quality mistakes along the way and the biggest one I make is moving forward with a recording when the guests isn’t set up correctly (for example, I recorded an episode with a guest who was walking on a golf course using a phone – you can imagine how that sounded). If the sound isn’t right, I now regroup rather than move ahead because I owe good sound quality to myself and my audience.
4. Guests – The guests you choose make a difference because if you’re not energized by your guest, you can’t expect anyone else to been energized either. The rule of thumb I use for guest selection is whether I’d be interested and/or intimidated in meeting this person. [Why intimidated? Because, for me, it pays to be a little nervous about whether I have the chops to earn that kind of guest]. If that’s a yes, it’s almost certain that their story is worth exploring and sharing – and that it will provide value to listeners.
On the other hand, It’s not just about the guests. Many podcasters do ‘solo’ episodes and I’ve become convinced (slowly and reluctantly) that solo episodes are important, mainly because you never know who’s a new listener and, if they don’t know anything about you (who you are, where you stand, why you’re interesting, etc.) they may not care as much about your guests.
5. Questions – I won’t claim to know the best way to construct a podcast, but I will confidently claim that scripted question and answer podcasts are boring – for the podcaster, the audience, and the guest.
For me, the great podcasters are the ones who can use the words that the guest provides as a path to follow to guide the conversation. I prefer ‘having conversations’ over ‘doing interviews’ and good questions are an organic part of a good conversation while scripted questions are the basis for most interviews.
There are lots of ways to approach your questions – just make sure that whatever questions you use get some answers that nobody was expecting. That’s what makes questions interesting.
6. Video – I’m told that many people choose to watch, rather than listen to, podcasts. I don’t watch podcasts, but I can see the sense in the advice (and the data probably supports that as well). I resisted video for a long time, but I’ve come around, bought a better camera, and now post all my episodes on YouTube as well as the podcast platforms. In the age of virtual podcasts, there’s really no reason not to since it’s SO easy to do. I don’t worry about traction or views. Video is just another place you can find me and choose to try / take in the podcast.
7. Production & Promotion – If you’re ‘tech and social media handy’ and have the time, you can self-manage your podcast production process and save money. I’m not, don’t have the time and can, fortunately, afford to pay for help. My point here is that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to podcast production.
I want to be as close to done with my responsibility for the podcast as I can be when each episode recording ends. I know that I would not have kept at it for the 3 years I have if it was up to me to do everything. Conducting the conversation is my strength and I hire all the necessary skills that are my weaknesses.
8. Audience & Downloads – The VAST majority of podcasters (including me) can (and I’ll say it – will) be disappointed by their audience size and / or download numbers. I’ve already mentioned how competitive podcasting is and how FEW podcasters have huge audiences.
Unless you are a celebrity or otherwise significantly well known, the likelihood of having an immediately strong audience is super small. That’s OK though because you don’t need a huge audience and/or lots of downloads for your podcast to be remarkable.
For example, my modest download history has landed me in the top 2.5% of podcasts globally. Mostly, I’m assuming, because I’ve kept at it for 3 years while so many others don’t.
If your podcast is making you and whoever else is listening happy, and you’re paying attention to how you can make your podcast better, than you have a lot more to be excited about than the size of your audience or the number of downloads you’ve earned (and, PLEASE, take whatever any podcaster is claiming as their number of downloads with a grain of salt – it may be accurate or, eh……).
9. Episode Titles – I believe that the titles you choose for your episodes matters a lot. The title is your opportunity to grab and invite a listener to push play on your episode, especially when you’re episode isn’t with a ‘brand name’ person (and there are very few of them).
For a longtime, I had my production team create my episode titles and that was a mistake because they don’t know and feel the podcast like I do from being engaged in its creation with the guest. If you’re uncomfortable creating titles for your episodes, find someone who’s talented at that (just keep in mind that a title is much more than just SEO fodder).
10. Making Money – I haven’t yet made any money with my podcast. In fact, I invest @$50k/ year in it to produce the quality and quantity that I do. ‘Must be nice’ is what you might be saying, and you’d be right – I’m fortunate to be able to make that kind of an investment and maintain a long term view about my podcast and the value it will return to me down the road.
That said, I don’t recommend my approach.
Podcasting is a business and successful businesses cover their expenses and earn a profit. My advice is to figure out a way to do that.
The podcast itself – unless you are one of those top of the mountain people – will not generate anything more than modest income if you can get a sponsor. And that’s OK because if you have a business beyond your podcast, it can be a great place to market what you do, create lead generation opportunities, gamify your audience, promote your products & services, etc.
Click here to learn more about why I started my podcast, How’d It Happen?
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In addition to my podcast where I talk with incredible entrepreneurs about their “how’d it happen” story, I also wrote a book that is a raw examination of my own entrepreneurial journey.
My book is titled, Owner Shift. Get a Free Chapter Here.
You can also listen to my podcast on the Top 5 Things I learned while writing my book.
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