Be a Lifelong Learner
My father was a lifelong teacher and coach even long after he retired. At least once a day, he would share with me a new word or idea he’d run across (and plenty of jokes along the way). He would share the fact with me and then, most times, he would remind me to be a lifelong learner.
Be a lifelong learner.
I’ve carried that idea forward. I try to make sure I’m present enough in my own life to learn from my surroundings and circumstances. (Make sure to read “The First Thing to Do After Reading this Article” below.)
1. “The Talk” Still Matters
I spent the bulk of my career before Golden Spiral in pre-produced talk radio production and had a front row seat to watch several shows launch and a few fail over the years. I was once in a meeting with one of the “old men” of talk radio. (He produced talk radio before FM existed.) In that meeting, he confronted the would-be host of the new program and gave her the talk. Here it is:
You must commit to your program. You’ve got to be all in. You’re on the outside looking in. Please trust me when I tell you it will take more time and energy than you think it will. You will become discouraged. You won’t like the numbers you hear. You must stay the course. If you want this show to grow, last, and make a difference, you must go all in.
You won’t hear that type of advice in a lot of podcasting webinars. You’ll hear things like, “10 Easy Steps to Build a Profitable Podcast” or “The Simple Podcasting Formula” or “Podcasting in Two Hours a Week.” I’ve learned much from webinars like that, but “The Talk” is important, too, because of these statistics:
Here’s What “All In” Gets You
My Podcast Reviews reports that of the 1.4 million podcasts, over 300,000 only published one episode.
About 700,000 published less than 5 episodes
Well over a million episodes haven’t been published in in the last 90 days
That means, if it’s an active show that has published in the last 90 days, there are 317,000+ active podcasts.
But guess what? You still have to compete against all of the 1.4 million because they are all still indexed and available on the platforms. When someone does a search for your topic, they are searching among all active and inactive podcasts.
Many start podcasts. Few endure. If you want your podcast to matter, give yourself the talk and then go “all in.” If you can stay active and frequent for more than 10 episodes, you’ll be among the top 20% of podcasts.
You’ve got something to say. You’ve got a point of view. What are you going to do with it?
What Does “All In” Look Like in Real Life?
Imagine booking one of your dream guests and then having to reschedule because you couldn’t make another meeting work with all of the invited guests? Yeah, we did that. Just once. And we’ll never do it again. There are a thousand things that could get in the way of your podcast. You could make 10,000 excuses. Don’t. Go all in.
2. Editing Brings Many Gifts
Editing is essential. Editing is time consuming, but the benefits of editing far outweigh the hours you spend.
Presenting Your Guest (and Yourself) in the Best Light Possible
No matter how polished your guests are as communicators, they will um, ah, and blunder their way to their points. They will also misspeak. In the last four months, I have heard guests fumble over statistics trying to remember, call others by the wrong names, tell stories about the wrong years, and more. We all do it. You do it, too.
Editing allows us to take away the blunders and present the information with clarity.
We live in a cynical world. Editing helps us get out of our own way. Your guests will appreciate it and your listeners will get a much purer hearing. If you are producing an informational or instructional podcast, give your listeners the gift of editing for greater clarity.
Note: if you are producing a journalistic podcast, remember what I learned from my days at NPR. There are edits that bring clarity and there are edits that distort the truth. You must allow your interview subject to speak and for his or her message to get through. Don’t edit the audio to distort what was spoken to suit your slant on the story. Audio journalists can distort perception just as easily as photojournalists. Audio journalists can twist words just as easily as text journalists.
Take a look (on your software) or give a listen to raw footage. You might have 50+ minutes of raw recording once your found your start point and end point. What if by editing, you could deliver the same content in 30 minutes? You can through editing.
Editing boils down your content to a much more intense and potent final product.
I’ve noticed that the average vocal stumble is about 1.5 seconds. In our recordings, there are at least two per minute. That means 3 seconds of every 60 can be compressed just through removing ums and ahs. The finished product sounds better, is less distracting, and is technically superior than using software to speed up your recording at the same 5% rate.
Editing your content so that the points are made with greater clarity and fewer bunny trails will help you distill your message down to the purest form.
Honoring Your Listeners
Your listeners only has so much time in their lives. Don’t take more of it than you should. In your own life, are you likely to take the phone call of or give attention to an email from someone who has proven to waste your time or struggles to get to the point? TV shows and movies make great sport at showing the lengths characters go to in order to avoid time wasters.
Your listener is giving you the gift of attention. Give your listener the gift of time.
3. Sequel Syndrome Really Exists
I thought I was immune. I thought that after producing 5,000 hours of talk radio and hundreds of radio commercials, that I had learned to avoid Sequel Syndrome. Nope. I got sucked into the vortex all over again. I was just like Santa when he saw the walking and talking m&ms.
Sequel Syndrome: when you try to outdo the previous podcast episode with greater sound effects, music, production, questions, editing, show notes, or other theatrics.
Think about any movie series from Godzilla in the 1950s through The Star Wars Saga to The Fast and Furious. Every subsequent movies needs bigger stuff. Bigger monsters to fight, more buildings to destroy, better visual effects, more cars crashed, etc.
Don’t let your podcast fall into the sequel trap. In episode 005, I created a soundscape for the teaser. The next episode out, I spent way too much time trying to figure out a way to make another one for that episode. The truth was this: episode five needed one; episode six didn't. Produce to the needs of the show.
Faithfulness. Consistency. Presence. These matter far more to your listeners — and to your key metrics — than the whiz bang you might bring to each subsequent episode.
I’m not saying don’t get better. Incremental, steady improvement over time should be your goal. But here’s the secret. If you are a continual learner and remain faithful, your show will sound better, be edited better, have more whiz bang moments, and more. Stay the course.
4. You Must Get Out of Your Own Echo Chamber
I love to write. At my first writing conference, I heard a piece of advice that I’ve heard at every writer’s conference since. I’ve also read it in books, blogs, and tweets. The advice is everywhere because it is essential. You must READ in order to WRITE.
The same is true for podcasting. You must listen in order to produce.
Listen to your competition. Listen to other genres. Listen to the top downloaded shows. Listen to the dregs. Listen.
This past week, I attended a podcast conference and downloaded a bunch of episodes for the presenters to hear what their shows sounded like. I picked up 100 little things. I also could smile knowing we’re producing a good product.
Attend a podcast conference or find a podcast meetup in your area. Talk with other podcasters. But don't stop there. Reach out to the local talk show hosts and producers as well as the local TV news magazine show hosts and producers. They wrestle with the same issues you do: how to find the right guests, how to prep and produce a show that will resonate with the audience, how to promote the show and grow the following.
The First Thing to Do After Reading This Article
Take my dad's advice and be a lifelong learner. Which of the four lessons we've learned would you like to learn more about? Dig into that lesson and get busy.
And here's an invitation, especially if lesson four resonates the most: set an appointment with me to talk about our shows. That will get you out of your echo chamber. And I'll even deliver a beverage of choice to your doorstep.