25 key lessons from 500 podcast episodes
Today sees the publication of episode 500 of my personal finance podcast, Informed Choice Radio.
I started the podcast back in November 2014, without much of a plan.
It was my second attempt at starting a personal finance podcast, originally starting one in September 2005.
This time around, I’ve consistently published one, two or three new episodes each week, with only a couple of exceptions.
I’ve learnt a great deal during this journey.
In this blog post, I’ve attempted to capture as many lessons as possible from these 500 podcast episodes.
Here we go!
1 – Practice makes better
Don’t expect to start podcasting and be a pro on day one. I certainly wasn’t back at the start and, while dramatically improved compared to then, I’ve still got a long way to go. But, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Speaking into the microphone feels almost natural now, after 500 episodes.
2 – It helps to get help
I couldn’t create a weekly podcast episode without help. Emma is my producer; she finds and books guests, prepares questions for me to ask, and promotes each episode on social media. James is my editor; I ‘just hit record’ and then share the files with him via Dropbox, where he works his editing magic and sends back the finished podcast episode. It’s a neat system.
3 – Consistency is king
Podcast listeners will expect to hear you at the allotted time each week. Stay consistent. It’s best to work ahead a week or two, as this reduces the pressure and accounts for absent guests or technical problems when recording. On occasion, I’ve burned the midnight oil to get an episode out the following morning. Do what it takes to stay on schedule.
4 – Podcasting is the perfect pillar content
From a marketing perspective, producing a podcast gives you a fantastic piece of pillar content. You can then split up and repurpose each episode to create micro-content, suitable for different social media platforms. Get each episode transcribed for even more repurposing options.
5 – Expand your network reach
Every podcast interview is an opportunity to expand the size of your professional network. Find a way to stay in touch with guests, rather than treating the interview as a one-off interaction. As a bare minimum, connect with your guests on LinkedIn and Twitter.
6 – Keep your tech stack simple
I’ve squandered a lot of money on fancy recording kit, including mixers and microphones. At one stage, I built a shed in my office (yes, really!), in an attempt at creating the perfect recording environment. You don’t need to go crazy with your recording setup. My current kit is an Audio Technica stereo broadcast headset and Scarlett Focusrite Solo USB interface. It’s the best sound quality I’ve had to date.
7 – Authors love to talk
Here’s a top tip for finding guests to interview. Head over to Amazon, look in the books section, and select books that will be published in the next 90 days within your chosen category. Guests galore! Authors love an opportunity to talk about their new book.
8 – Get ahead of yourself
I get nervous when I’ve only got one episode in the can. Having two, three or more episodes recorded and ready to go is a far more comfortable place to be. Don’t stride too far out, as conversations will become out to date.
9 – Talking points beat questions
I used to work off a list of questions for each guest, which I would attempt to ask in order during the interview. Don’t do this. Instead, jot down some talking points, and then engage in a real conversation with your guest. Listen to their answers and ask questions based on what they say, rather than what you wanted to say at the start of the conversation.
10 – Rethink your numbers
We get hung up on download figures. To date with Informed Choice Radio, we’ve enjoyed more than 374,000 downloads. That’s fantastic, but there will always be a podcaster with bigger numbers. A great way to frame your download figures is to visualise that number of people in a room. An audience of 50 people is brilliant. Reach 500 people with your episode and that’s like delivering a keynote at a large-ish event. Hit 5,000 and you’re rocking a massive stage. Be proud of every download.
11 – Talk to one listener
A common mistake for newbie podcasters is to address a group, instead of an individual. Listening to a podcaster should be an intimate affair. Your voice goes right into their ears. Get personal, speak directly to one listener, and build better connections.
12 – Engage with audiograms
This is so simple, I don’t know why every podcaster isn’t doing it. Grab a 30-60 second excerpt from your podcast episode, run it through headliner.app, and create a visually appealing ‘audiogram’ to share on social media. Create some compelling artwork in Canva.
13 – There’s no perfect length
My podcast episodes tend to run from 20-30 minutes each. I’ve experimented with shorter episodes and longer episodes, but the ideal length is essentially the length of time you need to have the conversation. 20 minutes is a reasonable target length, as that seems to tally with the average commute in the UK. But don’t be afraid of a 5 minute or a two-hour long podcast episode.
14 – Don’t feel trapped by one subject
I host a personal finance podcast, but I’m never afraid of going off-piste. If you talk about topics that interest and excite you, your listeners will love it too. Make sure your conversations have some linkage to the core subject of your podcast but do experiment with non-standard episodes.
15 – Things will go wrong
When you start podcasting, stuff will go wrong. The Zoom/Skype/Zencastr connection will drop mid-conversation. The guest will go AWOL at the scheduled time of the call. You will forget to press record (that’s only happened once to me!). The kids/dogs/neighbours will make a lot of noise during your interview. Keep calm and carry on.
16 – Edit tight but natural
Editing podcast episodes is an art, not a science. The goal is to cut out the long pauses (unless they add context to the conversation) and the repetitive filler words (umms, you knows, etc) that will make your listener want to murder your guest. But a natural edit is a great edit. People take a breath when speaking. Leave in enough to keep the conversation sounding natural.
17 – Podcasting is a transferable skill
The longer I’ve been podcasting, the easier I find it to speak in other settings. Last year, I spoke on stage on several occasions without feeling the normal nerves that come for me with public speaking. I even hosted the Christmas lights switch-on in our village, speaking to a few thousand people, without giving it a second thought. Podcasting is great practice for all types of presentation.
18 – Talk less, let them talk more
Don’t be the podcast host that talks more than your guest. Listeners want to hear from them, not you. There’s nothing wrong in devoting the occasional episode to you, your stories and opinions. But, when interviewing guests, let them speak.
19 – Fight for every subscriber
Every conversation you have in real life is an opportunity to secure a subscriber to your podcast. If necessary, take their phone off them and subscribe to your podcast yourself.
20 – Support other podcasters
Offer to be a guest on other podcasts. Share tips and experience with them, especially when they are starting out. If a potential guest isn’t quite right for you, suggest other podcasters who might be a better fit. Subscribe to other podcasts in your niche, leave them reviews on Apple Podcasts, and promote them on your podcast.
21 – Celebs are regular people too
In the past 500 episodes, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several celebrities. Treat them like you would any other guest. I still get nervous when speaking to high profile people, but those nerves tend to fade away as soon as we start chatting.
22 – Your first episode will be awful
I occasionally listen back to episode one of Informed Choice Radio. It’s terrible. It doesn’t matter that your first episode will be terrible, as the single most important thing for a new podcaster is to just get started.
23 – Don’t assume podcasting knowledge
Podcasting is still a reasonably nerdy thing. Don’t assume that everyone knows a) what a podcast is, or b) how to listen/subscribe to your podcast. We renamed The Informed Choice Podcast to Informed Choice Radio, as framing a podcast as a radio episode is more accessible.
24 – Always ask your guest for a photo
A mistake I’ve made on more than a handful of occasions us to grab a guest image off a Google Images search. The risk in doing this is either the guest will hate that photo, or you will end up using a photo of the wrong person (this has only happened once to me).
25 – Don’t be afraid to ask
The worst thing that will happen if you ask someone to be a guest on your podcast is they will say no. If you think of a finance-related person, we’ve asked them to come on the podcast. That includes Jordan Belfort (The Wolf of Wall Street), Tony Robbins, and even Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson. If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes.
I love talking about podcasting. If you would like to chat about starting your own podcast, schedule a 30-minute call into my calendar.
We produce podcasts for several businesses, but I promise no hard sell.
If you’re a podcaster and you would like to add a lesson or two to this blog post, please get in touch!