Yet another scary career experiment..how to prepare for your first podcast

Had I lost my mind? Why the heck would I deliberately put myself out of my comfort zone and face potential rejection and criticism while recording myself stumbling about in a conversation in front of people I don’t know?  

165million potential podcast listeners - that’s why!

If I believed in my message enough, I’d be prepared to put myself through a bit of pain to get my message out to many more people? To do little experiments that might be a bit uncomfortable and expand the reach of my message? Wouldn’t I?

I’m always talking to my clients about moving out of their comfort zone to try new ideas and to show that it doesn’t kill you, I write about them as honestly as I can.

But, sometimes I miss the safety of hiding behind a giant FTSE 250 business!

4 years ago I left my corporate career behind. Escaped to do a MSc Psychology. Then created my first ever business (Midlife Unstuck) to help other professionals in their 40s and 50s design more satisfaction into the second half of their careers.

But 2 years in, I hit a bit of a wall getting my message out there and decided to throw myself to the media wolves and narrow in on a PR strategy. For too long, I’d been hiding behind social media spreading my message - oh so slowly - which has been fruitful but very slow going.

I’m a fan of experimenting with your career and I like to practise what I preach, so after pitching successfully to the wonderful journalist Zoe Williams, I was grateful for a few mentions in one of her Guardian articles on 21st century midlife crisis.  

Confidence heightened, I decided that podcasts might be a way to get some more eyes (well…ears actually) on my business.

But I was scared.

Still am, if I’m being honest.

Me and my fear

  • Introvert 👍

  • Struggle to talk in straight lines 👍

  • Would prefer to interview rather than be interviewed 👍

  • Don’t like being the focus of attention 👍

  • Anxious about sounding like a “too-big-for-my-boots, arrogant, know-it-all” 👍

  • Need to grow my business so that I can keep doing work that I love forever  👍

So where to start?

I keep battling with this fear of putting myself out there so I set challenges to help me get out of my own way.

I keep battling with this fear of putting myself out there so I set challenges to help me get out of my own way.

Frightened that I might stop if the going got tough, I made myself a promise that I would pitch to 25 different podcasts before deciding whether they were worthwhile or not for my business.

I wrote the promise in big letters on my office whiteboard, added it to my This is my era 90day planner, told my kids about it (they’ll never let me forget!), made it the wallpaper on my phone and started an trello checklist.

The research stage - it’s easy to get stuck in this stage because it’s not painful and I like planning. But planning isn’t doing…

The research stage - it’s easy to get stuck in this stage because it’s not painful and I like planning. But planning isn’t doing…

Then I went about making it happen.

The Research Stage (safe, safe, safe)

  1. Earplugs in.  Listen to lots of podcasts in your genre.  Seek out podcast categories that work for your business and create a starter list of smaller, newer podcasts in a category where your message would be well received

  2. Make a rough list of 25 podcasts that your message would be useful to the listeners. HINT: Don’t put Oprah or Pat Flynn on your top 25 list - that’s a sure recipe for failure before you’ve even started!  You can work up to them after your experiment has ended and you’ve perfected your message.

  3. Pick one that you particularly like. Listen to at least three or four episodes, review the titles to learn more about the listener interests. Follow the podcast host on all their social media to understand more about them. Comment if you feel strongly on one or more of their posts.  Write a 5 star, very specific, honest review for their podcast.

A short pitch highlighting how your message might help their listeners is key.

A short pitch highlighting how your message might help their listeners is key.

The Pitch (exposing, vulnerable and down-right painful!)

  1. Email your pitch to the podcast host-using the smallest number of words possible covering these three points:

    1. Who you are (just the bits that are specific to their audience);  

    2. Which of their podcast episodes you liked most and why;  

    3. What benefit your expertise might offer their listeners and whether they think you might be a good guest.    

  2. Repeat Research Stage (3) and Pitch Stage (1) until you get a “YES - I’d love you to come on the show!”

  3. When you have your first “Yes” start to prepare clear answers to their standard questions. Jot notes down on the key pieces of your work that you really feel would benefit their listeners.

Ok - time to get your shit together to make sure you do yourself justice in front of the mic.

Ok - time to get your shit together to make sure you do yourself justice in front of the mic.

The Recording (less painful but nerve-inducing nonetheless)

  1. Make sure you have the correct recording link that the host sent to you to hand (saves you sending a panic email to the host 5 mins before the start time (which I’m embarrassed to say I did!)

  2. Sort out your recording kit - often just a pair of standard iphone earphones with a microphone is fine.  I used Jabra earphones with built-in pull down microphone which I already owned. But some like to have the stability of a separate mic and get a blue snowball microphone.

  3. Make sure you’re in the strongest internet spot in your home/office and have closed the windows to reduce noise.

  4. Keep your bottle of water and your preparation notes close to hand.

  5. Plan and prepare your introduction story lasting a few minutes.  This is when the host allows you an uninterrupted few minutes to talk about yourself and your business. Easy to waffle here but it’s better if you have your story succinct with the most relevant parts for their audience.

  6. Listen really carefully to the host to answer their questions specifically.

  7. Ask a few questions of the host during the recording, as you would in a real conversation. This also gives you a moment to breathe.

  8. Perfection is boring. In life we occasionally stumble, say the wrong word, need a second to think and say inappropriate comments. They can be edited out if it’s a disaster but the more it sounds like you and the host are having a conversation, the more natural it will feel to the listener.

  9. It’s unlikely you’ll feel relaxed but you do need to smile so that you sound relaxed.

  10. Laugh and interact like the wonderful human you are and reap the benefits of having your message broadcast from the rooftops.  Share and market the podcast jointly with the host AND in your own world.

A word of gigantic word of thanks here to Michelle Reeves, author of The Happiness Habits Transformation and host of The Ideal Life Club podcast.  I didn’t tell her at the time but she offered me my first ever guest spot on her podcast.  

Michelle is a masterful interviewer who made me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world (which is definitely one of her Superpowers).  She gave me time to breathe in between questions by commenting or summarising what I’d said and generally made the experience far less like childbirth than I thought it was going to be...I would even go so far as to describe it as fun!

If you are reading this as a virgin podcast guest, I encourage you to give it a go. Why not join me on my 25 podcast pitch challenge and let me know how you go?

If you’re reading this as someone who is considering designing more satisfaction into your work, know that these sort of out-of-comfort-zone experiments are necessary…

Unless, of course, you want to stay where you are.

Listen here to my first ever podcast - then drop me a line to tell me what you think.