We’ve now officially released 3 episodes of Path to Performance, the podcast that I co-host with Tim Kadlec. It’s kind of wild to think of how we went from 0 to episode 1 in the span of only a week, and now we have a full blown podcast that people actually listen to! The best part is that it’s fun, and a really nice break from designing and writing.
People have lots of questions about starting a podcast, and I think it tends to seem more complicated (or maybe less complicated?) than it really is. There’s lots of resources out there on how to start podcasting but I’m here to tell you some quick and easy ways to just GET OUT THERE AND RECORD and some of the snags we ran into along the way.
##Day 1: Find a co-host (or don’t!) Looking back, I can’t imagine doing all of the work by myself. I highly recommend finding someone to share the responsibilities with, plus it’s more fun and a wider network to share it with. However, there’s definitely amazing solo hosts as well so don’t feel you have to have one. Also, don’t feel like it has to be someone you already are friends with or a coworker. If there’s someone whose work you admire or you think would be a good fit, ask them! Online friendships can go a long way.*
Tim and I became Twitter friends sometime last year, both writing articles about performance. A few months ago I gave my first performance focused talk and Tim commented on my slides, and soon thereafter Tim released whatdoesmysitecost.com. I had been toying with the idea of doing a performance podcast for a couple weeks, and decided to go out on a limb and message Tim about it. The stars had aligned, and he said he had also been thinking about a podcast, and so it just naturally fell into place.
*It luckily has worked out that our personalities and senses of humor have aligned and (hopefully) hasn’t come across as a boring or awkward dynamic since we hadn’t met IRL until a few weeks ago. I can see how it could have gone horribly wrong if we didn’t mesh, or if one of us had a different personality. In this instance, we started Skyping to do some of our planning and that made it more comfortable by the time we started recording. If you’re going to try something with an internet friend, I’d suggest Skyping beforehand to see how the conversation goes and if it’s a weird dynamic or not.
##Day 2: No, really, let’s do this Talking about it is one thing. Daydreaming is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other beast. I think I was still a little nervous that Tim would decide to back out, even after our planning emails. So I kind of was “go, go, go!” while we still had that momentum started and just began planning away.
Without hesitation, I think I ordered my mic the day after we decided to do it. I ordered the Blue Yeti off of Amazon, and got a windscreen and pop filter based on a few internet searches. I asked Chris what he uses for Shoptalk, and he referred me to the Rode Podcaster which I think is a little better for portability but I’m a lil princess and liked how the Blue Yeti looked better. Buying a mic felt like I was doing something, and it was financially an investment so I felt like it would actually follow through. Tim ended up buying the same setup I had, I think a day later.
##Day 3: Details Okay, so we have our idea, we have our equipment, what do we do now? Well, there’s a few things you should probably figure out before you start:
####How many episodes are we doing? Indefinitely? Seasons? This is still something Tim and I are feeling out, but it’s good to at least talk to your co-host upfront about it. We’re gonna do probably 10-15 episodes and see how we feel and if we want to wrap it up for the season or keep going until we don’t want to do it anymore.
####How will we split responsibilities? It’s naturally kind of fell into place that I’ve been handling email/scheduling stuff while Tim handles the site/launch stuff. This would also be a good thing to talk about beforehand, so one of you doesn’t end up doing everything.
####Uhh, what do we call this thing? Admittedly, we both are bad at naming things. However, it’s worked out that both of us are pretty easygoing and indecisive that it’s not hard for one of us to just suggest something and the other one agree to it. Our core value is pretty aligned with my aforementioned talk, which Tim said he thought the title captured well… So we just decided to use that.
####How often do we release? We decided to try bi-monthly. It’s worked out well so far. Lots of podcasts do weekly, some less. It’s totally up to you, but it’s pretty universally agreed that consistency is best. I know that I would probably fall into the trap of “ehhhh can we do it another day?” if I didn’t have a set schedule. So, set a schedule.
####How long do we want our episodes to be? We agreed under 60min. I think we originally set out to do 45min, but so far our episodes have strayed into the 1hr territory. If you want to do a shorter podcast, try to prioritize that. Episodes can very easily go longer than you intend.
##Day 4: Outsourcing (or not!) Tim said he had limited experience in mixing a podcast he had done previously. If nothing else, that was our last resort. I know lots of the other articles will tell you different software and stuff to use for that if you Google “how to podcast”. You can do it on the cheap that way. However, we’re both relatively busy people and it would be a huge undertaking for us to take that on—so we again reached out to our friends at Shoptalk and asked who they use. Aaron Dowd has been aaaawesome, and I’m so happy he’s our contractor for this stuff. He basically does everything short of interview our guests for us. I can’t recommend him enough. He also sends us cool resources and videos that helped us get our audio setup and he’ll tell us when we did a bad job recording and how to fix it.
It’s also highly important that you have a transcript for your podcast, not enough of them out there do it. You can do this yourself (but again, time suck) or you can buy a friend lunch to do it for you. Or, we use Seth Lavelle. He came recommended from our friends at RWD Podcast and he’s been amazing too.
Point being: figure out who is going to be doing the heavy lifting for you. The time spent per episode adds up.
##Day 5: Guests (or not!) We had most of our logistics figured out to at least pretend to sound like a Legit and Important Podcast when reaching out to guests. We’re fortunate enough to both know some amazingly talented people that we could ask favors from, so that’s where we started. We also knew that we wanted to open that up to people we didn’t know, so we started asking around on Twitter. We actually got a ton of responses and lined up a few guests this way before we even had a site. As long as you know people with an interesting story to tell, you can find a guest—and ultimately some listeners will find value in it. We were so, so, so lucky that Lara Hogan agreed to do our first episode for us. I’m eternally grateful she took a chance and was just so bubbly and fun to have as a guest. If you can line up a total badass for your first episode, you won’t regret it.
We also wanted to make sure we at least had 3-5 guests scheduled before we released. The last thing we wanted was to release 1 episode then scramble to find a second guest in time. So, even though we launched with 1 recorded episode, we still had 2 more firmly on the schedule for the following weeks that we wouldn’t fall behind.
Also, it’s super super super important to stay organized. I’ve botched the scheduling a couple of times because there’s just lots of juggling things all over the place. Scheduling is a lot of emailing and schedule coordination. I have a spreadsheet that I also use that has the guest, if we’ve contacted them yet, if they’re scheduled yet, if we have to reply to them, etc. It’s a lot of organization that you absolutely must stay on top of. It helps to have a shared calendar too of days you absolutely cannot record. Podcasting has given me a tremendous amount of empathy for project managers.
Or, you could always just forego guests altogether. A lot of my favorite podcasts are just two really funny hosts having conversations about a topic. I can speak from my limited experience that the #1 timesuck on podcasting is scheduling.
##Day 6: Sponsors (or not!) This is something we’re still trying to figure out. We’re basically just trying to break even with our costs to Aaron and Seth. If you can make money from your podcast, more power to you. If you and your friend just want to have a fun DIY podcast and you’re mixing it yourself—I’d suggest skipping this step because it is the hardest part.
Again, we’ve been fortunate to know people who make things that align well with our podcast that we’ve been pulling in friend favors. It’s really tough to have solid numbers to show with very few (if any) episodes released.
##Day 7: Site Design (or not!) I whipped up something really quick. Like, really, really quick. Obviously it’s a podcast about performance so I didn’t really want to over do it. You don’t even have to design anything if you don’t want. Simplecast (which is what we use to publish our audio) has pre-made templates if you want to go that route.
Speaking of Simplecast, this came recommended from almost everyone as the way to handle publishing episodes. It’s $12/month, easy peasy, gives you great stats. Use it.
##Day 8: Recording! I think we ended up recording with Lara almost exactly a week after we decided to do the podcast. It was wild, but cool, and made it feel real.
A few things that we’ve learned that have helped recording go smoother:
####Test your audio beforehand. I did about 30 little test recordings in different environments around my apartment. Turns out, my closet sounds the best. I guess that’s a known thing that they’re usually the best makeshift soundbooth cause the clothes absorb the echo or whatever. These also would have been more useful had I known that I could plug my headphones into my mic, not my computer. So, do that.
####Do your research I try to have a little script in Google Docs pulled up. I do this only because that’s how I’ve previously done stakeholder interviews, user interviews, etc. Do what works best for you, but it helps to at least have 5-7 fallback questions written down should the conversation stagnate. Again, this comes down to how you and your co-host work best. Tim and I have agreed that we like it to be conversational and let the interviewee’s responses guide the rabbit holes that we go down. Perhaps you’d like to have a more regimented, specific set of questions.
Being a good interviewer definitely is its own skillset. If you’ve done any sort of user interviews before, you know this to be the case. It helps me to write down the specific goal I have for every interview, so I can always go back to that core and make sure that I’m answering it.
But, honestly, what’s been the biggest asset for the podcast interviews has been my own genuine curiosity for the subject. I ask the questions that I, myself, have for someone who is starting or maintaining a performance culture. It’s something that I want to get better at, and learn more about, so my questions naturally appear as we talk.
Hashtag audio tips
You, or your audio person, might have their own preferences. The way we’ve done it is Skype for the conversation, and then we each have our own Quicktime recording on our individual machines. Headphones are a must. External mics are nice, but not necessary (at least for the guest). Ethernet is cool.
##Day 9: Submitting Tim had the site live by this point, and we were able to load it up with the first episode without anyone seeing (since the URL hadn’t been shared yet). So, by this point we technically had launched…but needed to wait for iTunes approval.
So, make sure you do this several days before you want to launch. We found out the hard way that Apple can take a while to approve for iTunes. So you’ll ideally want to submit 48hrs ahead of your launch day. Or, at least wait until iTunes says you’re approved to launch.
We didn’t, and the first day was spent fielding lots of “will you be on iTunes?” questions.
##Day 10: Congratulations, you now have a podcast! It was a super fast whirlwind, and we’re still learning. But it feels good to have it out there. My favorite part about podcasting is that it’s just such a different medium than I’m used to. I knew nothing about audio previously, and it’s hard, but it’s fun. I feel like it reaches a wider range of people than say, speaking at a conference to only ~100 people. And, self-servingly, I want to know these stats and these stories so that I am better informed when I talk about performance. I wanted my own resource to help better support what I talk about. It helps to have it be on a topic that you genuinely want to learn more about, because you will learn so much.
It’s also amazing once your podcast launches, your brain sort of switches into podcast mode. I’m constantly on the hunt for articles, resources, guests, etc. to help support the podcast. It’s why we started the Slack group. So, again, make sure it’s something you really want to spend the time learning about.
Or, you know, you could just have a totally fun whatever podcast talking to your friends and that would still be satisfying and great and I’d encourage you to do it!!
#####TL;DR: find a co-host you like, a topic you like, and have some fun doing something a lil different.
That video about mic techniques seriously helped Tim and I correct our bad mic behavior in episode 1.