Episode: 10 |
Will Bachman:
Why and How to Start a Podcast:


Will Bachman

Why and How to Start a Podcast

Show Notes

Four reasons why an independent professional might want to start a podcast, and 17 tips on how to get started.

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Will Bachman: Hey there podcast listeners. Welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. I’m your host, Will Bachman.

On our show today we’re going to deviate from our normal interview format, in the lexicon of Tim Ferris, this is an inbetweenisode. Well, I’m new to podcasting myself. I’ve already had a dozen friends ask me, “So, what does it take to create a podcast?” Now, McKinsey, if you did something once you were experienced, if you did it twice, you are an expert, and if you did it three times, you were the global go to thought leader on the topic. While I may be a relative newbie, by real world standards, in consulting terms, I’m a veteran by this point. Let’s talk about why you might want to create a podcast and then how to create one. 

Why create a podcast? Here are my four reasons. 

Number one. To learn about a topic that you find personally interesting. If you’ve listened to some of the other episodes of this show, you’d probably agree that it’d be weird for me to have a conversation, in this style, with a friend. We normally don’t just interrogate someone for an hour unless they are applying for a job, or if they’re an expert and we are paying them to answer our questions. Now, I’m intensely curious, personally, about how to thrive as an independent professional. It’s the career path that I want to pursue for the next five decades. I’m also passionate about helping other people be successful in his path, so I find the podcast is a good excuse for me to grill a peer about all their best practices. Whatever topic you’re interested in, starting a podcast is a good way to engage with experts in the field so you can learn from them. Let’s say you’re interested in the furniture industry. Find out all the companies that show at the high point market, call them up, and ask them if they’d like to be featured. And probably a lot of them would. 

Alright. Number two. To raise your visibility within a given industry niche. So, number one was just about learning your … just for your own personal benefit. This is raising your visibility. You don’t need to have 100,000 listeners for your podcast to be a success. As an independent professional you don’t need a mass market. You probably only need to be known by 500 people, maybe less. If you pick a narrow niche and have all the key people from that niche on your show, you’ll start to get known. Let’s say your consultant focused on, I don’t know, driving lean operations at quick service restaurants. I can’t believe there are too many podcasts focused on that particular topic. You could start that one, and in three months you’ll be a national expert on that category. 

Number three. For me, this is number three, to become a better interviewer. A big part of my own consulting work is conducting interviews, either internally, at my client, or with external experts. Now that I’ve started a podcast, I listen to other interview shows with a deeper level of appreciation. When I listen to Terry Gross on Fresh Air, or Tim Ferriss on The Tim Ferriss Show, I’m looking out for the strategies they use that I can steal. How do they transition from one topic to another without me really noticing it? How do they elicit really compelling stories? Now, if I watch a football game, it’s just the crush of uniformed guys smashing into each other. But for someone who actually played football in high school or college, I imagine that they see all sorts of levels of strategy and tactics at work. That’s the kind of transition that I’ve experienced in my awareness of how to conduct an interview. And that skill is pretty valuable to me in my day job.

Number four. To learn how to work with audio. Most of my work as a consultant is visual, in mostly powerpoint. I’m always trying to figure out how to expand my own toolkit, and I had this idea that it could be really compelling to include more audio and video elements in my work, as tools, to tell stories to my clients and help them make better decisions and help them execute on those decisions. Doing a podcast is one way to get more familiar with how to work with audio content. 

Okay, so how do you create a podcast? It’s pretty easy, really, but once I had the idea, it did take a bit of activation energy to actually get started. Here are 17 steps, some of which might be obvious, and some of which less so, so 17 steps. 

Number one. Pick your topic. Kind of obvious. You want something that you are sufficiently fascinated by, that you’re willing to do a few dozen episodes, or more, over a long period of time. And if you are doing the podcast to raise your visibility, would the topic give you a reason to invite thought leaders in your field, or potential clients, onto your show? 

Number two. Pick an audience. Who is your ideal listener? This is not mass market. You’re not doing your show for everyone. When you identify your ideal listener, you’ll know what abbreviations you need to spell out, for example, and what terms don’t need a definition. If you’re doing a podcast for the Pharma Industry, you don’t need to ask a guest to explain what OTC stands for. In fact, you’d look like an idiot. But for a general audience on the first mention of OTC, let’s say you’re on NPR, it might be nice to say, over the counter, or OTC medications, and so on. 

Number three. Pick a name. Seems obvious, but, try to get one that will show up in a search result. Pharmaceutical Industry Podcast might not be a great choice for a name. Ideally, get a name where you can buy the domain so you can set up a website as well. 

Number four. Get a logo. When you upload your podcast, you’re going to need a logo. You need a square version and a 16×9 ratio version. I got the logo for Unleashed done on crowdSPRING, a design crowdsourcing site. Your mileage may vary. 

Number five. Get equipment. I got the idea to do Unleashed from The Tim Ferriss Show, and so I just followed his advice. For the audio recorder, I bought a Zoom H6, which is a really nice piece of gear. You can get something cheaper. The Zoom H6 costs about $350, but if you’re going to devote a lot of effort to this, you might as well get something that is reliable and durable and apparently Zoom H6 is used by a lot of radio professionals. The Zoom H6 can record six separate tracks of sound. 

Now, a couple months ago I wasn’t even aware of what that … how would that would be useful. When you record your interview, you’re gonna want your voice and your interviewees voice to be on separate tracks. You literally get separate files, one with your voice that has you speaking, and then silence when you’re interviewee is speaking and you’re quiet, and vice versa. That will allow your audio engineer to adjust the volume of the two tracks, as well as do audio engineer stuff to reduce the echo, or fix the timbre, or whatever, to fix the sound quality separately on the two tracks. 

The Zoom H6 is just a recorder, it has no microphone, no permanent microphone. While Tim Ferriss says he does a lot of his interviews over Skype, I wanted to use my iPhone and I couldn’t find any guide online on, technically, how to make that work, so, this is what I did. And if you want a schematic, check out the blog post for this episode on umbrex.com/news, and we’ll upload a diagram so you can follow what I’m about to say. 

From my iPhone 7, I first have a connector with a male lightening that goes into the iPhone and a female 3.5 millimeter connector. Into that 3.5 millimeter connector, I plug a splitter. Now we have two 3.5 millimeter female connectors. Into one of those 3.5 millimeter connectors I plug an old school iPhone headset. Into the other one I plug a 3.5 millimeter male to xlr cable. That xlr plugs into track one on the Zoom. That cable is carrying my interviewees voice, which gets recorded on track one. Now, I’ve got a Shure microphone, that’s S-h-u-r-e microphone, which costs about a hundred bucks, sitting in a desk stand on my desk, with a cable connecting it to track two on the Zoom. That is what captures my voice that you hear on the show on track two. 

I speak into this microphone, and by the way, you also want to get this black fuzzy thing that goes on the top of it to reduce the little pops and cracks. I speak into that microphone and the Zoom can record me, but I also speak into that old school iPhone headset I mentioned, so the interviewee can hear me through my phone. So, I’m talking into two microphones. I also have an earphone cord plugged into the earphone jack on the Zoom, and I have that in one ear, and that allows me to monitor what the Zoom is actually recording. It lets me here both tracks at the same time, so I can hear my voice and the interviewees voice as the Zoom does. It’s all a bit of a kludge, and there are probably better ways to hook it up, but I could not find one on the Internet, so it’s the best I could do.

For in person interviews, I use a second Shure microphone, cable and stand. However, I am going to look into getting a clip on microphone. I heard that’s what Ira Glass does when he … so that an interviewee just forgets that she’s being recorded when you have a clip on mic and that way you can have more open conversation. 

Now you want to do a trial run of your podcast equipment. You may think you have it all set up, so call someone and do a test phone call recording. I’m glad I did that. My first setup did not work at all. I had to run to the AT&T store, ran home, bought a different cable, and did a second trial run. Eventually, I had to call my dad four times that day before the setup worked. Now that you’ve got it all set up, draw a picture of your setup so that you don’t forget it. 

Number six. Write a list of questions. Kind of obvious. When you ask someone to be on your show, they’re going to ask you what questions you want to ask them, so write a list of the topics you’d like to cover. And you can always ask the interviewee if there are topics that aren’t on the list that she would like to get into. 

Number seven. Get an audio engineer. You can do the audio editing yourself, I suppose, but I think it makes a ton of sense to get the help of a professional who does this for a living. You’ve heard, in the credits, that Dave Nelson is our audio engineer, and I couldn’t do the show without his help. Here is how we work together. I’ve previously recorded the standard intro and outro for the show, so Dave has those two files. He also has the music file. So. Okay. I record the interview. Here’s a little bit of peek behind the curtain. If I flub a question, or the Fedex guy comes to the door of my interviewees house, or we have some other interruption, we say, just while we’re recording, “Dave, cut out that last question,” or “Dave, stop it.” “Okay. Dave, let’s start.” After I record the interview, I record the introduction to the interview, like, our guest today is so and so and here’s how to contact them, here’s what we talk about. 

Alright, so I record those two things. Then I put, on dropbox, the files for the interview and the file for the introduction, and I email Dave. “Hey Dave. There’s a new interview uploaded.” Dave and I share the dropbox folder so when he gets the email, when he gets to it, he listens to the whole thing, he cuts out all my flubbed questions, and any other interruptions. He balances the audio and he does all the other audio engineer stuff to make it sound as good as it possibly can. He also then tacks on the general intro and the episode intro and the outro and he puts in the music that you hear and he saves it all back to dropbox as a single file, a single MP3 file. I then send that link to my interviewee so he or she can listen to the full show and request any edits. On my show I’m not trying to do any gotcha stuff, and if someone accidentally mentions a client name that should have been sanitized, I want to give them a chance to get that part cut out. Once I get the go ahead, we publish the episode. 

You could learn how to do the audio engineer stuff yourself, I suppose, but editing a one hour episode gotta take Dave at least 90 minutes. And for me it’s more fun to record another episode in that amount of time. And also, just to give Dave more work. 

Number eight. Get music. I hope you like our shows theme song. Dave suggested that it’d be nice to have a short bit of music to make it feel like a real show. My solution was to ask my friend, the musician and composer Gary Negbaur, if he happened to have anything off the shelf that I could use. He was incredibly gracious and let me use a song he had composed and performed, the title of which is Waltz for Tara. I’m not sure who Tara is. If you’d like the short bit of tune that you here, please do look for Gary’s albums on iTunes, or wherever you get your music. Search for Gary Negbaur. That’s in N-e-g-b-a-u-r. He’s got some great albums out there. 

Number nine. Get accounts on Libsyn, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and TuneIn. The way it works is that you will upload your completed audio file to just one website that hosts your files. There are probably lots of sites that do this, and one of the biggest is Libsyn, and that’s what I’m using. And that’s spelled L-i-b-s-y-n. You need to pay, but it isn’t that much. I think it’s like 20 bucks a month. You create your account on Libsyn. Then you create an account on iTunes, which you do by going to podcastsconnect.apple.com, or just Google, publish a podcast on iTunes, and that’ll take you to the site. You’ll be asked to enter the RSS feed from your podcast on Libsyn, which is why you need to do the Libsyn first. Basically, when someone goes on iTunes and downloads your podcast, iTunes is telling their device to pull the file from Libsyn. Now you’re going to create accounts on Stitcher, and Google Play, and TuneIn, pretty much the same way you did with iTunes, so Google, publish a podcast on Stitcher, and it’ll take you to the right site. Don’t wait till the last minute to do this, the day that you want to go live, because it can take a day or two for iTunes, and these other sites, to approve your podcast, so do it a few days in advance. 

Number 10. Create a pre-call checklist. Pilots, who have flown thousands of times, still use a checklist every time they get in a cockpit. Check out The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, for a fantastic book on the subject of checklists. If you don’t use one, chances are that someday you will forget something stupid and you’ll have interviewed some senior thought leader and have no audio to show for it, so to save yourself from that crisis, use a checklist. Here is my checklist. 

Memory card is plugged into the Zoom. Zoom is turned on. Number three, there is plenty of space left on the memory card. The Zoom tells you how many minutes are remaining. Number four, the Zoom has fresh batteries, or is plugged into the wall outlet. Number five, all cables are firmly attached. Number six, tracks one and two are both selected to record shows, they show up as red. Number seven, I hit record before I dial the persons number. That way they don’t start talking for a while and forget to record the call. So, my checklist has seven things. I do it before every episode. And hopefully that will avoid me doing something stupid. 

Number 11. Identify potential guests and invite them, and keep a tracker. Kind of obvious I suppose, but, as you make a list of guests … as you go on, you may have 20, 30, 40, … the names expand … go on, and people will respond back to you that this month isn’t great but the middle of next month. So you some system for just keeping track of all the people that you’ve invited and if they said yes, or give me a month, or I’m not interested, or whatever, so you don’t ping the same person twice. 

Number 12. Record at your first episodes. Congratulations. You are ready to start recording. Go for it. 

Number 13. Build a stockpile of episodes. I launched Unleashed with just one episode online, and I’ve been told that best practice would have been to build up an inventory of about 10 episodes and launch them all at once. That way, apparently, you get better search engine optimization, and when you make your big announcement to all your friends of your new podcast, if you just have one podcast episode sitting there, it looks lonely. Consider building up an inventory of episodes so you can launch with a bunch at one time. And then, you also want to have several in reserve so that you can be sure to consistently publish one every period, whether you’re going to publish daily, or weekly, or every two weeks, or whatever. You want to have several episodes in reserve lined up, ready to go. And on Libsyn you can schedule the publication dates, you can line it up in advance and have it already queued up and in the queue ready to go. 

Number 14. Publish your first episode. In addition to the auto file, you’re going to want to write up some show notes, and on Libsyn it’s pretty self explanatory. You upload your file, you put in the show notes, and you hit publish.

Number 15. Wait a couple of hours. So before you make your big announcement, wait. It can take an hour or two for the episodes to sync and go live everywhere on Stitcher and Google Play and iTunes. 

Number 16. Embed the podcast on your website, if you have one. If you have a blog or website, you may want to embed the podcast episode there, and Libsyn has this simple embed code you copy and paste into your html

Number 17. Make your big announcement. Announce it on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, your email list, or whatever. I’m not really an expert at this. I’ve been announcing episodes of Unleashed on Linkedin, but not making a huge fuss about promoting the podcast so far. Perhaps you can give me some tips. Right now I’ve been more focused on just creating episodes that I hope you like and trying to get better at it. 

So, that’s it. It’s all simple stuff. If you start a podcast, I would love to hear about your experience. Send me a link to your show and any advice you’d add to these 17 points. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. 

The mission of Umbrex is to create opportunities for independent management consultants to meet, share lessons learned and collaborate. I’d love to get your feedback and hear any questions that you’d like to see us answer on this show. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. That’s U-m-b-r-e-x.com. 

If you found anything on the show helpful, it would be a real gift if you would let a friend know about the show and take a minute to leave a review on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. And if you subscribe, our show will get delivered to your device every Monday. Our audio engineer is Dave Nelson. Our theme song was composed by Gary Negbaur. And I’m your host, Will Bachman. Thanks for listening.

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