Guest booking – avoiding some huge mistakes

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Episode 11 – Full transcript


  1. OBS Studio
  2. That list of podcast ideas in that post
  3. Gimlet Academy podcast

Full transcript

Episode 11

So the idea was set, right?

The show structure was ready, right?

I was ready to start booking guests for my new hit podcast, but then I stopped because there was something very wrong and that’s what this show this week is all about. Hello and welcome to “Can I Make a Hit Podcast”.

Last year I almost quit podcasting for good after several failed attempts, but I decided to give it one more go and I’m trying to find out whether someone with a full time job and a laptop can still make a hit podcast, which rivals the big production companies. And I’m documenting the journey in this podcast and sharing what I learn. I’m updating Instagram and Twitter as well on almost daily basis.

At @hitpodcast2020. The username is @hitpodcast2020

First of all a big welcome if you’re listening for the first time. Thank you very much for all the new people who are following me on social media and for all the many listens that seem to be happening now on this podcast.

Before I talk about guests though, I just wanted to mention one of the social media updates I did earlier this week, because I think there was a really interesting point that came out of it. I was going cycling in the countryside on a mountain bike and as I was riding around, I realized that there are podcast ideas absolutely everywhere.

I was riding through this ancient landscape in Britain, where there are stones that are in fact older than Stonehenge, and there’s like this man-made hill and all this. You’ll see it, if you saw the video on social media.

And it just struck me that there was me getting all excited about cycling amongst history? Well, there was a podcast idea in itself.

I started having a look around a bit later on in the day, and I saw on Facebook that someone had asked a question in a podcast group and it said, “give us your podcast topic?”

the list was huge. And as I started scanning through all the comments in there, I started to notice all the different niches that you can go into. So for example, like

– the history of ultra running or this one I really liked, which was.

– how to scare millennials? What a great topic?

– Geo caching

– Sexy and scandalous people from history .

– Another one I did like the idea of was, how to find your ancestors through ancestry DNA. I presume that is a service that it’s promoting, but still its another nice niche topic.

And this all made me think of what Gimlet said and I’ve talked about it in the podcast before about the need to make a story about a book within the library and not the section in the library.

Richard: So you don’t go to the section about nuns. You go into the section, which is about nuns, but then you look for the book about why they get up at a certain time of morning or why they wear the clothes they do? And it’s those books that make a good podcast episode.


Also the topics that were in that list that didn’t interest me because you know mentally as you read them you started to drift off. here’s a couple of the ones that I saw.

One was men’s health. It’s like, okay but what does that mean? Again, think about it. It’s that library section. What within men’s health?

Breaking stigmas was another topic someone said, and it’s like, what?

Marketing, now there’s a huge wide scope.

Entrepreneurship, another one that’s so overdone and it’s like, well, what about it? Why should I listen to that particular thing?

But it also made me think, well, is my topic too vague?

If you’ve not been following this show so far, then if you listen back to the previous episodes, you’ll hear that I’m working on a idea for a show, which is about over forties refusing to get old. Now that in itself is pretty vague.

So I started thinking about this and I narrowed it down and the title that I came up with and not necessarily the one that I’m going to release a show with, but the one that kind of summed up, what I’m trying to do is, “what is the secret of staying young forever?”

And of course, it’s not quite that because it’s not sort of keeping your body biologically young forever, but it’s certainly a more engaging title and it says far more than just saying “over forties, refusing to get old”. It says more about what you’re actually going to get by listening to the podcast.

So that helped me this whole process of what I was going through, seeing all these different ideas out there and reading on Facebook about all the different suggestions helped me to define a little bit better, what it was my show was about.

If you want to follow my social media updates, by the way, there I’m putting stuff out almost every day in fact more than once a day at times. And you can find me on Twitter and on Instagram and also on Facebook, if you can find me on Facebook, the username is @hitpodcast2020, thats @hitpodcast2020 and I would love to hear your comments and conversation.

Thanks, especially by the way to Neil Veglio this week, I listened to his podcast The Mourning DJ, a radio dramagy, and it was very funny listening to it over lunch. So thank you for his comments and thoughts this week. I would love to engage with you as well.

Oh, one more thing about guests just before I move on to this whole topic I wanted to go out this week is that the previous episode was all about remote recording and it was all focused on sound quality and about getting a studio quality interview when you weren’t actually in a studio but I was listening to some of the big production companies, again, like This American Life and Gimlet as well and a lot of their interviews actually, aren’t done in studio quality. A lot of them are done on the phone, but phone alone clearly isn’t enough.

But if you’re doing this sort of edited, narrative podcast, rather than just having one long interview, I think in, certainly get away with having some quality interviews and some which are done over the phone. So I don’t think it’s quite as important as I was talking about last week, but it’s still important to get some of that studio quality.

Right. Let’s move on to guests because this is something that took me two weeks to work out, which is why I didn’t have a podcast episode last week. So two weeks ago, basically I sat down on my sofa with a laptop.

and I prepared to start booking guests, but something was really niggling me. I’d already thought about the guests that I needed. So I was pretty sure that was clear. I needed people over 40 who were refusing to get old and boring. Right?

But there was still something missing. I tried to write a description that I could put out on social media to appeal to these people, but it was just impossible.

I wrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it.

And I realized that I needed to get more information and then it struck me again, the Gimlet Academy podcast. Sorry, I keep talking about this, but this is the. the series that really inspired me on all this and this whole focus on story. And I listened again to that particular episode and I realized that the definition of the guests that I need, is not some vague sweeping statement of a general type of person over fourty, but someone who can deliver on the story and the emotional arc, I’m going to explain this in a sec that I need to deliver for the show to actually get an audience to engage with it.

So my audience are not going to engage with it because I’ve got people on who are over 40 refused to get old and boring.

They’re only going to engage with it if those guests provide the story and the emotional arc that will engage my audience.

So this then really got me thinking. Whoa! How the heck do I do this?

So I started to define my, my story arc, my emotional arc, and I don’t mean a sort of beginning, middle and end in that simple way. I mean, a genuine emotional ride for the audience through the series.

You know, I need to take people on a journey and leave them desperate to hear what happened as it goes along. So one of the ways I need to do that, is, I need to make a promise to the listener at the beginning of the show, the first episode but it’s a promise that I will only actually resolve and deliver on right at the end of the series. And that then creates an emotional tension that keeps people engaged throughout.

So tension in a sense is it’s the things that you don’t say . So you set a scene at the beginning of your, first episode, but there’s bits missing or there’s, it’s suggesting that there’s some thing that isn’t quite being explained and it’s that emotional tension that gets us listening to that story as it then builds?

So let me run through the story arc the emotional arc. Okay. So we’ve obviously got to have a beginning. So that’s the moment that everything changed. What were they doing before hand where they living a boring life? Are they starting to get old?

And what was it that actually made them change? Then part two would be getting old disgracefully. So this was the fun they had after they decided to change, but hinting at problems to come. So, it’s gotta be an upbeat episode, Its gotta be something that makes you go, “Oh gosh, I could do that too”. But also a suggestion that there were actually some challenges involved.

And then the next episode, those challenges . Why staying young, isn’t always good? You know, is it, is it that the partners couldn’t relate to them? Is it that friends couldn’t relate to them anymore because all of a sudden they were doing this new activity that seemed to be something for young people or not for someone of their age.

So they’ve got to overcome that challenge. Then, the benefits that they didn’t realize that they were going to get. So again, I want to lift the story back up on an upbeat towards the end here now.

And then I finished off the whole show by delivering on the promise of the show. So the secret of eternal youth a positive, upbeat, last section with the advice from the guests on how you as a listener could do the same as them and stay young.

So you’ve got an emotional journey that I’m developing through there.

I put that out as a graphic, by the way, on social media as well.

Now I can’t deliver this story myself. I can’t just talk this, so I have to have my guests deliver it.

Now they may not be able to tell me all those five points. Each guest may not be able to, but this is what I’m having multiple guests and the only guests who, to put it bluntly who are going to be any use to me at all, are those who can at least deliver several of those elements.

Someone who’s over 40 whose done something interesting is not good enough. I need someone who can deliver one of those if I’m to take my listeners on a journey.

So I then the next thing I needed to do was to redo my questions, which I did originally, which were too vague to make it far more clear so that I would get these elements I needed.

So let’s take the first part. Okay.

” The moment everything changed”. Question one for example is what were you doing in your life before that?

What was happening? Describe it. Were you getting sad or depressed I need to get the guest to describe how they felt so that the listeners can feel that through their eyes. And then I need them to describe the moment that everything changed.

You know, what happened?

What did they see?

Was it someone walked in that day? Did they have an accident? You know, what was it that actually happened? And I need my guests to describe that again, so that we can go on that journey with them.

So I wrote it down. I won’t go through all the questions here, but I wrote down a series of questions that would allow me to get each of those elements that I need in order to tell my story.

So that bit was all done. Right? Fantastic. So I had got my definition of my emotional arc. I’ve got the questions I need to ask my guests in order to be able to get my story. The next thing I realized that I need to do though, is to actually now write a description for social media and for putting out anywhere to actually get these guests on board.

And again, this was not as easy as I thought.

How do you condense? What, how many questions have I got? Let me just have a quick look in my notes here. There’s what about, uh, 8, 16, I’ve got about, probably about 35 questions. How can I condense that down into a tweet that I can put out on social media?

This was a challenge. I sat down and I spent literally two days doing this and again, talking about my social media, there was a, I actually put a GIF on there of me holding my head because I was doing so much of this.

I what I came up in the end was with a compromise. I decided to record a video and then write a short intro that would go into that video, which I could then link them both on social media.

So a short sentence or a short couple of sentences, and then a video to go with it. And I thought this was kind of probably the best balance. The other thing I wanted to show on there as well in a video was, my credibility. Because I think one of the challenges of getting guests is going to be saying why they should come on. And I think if you’ve got a video and you, uh, and I’m guessing here, but this is what I’m trying if you’re smiling on there and you’re looking confident and you’re sounding like, you know what show you’re trying to make, hopefully it will get people engaged.

So let me try this out in here. What I’m gonna do is I’m going to read out the actual tweet and then I will play the video clip and see what you think of this.

here’s the treat I will put out or the, or the main comment. Okay.

Podcast guests requested. Over 40? Refusing to get old and boring or know someone like that? Did you have a midlife moment and took up a new hobby or lifestyle? Looking for people to share the secret of staying young at heart for a new podcast. And then the email address

Now here’s the video clip that hopefully people then we’ll click and play and listen to.

So, what do you think? In fact, I think even listen to that now, I think I can actually condense it down more. This is problem, you keep rewriting it.

By the way, if you want to make a video like that, I used a free bit of software, which is called OBS studio. It’s opensource again, anyone can use it and I used a green screen. And if you search around on like eBay, you can find green screens now, like 10 british pounds, 20 British pounds. So that’s, you know, it’s going to be very similar in U S dollars for example, or any other currency, very cheap.

You just get the right color, OBS studio removes that color for you.

One luxury I do actually have here is it because I’m editing the interviews with clips rather than having like a, you know, a 30 minute interview is that I can pick and choose the bits out of those interviews that I want to make my story. So for example, if I did a 30 minute interview, I might only use five minutes of it. I might only use three minutes of it so I can get the bits I want, but I still don’t want to interview the wrong people and not get those three minutes I need.

If you’re interested, by the way on that video, set up very happy to share it on social media or with you if you want to message me in one of the comments in one of my posts.

but here’s the point. Then the last two weeks have been about trying to work out how to get the right guests. What I failed to realize was that finding the right guests was never about just hitting the phones or reaching out to contacts and getting anyone on board that seemed to fit the category.

It’s about clearly identifying the story that I need to deliver and then finding guests who will fit that.

Now, it seems really laborious this, but if you think about it, story really is everything. Gimlet Academy again, teaching me that. Story is addictive. It makes people listen. You know, I listened to that…um… alabama democratic party podcast. I don’t care about the Alabama democratic party and yet I spent two and a half hours of my time because I was hooked to it.

So if I don’t get guests who will leave my listeners wanting to listen to my show and hooked to it, then I might have, well, have never booked the guests in the first place. And I certainly won’t be making a “hit” in quotes podcast.

So the next step then is to actually get this message out and then start reaching out to potential guests. And one of the ways you’re doing that is obviously going to be through social media, through personal contacts as well. And I’m going to document it all as you would expect on my feeds throughout the week.

You know, one of the things I thought about this journey is the, I thought being a former journalist, this whole process would be relatively easy for me. But there’s a lot I need to learn. And clearly we all need to learn about modern podcasting if were to make a hit show, particularly now to compete against some of these big production companies. I mentioned before, I used to make three radio packages in that hour for radio news. And that means there was no time for you know, music or sound effects or, or more importantly great editing. if it needed to go in 10 minutes time, it went out in 10 minutes time, even if it wasn’t great. But if you listen to Ira Glass, you know, the real icon of This American Life podcast, you realize how much time is spent in “the edit”. Months sometimes not 10 minutes.

Now IRA glass has clearly got a huge amount of experience and I’m realizing that I’m lacking in that way. But in a funny way, even if this first podcast isn’t a hit, I think it will be incredibly useful because we’ll be able to learn a lot of lessons from it. And then we can keep changing it and keep adapting it through this show, “Can I make a hit podcast” until hopefully we can find out the secret of making a “hit” show?

So that’s it for this week. I hope you found this show useful. It has been two weeks since I made the last podcast. So this show has had a lot of information in it. I will of course carry on documenting everything on social media @hitpodcast2020, that’s @hitpodcast2020 and I will be putting all the extra details into the podcast next week. But the next part of this process now is to start reaching out to guests and finding out where I can reach them.

How can I get these good quality guests that I need if I’m to have any hope of making a great show.

I want to finish on my standard line, which is this, that there is a lot of advice out there saying you can still make a hit podcast in the 2020s. If it’s right, then you and I could be making one by the end of the year. Speaktoyou next week.

Published by Richard

25 years in the communications business. Former news editor, journalist, political public relations professional, social media content creator, and podcast host of

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