Why You Should (Still) Start a Podcast, Even Though There Are Thousands Already Out There
Podcast listenership is growing, and can be surprisingly valuable in building your career. Here are surprising ways podcasting can benefit you, in addition to audience growth.
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New shows hit iTunes every day. At this point, everyone is starting a podcast, or talking about starting one. The good news is that listenership is still increasing, and people are on the lookout for new shows. Overall, it's still a good time to create a show, and for more reasons than you might think.
Last year, I started a show dedicated to parents and entrepreneurs. There were already hundreds of shows out there for parents, and for startups, but not as many shows specifically for entrepreneurial parents. Today, nearly one year later, I've recorded more than one hundred episodes of the show. While it's not a simple project--podcasts take time, energy, and investment--it can be a worthwhile. Here's how starting a podcast might boost your career:
1. Public speaking practice.
Speaking and distilling your ideas into clear, concise, and well-told nuggets is not easy. Just like stand-up comedians practice their sets over and over again--Chris Rock and Ali Wong come to mind--public speaking is a skill that's honed over time.
Weekly podcasting has helped me to get focused, clear about my ideas, and articulate in my questions. Talking through ideas is great prep work for anyone who wants to do panels, public speaking, or press interviews.
2. An iterative, rapid learning cycle.
Many projects have a long turnaround time, which can take a while to get feedback. A book, for example, can be a multiple-year project. A podcast, in contrast, can be relatively quick to ship and get feedback on. Each week after releasing an episode, I get emails in response and learn, in real-time, from fellow parents and business owners about what's resonating.
3. Improve your audio storytelling.
I was not prepared for how much I would dive into the audio format of storytelling and geek out about music, sound editing, and story construction. It turns out we listen very differently than we read, and repetition, pauses, intonation, and break points are all important rhythmic elements to a show. Listening to other great storytelling shows (like This American Life, or Serial) teaches me just how beautiful a story arc can be.
4. Better interviewing skills.
Getting a great story from someone isn't always easy. You have to establish trust, navigate the conversation, allow space for people to go deeper, and ask the right questions.
Tim Ferriss has a list of favorite questions in his book, Tribe of Mentors, and Michael Bungay Stanier has seven great questions in The Coaching Habit. Krista Tippett, the host of the On Being podcast, is also a phenomenal question-asker. Learning to ask better questions is a life skill that helps you connect with others, hire great people, and dig into more meaningful conversations.
5. Better listening skills.
"What's the greatest trick you've used to become a better interviewer?", I asked my friend Srinivas Rao.
"Close all your tabs and applications and turn your computer dark," he said immediately. "You have to just listen."
I wondered if he took notes while interviewing.
"Nope," he said. "Just get better at listening."
Over hundreds of hours I've learned how to slow down, be more in the moment, and really listen to what the person on the other end of the microphone is saying. It takes a lot more energy and focus than, say, scrolling social media on my phone, and it's worth it.
6. Build meaningful community.
When you start a series of conversations around a specific topic, it's likely you'll build a community of people interested in joining the conversation. Beyond your audience, however, are your peers--podcasting has opened up a fellow network of audio geeks learning about the craft alongside me.
7. Networks of brilliant people.
One of the more surprising outcomes of the podcast is the network effect of connecting with so many wise individuals. If I had reached out and asked many of these folks for an hour of their time to talk, many likely would have declined.
But as the host of a show that reaches a wider audience, people are more willing to collaborate and share their ideas with me in service to the listeners. Having long-form, in depth conversations with brilliant people has been one of the highlights of my last year. By having a show, I've been able to connect to more people than I otherwise would have.
Want to become a better listener, get more connected to others, be better at asking questions, practice your public speaking skills, and get feedback week over week on your performance?
If yes, consider starting a podcast. It's a great sandbox for learning new ideas and practicing your skills. Don't think of a podcast just as a marketing tool or a growth engine (of course, it likely will be both)--it's also a tool you can use to improve yourself.