At some point in history, someone told you that you were erm-ing too much. Someone did. Or maybe something happened to convince you that it was a bad thing. Or do we just know instinctively, because ERM is the word most people are afraid of?
Let’s get one thing clear: To “erm” is human. To “erm” repeatedly when you are trying to make a point, can become distracting.
As with all vocal or physical gestures, once you start repeating them THAT’s when they become annoying.
Remember how you saw that guy talking about podcasting at an event and he said “yeh so the audience got so big that I make a living out of this now” and your brain goes: “ooooh maybe I could make a living out of this”… so you make your podcast, you do the work, you put it out there and you wait…
How do you attract listeners? How do you grow your audience? And how on earth do you earn a living out of it?
Over the summer I launched “Everyday Positivity” on Amazon Echo. It’s daily audio, up to 2 minutes, of me doing a piece that breathes positivity into your day with tips, techniques, pep talks, stories. (If you are a radio person it’s basically a “link” every day). I like to think of it a bit like a modern-day “Thought for the Day” with a Life Hack vibe to it.
For the last 4 months, it’s only been available as a Flash Briefing, on the Amazon Echo. As I write this we have just launched as a podcast on “your podcast provider”. I wanted to capture and share with you the audience growth learnings so far from being in this unique, quality controlled space.
To grow audience then:
Get in the space early / Be unique
I jumped on the opportunity to put Everyday Positivity on to Amazon Echo as there’s not much on there at the moment. It reminds me of podcasting about 5 years ago, when the mutterings were that podcasts were good but you know “who’s gonna listen”? Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I am hopeful that by owning some of that original space I can grow a tribe of people who feel like they are part of the movement, and I love them dearly.
I’ve watched many podcasts grow from nothing because they have the benefit of original space. Eggchasers (Mr Cs podcast) was the first Rugby Podcast like it 5 years ago. He treated it like it was a job, and 5 years later he is surrounded by similar podcasts, with big-name presenters, and his podcast is holding strong.
But what do you do if you missed the original space already? My advice would be to just start.
Be unique: Everyday Positivity is short form, and could only be done by me because I use my personal experiences and loves.
Be consistent with your delivery: eg every Monday or monthly, or daily. And commit to a period of time.
Be consistent with your value to your listener: work out your why/mission and stick to it.
2. Get boosts: use influencers and influential platforms
In terms of the growth graph what you should generally see (as long as you are consistent, of value to your listener and you are marketing through the normal channels) is a steady climb. But then there are some things that give you an audience boost, and the climb should then continue again at the same steady rate.
To make “Everyday Positivity” I work with Volley, and they also have a Flash Briefing called “Word of the Day” – it has a huge audience. When I guest on Word of the Day we get a lovely boost in audience. Then we maintain the same growth rate we did before.
Influencers also have an impact. I worked on the weekly Love Island podcast “Undercover Lover” over the summer. We were seeing good listenership until one week it went a bit bonkers. An Instagrammer with a large following had locked themselves out of their house and on their Insta story said they were sat on their doorstep listening to “Undercover Lover”.
Not only did the podcast see the growth that week, but it also impacted on Everyday Positivity too as the presenter of Undercover Lover had Instagrammed about that!
As an aside this “boost and steady” growth is consistent with other platforms. When you look at the graph of BBC Radio 6 Music listenership over the years there is a steady climb, then the station was threatened with shut down, and the listenership got a huge boost. The PR from the outraged listeners was unexpected but saved the station, and then some. They haven’t had a boost like it since, but the steady climb has continued and it’s consistently one of the UK’s top DAB Radio Stations in terms of audience.
3. Get reviews
Launching a podcast is hard work, and the temptation to get in the charts means that you are good at asking for reviews at the start but it tails off. It also feels weird asking for reviews, a little pushy.
The thing is reviews, and 5 star at that, make you more findable*, especially in the Amazon world. So you need to be clear about what you want the audience to do, and why.
I’ve seen success around regularly asking, being honest “you reviews mean that more people can find this Flash Briefing and we can spread positivity far and wide” and being instructional “click on the link and leave a 5 star review – it’s quick and easy”. As always clarity on why and how rules.
I’ll say it time and time again, these tricks work, but consistent growth comes from the consistent performance: delivery and quality. Volley and I work hardest at making sure that Everyday Positivity is there every day when you wake up, and I try to make it so that every episode is fresh and adds value to the audience. Plus, I just really love it. I love the listeners, and I feel like together we can change the world for the better. That’s a pretty good “why” right?
One word has the power to undermine your authority.
The presenter on the radio is telling a story about how he came out of his house to find someone had sprayed hummus over his car. “Hummus?” He said “That’s a very Waitrose style vandalisation! I have arrived” He let it hang… then said the one word that makes me scream at the radio…
I screamed at the radio.
As a presenter, you are an authority.
When you say “Anywaaayy” you are undermining yourself.
It’s one thing to be self-deprecating, or to lose track, but when you are telling your story the word “Anywayyy” gets right in the way.
The solution: just pause and move on to the next thing. Use something else to get you out – some audio, some music, or if you are presenting on stage a new slide.
It often transpires that the presenter hasn’t fully thought the story through, or they didn’t quite believe the story or what they are saying. Have confidence in your content. Make sure you do the prep. And remember just cos you can’t hear them laughing doesn’t mean they aren’t (and that goes for if you can see your audience or not).
When I start many of my video calls I am met with a face of fear as the mic their end isn’t working and they can’t hear me. Then there is a lot of flapping while I am mouthing the instructions at them. Then sometimes people call for the resident tech person and there is more flapping as I watch them blush their way through explaining what they need. Then they find the one button I had been trying to tell them to use and it all of a sudden works, and we are all very relieved.
I see this all the time. Like when I watch people try to present in meeting rooms. You are guaranteed that the console NEVER works when you need it to. You get your laptop out, find the lead you think it is, and you plug it in. “It worked yesterday,” you say to the team. But this time it doesn’t work. So you flap because this is the start of the meeting and you need to get on and you have NO IDEA what to do. You call the resident tech person who sorts it in 2 easy clicks of a button, and everyone is relieved.
Whatever situation you are in, when you speak in public there will be technology to deal with. But for a lot of people, this is a real barrier. Panicking when you see a sound desk in a radio studio can stop you from achieving your dream to be a broadcaster. Not knowing what to do with the PowerPoint set up can add to your nerves before your presentation. And not knowing how to set up your camera can mean that YouTube Channel is never going to happen.
Here is your 4 step guide to becoming a tech whiz;
1. Be Positive and Roll With It
Online Business Guru, Marie Forleo says that when it comes to technology it’s all about “Attitude Not Aptitude”.
Often we tell ourselves we are no good at technology because when it goes wrong we don’t know what to do. More often than not it then goes wrong. Let’s get real though: Tech is bound to go wrong, it’s probably not all your fault, but the solution isn’t coming any quicker if you panic! Just roll with it.
I remember when I was sat upstairs at BBC Radio 6 Music and a pre-recorded show misfired the news. We ran downstairs and started troubleshooting. The best thing for us to do was let the Emergency CD kick in. We all stood there calmly as the silence played for long enough for the CD to kick in. Those few seconds felt like an age! I remember feeling a surge of calm control as the music kicked in and we were able to then work out what to do next.
Before you knew it we were back on air and all was well again. The listeners barely noticed.
It taught me that staying calm and not flapping is the most productive state you can be in, in that situation.
2. Have a Plan B
So the slides stop working in your presentation, or the audio won’t play. Use it as an excuse to tell another story while it’s being sorted. Or go and grab a drink. Or have a line ready for you to get back on track. As part of your prep beforehand, have a plan B for what happens if something falters. Remember if you are comfortable, then the audience is comfortable.
Make sure you always have your presentation on a memory stick, audio on your phone, a Bluetooth speaker, spare batteries – whatever it is that means you can cover for the fact that the tech in the location isn’t working.
3. Keep Checking
If you are filming or recording a podcast with a guest, never leave without checking the audio has recorded. I have had presenters go and record the interviews of their life,
notably with Madonna and with Arctic Monkeys. They return to the station to find they pressed stop instead of record! Keep checking throughout that you are recording and at the end check it’s recorded and sounds OK before you leave the building.
4. Learn It
Take some time to get familiar with the equipment around you. We rely so much on the settings being right and hoping that the tech will just work. Get your resident engineer or tech expert to show you how to do it once and for all. Draw pictures, ask questions. Gather an understanding of inputs and outputs and you’ll find you can troubleshoot a lot of situations.
Also, know your cables. Last week I got a projector with an Ethernet cable plugged into it as if it was an input. I couldn’t get it out! It was in the wrong hole!
And knowing the difference between a phono and a jack will mean you can get the engineer to help you – because you then know some of their language!
Tech is easier than you think, and a bit of training on the fundamentals can really help you in the future.
On that note: If you are a podcaster or budding radio producer/presenter who wants to get a really good grounding in sound, AND get your audio to sound high quality then check out Tech Train 2.0 that I am putting on with Broadcast Engineer Ann Charles in December in Manchester.
It’s for women in radio/podcasting who want to feel like they know what they are doing, and it will help you become completely unflappable. Find out more and get your tickets here.
I hear this a lot. Often it’s something that’s said to avoid a difficult conversation, or an uncomfortable situation in the office. It’s a limiting belief that can mean inauthentic relationships are formed, and that progress on a project is halted.
A few weeks ago I used Emma Willis’ example of holding Roxanne Pallet to account as a “comfortable confrontation”. Emma used some of the techniques I talk about in this article.
For radio presenters “I don’t do confrontation” is the reason given for not holding guests or contributors to account. It’s understandable to feel that way, as you are often thankful for contributors and guests being on your show. Asking difficult questions feels unfair, out of character or ungrateful.
The reality is that difficult conversations are likely to happen every single day on air, or in the office. Here are some of the tips I give to help you through that unavoidable awkwardness, and to get the best from the guest.
1. Make sure you know what you want
Make sure you have a good understanding of what you want out of the conversation before you enter in to it. Set your intent. It might be to be kind, or to get the answers that your audience (or you) deserve. As a result, you will have to ask the question that plays devil’s advocate to get the answer you want.
When interviewing someone on the radio about a Cheese Festival the question: “So what are the reasons people like cheese?” Would get you so far. But “why are you celebrating cheese, it’s just a silly piece of dairy isn’t it?” Could get you a stronger, more interesting answer.
2. Check your language
If going at it directly like this is too uncomfortable, you can distance yourself in your language to take the emotion and the personal attack out of it.
Firstly – argue the idea, evidence or behaviour, not the person. The minute you go to personal language like “you’re an idiot for thinking what you think” you have lost the productivity of the conversation.
A therapist of mine suggested to me to use the word “I” in conflict, rather than “you”. In broadcasting I am constantly telling people to use the word “you” as a way to engage their listener. It’s the most powerful word you can use for this. But in the context of difficult conversations it can be a useful tool to use I: “What I am seeing is <example> behaviour which is implying to me…” rather than “You are a really difficult person”.
On the radio it works to use phrases like “Some people might say that this is a silly Festival for Cheese – is it?” or. “What do you say to someone who says that thinks this Festival is a silly idea?”
3. Agreeing is Partial (not Impartial)
I recently spent a day coaching new radio presenters, practicing their interview technique. Their brief was to remain impartial. Presenter after presenter interviewed their contributor consistently grateful, constantly agreeing with them and guess what – it was dull. That may be unfair, but I didn’t really learn anything from the interviews. It is a common mistake to think that impartiality sits in agreeing. It’s actually the opposite.
In the on air interview, or if you are hosting a panel, it is your job to make sure you are covering the information from all angles. Using the language above (e.g. “Some people might say…”) you can put forward an opinion that may not be yours, without having to attach yourself to it. This can make the feeling of confrontation a little easier.
My husband really enjoys a debate. One time we agreed that we would go out on a family day out at 11am. At about 10.30 he and his aunt got locked into a debate about politics of some sort. We all sat there till 1pm till they came to their conclusion.
I mean, he REALLY loves a debate.
I used to hate it. My skin would crawl. I’d feel shame and discomfort. I would want to hide. And let’s be honest, no one really wants to sit around for 2 hours while you’re waiting for a heated discussion to be finished!
But then I wondered what would happen if I leaned in to it. He loves it, I would be gutted if he dismissed one of the things I love. So I decided to try joining in, rather than shutting it down, and use it as a means of practice. For some people they like the opportunity to intellectually spar, and it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about learning.
Even so, it’s so hard not to get emotional, or take it personally! But with him, I am in a safe space. He knows me, I can get my words wrong, I can correct myself, I can practice what it is to be devil’s advocate, to call things out I don’t agree with. The outcome is I am getting better at forming my words and questions in what can be an emotional state & I am better at speaking up in other situations too. And, I think my husband and I have actually found a place to connect a little more.
So find someone to practice with.
I have had to fire people, I have had to deal with getting people to realise they are making mistakes, and I have had to deal with conversations about my own work and behaviour that have been really tough. In every situation the one piece of advice that has helped is this: it’s supposed to feel uncomfortable.
For years I thought there was “a way” to make the uncomfortable, comfortable. There are ways to make things less uncomfortable, but some conversations are always going to be difficult.
Once I embraced the discomfort, I was able to come to terms with understanding that conflict can be a route to growth, that it was something to practice and commit to getting to a more interesting place.
Chris Evans announced he was leaving BBC Radio 2 on Monday 3rd September. The station has 15 million listeners. He’s moving to Virgin Radio Breakfast, a station with 400,000 listeners.
For radio presenters this sort of rumbling has an enormous impact, whether you present on the station or not. What other changes might this lead to? Does this affect me? For the better? For the worse? Where are the opportunities?
Ultimately, you have to ask yourself, have you done the work to deal with the outcome – whatever it is?
My first hearing of this latest seismic news was a loud “Wow?!” from upstairs as Mr C got the news that Chris Evans would be joining the Virgin Radio family (Tim is the Evening Show Host on the station).
Then I have that mad succession of thoughts… but out loud:
“That’s amazing! Oh wait. What does this mean for you? What is the worst case scenario?… hang on what is best case scenario?! Ahhhh, remember when we used to watch Chris Evans every morning on the Big Breakfast and he was a hero? Wait… hang on… have you called your boss?? Call your boss!”
This is me in “Wife of Presenter” mode. No doubt, these are the thoughts of the presenter too, but they are happening internally! Tim just asks me to stop talking! He is very excited, his mind blown, he’s considering all his colleagues, and then, he phones his boss 🙂
The fact NO ONE saw this seismic shift in the UK radio landscape coming is testament to the News Corp/Wireless team for keeping the gossip mongers out, and it is also a timely reminder that you don’t know what’s going on inside a station boss’s mind!
Anything can happen at any time, so what can you do to be ready for a seismic shift?
1. Build Relationships If you are already in the gig it’s easy to make sure you are building in positive relationships with your boss and your production team. Make a brew, be proactive, have ideas, make stuff better. A coffee and a chat goes a long way. Oh and – don’t be a dick.If you aren’t in a job already – you have some graft to do. Building relationships starts with building familiarity and then getting in front of people. Networking events are good, emailing is good, oh and don’t be a dick.
2. Have Patience and Tenacity You will never get a job or a promotion from randomly sending some audio, once, to your favourite radio station’s boss. A station production team has to trust that you will be able to steer their ship while you are on air, and fit their brand. This trust building takes a long time. Your aim is to make sure that you are next in line. This takes a lot of graft: building relationships, listening to advice, networking and learning.
There is something to be said for being the last man/woman standing, cos while you will get replies that say “No”, you’re more likely to get no reply whatsoever.
Bide your time. Just. Keep. Going.
3. Collect Experience (in audio form) Keep all your best audio. Make it a habit.
It takes time to build your 3 minute demo, the last thing you want is to be starting from scratch with nothing from the last year. A client and I have been working on gathering audio for the last few months, and we have been back and forth regularly about what we need for the demo and what could be better. It will make for a solid showreel as a result.
But it doesn’t have to be about finding the next job…
4. Create Opportunities through Sharing Audio Regularly When you are proud of something you have done, bank it so you can send it to your boss, and other members of your team. Not everyone can listen all of the time. And it is always good for the sales team, or the PR team to know what you are up to. It makes it easier for them to tell the stories to the people they come into contact with.
If you are trying to break in to the industry, send your demo but ask for advice rather than a job, and get feedback.
Make sure you follow up with more audio that has taken that feedback on board. If you don’t get a reply, follow up with more audio anyway. You are aiming initially to build familiarity, and getting your name in the station boss’s inbox regularly will go some way to do that.
5. And Finally… Get Your Finances In Order I know this seems really obvious but it is a lot easier to make decisions about your career, when you aren’t doing it for this month’s bills. While we can’t all be on hundreds of thousands a year, especially when we are just starting out, financial management means you can take risks without the worry of finding the money to pay your rent.
The basics apply – stash some cash away at the beginning of the month for you, allow for the “holiday pay”, keep your receipts, and save 20-25% of it for tax payments. If you don’t have one already, get an accountant!
The person taking over from Chris Evans will, in theory, leave a gap that will need to be filled that will leave a gap that will need to be filled, and so on and so on. It might be that it’s your opportunity this time, it might not. But this is a long game interspersed with seismic shifts, that you will always need to be ready for.