Preparation for any talk or interview is essential to have a smooth flow in your program or show. You have to know how to capture your audience in a way that would still deliver value to them on a specific topic. Join Dr. Diane Hamilton and Jim Fyfe as they delve into delivering talks or speeches in the best ways possible. Jim Fyfe is an actor, writer, producer, director, and now a personal presentation coach. In this episode, he will share his personal experiences and decisions on why he chose the Hollywood direction and then the professional direction he is taking now. He elaborates on strategies for giving great presentations, so you can deliver great value to your audience. What is more, Diane then shares what the conversation made her realize and taught her when it comes to her show.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Jim Fyfe here. Jim is a Personal Presentation Coach. He’s coached successful TED Talk authors, including Susan Cain whose book, Quiet, led to an unbelievable TED Talk that received more than 25 million views. I’m excited to talk to him. After we talk to him, I’m going to give you a little information about how to create a radio show and podcast. This is going to be quite the show for people who are interested in speaking, doing TED Talks, doing radio and so much more.
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Crafting Great Talks And Presentations To Deliver Value To The Audience With Jim Fyfe
I am here with Jim Fyfe who is a Personal Presentation Coach. He has coached clients from business, medicine, arts, education for TED and TEDx Talks, including Susan Cain, whose TED Talk has drawn over 25 million views. He was consulting producer on the Bravo TV series, Andy Cohen’s Then and Now, and the segment producer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He’s done so much. Welcome to the show, Jim. It’s nice to have you here.
I was looking forward to it. You have such an interesting background. I know you’ve done everything from theater and as far as late-night shows. You’ve worked as a writer, performer, producer, director, you name it. Over twenty years in that realm. Now you’re helping people do a lot of the presentation things that you’re used to doing. This is going to be great. I want to get a backstory because I know that you’ve done many things. I want to know what led to your interest in going in the Hollywood direction and then this direction.
First of all, this is great. I’m thrilled to be on your show. Thanks for inviting me. I was like a lot of little kids. I was putting on plays in my basement when I was in fourth grade. I started doing plays in high school. I was bitten by the bug. I wanted to be an actor. My parents, after making a little bit of noise about how insane a choice that is, let me. I went off and majored in theatre and speech at a small college in Pennsylvania. I was lucky enough to get out of there and begin getting some work in New York City. Over time, I started getting more work in theater and that led to Broadway. That led to a little bit more television and film. I did that until the early ’90s.
I then moved my family to Los Angeles and I was doing TV and film full-time during most of the ‘90s. Somewhere along there, I fell out of love with being an actor. I didn’t want it anymore. I was able to support my family the whole time but I didn’t want it anymore. I wasn’t sure what would replace it. I began to write and produce a little bit in television and I thought that was going to be the direction I was going. In the early 2000s, a bunch of things happened, not the least of which was that my late wife was diagnosed with cancer. I had to rethink things in a big way. I ended up as a classroom teacher. I ended up teaching history, which I don’t even have a degree in, in an independent school.
One thing that I tell younger people is you never know what you’re being trained for. I was going away from acting and more towards personal presentation, presenting information and stories in a way that’s going to connect with people, and more to the point that’s going to be useful to other people. Being an actor, you have to have to be me. As I was growing and maturing, I was going in a direction that was more about you or them. I began teaching classroom stuff and then the personal presentation coaching fell in my lap when I got a call about, “I have to give this talk and I’m terrified. Can you help me?” That’s how it started.
I bet you get a lot of those now. Many people are freaked out about giving TED Talks. I’ve had some of the best speakers on my show, but they said that that’s a little different when you have to have a specific exact amount of time and memorize in a way. It’s a lot different than the traditional standing on a stage in front of a corporation talk.
In the end, you have something to say and you figure out how best to say it. That’s all I do. That’s on my website. If you have something to say, I’m here to help you say it. If you’re focused on, “What do I have to say? What do I need to say today to these people?” You’re then keeping your eye on the ball. You’re keeping your focus on where it’s going to be most productive. The problem is in a high-stress environment like giving a talk or giving a TED Talk. You get over-focused on all this other stuff. You take your eye off the ball. The ball is, “What do I need to say?” If you keep it on that, a lot of other problems can be dealt with much more easily.
It’s like golf, there are all these things they’re trying to tell you at once and then you’re not looking at the ball. I saw a video with Susan Cain and you said, “Tell the truth.” That’s what people want to hear. I know Susan did well. Her book, Quiet, was great. I loved it. I interviewed Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments and he said it changed his life. Susan’s work has been inspirational. She’s not a super dynamic person. I’ve watched her in person. I loved her because she was very much who she is. She doesn’t try to be Robin Williams or somebody else. A lot of people like Zig Ziglar or like certain people and they try to be that. Is that a big mistake?
It is a big mistake. You’re right. You’re there to tell the truth and that implies you’re there to tell what’s true for you. In a TED Talk, there’s almost always some personal element to it. You’re trying to bring the audience closer to you or get closer to them by sharing something of yourself. Everybody is the world’s leading authority on them, your thoughts and your feelings. If you keep your focus on that and knowing who you are, that’s what’s great. If you are trying to be something that you’re not authentically, the audience will know and they’ll disconnect from your message. You have to speak as yourself.
Luckily, we’re living in a time when even someone with a quiet speaking voice or who’s not demonstrative, the technology of wearing a microphone that’s right next to your mouth or that’s attached to your chest. You don’t have to do things that are speakers in an earlier era had to do. Technology is going to help you if you’d let it. Another part of what I do is helping people understand what they have to do and what they don’t have to do.
In some talks, there’s a lot of back and forth. On a TED stage, it’s all one-sided. I know a lot of people who are reading give speeches where there’s Q&A. I know you’ve taught improv until COVID. Are you back to teaching it again or not?
Not yet. If everybody in the world took an improv class once a year, things might be much better. It’s about rolling with what is happening right in front of you. That’s all it is.
Yes, and. I took one before COVID and it was the most fun. I was in sales for decades. You had to know improv in some respects. You had to be positive and go in another direction. It’s almost like, “Here are my keys. Look over here,” as you would with a baby. What’s the show? I love those guys.Life changes. It’s just about rolling with what is happening right in front of you. Click To Tweet
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
I could watch those guys all day. There are some great people who I’m sure you’ve witnessed who are able to improvise. Robin Williams was amazing as Jonathan Winters. Was there anybody who stood out in your mind as being great at that?
A great American actor who got his start doing improv and people tend to forget is Alan Arkin. Alan Arkin was an original member of The Compass Players in the 1950s. Mike Nichols who became a major American director and his partner, Elaine May, improv has already existed, but they were taking and they were molding it into a very specific form of entertainment. It has a lot to offer in terms of everyday life of saying yes to whatever is happening. I respect all those people. Many years ago, I was lucky enough to see some of those original people from the late ’40s and ’50s who had created what we think of like improv. They came to New York and they did a show.
People like Paul Dooley and Severn Darden are people who were present at the creation of American improv. What was impressive to me was that none of those people was trying to hop the spotlight. One great thing about improv is it’s collaborative. If you’re standing there doing all the talking and your partner is not actively participating in the scene, it’s not real improv. It’s stand up with a special guest star. The people that did this with integrity were team players. The scene didn’t exist unless it existed between two people if that makes sense.
Alan Arkin came to mind, So I Married an Axe Murderer. He cracked me up in that. He’s been in many wonderful things. He’s a great actor. I was thinking of my favorite shows when I was young. I used to love to watch The Dick Van Dyke Show, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks stuff, all of those. It’s a little different now. I was watching one of your talks about how Tim Conway would crack up when they’re on The Carol Burnett Show and all that stuff. You were impressed by Will Ferell, Kristen Wiig, and the people who stay completely dedicated and focused. That’s got to be hard when everybody’s saying funny things around you.
It’s the same thing as I would say to a speaker which is, “What are you here to do? Are you here to enjoy yourself? That’s nice, but you can do that at home for free.” The Tim Conway thing, even as a little kid, I was like, “This is fun to watch one time, but they did this last week and now I’m cracking up again. Are these people getting paid a lot of money for this to entertain me and not to entertain themselves?” It’s a pet peeve of mine. The people that I admire are those people who are focused on what they’re there to do. It’s the same thing with a speaker.
Do you think it’s like how Jimmy Fallon would crack up? Are they doing it for real? Are they cracking up? Are they playing to the audience trying to make them laugh at them laughing?
I have no idea what Jimmy Fallon’s like. I’ve never met him. I can tell you that when Stephen Colbert cracks up on air and can’t get through something, he truly is cracking up. He’s got great discipline and not for nothing. He comes out of the improv world of Chicago too.
What things would make him crack up?
People he knew. When Steve Carell came on the show, they can’t even look at each other on stage without cracking up.
It’s fun to watch comedians. I’m sometimes disappointed when they interview them though. They’re serious. I heard Will Ferrell once on Howard Stern. Maybe he didn’t like Howard. He was serious and he hardly would answer the questions. I’ve seen him on other things where he’s super outgoing and funny. I’m wondering, what’s the real side? Do you think some of them put on a side for talk shows? Are we seeing the real people?
I produced over 100 segments on that show or something like that. I produced Will Ferrell, Ted Cruz, Elvis Costello, lots of different people. There are lots of people who come in. Especially the actors or comedians sometimes will have a shtick that they do that they know how to do or that works for them. Other people come in wide open and like, “We’ll talk about whatever you want.” It’s different. Will Ferrell, when I worked with him, was what I call a team player guy. He showed up and he’s like, “What are we going to do? We’re going to do this. Let’s do that.” He was great. It’s like anything else. Did they fight with their boyfriend or girlfriend or something? Sometimes you get somebody on a bad day.
He’s hysterical. I think of all the comedians and people who were great. I took that masterclass by Steve Martin. He does a how-to-do-comedy masterclass. Steve Martin was terrific and still is. He can be serious too. Do you find these comedians are serious if you see them outside of being on stage?
Yes. There’s maybe armchair psychology about people’s demeanor and stuff like that. I know that for somebody like Steve Martin, Will Ferrell, or anybody that’s a funny person, there’s a craft to it. You have to fail a million times before you begin to get a sense of how it works and also how it works for you. A Steve Martin bit would be different than a Will Ferrell bit. Each person has to find their style. For a speaker like Susan Cain, she’s not going to be able to do some performance comedy thing, but she can say something witty because she’s super smart. It’s also about each person knowing what kind of funny they are or what kind of funny they can be.
One of my favorite comedians was George Carlin. He could memorize these long rants. I don’t know how else to call them. I know I could never do that. I’m not good at memorizing. I’m sure a lot of people have struggled with that. I noticed when I first started speaking, I tried to memorize and then I was boring and it was not good. If you’re trying to be a good speaker, where does the memorizing come into place? Do you try to memorize in chunks? I know this story takes three minutes and that. How does it work?
Not to give a short or a glib answer, but it’s going to work in many different ways. First of all, the writer and the speaker are the same people. The writer has to do their job first. What do you want to say? In my work, I don’t just work on what do I do with my hands, but I want to work with people all the way from writing their speech to the final delivery because then you’re shaping something organic. It begins with what you want to say. The writer has to do their job of getting it clear. That can mean writing out every single word and we keep batting it back and forth, and editing until it’s crystallized and super clear exactly what you want to say.
The next phase is the speaker takes it over. Words and rhythms that worked on a page won’t necessarily work as spoken or as embodied words. When we’re speaking, we’re delivering more information on more frequencies. It’s not just the words we’re speaking. What are we doing with our hands? What’s our face doing? How close? How far away? What’s our body doing? We’re delivering more information. That means that things sometimes don’t need to be said directly or things can be said in a slightly different way because we have more tools of expression delivering the message.
In between, there is what you’re calling memorization. To me, you’re working with somebody that’s written something. Frequently I work with people who’ve written a book. You’re talking about something you’ve invested years of life in. You already own it. If you had a gun to your head, you could talk about it to somebody right now. All we’re trying to do is make a nice cake with beautiful icing that will present this thing in the best possible way.
Memorization can happen in lots and lots of ways. When I work with a client in an ideal setting, when somebody comes to me and says, “I have this thing in two months. Can you help me?” We spend a lot of time writing. You can end up with a script that you want to memorize or you can end up with bullet points that you want to hit. If you’re a fluid conversationalist in life, then we’d work on it from that aspect. I always try to build out from where the person is already strong and then we add to that. There are going to be all kinds of ways to get that thing in your head so that you know what’s the next thing you have to say and that you don’t get fazed by that.
One of my first talks was for Forbes. I was on stage and they gave me a PowerPoint they created. I’m thinking, “I’ll look at the PowerPoint to tell where I am in my talk.” Even though it was pictures or whatever, it would tell me where I am. They put it behind me on this huge screen with the bright lights on my face. There was no way for me to see it. I can’t see without my glasses up close to have notes or anything in front of me. It was a very humbling “This is what it could be like” experience.
I’ve often thought of doing a TED Talk on my work with curiosity since nobody’s done the research I’ve done from my book. When people interview me, they’ll say, “Let’s get together. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about.” I’m like, “Ask me whatever you want. I do better if I don’t know what you’re going to ask me.” Maybe from being in sales, I’m used to working like that. Do you find most people want to know a lot of what to expect when they’re giving any talk outside the TED experience because that’s unique?
I’ll start answering this and then I want to go back to what you talked about being stuck on stage with the PowerPoints. People generally want to know what to expect. I also try to work with people in such a way that stuff can go wrong. You can have a microphone that doesn’t work. The power goes out in the building where you’re supposed to speak, or they put you on a different stage at the last minute. That’s why my core concept is to be grounded in what you are here to do. What truth are you here to tell? You own it because it’s either your personal story plus research you’ve spent years writing about or it’s personal to you. You’re here to deliver it. In a way, it becomes not personal to you.
If I have to take a letter and take it upstairs and put it on my wife’s desk, all I’m doing is I’m delivering something. Focus on delivering what you’re here to deliver. What was true yesterday is true today and it’ll still be true tomorrow. It’s like Zen archery where they teach people to hit the middle of the target by aiming past the target, by aiming through it. You’re not focused on this one thing right here. To some degree, when I’m working with people, it’s about them and it’s about their life’s work which they own when they’re sleeping. It’s not easy. If you keep your eye on that message that you’re here to deliver, if the mic goes out or something or there’s some interruption, you’re not spinning off. It’s not about a mic. It’s about what you’re here to say. Does that all make sense?
Yes. You could always call out the elephant in the room.
Transparency is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. I frequently tell people that if you’re nervous when you go out there, say it. Say your name and say good morning. Say your name and then say you’re nervous because everybody in the audience will sympathize with you.
They’re rooting for you. I love the guy who said, “Thank you to the three people in the back who clapped,” when your joke doesn’t go over.
What did you do when you were on stage and you had these PowerPoints behind you and bright lights in your face?
You could watch it somewhere. It’s on YouTube. Every once in a while, I turn around to look at that PowerPoint because I couldn’t remember. I would never want to do that. I knew I had to in a couple of places. In general, I knew what I had to say. I had practiced it to some extent. I just had never spoken before. I was volunteered for this. It was a subject I didn’t even know. There were a lot of things that were new to me. It wasn’t my finest hour. When I watched it, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I tend to be hard on myself. I’ll watch it and later I’ll go, “That wasn’t that bad.” I compare myself to myself though. I know what I’m capable of and then I go, “That’s bad because that’s not what I am capable of.” I wish I could be Will Ferrell or somebody else as far as that quality, but I know that’s not my level or what I have. I compete with myself a lot.If you are trying to be something that you're not authentically, the audience will know and disconnect from your message. Click To Tweet
That’s an interesting point. Many clients ask me, “I got that inner critic. I want to make it go away so that I can do this.” The real news is it never goes away. The critic never goes away, but you have to sit down with the critic and say, “This is not your show today. This is not your moment. Your moment is going to come later when we watch the tape. Right now, you got to sit in the back like a good boy and keep it down while I deliver this message.”
It’s so much about focus. That is not going to go away. Something will always go wrong. If I’m giving a talk or an important presentation or something, my body will be in fight or flight mode. Your consciousness is giving you sensory input that’s flooding you with adrenaline to fight or run away. Your only decision is how you use that energy. That energy is going to be there. Do you want to go off into fear and spin and all of that unproductive stuff or do you want to just focus?
It’s hard. It’s not an easy thing. A lot of it has to do with getting rooted in your body, breathing into your belly, keeping your body erect but soft. Especially in the middle of your body, keeping that softness and living with that vulnerability that comes from being alive, breathing, aware in your body, and focused moment to moment, idea by idea, and story by story, through the truth that you’re here to tell. That’s where the productive focus lies. If people stay focused on that and practice it, then they’re going to deliver.
You’re bringing up recognition, which is what led to my interest in my research for curiosity. I wanted to find out what kept people from being curious. A lot of the things we’re talking about here and what I found out are the factors that inhibit curiosity. FATE was the acronym I came up with, which is Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment. The assumptions part is a lot of what we’re talking about, that voice in your head that tells you, “I’m not going to be good at this. I’m not going to like this is.” That holds us back from many things, not just curiosity but fear of speaking.
Assumptions can lead to fear. Some of this stuff overlaps. For me, what I found helpful in my research was the recognition of what was holding you back. Once you know where you are, you know where to move forward and that’s a critical part of all this. There are some great TED Talks. I had Kate Adams on my show. She did a great delivery of the 4 larger-than-life lessons from soap operas. I don’t know if you’ve seen her TED Talk. She’s enthusiastic. She worked in one of those soap operas and she’d worked for them as a writer and a producer or something. She was interesting in her delivery. There’s Sir Ken Robinson who stood there and leaned against the wall and was comedic. Is there a TED Talk that’s impressed you? I’m sure Susan Cain. Anybody else’s that is wonderful?
You brought up the first one I ever saw, which was Ken Robinson. I was in education at the time. It was revolutionary in the sense of what he was saying. You’re right. He stands there. You can see parallels in comedians. There are comedians who work the stage. They’re on a huge stage, they’re running up and down, and they’re moving through the space. Somebody like George Carlin or Jim Gaffigan is simply standing there delivering their observations and their entire focus. A guy like that or somebody like that, their entire focus is on, “I have a lot of great ideas. Am I building the ideas to the climax that I want them to build to?” Their focus is powerful that you’re not aware that they’re not moving a lot. That Ken Robinson one was great.
Funny too. He talked about tension. It’s the key element of all performances.
That’s an insightful thing. It’s true, tension.
How do you build it?
It depends on what tension you’re trying to build. It begins in the writing. It’s got to be in the writing. Understanding what to say and what not to say. Being brave enough to leave out certain details so that you create a little bit of mystery. A lot of speakers want to come out on stage and tell everything in the first minute. It’s okay to drop a hint and move on as long as you know you’re going to deliver on it.
That is tempting for me too. I want to be funny. When I’m talking to somebody, I’m usually funny with them. When I get on stage, I don’t think I’m funny at all because I get too nervous to be funny sometimes. You had mentioned in one of your talks that there are two parts to the joke, the setup and the payoff. The setup is probably the hardest part.
This is good stuff. Yes, the setup is the hard part. Anybody can pay off a joke. In other words, I could throw a ball by flicking my wrist. If I have the ball in my hand, I would flick my wrist and it would go somewhere. It won’t go as far as if I pull my arm all the way back and raise my leg to get my body weight up and then move forward and throw with my entire body. Now it’s going to go somewhere. That wind-up is where the tension is. Yes, you need that. There are different types of humor that require a different kind of setup. There are different kinds of tension that you want. There’s some tension that can come from writing, but there’s some tension that can simply come from delivery. As with anything else with a speaker, what you’re saying and how you’re saying it is completely intertwined and completely organic. It’s true.
It’s challenging for a lot of people to think about that setup. I made a mistake telling a joke once. It ended up being funnier the way I told it. I was giving a talk about communication to a group of cybersecurity. I don’t know who it was, but it was one of the talks I give. I was giving an example of two of my students in class and how they were talking back and forth. One student, Jeffrey, was obnoxious and I was showing some of the things he was saying. I was telling how Trevor, the other student, was saving me by saying certain things. It was an online class, so you can see what they were saying. I was sharing this and at the end, my joke was the guy who was rescuing me, Trevor, and I’ve been married for five years. It’s a joke. Instead, I accidentally said Jeffrey. It was much funnier because it was awful.
It’s because you acknowledged it too. You didn’t try to dance away from it. You stayed right there.
I owned it because I want them to think that’s what it meant. It was funny. After that, I always told it that way. It’s fun to get some tips from somebody like you. I know a lot of people who are reading are terrified of speaking on stage, even in Zoom meetings or whatever. Is there any last advice that you’d give to somebody who’s reading this who can’t handle if they sometimes are nominated to speak for something like I was or they have to present at a Zoom meeting? Any tips?
Focus on what you need to say or what you want to say and nothing else. Put your entire focus on what you have to say. If there was one thing that I would say that would help the most, that’s it. The second thing would be the fear may never go away, so refer back to step one.
For somebody who’s thinking of giving a TED Talk, how much time do they need to prepare? What would it be like to hire you for that?
Don’t call me a week before you have to give a talk, please. I can help you, but I can’t work a miracle. The more time that you can take, the better. I don’t work on any kind of, “You must pay me X amount minimum hours.” I try to be fair. Not everybody is independently wealthy. The more time you can give me, I would say 3 to 4 weeks would be ideal before. If you haven’t gotten it written yet, I would say a minimum of four weeks and then we’ll edit back and forth. We’ll hone in and work on what you have to say and then we’ll work on how you say it. All of that is one process with two parts, not two processes.
How long is the TED Talk that they give? What are the minutes?
They’ve gotten shorter. They do some that are nine minutes, some that are seven. The biggest ones they do now are twelve minutes. Eighteen minutes is maybe reserved for Bill Gates, John Kerry, somebody who can take as much time as they want. For most people, they’re getting shorter.
They don’t play the Oscar signing-off music for them if they go over, I assume.
I don’t think they do. If they do, they submit paperwork to the team of lawyers who represents this person. That’s what they do.
I’d be more worried about going under on time. I know me when I get nervous, I go way too fast. What happens if you go under?
I’m sure they won’t penalize you for it. If you’re going under, it’s because you’re talking fast that you probably are going to be unhappy when you see the tape. The TED people have coaches that they provide. If you’ve worked with somebody who knows what they’re doing and you have that proclivity already, your coach has already told you that you need to slow far down in your head that you’re going to feel like you’re talking underwater. In other words, if you tend to go that way and rattle, you have to overcompensate by slowing down in your mind so that it feels like you’re walking through mud or molasses or something like that. It won’t come out too slow because you’re overcompensating for that. Does that make sense?
Yes. I gave a talk one time for a brag reel. I was doing it for that. I’m going to go way over the top because I was watching other people’s reels and they were super excited. I thought I would do it way over the top. When I watched it, it didn’t seem over the top at all. It was interesting to me. It made me realize I need to pick it up a lot in real life.
My question would be, how big a room were you in?
It was a university room where they would have their events. It wasn’t a small room. It was decent sized, but it wasn’t huge. There was no one else in the room when I was doing this particular part. I was doing a little bit of the stuff that you would have as extras. That’s why I was doing it crazy because I’m like, “Let’s be nuts and do whatever.” I was surprised by that. I’m loud in normal life. When people are around me, you can’t shut me off. If somebody needs to be quiet, it’s going to be me. When I get on stage, I’m great at enunciating certain things, which is good. You want to be able to hear people. I’m not as dynamic as I am on a one-on-one basis sometimes.
I would wonder if that’s because you have some notion in your mind that’s like, “A talk is different than me being Diane.”If you have something to say, figure out the best way to say it. Click To Tweet
You think of it like, “I’m talking to this group. I got to be a certain way.” If it was one other person you’re talking to, it would be a different way. I was talking about assumptions holding us back from curiosity and the things that our environment has done. As a pharmaceutical rep, I worked for AstraZeneca for twenty years and I was in pharmaceuticals for fifteen of those. They used to videotape you over and over for months and you’d start. They critique every single word you said, “Be careful you don’t say this. You have to say that.”
In some ways, that was hard because you’re overcritical because you’ve had to be criticized so much. That leads to your environmental influences. Nobody wants crickets when you tell a joke. Nobody wants to not win when you’re a salesperson. You’re used to everybody responding positively. There are a lot of things that hold us back. Curiosity can hold us back from speaking too. I thought this was such a great tie-in. I was glad that Melody introduced us. It was so much fun having you on the show.
You’re welcome, Jim. A lot of people are going to want to know how to find you or hire you to help them with their TED Talks or other things. Is there something you’d like to share?
I have a website. It’s JimFyfe.com. It’s all right there. You can click on a button and email me questions or get in touch with me right from there. Go check it out.
I hope they do. This was fun. Thank you for doing the show, Jim. I enjoyed it.
Thank you. Me too.
I want to talk about something a little different because I have many people ask me about my podcast, my radio show, and how to do this. How did I get into this? How do you figure out how to do it? The ins and outs of it. I have created a course. I do teach people how to do this. I thought it would be nice to talk about it in this episode, for those of you who want to know, the secrets to creating a popular podcast and radio show. I’m going to touch on some of the things that I’ve learned.
First of all, I had no idea that I’d ever had a show. I had never aspired to do this. I had somebody interview me once for my speaking and my consulting and he had a show. I loved talking to him about what he did. He shared some of his tips and tricks that worked for him. I said, “How do you get this?” He said, “I could probably get you a spot.” He found me a spot on his AM/FM station. The shows would air. They weren’t live. They were pre-recorded. They had airtime that I had to fill. I had to fill three hours a week. It inspired me to continue to interview people and to grow the show.
One of the things I learned was that there’s a lot that goes into it. It doesn’t have to be a radio show. It can be a podcast or you can even have it on YouTube or a website. There are all kinds of platforms involved when you create your show. You have to have an idea of how much you want to spend because it’s going to cost you money, initially, unless you have somebody that you can get, a company or some other way to fund it or monetize it, which is difficult. We’ll get a little more into that.
Initially, you’re going to have to host it somehow on your website, a podcast site, YouTube or somewhere so you have to keep that in mind. For the radio station, some of them will charge you for airtime so you would own your time slot. For my show, I air at 10:00 AM Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Eastern Time on many different markets throughout the United States. That’s my airtime and I could talk about this. I could talk about anything. I could interview someone or I could do advertisements for everything I sell.
For the whole time, I could do whatever I want. That’s my point. That’s nice. The only thing I can’t do is let people swear on the air or something like that. In general, it’s open and it’s a nice option if you want to do a combination podcast radio show like I do. I also put my show on YouTube and all the links to it on my website. I make sure it’s everywhere. The hardest part for me initially was setting up the hardware. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it.
I was using Zoom for some initial things, but the sound wasn’t quite as good. You couldn’t separate the tracks from my track from the guests track if I had an issue on one of the tracks, for example. Initially, I went with using my phone. I wanted people to be able to call into the show. The problem I was having was, I usually like to use PCs and my PC didn’t have the best software. I didn’t like any of the software for audio editing. I do a lot of video and audio editing with Camtasia, which I love and I wanted it to be simple like that.
Getting the audio from the phone into the computer was a lot more challenging than I had anticipated. To me, that was the hardest part, which is silly because it turned out all you needed to do was go to Guitar City and they’ll tell you how to do it. I bought us a Focusrite, which is the adapter box that connects to your computer and there’s a cord that comes off of that. I bought a little adapter that went on to the cord that would fit into the cell phone, so when somebody would call in, I take this plug and plug it into the phone, and it goes through this Focusrite equipment which goes right into the Mac.
I use Mac because I liked GarageBand the best for the software. As long as you have a good microphone and headset to listen to, you’re all set. It is easy to edit and capture data through the Focusrite equipment and captures it and goes right into the Apple device. That worked well for me. I also use Zoom sometimes and I’ll edit what I get from Zoom with Camtasia, which is software editing. You can do so much with it. I love it. It’s great for video editing. I use it more for that, but you could do audio editing.
If you have options, so if they call in on the phone and you’re having phone issues, and you send them a Zoom link, you can do it that way if you need to. It’s also important to be able to do that for people who are in other countries. Maybe they can call in through WhatsApp, which is an app that doesn’t charge them. That’s another option for people. Depending on whether you want to use your phone, Zoom, or something like Zoom, there’s a lot of other options that are similar to Zoom that you can use.
I found that Mac and GarageBand work great. I got SHURE, their SRH240 headphones, the Focusrite Scarlett Interface, a Sterling Audio SP50 microphone, and the adapter that plugs into your Apple phone, the lightning to 3.5-millimeter headphone jack adapter. If you can remember those things and write them down, that’s basically all you need to record into a Mac and make sure you have GarageBand installed.
What I found was it was much easier to create a shell, a dummy file that had all my files in it. You don’t record without intro music, outro music or ads, or whatever you’re going to put in your show. You’ve got to have music and, “Welcome to the show” stuff. I created little files under a recording onto my GarageBand saying, “This is the Dr. Diane Hamilton show,” or whatever it says at the beginning. I didn’t record my own. I paid for files to be created. I did a lot through Fiverr online and you can get voiceovers and different things and they’ll give you a little sound file, MP4 or MP3, whatever they save it as and you can put that into your shell that you create.
What I do is I have an intro at the beginning of the shell and I have an outro at the end. The intro would be the guy saying, “Here’s Diane,” thing, and the outro would be the music ending the show. I have those saved so I don’t have to put those in every single time. I also put in three separate ads, which is how many ads I like to have on my show and I save those to drag them around to wherever I’m going to edit them later.
I do the ads myself. I like to have it in my voice usually, but sometimes I’ll go to Fiverr or someplace else to have them create an ad. If you have a sponsor, they have ads they can give you. The point is saving your document, this is like a file, so you don’t have to keep putting ads in all the time or keep putting the intro or outro music in all the time. I save it as a shell on my desktop and every time I have a new show, I open up that shell document and I save it as the new name of whoever is on the show. That works out well for me.
When I first started, I wasn’t sure where else I wanted to host the podcast because you want it to get onto iTunes in different places. I started with Podcast Garden originally because it was cheap. I know a lot of people are on Libsyn. There’s a lot of podcast hosting sites. There’s Blog Talk and all these different things. I ended up with Podetize. Brandcasting You is a group that I used. Tom Hazzard, the guy over there, does a great job because he transcribes the show. He puts in all these tweetable moments and pictures and all these different things. He hosts it on Podetize for me. That’s the only thing I have somebody else to do for me and I only started having him do it when I wanted the transcription.
Basically, it’s easy to get on a site like the ones I was on before, Libsyn or one of those. You can get some of your data records. They’ll tell you how you’re doing. It’s nice to get into your statistics and you can find out how many people are listening to your show and all that. Those will usually have ways for you to have them shared through iTunes and different means because I know my show’s on iTunes, iHeart, Roku, you name it, it goes everywhere. A lot of it, Tom does with Podetize for me, but I was able to do a lot of it myself whenever I hosted it myself as well.
It’s good to look at your options if you do want transcription. Do you want the sound? If you’re doing the sound, what are you using? Are you using GarageBand, Camtasia, Zoom, Skype? Zencastr is one that a lot of people do. Are you going to do your own editing? I like to do my own editing. I don’t do a lot of it. I like it natural. If somebody says something, I don’t necessarily want to change it. It’s real. I’ve had to cut out 1 or 2 different things. If somebody was driving in their car and police stopped them for being on their cell phones, that got cut out. Other than that, I left it in unless it was something that I thought was a super inappropriate thing to say. I only did that once that I had to cut something out.
One of the hardest things when you first start is finding the right guests and a lot of people ask me about that. I would go to speaker sites a lot of times to look at the top speakers. I was the MBA Program Chair at Forbes School of Business. Part of my time there was working with the board members and some of the board members did the show. Steve Forbes was one of them who was wonderful to do my show.
Before I even asked Steve or the other board members, I went to some of the speakers we had who had spoken for our school, which were a lot of the Forbes 30 Under 30, young people who become successful and were looking for more publicity. Looking at sites like that, people who have been nominated and received some honor would be a great place to start. When you get people who have recognition behind their name like that and you could show that you’re not just interviewing anybody you’re having good, solid people on your show.
In going to speaker sites, you might get some of them. Some of them might turn you down. Sometimes they get newsletters from different sites that say, “This person is speaking here or there.” I’ll connect with them on LinkedIn and say, “I saw that you’re speaking at this event. I’d love to have you on the show.” Sometimes they’re at conventions. You see them speaking at conventions. You see them on LinkedIn with great posts and people following them. There are so many ways.
Once you start getting people on the show, at the end of the show, after you get off the air, I would talk to them and ask them if they thought of anyone that would be a great guest and that I’d love to have them on the show. Those are ways of expanding your reach. Some of the best people I’ve had on my show were suggestions from other people who had been on my show. One of the things that a lot of people forget to do is to ask for a referral. Who would you think would be great? Who’s got a new book coming out? Whatever you’re trying to find for a guest.Be grounded in what you are here to do. What truth are you here to tell today? Click To Tweet
A lot of what goes along with the show is creating graphics. I know Tom creates some stuff for me for my website, but I also was doing it long before he did any of the graphics and I used Canva a lot for that. There’s Visme and all these different things. You can have a virtual assistant do it for you or you can hire somebody. Canva is great. It’s one of the easiest platforms. I use it for everything. I’m not affiliated with any of these names that I’ve mentioned so far. These are all great programs and you can create a graphic. I’d come up with an overall graphic design for the show and keep changing the picture for the guest, whoever the guest is on the show. That’s how I did it and it worked out well for me.
To find more people, you start networking and you get your circle of influence and you ask them if they know people. You go out on social media and tag everybody when you’re posting these shows. Make sure you tag the people who are in your show and you have hashtags for wherever you talk about on the show. On Twitter, I have #DrDianeRadio as a hashtag for all my shows. If you click on that hashtag, you’ll be able to find them all easily. You get to do that throughout social media and that’s important.
When you’re on the show, thinking about the questions is an interesting thing because I always ask my guests to give me questions that they’d like to ask. I don’t go down the list and ask them those questions but I have them so I can think about the kinds of things they like to be asked. When I first started, I would create a whole bunch of questions before the show. I would go through everybody’s bio and read everything about them and watch all their videos and do everything I could to research them. I still do a lot of that, but I don’t create questions as I used to and I don’t spend the same amount of time.
I find that a lot of what I want to ask I learned while we’re on the show, but if they have a TED Talk or if they have something that’s important, I watch that for sure. The questions are important to have them send to you. When they sign up for the show, I use ScheduleOnce. It’ll send them a notification, but for their calendar and reminders, and it’ll ask them, “Please, give me your bio, your headshot, and any questions you want me to ask.” What I find I do is while we’re talking, I start writing questions down on a pad of paper.
If they say something, I’ll make a note, “I’m interested in this or that.” I might circle something that I want to come back to. All those notes are my way of keeping track of what we’re talking about and what I want to ask next. I also sometimes ask them things off the air if I don’t want to put them on the spot. I might make a note of something I want to ask later. There are a lot of things that continue in our discussions. After we get off the air, I usually schedule them for an hour. Most guests, I don’t keep for an hour on the show. It’s a long time to interview somebody, but I do have some for that long.
I sometimes do two 25 minutes shows and I add them together and put ads. You have to decide how long you want to talk to somebody and how you want to set it up. I schedule an hour so we have time to talk after the show and it’s not just, “Thank you,” and goodbye and hang-up on them. That’s uncomfortable and it’s nice to build that relationship afterward. Beforehand, there’s a lot of preparation that you need to do. You look at their LinkedIn profile, websites, YouTube. If they have a book, you look at Amazon. Sometimes their bios are good on Amazon and not so good on LinkedIn. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Read their bios, find them online, learn as much as you can about them. Read the description of their book because that’s important.
Prior to the show, ask for all the things that you asked for before the show and after the show, you either thank them, you send them a note. For me, when the show comes out, I thank them, I send them all the links, the graphics that they can post and I asked them to post a testimonial. If you go to DrDianeHamilton.com/testimonials, you can see what people have said and it’s great because it links to their site and it gets them noticed, and it gets you some great stuff on your website. When the show comes out, you post it all over social media. You might have a newsletter, you put it in that. You do retweets on sites like Meet Edgar. Whatever sites you use to repost things, you could put it in there.
I transcribe the blog, which gives you a lot of content for your site because you’ve got to think if you do an hour-long show, that’s a lot of words of people coming to your site. It’s great for later advertising and taking advantage of that traffic. A lot of people do shows for different opportunities. You might be a consultant or a speaker who wants to be on boards. You want to go to events, shows or different things. The radio show or the podcast can do a lot for you. I had no intention of using it for anything other than my curiosity to find out about people and learn what made them successful. It did lead to a lot of things. I do a lot more speaking and more consulting. I’m on more boards and I’ve found companies in which I was interested in investing. Things like that can happen.
To be realistic, this is not going to be something that you’re probably going to be able to monetize. If you want to monetize it, you’re probably going to have a better chance of monetizing it through the things that it leads to than to get sponsors because you have to have quite a few downloads. There are a few people who can monetize their shows, but the majority aren’t able to. Be realistic. Think about the return on investment and the traffic and all the things. Think of your show as a loss leader similar to a book. Most people do not make money off of their books. They’re making it from the things that books lead to.
Make sure that when you schedule things that you use a good calendar for everything to keep track of it. I use ScheduleOnce. I like it. I’m able to send the link to people who say, “Here’s how you sign up.” I’ve set it up to ask them to give me all the information in it. I schedule follow-up reminders and they’re able to reschedule, so all that stuff is important. I also want you to think about any potential issues you can run into like sound quality. If they’re calling long distance or if you’ve dropped a line, there is some editing that might be required. Some of this stuff it’s a good learning experience and if you don’t think you like it, don’t rule it out until you’ve tried it because there’s a lot that goes into it. You can learn a lot.
There are some negative things and people sometimes ask me if I have had any guests who are rude or anything like that. I have had few problems with guests. You have to remember that you’re providing free showcasing of what they do. You’re doing them a favor for free. There’s some whole bully you or over-analyze. You’re doing this for free and they may say, “I wanted to say this. Can you edit that?” or “Can you do this?” As a guest, I would suggest not doing that if you’re on other people’s shows.
I’ve had thousands of people on my show now. That’s a lot of work. It’s hard to go back and micromanage every single show. People aren’t worried if something like this is transcribed or not perfect. People realize it’s transcription, for example, but some guests might not value your time. They want to meet and talk about the show and spend a lot of time doing things before the show. For me, I found shows are a lot better if you don’t meet prior to them because you will ask them everything you want to ask. When you go on the show, you’re not as inquisitive. It’s not as fresh. I avoid meeting guests prior to the show.
You can own your own airtime. With podcasts, you definitely do. It’s good to refer to your site once in a while. You could go to DrDianeHamilton.com/testimonials. It’s part of my conversation, but that’s referring to my site. If you were going to refer to your site for sales of something, I might say go to CuriosityCode.com because that’s where I would sell my Curiosity Code Index. I use the site once in a while for things like that, but I also have ads between guests that talk about my assessments for my certification training and all the things I do. You want to tie into what you do when you’re doing your ads and speaking alone.
Like right now, I’m speaking alone and that’s harder because you’re not going off of what somebody else has already said. Even saying that was not as smooth as if I had somebody on the air. It’s not scripted, but you can script your show. I don’t like to do that. I talk off the top of my head and I get some great soundbites that I could use but maybe not. The hardest part for me is at the beginning of the show, what I do is when they get on my show, I’ll introduce them, read their bio, and we start to chat. Later, depending on if I have 1 or 2 people on the show, I don’t know, usually. I see how the shows go, and if I decided to have 1, 2, or whatever, I didn’t create the intro to discuss who’s on the show that day to get people interested.
That’s the part where I’m speaking alone when it’s later. I have the hardest time doing that, for some reason, to say who’s on the show and what we’re going to talk about. Sometimes I have to redo that 3 or 4 times. It drives me crazy. I don’t know why that’s so hard for me. A lot of people will start to contact you to get people on your show. PR people contact me constantly. I get people signing into my site looking to be on the show. I have an outgoing message that says, “If you meet the requirements, we’ll get back to you,” because I get too many people who will have weird content that has nothing to do with what my show is about who contacts me.
You want to make sure they’re a good match for your show. You have some kind of thing that says, “I’m sorry, we can’t have everybody on the show.” It’s important that you take a look and you build good relationships with the PR people, so they know who to send to you. When you’re planning things, you have your content calendar. On ScheduleOnce I’ll go in, and I’ll pick the times that I will allow the show to be scheduled, and I take holidays off. Some of the stuff, it’s almost a new show but I take a couple of weekends or weeks like during the holidays where I’ll have reruns and you can have some content that’s evergreen.
This is an evergreen type of show until there’s no such thing as a podcast or whatever. This is constant. As long as you have constant evergreen content, you can replay these shows over more than once and there are good things for reruns. One thing I found was that there’s a lot of stuff that I liked that they put into my transcribe shows that I hadn’t been doing like tweetable moments, visuals, bullet points, and different things. It’s nice to look at a bunch of people’s blogs that they’ve set up from their shows to see what they share, what they conclude, and pick and choose what you want to have on your site from the show.
You can also have a lot of different areas on your website like landing pages that you might mention. Refer back to your website when you’re on the air, but you’re going to need to buy maybe some site URLs if you’re giving away certain things or landing pages in general. It’s something to think about. You can also have affiliates, be an affiliate, and have a lot of different aspects. I recommend looking up affiliate programs if you want to have people be affiliates for new products. With me, I have assessments, so I have landing pages for that. Think about the kinds of things you want to talk about when you’re referring to your site.
When people are trying to get on the show, it’s important that they send me what they call One Sheet. They have types of things that they include like their bio, pictures, and questions. It’s good to give an example of what you’d like to people if you have one, “This is a bio that works great. This is a picture we’d like to see and these are the questions.” You don’t have to have that, but the best people know what to send when they give you their information and they don’t always. That’s why I put it in the calendar invitation of what I’d like. Once they get into your ScheduleOnce app, you can connect that to AWeber or whatever database that you use and they keep track of everybody.
I like to keep a personal database on Act! because it’s an old program and I’m used to it. I love it but I have AWeber as well. It’s good for when you send newsletters. Just make sure whatever you send to your database adds value and you don’t spam them or overwhelm them and that they’ve opted in and all that if you do that. I noticed I’m on a lot of people’s shows and they’ll automatically put me into a mailing database and I haven’t signed up for anything. Even if they’re on my show, they put me in their database and I don’t recommend doing that.
You can grow your following through LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and all that. That’s what’s helpful. The more content you have out there and the more you like other people’s content and share of what they’re doing, the bigger you can grow your following. Don’t make the mistake of having a sale in mind if you have somebody coming on your show. If you invite a CEO on your show because you want to get his business, that’s nice if that’s in the back of your head, but if that’s what you come across as what you’re doing, that’s bad. I’ve never done that, but I know a lot of people do that. They want to be hired by this company, so I will interview this person and that’s what they do. If you’re going into it having a sale in mind, asking for favors, wanting to spam them, and not showcasing them, that’s a huge mistake.
If you are thinking about being on somebody else’s show, be a good guest and always have good stories. Refer to your site once in a while, but don’t overdo it. You can say it at the end if they’re going to let you say it at the end, but pay attention to time and talk in sound bites. Don’t have super long times where you have no break at all and you keep talking. You can always offer free information. That’s always a good thing, “Get a free chapter at my site. If you go here and go there,” type of thing. You shouldn’t meet prior to the show. It takes away from it. Jumping in and having a lively conversation is the best way, at least it is for me. I hope you found this interesting and it’s fun to talk about this stuff.
I’d like to thank Jim for being my guest. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com check out all the drop-down menus at the top and at the bottom. You can find out more things from our testimonials to Curiosity Code Information or Perception Power Information. I hope you take that time to do that and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Jim Fyfe
- Ken Fisher – past episode
- Kate Adams – past episode
- 4 larger-than-life lessons from soap operas – Kate Adams TED Talk
- YouTube – Dr. Diane Hamilton
- Podcast Garden
- iTunes – Take The Lead Radio
- iHeart – Take The Lead Radio
- Steve Forbes – Past Episode
- Twitter – @DrDianeHamilton
- Meet Edgar
- Perception Power
About Jim Fyfe
Jim Fyfe is a personal presentation coach. He has coached clients from business, medicine, the arts and education for TED and Ted-x talks, including author Susan Cain, whose TED talk has drawn over 25 million views. He was Consulting Producer on the Bravo TV series, Andy Cohen’s Then and Now, and was Segment Producer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, producing appearances by Presidential candidates, film and pop stars, leading directors and bestselling authors.
A 20-year veteran of television, film and Broadway as a writer, performer, producer and director, he also appeared frequently on television and in film, and has taught on-camera technique, acting and improvisation. He has written for Biography, Exhale with Candice Bergen and Night After Night on Comedy Central.
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