Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, step right up to peer into the way-back-machine. Power Athlete Radio has been topping the fitness charts on iTunes week after week and as the Crew momentarily basked in the success of our humble show, I thought it would be a fun idea to share with you the lessons learned since we started. Here’s why:
YOU COULD START A PODCAST
In reflection, we realized we never intended to be a chart topping podcast. Week after week, month after month, year after year, the team’s satisfaction wasn’t steeped in rankings or downloads, rather it was how episodes were driving personal growth. Meeting guests and letting them educate us, researching answers to our listeners’ questions, and hashing out the nuance of one another’s thoughts and beliefs about life, training, and family have presented us with an amazing opportunity for continual self work, which we feel everyone should be practicing.
John, Tex, Cali, and myself attribute much of our personal growth to the show. If you want to grow, one way is to start a podcast. No matter how humble the beginnings of it would be.
What I’m going to cover in this series is what we experienced and what I wish I understood in the early era of Power Athlete Radio.
IT’S BEEN A LONG ROAD
First I want to set the record straight on the show’s origin and it’s evolution. Power Athlete Radio is a product of the community we proudly serve. Two chatty-kathy’s in the comments of our blog posts, training posts, and private forums pushed for the idea in late 2013. Their handles at the time were Denny K and Professor Booty, also known as Steve.
The concept was that Denny and Steve would be the hosts and shoulder the work. I, along with the Power Athlete Crew would be the guests. John was busy as hell, and we planned on having him on every 5th or 6th show. Denny and Steve would scour every corner of Power Athlete nation to come up with discussion topics for the Power Athlete Crew to cover, schedule the calls, and publish the show. It was a no brainer. Without those dudes, who knows what Power Athlete Radio would be. I gave them the green light, and the miracle of life began. We recorded Episode 1 during my lunch break while I was on the road leading a seminar. The boys posted it to the Power Athlete feed on February 10th, 2013, at 4:13pm PST.
Power Athlete Radio was born, and ready to thrive. But not without fierce opposition.
John was in heat of dealing with his twin girls and the terrible-twos. He missed the memo that we were starting Power Athlete Radio. He saw the show link in the feed, and hammered Denny and Steve with a cease and desist. Literally. The C & D said he would “hammer” them. The boys were mortified, I was CC’d but I was working a seminar so I was late to the party. Long story short, we all became aligned, expectations were set, and the rest became history.
We started with phones, and an online dial in service called Blog Talk Radio. It worked just fine, and got the point across for free. This was our “Proof of Concept”.
After a few shows it evolved, we invested in software that recorded Skype calls, and some USB mics, and I’d record with Denny and Steve out of my home, and John would join in once every couple months. This is when the show popped up on iTunes.
Then we got a better, more expensive USB mic, invested in some sound dampening foam panels, and moved the show to the Power Athlete Office, which was in Orange County at the time. This is when we would tap into our network and have some guests on the show. We hopped over to Google Hangouts On Air, because it allowed us to broadcast the show live, and record.
Hangouts On Air eventually disappeared, we kept Skype for a bit, and finally switched over to Zoom. I bought a Macbook and some new software called Audio Hijack.
Meanwhile, the sound proofing panels didn’t work well, still tons of reverb and inconsistent audio levels, so we tried a soundproofing box.
The audio still sucked. Denny and Steve got busy with life and the show switched heavily to interviewing guests, and the Crew took on the co-hosting duties. We are still in touch with the boys and love checking in with them year after year.
Then we moved to Texas, invested in a sound board, some cheap cardioid microphones, pop filters, post production software and the famous (possibly infamous) echo was born. Here is actual footage of discovering the echo on the sound board while recording a sound check on Zoom before a show. The timestamp here is March 16th, 2017.
You can actually see my mind exploding with possibilities. If you are a long time listener, you know that Power Athlete Radio is the Premier Podcast in Strength & Conditioning-ing-ing (for the newbies, the ings are the echo).
We recorded out of the kitchen of my rental house for a bit because we had a hell of a time getting high-speed internet to Power Athlete Ranch. Once we overcame that barrier, we recorded out of the horse barn on the ranch which eventually converted to the office, and the tack room was built out into our Podcast Room.
Now we have a trimmed out studio with cowhide rug, 3 decent cardioid mics, a basic Zoom subscription, a DSLR camera to record video that doubles as a webcam, an external video capture card for the DSLR, and an off-brand 65” flat panel display for guest video.
As I reflect on all the hardware and software research I did for this show, I realize that these changes had a marginal impact on the show’s success. I’m going to cover an equipment list. However, as long as you are achieving minimally acceptable audio with little background noise, high dollar equipment is inconsequential to the success of your show. You can make massive upgrades in equipment, and still suck.
The must haves are not all hard items… They are soft skills. So let’s take a peek on what I’m going to cover in this series.
- MOTIVATION IN DISSATISFACTION
If you regularly listen to OPP, aka Other People’s Podcasts, realize that those crews probably have a few episodes under their belt. They didn’t start the way they are now; early episodes were, and are, hard to listen to for established, grassroots podcasters. Present company included. The frustration and dissatisfaction you might feel as you develop has to be a motivator for you.
- GENUINE CURIOSITY
You need to want to want to learn about stuff. Start with what’s obvious, but strive to get way outside your comfort zone. Growth comes in your ability to make connections between the fringe and your core values.
- COMFORT IN NONLINEAR THOUGHT
Lists are easy to work through, but they require little social intelligence to work through when the desired result is a conversation. When I refer to nonlinear thought, I’m talking about whimsical discussion points; you know, riffing, free styling, flowing.
- VOCAL AWARENESS
Do you hate your voice? Well, you better be open to learning to love it. If you plan on putting your voice over the airwaves and you aren’t willing to listen to it, why would you expect your audience to listen to it? After 360+ episodes as of this article, and spending thousands (yes thousands) of hours of reviewing lecture audio from seminars, we know what engages an audience, and what shuts them down. You need to know too.
- LUST FOR FEEDBACK
You need to be your own critic, but we all have blindspots. Feedback is essential for you to build the most ROI for your audience, your guests, and yourself. Actionable feedback is hard to get your hands on, so you have to really, really, really want it.
- A PODCAST RIG – EQUIPMENT, SOFTWARE, AND SPACE
I mentioned earlier that major investments in equipment alone really yield no noticeable improvements in the quality of your content, equipment is still necessary. And if you don’t get the right set up, it can ruin the experience for listeners and guests, and even create wasted effort in post production.
If this is something you want to do, you don’t need the deep dive on each of the above points to get started. You don’t even need to record a show.
Build out a mission and start thinking 5 years from now what ROI your audience and guests will get from your podcast. Then build out a few hypothetical bullet points about the improvements you needed to make over time to get there.
Start talking to friends in long form; and as you’re talking to them, learn to LISTEN, because that’s what you’ll need to do if you plan on having guests. Schedule the talks or video chats, just like you would an episode. Get into the cadence of carving out time and building your schedule around the show.
And in your talks, start feeling out who might be your focus group for feedback. Tell them your plan, see what their reaction is. If it’s positive or negative, ask why, and take action.
Listen; if we can do it, you can do it.
BLOG: The Crew’s Essential Lockdown Listening by The Crew
BLOG: Battle Your Own Bullshit: The Process by James Coutts
BLOG: No Time? But Do You Have Time to GFY? by Luke Summers
PODCAST: EP 320 – John Welbourn the Family Man
PODCAST: EP 209 – The Origin Stories of Luke & Tex
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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