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That's Our Best Advice on Starting a Podcast!

Fellow instructional designer and podcaster, Heidi Kirby, joins me to share some pointers on how and why to start an instructional design or L&D podcast. Heidi is the Instructional Design Manager at Verasana, and runs The BLOC (Building Learning and Organizational Culture) Podcast. We talk about reasons why we both started our respective podcasts and discuss the many lessons we've learned along the way, such as the importance of having a plan and establishing a posting schedule that you stick to.

You can connect with Heidi on LinkedIn, or listen to The BLOC (Building Learning and Organizational Culture) Podcast here.


The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:28

Okay today I am excited to have the instructional design Manager for Verasana and host of the block podcast, Heidi Kirby, here with me. Thanks for joining me, Heidi.

Heidi Kirby 0:39

Thank you for having me. I'm a big fan of the show.

Leslie Early 0:42

I'm a big fan of your show. And so I just want to clarify for listeners. So it's the BLOC Podcast, but this is an L&D podcast and BLOC stands for building learning and organizational culture. Yeah, great. Okay. So I just want to clarify that in case people want to look up the show afterwards. And that's a big reason why I asked you to join me today. We're going to talk a little bit about podcasting. Specifically, l&d podcasting, so I'm excited.

Heidi Kirby 1:12

Me too.

Leslie Early 1:13

Okay. So I guess the first question is, I mean, Well, I can tell a little bit about myself, but I started instructional, That's A wesome ID! just because I was looking for a job. And I wanted to get to know people in my network. And I wanted to learn and just kind of, it gave me a reason to have conversations about instructional design with people and share some of what I learned with, you know, the listeners who gets to listen in on those conversations. So that's kind of why I started but I'm curious as to why you jumped in and started your BLOC Podcast.

Heidi Kirby 1:47

Yours is a very pure and wonderful reason mine was a little bit more selfish. So I had been an avid podcast listener, for probably about a year when I was like, I want to do this, you know, I, you know, growing up, had done theater and musicals and recorded myself on one of those little tape cassettes with a microphone tons of times, and I was like, this is right up my alley, I want to podcast too. So it was two years ago, I was working for a large health insurance company. And myself and another instructional designer went and pitch to like the VP of the company, hey, we should do an internal podcast, just to help. You know, it was a big organization. And we wanted to help the different departments understand what the other departments did, and kind of contribute to employee engagement and everything like that. And so he really started to kind of consider it because this was like, right, when podcasts were getting super popular. And then before we were able to actualize that I moved on to my next position. And in my next role, I also pitched the idea, but I knew there was no business reason. So it was more of a joke, like I want, I want to do a podcast, you know. And between having a toddler and going for my PhD, there was no time outside of work to really do it. Yeah. So when I started with bear Asana, it all kind of fell into place and started to make sense because we are creating this learning product. And now there's kind of a reason because I'm like, Okay, well, for trying to market this learning product to people in the field of l&d. We need some sort of like previous reputation, people need to know who we are and what it is we're trying to do. And so I was like, you know, having a podcast would be a good way to market that and a good way to just have conversations around l&d to let people know that we know what we're talking about, too, you know. So I pitched the idea to my current boss. And it was one of those things where you hear it once, but then you hear second time from someone totally different. You're like, that's it. And so he listened to a podcast or he read an article or something that said, a podcast was a really good way to mark it, like within the same week that I pitched it. And so the rest is history. And now I get paid to podcast. It's awesome. I get paid to talk to all of these great people in l&d and ask them about their experience. So that's kind of the big circle path that I took to get here.

Leslie Early 4:24

Yeah, but but you bring up a good point. And then I've heard some, you know, I've heard out there on the internet and this is I don't I can't quote anybody on this but like, having a podcast is like the the new like writing your book, right? Yeah. Like it's just like that thing where you kind of it's kind of a way to again, like you said to mark it either for your company in your case or for myself, me like I'm, I started, of course, to be able to have these conversations to and to learn and to grow, but I'm not I'm no dummy. Like, I know that. I know that there's a marketing aspect of this. So it's like no It gives me It gives me a reason to be engaged in the community and be putting content out, like you said to sort of. It's a branding tool.

Heidi Kirby 5:12

Yeah, yeah, exactly the word professional brand as much as it is, if you, you know, for me, I'm repping my company too but...

Leslie Early 5:21

So I think that it's great. And I know that there's a lot of new podcasts like popping up every day in the L&D community, whereas like, even this summer, there was like, maybe one or two or three that I could think of off the top of my head, but now it's kind of like growing, which is awesome.

Heidi Kirby 5:39

I think there's room for everybody, right? Like, of course, each new one is a little bit different. So it's not like you're hearing the same thing over and over like, and that's what's great about it.

Leslie Early 5:49

Yeah. And I also like the interview format, because even if it's the same subject matter, you're, you're hearing the subject material, but you're also hearing, whoever's having conversation, you're hearing their unique perspective and their unique experience that they're bringing to the table. So in some ways, by hearing and participating in these conversations, obviously, but for listeners to listen, they're getting all of that, like, I don't even know what to call it, like micro data like like these micro experiences that they're sort of taking in that you wouldn't get. I mean, it would take a lot longer to get there in person, right?

Heidi Kirby 6:30

Yeah, absolutely. And for every different listener, they're probably picking up different pieces and parts of what they're hearing, which is really nice. And then they can take, you know, whatever it is that they took away from that particular podcast and apply it to their own work. Yeah.

Leslie Early 6:45

So I really love it. And I think you made a good point that there is room to grow, which is why we're sort of here is because I've had a lot of listeners approached me and asked me about my process for how why I started how I started, we sort of already talked about the why but and it's sort of hard to condense like the process. I mean, if I think about it, it is simple in some ways, but in some ways not. But I'm just curious, like, how did you get started, like, or I guess let's start with that question first, like, how did you get started? Like, what? What's your process?

Heidi Kirby 7:19

My number one tip for everybody is to type into Google how to start a podcast, right? That's all like the step by step how to guides. And like one thing, one big thing I didn't know, like, I just thought like, Oh, you go record podcasts and put it on your website, you have to have a hosting platform. And so I use buzzsprout. I'm not sure what you use. I don't want to plug any particular company. I just want everybody to know what's out there. But I like buzzsprout because not only do they have a hosting platform, but they have they have a podcast about podcasting. They have all these guides and how to choose whether you use their platform or not of how to get started. But really, for me, that wasn't that was just like one of the obstacles. Right? The other obstacle was, I wanted to start a podcast for so long, that when it became time it was like, Okay, now what, who am I going to have on this? What's it going to be? Like? What, how am I going to narrow the focus, and I think that's really important, too, is that I wanted it to be about l&d in organizations as a whole, and how to bring learning and development to the forefront of organization. So whether that be through hiring through the design, work, whatever, that was kind of how I how I framed it and structured it. The name came later. And the name was like a group effort, with some friends asking, you know, the logo was a group effort, you know, all those little things that are kind of important, but can be done with the help of others. But really, the other thing that I did that I think is really important was I kind of created a wish list of people in my network who I wanted to interview for the podcast. And like, a big tip would be to have like tons of people. Because people's schedules are crazy. And before you know it, you're like, Oh gosh, I have to release a new episode in a week and I have no one to talk to. So it's really important to plan all of that out before you get started.

Leslie Early 9:30

You brought up a lot of good points like obviously the house. I didn't even think about that. But you can just google how tos and like the nitty gritty, but there are a lot of things like you said little details that also come along with it. You have to brand you have to brand the podcast, you have to name it, you have to come up with artwork, all these other little things that aren't necessarily lmd or podcast recording. So absolutely. And the other the other Also about the guests and scheduling the guests. It's like when I first started, I was maybe very naive and like was not organized at all. And I was like, Well, I guess I'll just ask, I started just asking my friends like people that are close to me and but very quickly got on like, like you said, describe like the hamster wheel of like, Oh my gosh, like I'm supposed to have an episode coming up. And I don't have any been any, anyone lined up and things like that. So I guess a big tip, I would say if someone's considering this, they could go the way that I went and just jump in like completely unprepared. But I think your way sounds a little better. And maybe even I've heard I've talked to another community of podcasters outside of l&d, and they recommended creating like a bank of episodes. So like, like, if you're like, for instance, if someone's unemployed right now, they have the time to do it. Record like 1015 episodes up front, while you don't have any other obligations, and then you have months of material that you can release. Like that sounds a lot better to me than how I'm doing it right now, which is like, you know, we're recording this at like eight o'clock in the morning on a Monday because like we both have full time jobs and, like, have other things to do. But yeah, maybe maybe getting a little more planned and prepared before jumping .It is a good idea.

Heidi Kirby 11:27

Sure. And listen, I'm still recording my episodes a week before they publish. I just have like in mind who I'm going to ask next

Leslie Early 11:36


Heidi Kirby 11:36

So I'm not planning super far in advance. But that's a really good point about a bank. Because one of the things that I read before I released my first episode was that you shouldn't release just one episode, when you launch, you should release multiple episodes, which I would have never thought of or imagined. But it just spikes your listenership. So that you get a little bit more play and you have a little more interest in it, you know, because there's multiple different episodes for people to listen to and choose from. And instead of having to try it out, and then wait, so I released three episodes when I first launched, and that was, so I planned from the time I said, Okay, we're doing this, let's talk to people. And the time I published was like a month and a half, right, give yourself enough time to actually interview those three people. And, you know, it works. It worked out. I mean, I guess it was it was a way to do it. I'm not sure that in l&d, you really need that spike in listenership because we're still relatively small compared to like, the true crime podcast, right. But it is a cool idea. And I think it did help a little bit to help me gain some traction.

Leslie Early 12:52

Yeah, and I might, the other podcast group I was talking about had that same advice, but I had already started before, so I like to release my first three episodes. And you know, and, and I will say, at the, you know, it is a little bit scary at the beginning, because you know, at first if you have like six people listen to your first episode. And that's all that's there for like, weeks and weeks and weeks. And it's like, what am I doing? This is a waste of time, nobody's listening. But I would have to say if don't look at the numbers at the very beginning, because now you know, it's been a couple months. And now it's starting to pick up traction, and I'm on this will probably be Episode 16, or something like that. So it just takes time and be patient and just, you know,

Heidi Kirby 13:38

and go set up a cadence. That's super important. I remember, I had a week where I didn't have anyone lined up and I was like, two days away. And the person I was thinking of fell through and it was just, it was about to be a nightmare. So I kind of reached out to my boss. I'm like, What do you think I should do? And he's like, stick to that cadence. Just do a solo episode. So I ended up doing a solo episode. It wasn't the greatest like my, my solo. Nobody came to hear me talk so my solo episodes have less listens than the rest which is totally fine. I'm a okay with that. But just keeping with that cadence just helped two people know when to expect it right and it just helps with that. It helps that number of your listens steadily go up in a nice way.

Leslie Early 14:28

I went 100% agree with that. Like I try my best to post every week at the same time. And the one week that I missed it was ultimately because I just the guests also fell through and but I did actually happen twice and the first time it was I put I posted bloopers because that was like that, but that was ultimately my solution for like, Well I have to post something and I don't have a new episode yet. So but the other The time that I didn't post anything was the election week. And I was totally fine with not posting that week because that week was just like very heavy for everybody. Sure. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Um, so I guess, you know, we're talking about podcasting in general. But do you have any tips for like, anyone looking to do like an l&d podcast specifically? Like, do you think there's anything specific that people need to think about for that?

Heidi Kirby 15:27

I think just have an idea, a broad idea of the topic, right? Because I've listened to some of these lmd podcasts, where, you know, it doesn't seem like there's a clear direction of what the host wants to talk about. So things can get real wonky, and get really far out there. But I think you do a good job of this, too, is like you have someone pick a topic when they talk to you, right? And that's what you guys are going to talk about. And I think that that's you don't have to plan out questions, right? Because then that kind of takes away from the natural cadence of the conversation. But to have a topic in mind is, to me really important. And it's what I've done with all of my guests and said, Hey, even if it's two things, I want to talk to you about this in this because I know that's what you're good at. And so I have the person come on and in because like I said, if it's just a straight up interview, sometimes they get real out there, and then you're listening, and you're like, they're now they're talking about this one time in Florida when they were 14. And I don't know what this has to do with l&d. Okay, you know, so I think that that's very important for l&d is like pick a topic and it doesn't have to be the same thing. And it doesn't have to necessarily, you know, you don't have to have the same. You don't have to plan questions. Right. But just to have a plan.

Leslie Early 16:58

Yeah, yeah, to have a plan for sure. For the host, I have come in, I have realized that as a host, you do have to be a bit flexible on the style of your guest. Because and and especially, you know, this may be comes into it more when you're talking to people that you may not know very well. But every guest is a little bit different in how their conversation style or maybe they they don't want to have just a conversation, they have certain talking points that they want to cover. And so yeah, so I like to make sure before like we did in, and you and I did this when you're on mine. And when I came on your podcast, is before you actually hit record and start the recorded conversation. Maybe either plan a call ahead of time or before the actual during the session, you can like, take five or 10 minutes and talk about what we're going to talk about here and make sure the guest is comfortable. And knows where this is gonna go. Right. Because I think some people are sure. Some people, everyone's a little different. So that's one thing that I've learned in this process is like, you just have to be adaptable and flexible. And and, and go the way that makes your guest feel the most comfortable.

Heidi Kirby 18:16

Yeah, sometimes it's more of an interview. Sometimes it's more of a conversation. It just depends. Exactly. I always like to if I'm going to ask a really specific question like the the episode I'm releasing tomorrow, I asked my former boss her definition of organizational development. I completely warned her that I was going to do that. Because I think that's one of those things where it's kind of unfair to spring that on someone. Yeah. So if you're going to talk about something very specific, or you have a specific question planned, yeah, for sure. share

Leslie Early 18:46

that. Yeah, that's that's true. All right. Well, I think I think, you know, we shared some behind the scenes, insights here. I hope it was helpful to our listeners. To sum up, if you want the actual details, like specific technical details, there's a ton of information online that you can find. But yeah, but hopefully some of our lnd specific behind the scenes insights will be helpful to people so

Heidi Kirby 19:16

yeah, absolutely.

Leslie Early 19:18

Um, so if people want to find you or reach out to you after this podcast airs, where can people find you?

Heidi Kirby 19:26

I'm on LinkedIn at Heidi Kirby and the link to my podcasts is on there too. So

Leslie Early 19:32

Yeah, so everyone, everyone, please check out the BLOC podcast. It is another great resource if you are looking for information on L&D. Thanks for joining me, Heidi. I will talk to you soon.

Heidi Kirby 19:45

Thank you.

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