Exposing The False Premise of the Podcast Craze
I’d like to thank one of the big Silicon Valley software companies for providing me (and anybody else who was paying attention) with a years-long head start on identifying the false premise of the podcast craze.
Heck, once upon a time that very same software company even flew me to Northern California and put me up in a really, really nice hotel to interview for a job.
But I couldn’t get to SFO fast enough when I was done interviewing.
Oh, and I didn’t get the job.
Turns out that the false premise was contained in a headline in an educational session that the software company was offering at an industry conference. The session was entitled “Everything you need for a successful webinar…”
Yes, webinar. Not podcast, webinar.
It was in plain sight for all to see. A free business lesson.
Turns out very few, if any, were paying attention.
Kinda like now.
Having been a part of more than my share of webinars, I read the session abstract with interest and curiosity. I really wanted to know what was needed for a successful webinar. Because when I do a webinar, I want it to be successful!
So I read the session bullet points:
Webinar technology, check. More webinar technology, check. High-speed web connection, check. Visuals, graphics, polling, integration with email, CRM and other assorted marketing technology offerings from the big shot tech company. Capture the data. Fuel some sort of creative digital campaign, then quick — hit ’em with automated thought leadership content….
Ok, you get the point. A bit much on my part. I added some extra for flavor. Nevertheless…
It was a check, check, double and triple check on the everything you need for a successful webinar — from the webinar’s tech checklist. (The call to action should’ve read “So please join us for this event and this session… and pay for your ticket, travel, hotel and expenses with a smile.”)
Not one word — not one drop of ink — not one thought of the person or persons presenting the webinar. Or their ability to deliver messages. Value props. Keep and hold an audience. Their vocal skills. Handling questions. Storytelling.
You know — the most important part of any successful webinar — the speaker(s).
It seems all you need for a successful webinar is technology. Technology from the big shot, global tech company from Northern California… of course.
And no, I didn’t attend the event to learn about successful webinars.
Everything I needed to know was right there, in the session abstract.
I should say, everything I needed to know wasn’t there. What was missing from the session abstract was all I needed to know.
This next part is easy.
Replace the word webinar with the word podcast.
Now add a several decades of experience in corporate and product marketing, technology, software, communication, public speaking, presentations, audio, streaming media, live and on-demand video, product demos, broadcast radio, and a bit of podcasting — in order to …
Arrive at The False Premise of the Podcasting Craze
The notion that anybody, anywhere can suddenly sit in front of a microphone and a computer loaded with audio tools and podcasting software and produce compelling content that can hold an audience for any credible length of time is absurd.
I’ve already seen it, and heard it. Maybe even from you.
To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t produce your own podcast.
You can, you should, and I want you to do it. But I want you to do it well.
Let’s draw on our collective marketing, trade show, webinar and presentation experience for this next section. I’ll start.
Let’s get beyond the “people are afraid of public speaking” talking point for a moment. That’s table stakes.
I’ll recount and add my recent business event experiences, where I heard and witnessed speakers:
- Bring new definitions to the practice of filler words (um, uhh, right, uh-huh, you know…)
- Place heavy emphasis on content, and not their physical or vocal skills
- Unable to crack or connect with audiences playing on mobile phones, tablets and computers
- Read PPT slides
- Tout their appearance on panel discussions — while boring the audience to tears
This is just scratching the surface.
Our collective experience is that you and I have sat in on more boring presentations delivered by ill-prepared speakers that we’ve run out of fingers and toes with which to count.
I value and enjoy be a part of great presentations given by outstanding, creative presenters.
But that is the exception — not the rule.
The trend in podcasting is to place these same boring public speakers, executives, academics, analysts and subject matter experts and sit them in front of a microphone for 10, 30 or 60 minutes?
To create thought leadership, sales and marketing content and drive leadgen campaigns? And sell advertising on them to boot?
Gimme a break…
Yes, there are broadcast professionals who can carry a podcast. And yes, you can hire a spokesperson with media skills to do the same. But they are the vast exception, and not the rule. The business and marketing value in podcasting lies in the ability of company experts having skills, dedication and talent to carry a podcast that will be diligent in its production schedule, credible in its content offerings and attractive enough to build and maintain an audience.
No way any of that can or will happen by simply by sticking ill-prepared people in front of a microphone and calling it a podcast. All the technology in the world won’t make those podcasts successful. No matter the hype, or the technology.
I’d argue that well over 95% of corporate and marketing leaders don’t come anywhere near adequaely preparing themselves or their people to take the stage, go on-camera, or have an effective game plan for public speaking opportunities. What would make anybody believe that the same approach will produce effective, entertaining and frequent podcasts, or a marketing and brand-positive podcasting strategy?
On the other hand, I don’t blame you for not knowing this.
Given the lack of presentation skills and ability out there, you’re still too busy playing on your phone to pay attention and understand what really makes a great webinar, demo, presentation — or podcast — work.
And you won’t get the answer to that question in the next podcast from big tech.
Tony Compton holds two degrees from Loyola University Chicago: a 1987 B.A. in Communication and a 1995 MBA. He has held a number of marketing and business leadership positions over the past three decades.