For the past year and a half, I have been hosting a weekly podcast—The Bottom Line Advocator. In line with our brand, I interview experts in search of their unique, actionable advice on how listeners can improve their lives. And in line with my personal brand and chemical makeup, I am a “freak” about being prepared for each interview. Frankly, it’s one of the things I am most proud of with regard to the podcasts because of the message it sends to the guests—I respect you. And I am glad for the confidence that comes from preparing so thoroughly for each interview.
It would be easy to simply ask each expert’s publicist to provide some talking points, do a little Google and be done with it. But, no. That’s like going into your English exam in high school having read only the CliffsNotes or, worse, having simply watched the movie. Everyone knows that the movie never matches the book. That exam never ends well. Plus…you have all the stress and worry both during the test and afterward when you realize what a poor job you actually did.
In order to build rapport—often with people I have never met—and to create the best conversation for the listener, here’s my three-step preparation process for each podcast…
- Prerecording discussion. Most experts do the media circuit, especially when they are promoting a new book or their unique methodology. That means I can go on YouTube and find dozens of interviews that all say the same thing. Talking point. Talking point. Talking point. Done. Instead the expert and I try to find the unique aspects of the topic that have not been discussed elsewhere or the nuances that the expert says are critical but often overlooked. The guests are excited to share the subtle aspects of their work with me, and they enjoy the fact that I ask them about those details. It’s not just for show. I am truly curious about the how and why of things.
- Outline our discussion and review it with the expert. After our prerecording conversation, I create an outline of what we discussed and ask the expert to review it. Why? Just like in our publications, I want to be accurate during the podcast. The expert’s review of the outline means that my questions and our conversation will be true to the topic at hand.
- I read the book…really. No matter what the topic, no matter who the expert, I make sure to read the book—the whole book. If an expert has not written a book, I research every article I can find by him or her on a topic, watch YouTube videos and, depending on the subject, I may do additional background research so that I am conversant on a topic. That’s especially important when discussing technical health topics.
What I actually love most about reading the books is learning the subtle details of the expert’s work…and finding the places where we can connect. When I interviewed Jon Taffer of the TV show Bar Rescue about how excuses hold us back, I knew that he started his career at hotels in the Catskills, a place my family had visited when I was young. We joked that I was the only interviewer who not only knew what he was talking about in that section of his book Don’t Bullsh*t Yourself!, but I was even more unique because I had actually been there. Instant connection.
Similarly, Marc Randolph, cofounder and first CEO of Netflix, has a wonderful book called That Will Never Work about the challenges of building the brand and business. Sure, there were lots of great stories about the early days of Netflix, including the time the company tried to get Blockbuster to buy it (lucky for Netflix, it didn’t work out). But Marc really lit up when I got him talking about his deep experience as an outdoorsman and the lessons in leadership he developed while climbing mountains.
It’s so gratifying to know after each podcast that I didn’t just do a fly-by interview, but instead I created a new relationship—all because of my commitment to excellence and service in whatever I do.
I am sad to see the demise of such commitment, the lack of value placed on quality and the focus on getting the task done rather than getting it done right in so many areas of modern society.
I’ve written about the lack of service provided in brick-and-mortar stores…and the lowered bar of acceptance with regard to quality in so many areas of life. If we accept poor service and think that iPhone snaps are the same as portraits shot by professional photographers, then what kind of pride are people putting into their own efforts at home or at work? If the goal is, “Get it done” or the presumption is that “They won’t notice” or “It’s good enough,” then we are doomed to a world of mediocrity.
There is so much talent out there. Somehow young athletes get stronger and faster. And the physical and artistic performances on the assorted reality shows are awe inspiring. Those people prepare for years, give it their all, and in the end, they touch the souls of those who watch. We could take a note from that drive and commitment to excellence. To practice and prepare…to know that you have done all that you can to accomplish a goal.
Success in life takes effort, and the confidence you build by giving your all can’t be gained from restorative yoga or a Netflix binge on the couch. The formula for achievement actually is very easy…
- Complete your task to the best of your ability.
- Care about your audience/customer’s experience.
- Do what you say you will do.
Easy, right? You just have to want excellence more than getting it done.