On Thursday, I asked podcast listeners for feedback. I built a brief survey in Google Forms and hoped for twenty or so responses. As of this moment, 176 people have shared their thoughts.
I've read every word. Of particular interest to me was the "Advice for the host" section. Because many opted to submit the survey anonymously, there's some brutal honesty here.
I'm going to respond to some recurring themes. The overwhelming majority of responses were very kind and complimentary, but I'm going to focus on the criticism and requests for change.
Several people pointed out that I tend to interrupt guests. Some called it rude, others thought it was annoying, and a few felt it stopped guests from sharing stories.
This is actually something I've been working on. I try to wait until my guest has finished his/her point before I interject, but clearly there's still room for improvement. I will continue to work on this so there are fewer interruptions in future episodes.
Stop Name Dropping
I've actually been doing this on purpose, but several listeners do not approve. In my mind, if a guest mentions Erin Davis, I want the listener to know there is an Erin Davis episode of Toronto Mike'd in the archives. I consider it cross promotion aimed at the many who have just discovered the podcast and haven't been listening since the start.
Absorbing this mountain of feedback now has me convinced it comes across as either pretentious or repetitive so I'm going to reduce my use of this tactic.
Stop Talking About Yourself
In my last episode, I took 10 minutes off the top to talk about the Dalton Pompey-Electric Circus connection. I wanted to share this update with listeners because the story (which I think is fantastic) was born from the previous episode with Dwight Drummond. I wanted to share the story and play "Summertime Summertime" before beginning my deep dive with Chris Zelkovich.
Several people did not like this. They didn't think the story had anything to do with my guest and felt it took time from that conversation. One recurring piece of feedback is that I should not delay my deep dive with the guest and should stop talking about other topics or sharing personal stories. This advice had me noodling my current structure for days.
Here's how I currently structure episodes:
1. Opening theme and intro
2. Updates, current events, light chatter with the guest
3. Sponsor mentions
4. Deep dive with guest - typically an hour or longer
5. Closing theme and extro
Some would like #2 to disappear. I've talked to friends and family who listen about whether #2 detracts from an episode, and they all seem to enjoy it, and it's actually an important part of the equation for me. You see, I'm typically meeting a guest for the first time 5 minutes before we start recording, and I use #2 to establish some rapport and warm things up before the deep dive. Without #2, I'm not sure I'd be as effective with #4.
Some of course, enjoy #2. Here's what one listener wrote:
I think the format is perfect - the first few minutes are like the year-long ongoing conversation with the listeners, and then the next hour is the conversation with the guest. I'm curious to find out how the biking is going, how the Mazda is hanging on, how the house league hockey is going - because these are all things I can relate to as well.
I think I will hold on to #2, but I'll try and keep it brief and incorporate the guest more. Thankfully, the vast majority shares my passion for the Dalton Pompey-Electric Circus connection.
Enough Rohmer Talk Already
I admit, I'm fascinated by the fact Ann Rohmer retired twice and is on CP24 to this day. I'll also admit that topics I'm passionate about will seep into podcast episodes with great regularity.
I pledge to suppress my Rohmer fascination and only raise the topic when I'm speaking with someone who has worked with her. Otherwise, the Rohmer talk is off the table. Unfortunately for those who are tired of this topic, my next episode is with a CP24 anchor, so I might have to mention the cake one more time.
Episode length is a recurring theme. Some think episodes feel rushed and wish they were longer, but the majority mention that episodes are too long. There are suggestions I break up long episodes into two-parters. Others feel overwhelmed when an episode is listed as 1:40 or longer.
I'm not sure what the optimal length is, but I can certainly aim for an hour and only let it go if it feels there's more meat on the bone. I'll certainly do my best to reduce the number of episodes that exceed 90 minutes, but should I slip, please feel free to abuse your pause button.
More Sports! Less Sports!
When it comes to content, there seems to be too primary camps emerging. Some love the sports media guests and want more while others dislike the sports media guests and want fewer.
Guests typically reflect my own interests and passions, and sports is high on that list. Sometimes, when it seems I've gone too heavy on sports media personalities, I make a concerted effort to invite guest from other areas of interest. I'll continue to try and strike the balance here, but I suspect it will be impossible to satisfy both camps.
There were plenty of other contradictions. Some say I should be tougher on guests, others say I should be easier on guests. Some love the opening theme, others hate it. Many remarked that I was very well prepared but at least one respondent said I should do more homework. One person made my day by telling me I'm cute, but another told me I need to gain weight.
I'm so glad I collected this feedback and have taken it all to heart. With no broadcasting experience, I've been learning on the job and was craving constructive criticism. I'm confident I'll only get better and hope you'll be around to notice the improvement.