Episode 100? How to Win at Podcasting Despite Your Executive Producer

 GIMMIE!

GIMMIE!

The first phone call went something like this:

“Hey, bro. I need your help starting a podcast in a few weeks. We’re going to cover a new NWSL team. Sure, they only have a couple of players under contract so far. But that’s OK because the first season doesn't start for another four months anyway. Which means we’ll need to figure out how to make it interesting and fill airtime for the first dozen or so episodes.”

I might be exaggerating. A little. But that’s more or less what my buddy Justice Mitchell said when he called in late 2015 and tried to pull me into his latest scheme. I started listing all the reasons why this was a bad idea. Including the fact that Justice had a full-time gig as the Chief Marketing Officer for Magruder Laser Vision.

“That’s the beauty of this whole thing,” Justice said. “Doc is all for it. He’s sponsoring the podcast, and we’re going to build a studio! Did I mention you’re going to help me pick out all the equipment and set it up?”

So now I’m wondering if I need to have an intervention with both of these guys. Doc Magruder is a reasonable man. I’ll try to talk some sense into him.

Then I caved because I realized resistance was futile. After 20 years of working on creative projects with Justice, I know how these things play out. I’m the Cameron to his Ferris Bueller. He’ll keep calling – and calling.

I agree to help.

“Oh – just one more thing,” Justice said. “I found this gal who will be an amazing host. The only problem is she’s never been behind a microphone before. So you’ll be her coach.”

Perfect. This just keeps getting better.

I only had one question.

“What’s the NWSL?”

Get Kitted Up

Obviously, Justice didn’t want me for my wealth of soccer knowledge. He called me in because we work well together and fill in the gaps for each other’s weaknesses.

Justice and I are like-minded about a lot of things. However, there is one character trait that separates us and has caused more than one (ahem) minor disagreement through the decades.

I’m kind of a minimalist who likes to keep things simple, while Justice brings a Formula One car to a go-kart race.

For example, if I need to route four microphones into a laptop or a digital recorder, I like to use something like this:

My solution is efficient and fits comfortably in a pocket of your backpack. Elves manufacture it in a hollowed-out tree. It’s the same input device Mark Twain used to record podcasts on Mississippi riverboats, and Thomas Edison used to make the first wax cylinder recordings.

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It gets the job done.

On the other hand, my brother from another mother would prefer to use something like this:

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Because – you know – everything is better if it uses NASA technology and comes with its own nuclear reactor. To that end, all of us at the show have always taken a progressive approach to technology — even if it’s on a shoestring or saving our pennies for really, great, mics.

Not that it was a competition, but I pretty much won that first battle of the equipment war. We set up a cozy little studio, figured out all the platform and distribution details, and scheduled a time to record the first episode.

Justice was right about the host. Nicole Pinto is a walking dictionary of soccer in general and NWSL in particular. She had played the game her entire life. Her dad and brother played at elite levels. Soccer is a family affair for the Pintos.

Yet subject-matter expertise is only half the battle. If someone has never sat in a studio and talked into a microphone before, it can be a little intimidating. You’re talking to an invisible audience that can’t give any feedback. And even though the best advice is to act natural and, “just be yourself,” there’s a little more to it than that.

You need to be yourself but amp it up a few notches. It’s the real you with a little zhoosh. You gotta put the “show” in “show business.”

While I coached Nic on that stuff, I overlooked one big issue that hadn’t even occurred to me.

Stage fright.

We sat there behind those mics for 20 or 30 minutes before starting the first episode. We got to know each other, found some common ground, joked around, and I gave Nic some ideas about how to open the show. Just a few simple lines to get the ball rolling.

Everything was perfect – until we started the show.

Poor Nicole. Nothing was working for her. The right words wouldn’t come out in the correct order.

If you go back and listen to Episode No. 1 and hear Nic’s opening, what you’re actually hearing is about the 30th take. You can hear a little nervous laughter in her voice as she says those first few lines. Because after so many unsuccessful takes, we were all looking at each other as if to say, “Wow, this might be the one. We’re about to get this baby off the ground.”

Let’s Score!

At first, I pulled triple duty as producer, audio engineer, and co-host. That didn’t last long because, once I got Nicole talking, she was good to go. At the same time, Justina “Jay” Pratt quickly went from being an off-mic consultant to Nic’s co-host.

Nic and Jay had a great rapport and a pre-existing friendship from working together as swim teachers. They knew how to play off each other, and their chemistry is one of the big reasons we started attracting and retaining listeners even before the first Pride game.

During that first season, we learned how supportive the local soccer community is. “QueensCast” filled a niche, and fans flocked to us.

We also learned about the politics of working with professional sports organizations and the challenges of booking guests. More specifically, Justina learned about all that stuff.

I focused on the mechanics of producing the show, Justice worked on marketing and branding, and Nic was the public-facing personality.

Jay was “in the trenches” trying to get A-list names to come on the show when a lot of people still perceived us as a B-list outfit. She chipped away at it little by little, making friends and winning over influencers. By the end of the first season, the Pride coaches, players, and management didn’t just know about our little show. They were fans and supporters.

Nic moved on near the end of that first season. She had an excellent opportunity to attend grad school in Toronto, and we couldn’t compete with the allure of higher education and Tim Horton’s.

Fortunately, we had a well-oiled machine with a great reputation by then, and it was natural for Jay to transition into the host’s chair full time. Justice would later admit that when Nic decided to leave the show that he knew Jay not only had the chops but the ‘voice’ he wanted for the show.

The Legacy Continues

Now that “QueensCast” is in its third season and celebrating Episode 100, it’s safe to say I was wrong. Justice and Doc were on to something good.

I still don’t know much about soccer and continue to be confused by the terminology (I refuse to say “pitch” instead of “field”). However, I know for sure that the show brings a vital perspective and flow of information to fans in Central Florida and around the world.

I transitioned out of my weekly production job during the second season. Now I sit quietly in the background as a creative sounding board and technical consultant.

I’m so proud of how far “QueensCast” has come, and grateful that I could bring part of my family along for the ride. Similar to the Pinto family’s shared passion for soccer. My boys share my love for anything involving cables, cameras, and microphones.

My middle son, Cameron, helped out with post-production during the first couple of seasons when I had too much on my plate. And the oldest boy, Evan, has worked for “QueensCast” as a photographer, videographer, video producer, and audio engineer. We’re graced with “The Terry Boys” in the about section and I couldn’t be more proud.

Not only is it fun for me to work with them and rewarding to see their progress, but it’s also cool to know they both have “QueensCast” on their resume.

And speaking of cables, cameras, and microphones: I mentioned earlier that I won the first battle of the equipment war. For the record, it wasn’t long before more gear started creeping in. Little by little, Justice amassed an arsenal of audio and video equipment.

I’m pretty sure ESPN has him on speed dial now in case they need help with Monday Night Football (the OTHER football) this season.

Big props to the entire “QueensCast” crew for everything we’ve accomplished. Can’t wait to see what happens by the time we hit Episode 200!

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John Terry is the Executive Producer of QueensCast, and a veteran copywriter and branding professional. He’s much more at home watching cars make constant left turns at a NASCAR race than trying to figure out what all those soccer players are doing out on the … field.