In this episode of Talk Marketing Made Easy, we talk with Alex Sanfilippo, the founder of PodPros. His company has created PodMatch to help podcasters find guests as well as other tools and resources for podcasters. Today, he provides tips on how to be a great host.
John McDougall: Welcome. It’s John McDougall with Talk Marketing Made Easy. And I’m here today with Alex Sanfilippo of PodPros and PodMatch, he’s the founder. And welcome, Alex.
Alex Sanfilippo: John, thank you so much for having me. Really honored to be here with you today.
PodMatch Podcasters Created a Collaborative Book About How to Be a Great Podcast Host
John: Yeah, fantastic. So I just got your two new books and a, excited to share your podcast interview tips and in another episode, you know how to be a great podcast guest. So tell us a little bit about your podcasting books.
Alex: Yeah, so first off, these books kind of came to me. And I don’t mean that from the writing standpoint. I mean literally members of PodMatch, which is one of the products we have, and I’ll quickly give the overview for anyone who’s listening is not familiar.
It’s a service that works very similar to how a dating app works. But instead of connecting people for dates, it connects people for podcast interviews. So if you’re a podcast host saying, I’m looking for a guest that knows or does X, Y, Z, the system will automatically find you a guest to talk about that in the system. And vice versa. If you’re a guest and you say, “Hey, I want to talk about my craft, which is this,” it’ll find you a host that says they’re looking for it. So that’s the whole idea behind the service and that’s called PodMatch.
And I had members approach me saying, “Hey, we want to write a book about it.” And I was like, “Well, I don’t really know where to start with that.” I’m like, “How many of you are there?” And they said, there’s 30 of us. I was like, “30 of you. What kind of club is this inside of our software I don’t know about?” They’ve built this little micro community and said, “We want to do this.” And I was like, “Well, I don’t know how. If someone here knows how to let me know.” And one of the people specializes in building multi-author books and he said, “You know what? I’ll run the whole project, Alex.
All you have to do is help us out by making sure the content’s good, that everyone’s going to write. And then also write the introduction and the acknowledgements page.” And I was like, “Done deal. Good to go.” So that’s where the whole thing came from. It wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t something I ever planned on doing, but I’ll tell you when these people stepped up to do this. So there’s two books, and the one that we’re talking about right now is the interview side, so the hosts. And when I read these pages, I’m like, “Man, I learned a lot about being a podcast host. I learned a lot about my software too.” I was shocked at what I learned.
I gave it to my co-founder, he’s the technical co-founder too. He’s the coding guy. He got about four pages in. I was at his house when he was looking through this and he goes, “Man, this gives me some ideas on coding.” I ripped the book out of his hand. I said, “You are not allowed to read these books because we are not going to develop based off what you’re reading here.” But anyway, that’s kind of where it all came about. I’m so thankful for the community, the people that make up PodMatch, it’s a dream to be able to be in a community and learn from people like this. And of course, give some of my own feedback on things I’ve learned in my six plus years of podcasting at this point.
Find Podcast Guests Using Books or Other Interviews
John: And I have the books and I went through the first one. And I think for everyone listening, it’s a great resource just seeing those tips and obviously the people you picked for your book and you could pick from a huge volume of people. You have a nice curated list of experts and they’re just all sharing some really good useful tips. And then I thought, “Geez, I should go and interview everyone in the book too.” Because it’s a cool little yellow pages of good people to interview.
Alex: I’ll be real. It’s a little bit of a cheat sheet reached out to some of them. Because the thing is, some of them I had never actually had a conversation with before this, but I was reading their chapter, I’m like, “This is good.” They have a little side thing to talk about. I’m like, “Will you come on my show and talk about that?” So yes, I’ve used it for farming guests as well for my show.
And the thing is, my show is about podcasting, which by the way, John, I got to mention the first time we were introduced to each other, I saw the name of your podcast, Talk Marketing Made Easy. My show is called Podcasting Made Simple. So I’m like, “You know what? We’re like birds of a feather.” I was like, “I already liked this guy, John.” So my show has guests and hosts on it. So when I had these books I started farming guests from, I’m like, “I’ll take you. Come on, come on, come on, come on.” So it’s worked out really great that way for me as well.
Reach Out to Subjects With Similar Shows
John: No, I’m really glad you reached out. It was really smart too, you saw that I had a new show and a great connection. And I’ve already just interviewed four people so far. So it’s great, your tool is awesome.
Alex: You’re doing a really good job by the way, if I could just point out, I want to let you know I listened to episode seven and you have it listed as 007. So I saw that and thought maybe on James Bond, it wasn’t about James Bond, but that’s cool. I jumped into it was about YouTube optimization with Pete’s Bennett, Pete Bennett.
Alex: And I encourage anybody who’s wanting to understand YouTube at a better level in a bigger way, go back and listen to that. Pete shares some really great wisdom. And John, you do a good job interviewing him. My team’s trying to get YouTube up and running the way that we do with podcasting. Because our podcast does very well, our YouTube channel ain’t there yet. But that was very helpful for me. So I just want to say thank you. You’re doing an amazing job as a podcaster already and everybody else, go back and listen to that episode, episode 007.
John: Hey, and I think that’s a good transparent way to dig into podcast tips here and hosting tips. I can be a Guinea pig. I don’t have a thousand episodes. I just interviewed Kevin Palmieri, a PodMatch member, and he’s on 1200 episodes. I was humbled.
Alex: Right, it’s crazy. I don’t have that many either, just so you know.
John: That’s pretty amazing. He said, “Yeah, yesterday I just batched up seven, me and my partner, we did seven.” He’s like, “It’s a little tiring,” but he does one a day. He launches one a day, but he does one day a week, he just knocks them all out.
Alex: That’s amazing. I have a lot of respect for that.
Get Into the Meat — The Importance of a Short Introduction for Your Podcast
John: Oh yeah, big time. But what was maybe just a quick critique if there was something I did good or that I did bad, what are podcast hosting things from listening to that episode that came to mind?
Alex: No, I think you did really well. I really do like that episode, something we talked about offline that you do well with. So I’m going to highlight some of the things I think you do well is a shorter introduction. And I really respect that. And no disrespect by saying this to other podcasters, but I was listening to a podcast the other day because the subject of it seemed very interesting to me.
It was a show I had never listened to, but I found the episode. I was like, “I’m going to listen to this.” John, I was six minutes in and they were just wrapping up the introduction. Here’s the thing, everyone is, quote on quote, “busy” these days. We’ve got things that we need to be doing. And I was listening while I was driving and I had about a 20-minute drive. Well, six minutes of that 20 minute drive was spent listening to an introduction that had nothing to do with what I thought it was going to be about.
So again, something I think you do really well that I hope that podcasters start to catch onto is just making the introduction brief. Because here’s the thing, if you introduce me in less than 10 seconds, and if somebody’s interested in what I say, they’ll look me up. But I find one of the issues to be, if you’re talking about me for six minutes, people are already fatigued. They’re like, “Alex, I don’t know if I want to hear from this guy because Charles just talked about him for six minutes and he sounds really boring.” But that’s one thing I’m going to point out that I think you do a really good job with, is keeping that brief and getting straight to the meat of it. Delivering on the promise that you make with the episode title.
Watchout for Crosstalk — Pause to Let Your Guest Complete Their Thought
John: Cool. Yeah, one thing, John Maher, who does most of our client interviews, and since 2008 on podcast interviews. He said, “Sometimes watch for crosstalk. If someone’s talking and then I jump in, if I jump over them.” You want to watch for that, right?
Alex: And that’s a really good point. Here’s one thing that a lot of us forget, unless you’re doing a live podcast, if you’re doing that or you’re doing some sort of live show, forgive me because I’m kind of singling you out of this because this advice doesn’t work for you.
But for the rest of us, if I leave a long pause to make sure you’re done talking and it’s an awkward long pause. One, sometimes it gets the guest to speak up again and actually share something a little bit deeper. But other times you for sure get their whole thought. And guess what? You can edit that out afterwards or someone on your team can edit out afterwards if it’s just a little bit too long. But I find that a lot of podcasters, like you’re saying, they talk over each other or they try to have zero pauses in it.
It makes a really unnatural conversation because if you’ve ever been in a conversation, I can’t remember the science behind this, but you’ll know what I’m about to say. There’s a seven-second pause for every certain amount of time that people talk. And that’s processing. It’s the processing time. Because if it’s just all back to back to back to back, zero pause, and even if you edit that out later as a podcast host, what happens is people that are listening don’t have time to process what they’re learning. And that’s why I really, for me, it is my biggest pet peeve actually, is listening to an interview where the host keeps on interrupting the guest. Just let it pause for a moment, make sure the thought is complete.
The Host Sets Tone and Tempo
John: I grabbed my notes because there’s a follow-up to that is actually this guy that I haven’t interviewed yet, but again, a PodMatch member, Brenden Kumarasamy, and I listened to his interview with John Dumas, the Entrepreneurs on Fire, I think it is.
I listened to him about public speaking and he made a really good point about pauses. And he said, “A lot of people don’t give enough of a clear pause. And just adding some silence is actually a very cheap, effective way to make your conversation more powerful.” He’s like, “If you’re all nervous and you just keep going and going, you don’t give a pause. But if you say something and then you emphasize it, those pauses are important.” So you’re kind of saying that in the interview.
Alex: The host, I think is the one that controls the tempo of the conversation. And what I mean by that is if I’m the host and John the second you’re quiet, I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And it’s a frantic conversation. And I believe that most, especially a good guest, they’re going to mirror the pace of the host. Sometimes there is a big disconnect, but in general, if as the host, if I’m setting that tone of this is how the conversation’s going to be, it turns into something not natural.
And I will say this, I talk fast, I talk loud, I’m very animated and I have to make sure I tone that down. I listen to a podcast before jumping on as a guest, but at the same time with my own show, sometimes there’s people, I’m like, “Wow, this is such a good guest.”
But I know that we would not be a good fit because the conversation is going to sound like, “Wow, this really high energy guy and this other person who’s very calm, very slow spoken.” It’s going to have that disconnect. And because of my show being around for years at this point, people expect my personality to be my personality. And I don’t think that changing it works. So it just means not all guests are created equal for your show. And so I think that to me is a very important point that the host is going to set that tone.
Choose Guests That Match Your Energy and Stay True to Your Hosting Style
John: Interesting. So actually picking your guests that match you pretty well is a tip in itself?
Alex: Yes. Oh, definitely. I think, again, because the guests might show up initially because of the guests that you have, but they’re going to stay because they like the host. So stay true to who you are as the host. Do your part to make sure that your personality shines through it, that it fits you. If you’re shape-shifting every time a guest comes on, hosts aren’t going to be able to like you because they don’t actually know who you are.
John: That makes sense. And what about mistakes that people make with podcast hosting?
Alex: There’s a lot of them. You got time right John? I’m just kidding. We’ll go through just a few. How’s that one?
John: Yeah, as many as you got.
Make Sure Your Questions Are Focused
Alex: The number one problem I find is first off, bad questions. And again, I want to, everybody who’s listening today, I want to be as sensitive as I can. We’re all on a journey, we’re all learning. And if you hear something I say, don’t feel like I’m beating you up about it, just allow it to sink in and maybe it’s a chance for you to improve.
The worst question I always hear, John, and it’s the most common one that I hear, is, “Hey, Alex, welcome to the show. Tell the listeners about yourself.” I’m more polished now, but when you first asked me that three or four years ago, I would ramble for 10 minutes. I would tell you about my childhood, I’d tell you about this, I’d tell you about my hobbies. That’s not what people listening want to hear. They want it to be pointed.
And if you just go open-ended like that, it makes a really tough question for an inexperienced guest who might be a really great guest to answer because you give them no framework. So the first thing I hear a lot of hosts do is they just ask the wrong questions. Now, even if you want to start off with something a little more bubbly, find something, “Hey Alex, welcome the show. I just know it’s on your social media. You just got back from a conference. Can you tell the listeners how that was and why you were there?” That’s a really pointed question that should direct the rest of the conversation that you’re going to have. So for me, starting from the first question, have intentionality with it, a focus, a direction that you want it to go. And I think that, again, bad questions are one of the primary things I see go wrong with a podcast episode.
Invest in the Right Technology to Improve the Listening Experience
John: What about technology mistakes?
Alex: Yeah, I’m not the best at technology, so I make these mistakes too. But for a long time-
John: Yeah, me too.
Alex: I started off with an iPhone. I was using the built-in iPhone microphone. I do not recommend it, and I’m not telling people to go out and spend a lot of money, but a lot of the tech that people use is just either it’s inefficient or it doesn’t sound good.
And so it’s about investing a little bit, and you can get a great mic for $60, $70 now. I know for some people that is still a lot of money, but hey, if you’re using a tool PodMatch, we actually pay podcast hosts. You should be able to buy that in just a month. And that’s one of our big selling points is that we, “Hey, we’re going to give back to the creator.” But make sure that you’re investing in stuff that sounds good.
At the same time, I’m a firm believer in investing in audio engineering. A lot of people call it editing, but somebody on the other side that can make sure that the host and guest sound levels are the same. And here’s why I say that. It’s very common that not me, my wife listens to podcasts that aren’t very good. Now, I don’t mean the content, I mean the sound quality.
We’re in the car when the host is speaking, you’re turning up the dial to make it louder. And then when the guest is speaking, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s about to blow over our speakers, turn it way down.” So you’re driving, but one hand is on the volume the whole time. That’s very annoying to me. If you have a true audio engineer, they’re going to level it out. So it’s the same. And even if you’re not great at that, there are hosting providers now that have these tools built into auto balance and things like that.
You’re going to want to invest a little bit in that because the listening experience will be improved from that. What you don’t want someone to do is be like, “Oh, hey, my buddy John, who I just met, he has this great show called Talk. Marketing Made Easy. Yeah, you’re just going to have to keep your hand on the volume because when he talks, it’s loud. When his guest talks, it’s quiet.” You don’t want that. So those are some tech mistakes I see… Make a little bit of an investment to have good gear to make yourself sound great. And you can do that for fairly inexpensively and at the same time make sure that the final product has a great listening experience for anybody who’s going to be listening to it.
John: Yeah. And do you often check your guests set up if it seems like it might be a little off?
Alex: Well, because my podcast is about podcasting now, most of them are podcasters.
John: Your guests are pretty hardcore.
Alex: Yeah. What’s you know what’s funny, Johnny, but whenever I meet somebody randomly and I’m like, “Oh, I have a podcast.” They’re like, “Oh, what’s it about?” And I’m like, “Podcasting.” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s boring. You have a podcast about podcasting.”
John: As opposed to food or whatever.
Listen to Future Guests on Other Podcasts
Alex: Yes, exactly. Something they would actually find interesting. But hey, I know who I’m serving. But for me, a lot of times the people that I bring, they already have all that stuff figured out. Occasionally they don’t. And typically I’m going in listening to them beforehand, and I ask those questions.
And I think this is another tip for a podcast host. Listen to the guests you’re bringing on other podcasts and get an idea for how they’re going to deliver their message, for how they sound, for what kind of environment they’re in. But don’t just listen to the episode featuring them. Listen to the episode before and after it from the same host.
And here’s why I say that. Used to not do that and I realize I brought on a few guests that they steamroll me as a host. They are going to talk. And when I start talking, “Hold on, I got more to share. Hold on, I got more to share.” And they’ll just keep on running. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is a train wreck.” But if you listen to the podcast they were on with other episodes, you realize, “Oh, the host doesn’t usually sound the way they did when they interviewed this person because this person’s wild.” I had an A-list celebrity on my podcast. I never aired it because the person was just out of control.
Just own the mic, it’s like I wasn’t even there. And I was like, “How do you sound so good on these other podcasts.” I went back and listened to some other episodes without that guest on. I’m like, “Oh, they did a bad job here too. They just decided to post it. They just chopped up little pieces to try to get the best of it.”
So listen to your guest on other shows and listen to that show in general, and that’ll help you understand if you should bring that person on. I do all my vetting upfront. It’s very rare that someone makes it to my show, it’s only happened three times ever, that didn’t do a really good job because of the vetting work I do beforehand.
Building Rapport With Your Guests
John: That was one of the things I really picked up from your book. Also, two other things. One was related to that ask, figuring out what people’s likes are so that you can, for less experienced guests that you might interview, just asking them about something, maybe they like, I don’t know, pets or dogs or something that you notice on their bio or something. And you can kind of throw that out there and start the conversation with a little know, like and trust thing.
Alex: I think that’s such a tip for somebody who’s not coming on your podcast. I remember one guy I brought him on my podcast, and I knew he had this great message. But I was the first ever show he was on. He had no idea what he was doing. No clue he was using a built-in microphone. But I was like, “You know what? We’re going to make it work because I know the content is going to be great.” And it was incredible content, but I had to calm him down. It’s like we’re talking, it was fine but as soon as we hit record, I could tell his heart was just beating.
So I opened up with a question of something that I knew, because I had seen it through social media or something like that, that he thinks is funny. It aligned with his sense of humor so I just brought it up. He just laughed. And as soon as you bring that calm in there, you feel like this is going to be an easy conversation.
A good host knows how to do that in a way that resonates and relates with the guest. So it’s not just like you’re generally like, “Oh, I’m going to tell a funny joke, and he is going to laugh.” No, find what he or she is really interested in and approach it from that standpoint. Bring that sense of calm into the interview so you can get straight to the meat after that.
Introducing What the Guest Does at the Beginning of the Interview
John: Yeah. And another one similar is the idea that you would already get out of the way in the early part of the interview, what their website is, where you can contact them a little bit, kind of ease them up, like you said, with something kind of fun. But then also say, “Yeah, this person is amazing and you can check them out here,” without going necessarily long like we talked about, but maybe getting some of that out of the way first. Is that useful or no?
Alex: I have not figured out how to do that well yet, John, if I can be transparent, I’m a worker punch myself. There’s some hosts that do that really well, and somehow their guests don’t just like, “Oh yeah, can I talk about that for five minutes?” If you can find tasteful ways to do that, I think it’s brilliant because we mentioned PodMatch up front.
That’s why I gave the disclaimers of what it is, because what I don’t want someone being like, “Yeah, PodMatch. And then we just get into it.” They’re going to be Googling what is PodMatch instead of listening the interview. That’s why you give this short description. I’m a work in progress as a podcast host and always will be. I would love to be able to, in the first three minutes, bring their product/service that they want to talk about, give the quick example and then keep it going.
So the listener says, “I know what this person does,” and they have that. And then of course, I think it’s important to reinforce at the end because you want to, as a host, give a singular call to action. And usually it would be the guest call to action for doing an interview of what their next step is before it rolls into the next episode. If they’re enjoying it, they’re going to keep on, they enjoy, keep on listening, but you want to make sure that, “Hey, here’s the step you’re going to take and let’s move on to the next thing.” And so doing that in a tasteful way, I’m learning. John, I have a feeling that you are probably going to be the guy to figure that out.
John: Well, I think what you’re getting at is there are some people that might answer that with way too long, all about them and a big sales pitch, and you don’t want that. So maybe the way to do it is just maybe confirming with people, I haven’t tried that, so I’m a work in progress too.
But just say, “Okay, I’m going to share a little bit about who you are super quick, because I want my intros to be fast, but let’s not go way down a rabbit hole because at the end we will definitely be sharing your link and asking you about your site or sites or offers.” That might be one way to help them know that they don’t have to go way off on it.
Alex: When you figure it out, you let me know. Give me a call.
How Does PodMatch Help Podcasters Find Guests?
John: And so how can PodMatch help podcasters find guests?
Alex: Yeah, so like I said early on, it works very similar to a dating app. It has a very advanced algorithm that takes things into consideration. Like the simple things like language availability. So it’s not telling you, “Hey, this person’s available at 2:00 AM your time. You want to interview them?” It takes those basics into consideration, but beyond that, it’s smart enough to understand who you’re looking for and to suggest matches to you.
You don’t have to take them, it’s up to you as the host. Only you can know who’s actually going to be the right fit, but it’s going to say, “Hey, here’s a batch of people that might be a good fit. Take your pick. What do you think?” And that’s really how it’s helping. And past that, I wanted to get some of the basics out of the way. So for me, and I think this is an important part of being a good podcast host, is again, really vetting your guests well, but also doing the research upfront.
And for me, I realized I was searching around for these people’s websites, searching around for blogs, searching around for what they like to talk about right now, the PodMatch profile also serves as a guest one sheet. So I can see questions they’re ready to answer, I can see topics they want to focus on. I can see things like, “Hey, here’s their bio that they would want me to read before we get started. Here’s their call to action link that they want. Here’s every link to them. Here’s some pictures I can use.” The idea was for the podcast host, can they have everything they need in one spot?
Now still, yes, go do your research, go listen to them, but can we give you the foundation of it all to save you hours of time? And we also allow them to message right within the platform. So the idea once again, is to simplify the administrative process while finding you the best possible guest. If you want to, and you’re using PodMatch, you can technically have a guest on the show without ever exchanging a single email and do it all through the platform, including scheduling and everything. Again, we wanted to make it as easy as possible, and that’s what we’ve set out to achieve, and we continuously focus on how to improve that process.
Connecting With Potential Guests From PodMatch
John: I can say that with very little effort and very little, again, effort on my part, going into PodMatch and not really reading that much yet about how to use it, doing the education. There’s a little popup that says, “You should check out this or that.” It’s pretty intuitive. Even without that, I need to now go to the next level with it.
But I can say just getting messages from other potential guests was enough to trigger me immediately. Let’s say I got eight people in my message box that I didn’t reach out to, of those I interviewed four. And the other four, maybe one looked like too much of exactly what I do, or I don’t know, I won’t say, just didn’t look like… A few of them didn’t look like a great fit. But the ones that did, now I interviewed a guy that does YouTube SEO.
I do YouTube SEO, but who cares? I’m sending them, I’m putting a link to his site. He does the same thing I do. The guy I interviewed this morning, he does podcast training and setting people up with podcasts. I do that too, but I got plenty of business. You don’t want to worry so much like, “Hey, am I interviewing competitors?” And unless again, they seem a little cheesy or something, they certainly are.
Some people you’re just like, “This just looks like…” And they didn’t make much effort in their pitch to me, but the people that made a good effort to say, “Hey, I have these topic ideas. I can speak to this, or I’m representing this person that can speak to this.” Those immediately caught my attention, especially where this show is about Talk Marketing, which is the intersection of SEO podcasting and YouTube videos and how that goes together. It was awesome. A guy that’s an expert in YouTube, a podcast expert, a public speaking expert, those were natural fits right in the inbox without me doing anything.
Alex: That’s amazing.
John: So hats off to you for that.
Alex: Yeah, I love that. That’s great.
John: Exactly what I was looking for, and I said it in my profile. Like, “I’m looking for podcast and video experts.” So any other thoughts on getting started to use it as a host?
Alex: So for the best possible deal you can ever get, because it’s always adapting and changing. If you go to joinpodmatch.com/talkmarketing, John has an exclusive link there that will get you, like I said, the best deal you’re ever going to get on PodMatch. So if you go to podmatch.com, you will not get that deal at some point in the future.
So joinpodmatch.com/talkmarketing, we’ll get you started as a guest host or both, whatever, either or, if you want to do that. But John, thank you for having me. This has been a blast. You’re a great host. I really love what you’re doing here.
PodPros Creator of PodMatch, Podcasts SOP, and PodLottery
John: And you have other sites too, right? So PodPros, PodMatch, tell us just a little bit about how those go together.
Alex: Sure. So PodPros is the parent organization because I didn’t want social media feeds for every product we ever created. So PodPros is our educational piece. It’s where you can find the books that we talked about. All that is at podpros.com. Under that umbrella is PodMatch, we have Podcasts SOP, which is project management software specifically for podcasters. Helps them release their episodes on time and keep it organized.
And the latest one that we just launched at the beginning of 2023 is called PodLottery. And the idea is to help podcast hosts get more listens and integrity based on app reviews for their podcast in a fun gamified lottery way. And it’s been a great community builder, but those are our three things that we do to serve the podcasting industry.
John: Awesome. Everyone should check those out for sure. And we’re about to do another episode being productive hosts and guests here, two for one today. How to be a guest on a podcast, so that’s the next one. So stick around and thanks again, Alex, for a great interview today.
Alex: Yep. Honored to be here. I really appreciate
John: It. All right, good. This is John. I’ve been today with Alex of PodPros and PodMatch. See you next time on Talk Marketing Made Easy.