Launch Your Career as a Podcast Guest

A public speaking career is one of the six classic “upper third” options available as you climb the lead generation ladder, but a recent shift has made it more accessible than ever. (Please see the end of this article to make sure you maximize that ROI, though.) And if you’d like to carve out a powerful positioning and learn about a modern lead generation plan, be sure to attend our Jan 24–25 event that covers that. Registration opens shortly.

That change in the speaking environment is the rise in the popularity of podcasts, bringing more guest speaking opportunities with it. Here’s why you are far more likely to wrangle a guest slot on a podcast than on a platform:

  • There are far more podcasts available, and so it’s mainly a numbers game.
  • Planning is typically 2–3 months instead of 11–13 months, making it easier to fit into your busy life.
  • Producers don’t think it’s as risky to take a flyer on you. If they don’t like what they hear, they just don’t air it. But if you blow it on stage? That’s more embarrassing for everyone.
  • You aren’t going to make any money (directly) from doing this, and that simplifies the entire process.

Look for another article on starting your own podcast. This one is about being a guest on other podcasts, and that’s where you want to start anyway.

Develop a Pitch Packet

Your pitch packet will typically be a one-pager that includes these elements:

  • A brief bio that establishes your authority. Keep it short and resist mentioning the things that only your parents care about. Ex: a book or several larger speaking engagements you’ve had. In addition to the data, write this in a format that the guest can simply read. That’ll prevent weird fumbling and misinformation. I’m an airplane pilot and not an airline pilot, and half the time they get this wrong and we have an awkward exchange where I have to correct them.
  • Some talking points that both make you interesting and give the host something to eagerly probe: Ex: took your kids out of school for a year and traveled the world.
  • Three or four points of view or talking points. Ex: I think we have this cultural thing all wrong.
  • Two or three starter questions that a host will appreciate having and for which you can be easily prepared as you get into a groove. Ex: Why did you decide to leave your corporate VP world after 20 years of climbing to the top?
  • How you’ll promote it. Ex: I have 3k active Twitter followers and 2k people who get my monthly insight piece.
  • Head shot.
  • All your social media handles. Consider a shortener if you haven’t secured a good URL for your LinkedIn profile, for example.
  • Your exact name to be used, if that’s important for SEO purposes.

Don’t forget to regularly update this as you climb the ladder of influence. You can swap out what you have for more notable accomplishments as you cross them off your list.

Find Anything to Be a Guest On

You find a podcast–any podcast–to be a guest on for two reasons. The first reason is because you need to figure out how to be a good guest, and this won’t happen just by reading how to do it. If you find a few easy ones to be on, you’ll start to hear the typical questions that you’ll get and you’ll slide into a comfortable cadence answering them. You’ll begin to understand why it’s not good to interrupt and “talk over” the person interviewing you, how long your answers should be, when to intentionally veer off course, how to handle the annoying “motivational” interviewer who switches into a weird voice right before the recording starts, etc.

The second reason to start just about anywhere is this: you need a reel, even if it only has two examples on it. The better booking agencies won’t just take your money–they’ll want to work for you only if they can place you on good ones, and that means that they’ll be kind of picky about who they’ll work with.

Hire a Booking Agency

I would seriously consider spending the money to turn a booking agency loose on your behalf. Not only can they coach you on being a good guest (not much more helpful than this article, frankly), but they can place you on podcasts.

Here’s how it works, and they all work about the same way with a few different twists.

All of them take your money to find spots for you, and they concurrently work the other side of the aisle by finding guests for podcast hosts, and they do that for free. Get it? They have an established pipeline.

Some will book you on one per month. Others will book you twice per month (this is the typical arrangement). Others will sell you a predefined number of bookings that aren’t tied to any time frame.

They’ll ask for your information and help you develop a pitch. This will occur with a written survey and several interview calls.

They’ll scour their connections and send you a list of the podcasts that they think might be a good fit. Any podcast on that list represents, in their thinking, a decent opportunity for success on their part. It won’t just be aspirational. There may be some on which they have not yet placed a guest, but those will be on the possible list because they think the fit is great.

You’ll review the list they send and “approve” most of them, although there will be a bit of a learning curve as they become familiar your style. If you hate the motivational ones, tell them that so that you don’t waste each other’s time. To help you approve or disapprove, each podcast will have a link to the podcast in iTunes (and other places), which is where you’ll make a note of the length, the style, the frequency, and most of all the number of reviews. Skip any podcast without at least dozens of reviews, brand new ones (unless the host is well known), or where you don’t recognize at least several of their past guests. The newer you are to this game, of course, the less picky you can afford to be until you get some good appearances under your belt.

After the booking agency gets your feedback, they’ll go to work finding guest appearances for you. Once the host has agreed to feature you on the show, they’ll write an email introducing you and then they’ll step out of the picture (unless you want the coaching, which most of you probably don’t need).

You’ll use the host’s calendar link to schedule an appearance. Leave an hour for 30-minute podcasts, which is the length of almost every one on which you’ll appear.

If you have something that you want to send them beforehand, ask for a shipping address…or just send it digitally. Do not assume that your host will spend any significant time with your book or your article or whatever, although the best hosts always do. Just don’t count on it. Patiently guide the host through your work as if you are striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before.

What will it cost? It varies quite a bit, but plan on spending $200–500 per appearance. They all require a bulk commitment and won’t want to work with you unless you envision at least six months of the arrangement–some will want a year.

These booking agencies are popping up like weeds, but until you learn the landscape yourself, I’d stick with Interview Connections, Interview Valet, Podcast Bookers, Expert Bookers, or Be My Guest.

Master Your Craft

Here are enough tips to get you off to a good start:

  • Is it audio or video? Don’t be surprised by this–be prepared. Some guests will want a video feed to get to know you and then switch to an audio-only feed, but more than 90% of your opportunities will be audio-only. And some hosts will want to use video as you look each other in the eyes, even though only the audio feed will be broadcast.
  • Send a “Contact” request to the host’s Skype account. More than 95% of these recordings will be on Skype (unfortunately). The ones that aren’t will be on Zoom or Zencastr. If you’re going to do a lot of this, go ahead and create an account in both. With Zencastr, especially, it’ll eliminate some of the error messages about disc space that crop up otherwise.
  • Get a good microphone. There is no such thing as a good USB microphone, so don’t bother. Get a decent dynamic (not condenser) microphone like a Shure SM58 on the low-end or a Telefunken M80 or Audio-Technica BP40 on the high-end. Get a pair of decent closed-back headphones like the Sony MDR 7506. Then a digital audio interface to connect it all to your computer, like a Shure MVi (best for travel) or Audient iD4 (best sound for the money). You’ll also want enough XLR cables, a mic stand and shock mount, a pop filter, and possibly a mute button. Don’t skimp on good equipment. It’s music to a podcast guest’s ears when you show up with high quality audio. Everything goes better and they treat you like a professional. Nothing screams amateur like using the silly white EarPods that came with your iPhone.
  • Listen to at least one–preferably two–recent episodes. Get to know the interviewer’s style. Tell him/her that you have listened, and mention the specific episode. They will be thoroughly impressed.
  • Turn off your ringers and notifications.
  • Hang an “On-Air” sign on the door or in the window. You’ll impress the neighbors, and they sell LED ones on Amazon for just $30.
  • Everyone will tell you to use a wired Ethernet connection instead of a wireless one. Do that if you can, but proceed anyway if you can’t. It’s simply not an option anymore in hotels or when in someone’s conference room. Most of you don’t even have the required adapter for your laptop. But certainly use a wired connection in your office, where possible.
  • After plugging the equipment in, don’t forget to select the appropriate “Output” and “Input” device from the “Sound Preferences” icon in the menu bar by selecting it while holding the “Option” key down.
  • Do not sell your services. Just be helpful to the audience. Be the gracious expert and they’ll find you if they need you later.
  • Have a glass of water, but always with a straw. You can drink from a straw without moving away from the microphone.
  • Keep the microphone less than 1" from your mouth to capture the best tone and minimize ambient noise.
  • Use a change of tone about 2 seconds before you are ready to flip the conversation back to the host. That gives them some warning to be prepared to pick the conversation back up.
  • Some hosts will switch to an alt-human voice when they start the recording. Be prepared for that nonsense and don’t be shocked. You’ll pick up this tendency if you sample a podcast episode or two.
  • Don’t talk over the host. Audio in this setting works better if only one of you is talking at a time.
  • If it’s not too much trouble, record your side of the audio with QuickTime. That will rescue bad audio at times and make you a hero.
  • If you’re in a hotel at the appointed time, you can eliminate most of the noise by creating an audio tent. Open the closet (or wardrobe) doors and hang a blanket across the top. Strap the mic to the ironing board. I do this frequently if I happen to be on the road. The goal is to have material in front of you to stop “early reflections” that will turn into room echoes.
  • Don’t reschedule unless it’s a genuine emergency. Hosts set aside certain timeframes and if you miss your appointed time, it might be three months before you can get back in the rotation.

Many of these are hard won lessons for me. In addition to our 2Bobs podcast every other Wednesday, I’ve been a guest on more than 80 other podcasts this year. For more help, hire an advisor like Marcus dePaula, who works with many of my clients.

Fire a Booking Agency

After a bit, you’ll find that you’re better than the quality of the opportunities they can bring to you. Not only will your notoriety speak for itself, you’ll start to get a half dozen requests a month from podcast hosts who troll the better podcasts and reach out to you, asking if you’d be willing to appear on their property. You’ll also begin networking with other authors and speakers and the opportunities will come your way naturally.

Typically you’ll use a booking service for a year or two and then head out on your own. Podcast booking services cannot reliably deliver the best opportunities which you will be capable of at that point. The best podcasts to appear on simply do not accept inquiries from a booking service on your behalf. In fact, it will work against you and you’ll seem small time at that point.

Keep Careful Records

After awhile all the podcast appearances you make will start to run together. So be sure to keep careful records. Not only will you want to use that data to promote the more successful appearances, but here’s the real reason. You’ll want to go back to those same podcast hosts when you have a new book or new piece of IP or new point of view that’s newsworthy.

In addition to the obvious things (link to the episode and description), the most precious data you’ll want to keep is the host’s contact details. They typically don’t publish that and it’ll be much easier to reestablish your connection with the host.

Maximize ROI

This is maybe the most important step of all, and it’s also the step that most people forget about. There’s more impact from telling people you were on a given high profile podcast than the impact from those who heard you on the podcast directly. Particularly if you’re still finding your voice.

By the way, you are under no obligation to help the host promote your appearance, but it is a promotional game, to some extent, and you’ll earn points with them by doing your part: Twitter, LinkedIn, and your email subscription list.

So tell your followers/subscribers about these promotional coups, help the podcast host promote your appearance, and launch your speaking career in a whole new world.


Always keep your goal in mind, too. Everybody on the big stage played smaller, smoke-covered venues late at night and stayed in a Motel 6 with truck traffic just outside. They paid their dues and watched for the right opportunities and then pounced on them with confidence. Do you want to land one more fantastic client next year than you did this year? Inspire prospective employees to come work for you? Make your existing clients more comfortable with your expertise so that you can influence them to a greater degree? Keep that north star in mind and keep making the little decisions that inch you in the right direction.

Knock ’em dead!

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