I love a good podcast, don’t you? And these days, there are so many good ones to choose from, I only wish I had more time to listen to them all. Podcasts entertain me, they keep me informed, they teach me things, they answer my questions, they give me new ideas, they challenge me to do things better (or differently, or for the first time), and they provide me with inspiration. Sort of like a good friend, really. And at their very best, they manage to do all these things simultaneously.
As someone who works from home (see my previous blog post), I’ve come to appreciate the importance of taking periodic breaks away from my computer screen. Just going for a short walk, or doing the dishes, or pruning the houseplants, or preparing a meal – anything that gets me off my chair and moving around for a bit – actually helps me stay productive over the course of a working day. During those breaks, a good podcast can be excellent company. It’s my version of a water-cooler conversation, except that I’m just listening in. And if the podcast is related to my work somehow, it keeps me in that mental zone and makes me feel all the more productive. So when I sit down to my keyboard again, I can get back to work with better focus and fresh ideas.
Take today, for instance: around noon, I took a 45-minute break during which I emptied the dishwasher, made my lunch, and then sat down to eat. While I was doing all this, I had time to listen to the latest episode of the “Social Media Marketing Podcast”: “Why the written word is your marketing advantage”. I had already seen it mentioned on Twitter, so I was looking forward to giving it a listen. It turned out to be an excellent interview by host Michael Stelzner with special guest Ann Handley of MarketingProfs.com. They discussed the ideas behind Ann’s new book, Everybody Writes: Your go-to guide to creating ridiculously good content. By the time I finished listening to the episode, I’d achieved a couple of things (besides an empty dishwasher and a sated stomach): I’d come up with a topic for today’s blog post, and I felt a renewed motivation to get back to my keyboard and start writing. (Needless to say, I also look forward to reading Ann’s book!)
There’s something very personal about a podcast. In part, it’s that the topic isn’t randomly presented to you, like tuning into a radio station; instead, you’ve selected that particular topic for yourself, and you’re making time in your day to listen to it. Then there’s your connection with the person(s) hosting the podcast; if you like the sound of their voice and the way they present their topic, you’ll keep listening to them. Over the course of several episodes, you might even come to feel as though you know them, at least in some limited way. But to my mind, what really makes podcasts feel more personal than other digital media is that you can “consume” them anytime, anywhere. Your hands, feet and eyes are free to do other things – like go for a run, do some chores, or have a little lie-down on the sofa. You don’t have to be in a specific location. All you need is a portable device and maybe a set of headphones. And if you download your podcasts ahead of time, you don’t even need Internet connectivity. It’s nice to know that whether you’re stuck in your car (road trip!), on a sailboat (ocean-crossing!), in your tent (camping in the rain!), on a plane (long-haul flight!) or in your bedroom (five loads of laundry to fold!), you can always keep your mind pleasantly engaged with a sufficient number of your favourite podcasts.
Currently, I’m subscribed to about 25 different podcasts. I’ve always been a huge fan of CBC Radio, so I love that all my favourite programs are now available for me to download and listen to at my convenience. Gone are the days when you had to gather ’round the radio on a certain day at a certain time to listen to a particular show. Plus, you can pause the episode and come back to it later, you can go back and listen to certain segments again (and again), and quite often there are show notes to be found online for additional information. These days, the main reason I turn on the radio at all anymore is to get up-to-the-minute news coverage.
So what are some of my favourite podcasts? For anyone interested in the world of marketing and advertising, I highly recommend the CBC’s “Under the Influence” with Terry O’Reilly. Not only is the production value top-notch, it’s one of the most entertaining yet informative shows you’ll ever come across. And if you find that you enjoy “Under the Influence”, make sure to look for Terry’s previous radio series, “The Age of Persuasion”.
For first-time entrepreneurs like myself, there are dozens upon dozens of podcasts out there, and I’ve only just begun to explore them. But so far, my favourites are the ones by Pat Flynn. I particularly like his “Ask Pat” series of shorter podcast episodes. They average about 10 minutes each – the perfect length when I’m taking a quick break in the middle of my working day – and they’re absolutely saturated with useful information. On top of that, Pat sounds like one of the nicest, most genuine human beings you could ever hope to meet.
More recently, I’ve discovered a podcast that’s very helpful for anyone trying to make it in the field of language services in general and translation in particular: “Marketing Tips for Translators” hosted by Tess Whitty. In a typical episode, Tess will interview a fellow freelance translator who has built a successful career and has some good advice to share about the process. So far, Tess has produced 25 episodes and every single one is a treasure-trove of valuable information. In fact, what you want to be doing when you listen to her podcast is not the dishes. You really want to be taking notes.
As a linguist, I’m interested in anything to do with language. So for me, PRI’s “The World in Words” podcast is another wonderful find. Episodes tend to be on the shorter side (15 minutes or less), so they also fit my work-breaks quite nicely.
What do I listen to that’s not work related? I’m a sucker for a well-told story (aren’t we all?), I’m fascinated with history, and I’m particularly interested in hearing about women’s stories. So I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to “The History Chicks” podcast. The two hosts, Beckett and Susan, really bring each subject to life, and always deliver “herstory” with lots of humour and intelligence. As their tagline says: “Any resemblance to a boring history class is purely coincidental!”
What are your favourite podcasts? Have you found ones that are particularly helpful in some way? What are the qualities of a truly excellent podcast, in your opinion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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