Podcaster Q&A on Carving A Niche, Active Listening & Show Launching - E208

· Purpose,Singapore,Q and A,Creators,Podcast Episodes English

One interesting thing is that before I started podcasts, I usually listened to about 2 to 3 hours of podcasts a week. Now that I record 2 to 3 hours of podcasts a week, I actually stopped listening to podcasts mostly. The reason why is because when I'm making a podcast, I'm actually also listening. I'm also consuming. I'm like a person who has a bread maker machine. I make bread for myself, and then in that overflow I make bread for other people. It's quite key that you have to first and foremost remember that when you're a host, you are primarily acting as the active listener and therefore the active questioner of the listener.- Jeremy Au

Valerie Vu was previously Vietnam Country Head of Venturra Capital, a Southeast Asia focused venture capital firm investing in early-stage technology-based businesses headquartered in Jakarta. Venturra’s primary investment focus is on internet companies, in sectors such as e-commerce, financial technology, marketplaces, healthcare and education amongst others.

Valerie began her career at Deloitte U.S. where she provided clients in the asset management industry with the tax and deal advisory services. Raised by an entrepreneurial family, Valerie is fascinated by breakthrough technology and product innovation. She then joins the digital transformation of Southeast Asia by joining Venturra to empower and support entrepreneurs throughout their journey. Valerie was born and raised in Vietnam and was a first-generation college graduate of Temple University with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. She loves traveling, volunteering for educational initiatives, and learning new languages. She is currently learning Mandarin Chinese, her 5th language, after Vietnamese, French, English, and Spanish.

Jeremy Au: (00:30)

Hey Valerie, you are asking me a question about setting up a podcast and asking me for some advice about doing it. Focus on Vietnam and on the context around that is focussing on Vietnam content. I think broadly I think it's a good idea because there's a lot of niches that are still unexplored, especially from Southeast Asia context. Why not?

I think there's a niche for Vietnamese content. I think, especially if you happen to be doing it in the Vietnamese language, actually, I think the challenge of doing it from an English language perspective personally would just be that you'd be competing against Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan. I mean, who are amazing global brands then global like consumer lifestyle and then you're competing against Chamath, All-In then Jason Calacanis on the overall tech front and then there's BRAVE Southeast Asia Tech on the regional tech side and they're all in English. So, I really encourage people to say, “What is that niche that people really don't have?” And I think what is really special is that being able to do this in the local language is a big differentiation.

If you ask me, “Jeremy, is there a space for a Vietnamese podcast?” The answer is yes! If it is in Vietnamese. Because, that will let people feel comfortable listening to it. You let people feel comfortable speaking in it. There's that dynamic. If you're comfortable just because you're fluent English, doesn't mean you are able to show your personality, you're able to have a rapport or have cultural references, that only you and the guests crack jokes about the local culture or government are things like that the rest of the world or region doesn't know.

So, I think when you go deep into a niche, if it’s your Vietnamese hosts with Vietnamese guests speaking Vietnamese, that is a very good niche that comes together. I think where it breaks apart is when you're like a Vietnamese host talking to an American Vietnamese, speaking English. Then, the differentiation between Jeremy speaking to American Vietnamese in English is actually pretty low versus Joe Rogan talking to Americans in English is pretty low from a consumption basis.

I think a big thing that's already preventing a lot of podcasters is we need to do that is because it feel like they should be international and I think my advice, to a lot of podcasters, you have to become more and more niche, as niche as you can, however you define your niche is. And that's going to give you your strength, your base and as much more important than everything else, which is like the tools or the editing or how to do it is pretty easy. Go online, do Zoom hit the record button, make sure that there's no weird noises in the background and you're at 80% and 90% there already.

Valerie Vu: (03:22)

So, I can do Vietnamese podcasts in the Vietnamese language. For sure, but how can that episode reach out to the global audience and have them understand the nuances of what we are talking about?

Jeremy Au: (03:38)
That's what I'm saying, there's no need to. Podcasts are not a wide medium. It's a narrow medium. This is what I'm trying to push. Everyone to really be thoughtful. Think about it. What are the podcasts you listen to? I listen to podcasts on weight. One is about weight loss. Because losing 15 kilograms is exactly what I need and the other one is about authentic leadership journeys called Reboot.

A lot of folks are like, “I want to talk to a global audience. I want to talk to whatever,” And I'm like, but why would American want to hear about, sorry to say this, a Singaporean topic. No! The truth is if you are in the midwest and you don't have any diaspora links to Singapore and you're not in technology, why do you care about Singapore Tech?

There's no requirement. If you're an American VC and you don't invest in Southeast Asia at all, why do you even care about Singapore Tech? You don't. You're not even going to look at it. There's no requirement to really push for that global audience. I think a podcast should really be about domain mastery and finding your niche. Would you rather be the only Vietnamese language podcast that does tech where there are tens of millions of Vietnamese in Southeast Asia, plus a huge Vietnamese diaspora across the world that are happy to listen to it in Vietnamese or would you rather work in English where everyone's kind of scrapping for it? And I'm just saying, from a consumption basis, what makes you stand out and you still have a global audience just happens to be…

If you're producing content about Vietnam, who's going to be interested? People in Vietnam who are Vietnamese, internationals who are in Vietnam learning about Vietnam.So, maybe a few bonus episodes in English for them sometimes. The truth is there are other materials for them to read, and I'm going to be that ecosystem anyway, and a pretty small population and thirdly, Vietnamese diaspora who mostly speak Vietnamese anyway. Who at least understand listening to Vietnamese, if they can't really speak it that well and so the truth is language is not really a barrier for a global audience.

You still get a global audience by listening but at least you’re differentiated. Think about it again. This goes back to the quality of the guests. Are your guests comfortable speaking in English? Or the guess is going to be more comfortable speaking Vietnamese. And when I say comfortable, I'm not saying they're not literate in English. They are highly literate in English, but will their personality shine? Because podcasting is a personality.

Valerie Vu: (06:10)

Interesting point. So for when you do BRAVE, what analytics, metrics, what tools do you use to kind of measure your audience and your engagement?

Jeremy Au: (06:24)

Primarily, we use two things. One is your podcast host, whatever you choose. For example, Podcast.co, or choose the Transistor.FM, they will provide you some podcast analytics on a per episode basis. So, you use that. Then secondly, you use Google Analytics to measure your website traffic. Between those two things, you pretty much have everything covered. I think you can do more like Chartable that covers most of the basis for analytics.

Valerie Vu: (06:52)

Yeah! Then how far apart do you plan out who will be your guests? What topics are you going to talk about? The agenda? Or do you usually just let it flow?

Jeremy Au: (07:04)

At the start I did not have much of an agenda or at least I did have. And then, after that I became too structured and a lot of questions, then afterwards, now I tend to obviously have an opening where I ask them to introduce themselves, and then we had suggestion from fan base, you know what you call it the listener base to kind of something we did to hook into the BRAVE dynamic.

So, every time we do a podcast, we ask them let say, can you tell us about time that you have in BRAVE or is that the same way you just introduce yourself and wrap it up by telling us time that you've been brave and everything in between is just me really paying attention and really working hard to be an active listener, really acting as the role of the listener.

One interesting thing is that before I started podcasts, I usually listened to about 2 to 3 hours of podcasts a week. Now that I record 2 to 3 hours of podcasts a week, I actually stopped listening to podcasts mostly. The reason why is because when I'm making a podcast, I'm actually also listening. I'm also consuming.

I'm like a person who has a bread maker machine. I make bread for myself, and then in that overflow I make bread for other people. It's quite key that you have to first and foremost remember that when you're a host, you are primarily acting as the active listener and therefore the active questioner of the listener. So, if the other person is asking as in childhood and ABC and this tough thing happened, she said it in passing quickly and then moved on.

To have a successful career, you may have prepared very surface level questions about a career because that's what everybody knows. But, if you're not paying attention, you may not notice that it was a painful moment, body language or language, and then you have a choice right at that moment.

Segue in and say my curiosity, whether you piqued and said, “Can you tell me more about that time period? What does it mean to you? And how did that later on translate into whatever?” That's the secret knowledge that the guests share something that they've never shared before. Then, there's something unique that you've brought to the world because you brought something real that's rare. That's differentiated. This episode is differentiated from all the other media. Associate with that person, a little bit different, then it’s amazing!

Valerie Vu: (09:34)

So, should I get a coffee with my guests first to get to know them? Of course I know them already, but probably not in that deep personal connection yet. Should I do that before recording? What if they don't want to open up during the episode? It might get awkward.


Jeremy Au: (09:55)

I think you have different choices about that. I think people have different styles. I would say that it depends on the type of content you're going for as well. So for example, if you're doing Vietnam it’s probably therefore going to be in Vietnamese because nobody else is doing Vietnamese tech in Vietnamese, so it’s highly differentiated the niche. But, there are different types of stories you could take in.

You may be comfortable talking more about the business and economic side of it. So, the secret knowledge that people are talking about, for example, may not be about their personal childhood. It could be secret knowledge about where they see the Vietnamese tech landscape is going. That is their own personal take on how they think the economy is going to go, which is unique because it doesn't exist in the local media, or it would be difficult for a person on a street listening in or a junior person to hear that.

If that's the case, then you probably don't need to have that conversation beforehand because professional conversation doesn't require that level of vulnerability, etc., for example. However you can imagine that you will have a deeper conversation that you're going into the past or sort of authenticity, some level of preparatory work may be required to prep them up, let them feel comfortable of who you are, for example.

That being said, yes! a lot of them know me yet, a lot of them actually their first time meeting me as well. It's just that, I also do send them a lot of preparatory material and a sense of like I said in prior episodes that we've done before. So they have a chance to listen in and they know what other episodes sound like.

Then they have a choice to say, “Do we want to be authentic and real or not?” Your skills, the interviewer also help you tight it as well. For example, if you notice the other person is not being very vulnerable, etc., then yeah, no point wasting an hour trying to make someone be vulnerable when they don't want to be vulnerable and authentic.

But, as I say, if someone is willing to go deeper than you yourself can be vulnerable and you yourself can be authentic and you can both have a good experience together and then you can promote that thing. So for example, if you look at my past two years of episodes, I'm actually putting together anthology of the top ten episodes, and I'm going to be releasing a book, a beautiful hardcover book, ten best interviews of the Singapore books, edited transcribed it, profits will go to charity and things like that.

I chose those because those were the ten folks who went deep. Does it make sense? I made a choice to say like because they went deep with me. I get to spotlight those conversations more and I recommend those conversations more and I send them to my listeners more. Does it make sense? And I make them in the hardcover book.

I reward those deeper conversations with spotlighting them in the newsletter, in the book and all this word of mouth. And I think the listeners also reward them with that. It is not your responsibility to fully carry them. Does it make sense? So you still can do that half an hour coffee chat beforehand. Just to warm them up, make them have that conversation. We don't talk about what their reaction to the show is, we just take it

The way to think about it is define what the content of your show is going to be. Is it a professional? Tech? So what you define is web3. It probably means, you probably have less need to do preps, or maybe more, but because you have set topics or you have less because then it's less about comfort, but more about topics.

Then the next level comes down to your skill as an interviewer because you act as an active listener questioner and then next level down would be you have choices around how you edit and promote the podcasts to differentiate better podcasters as well as podcasts. And it's not your responsibility to carry the full water for the guests because you, as a host, have invited the guests and sometimes guests are not having a good day but they are great guests.I said come back and shoot another time. No problem!


Valerie Vu: (13:42)

Last question, because I know we're running out of time. Amongst three skills that you mentioned, interviewing skills, listening skills and the kind of edit promoting skills, which one is the most important for a beginner? Are there any other skills that I haven’t noted? So, please let me know.


Jeremy Au: (14:01)

The most important skill by far is listening, and that will be the reason why most podcasts will fail. What I mean by that is a lot of people ask me all the time and a reason why we're recording this and happy to record this is that a lot of people ask me, “Jeremy, I want to set up a podcast.” I always tell people that the first thing you should do before setting up a podcast, is that you should guest on a podcast as much as you can.

Then, my first recommendation is to go guesting at least 20 podcasts. So there's a bunch of online websites where you can guest on a podcast. You've been a guest on my show, you can guest on other people's shows and always looking for shows. An Asian-American show, for example, and I'm sure there's Vietnamese other podcasts, other VC podcasts for example your scenario that would be happy to have you female led podcast, different niches that apply to you that would want you to be as a guest because you represent a niche that they have.

So you need to pitch yourself to them and get yourself on 20 shows. After you do 20 podcast episodes, what you should have hammered out is that you got to do something, is that you got to hear different things, different shows, different show notes. They showed you their scheduling. They do all the hard work of editing, promotion. You see the different niches.

More importantly, you got to hear 20 hosts show you how they host the show differently. You see different folks and see what style fits you. You see 20 episodes then you know for yourself. Actually maybe a certain style of podcasts resonates with me or I would like to guest. I like speaking, I like being the star of the show, but I don't want to be an active listener.

I don't want to be the person asking the questions because I can guarantee you that when you are a guest on 20 episodes, where are you going to find out is that some hosts are not very good hosts because you got to notice when you are the guest, they are kind of jumping in, they are kind of like not giving you space. They're trying to act hard.

I can tell you there's one show where I realised that he was jumping in, butting in, and then he was like shopping while I was talking and I was just, whoa! I can see, you know, from the reflection on the glasses. I don't know, why are you shopping? I was like, okay, I don't want to be that kind of host.

I work very hard to not have that. Being a guest on 20 shows helps you again understand how to clean up your logistics, your mic, your stuff. You know what kind of person you are and figure out whether you want to be a guest or a show host. After you do that, then you launch your podcast and then you do other work to be a host.

When you become the host the most important thing is that you have to be a great listener. The biggest advice that I will give is to start inviting guests, not because they're famous, not because they're amazing or whatever it is, because the floor that you want to have, you want to talk with them anyway.

The best part about the BRAVE Southeast Asia Tech podcasts is that even while recording this call with you right now, I do want to talk with Valerie. Does that make sense? And every time I do an episode with someone, I do want to talk to them, I want to learn from them, or I want to meet them.

So, it's cool. It’s never a moment wasted and I never feel like I'm bored and I never feel like, “Oh, I shouldn't be here.” On that note, thank you so much, Valerie.


Valerie Vu: (17:26)

Thank you! Thank you so much Jeremy! Got a lot of good advice from you. Give me more confidence to really start this thing. Look out for something coming from me. really soon