Stephanie Evans and Michelle Wilson are my guest on this episode. After Michelle left the her executive director position at the TriVillage Chamber Partnership and hosting duties of their podcast, Business Inspires, Stephanie has stepped in as the new executive director and host of the podcast. We talk about that transition, and what the effects will be.
Brett Johnson: Well, before we get into the heavy of the podcast, talking about Business Inspires' podcast, I want to ask each of you, Michelle, and Stephanie, about nonprofits that you support, that you give time, talent, or treasure to. I'll start with Michele.
Michelle Wilson: Sure. I think that the one nearest and dearest to my heart, right now, is the new Nationwide Children's Hospital On Our Sleeves. It's a mental health awareness program. I just think that it's something that's so important, and needed. The conversation, while it seems like it's out there a lot, I think it's really just beginning. I think it's an amazing program, I definitely ... I'm trying to become more involved with it. I've supported it financially, and I'm just figuring out ways that I can support it otherwise.
Brett Johnson: And Stephanie?
Stephanie Evans: I would say the one that I probably spend the most of my time with is Best Buddies, Best Buddies Ohio. It's part of a national organization to assist folks with developmental disabilities, to engage them in one-on-one friendships, and then to help find them work in the workplace. My husband's on the board there for Best Buddies Ohio, and I help out when I can. Really, my whole family's involved, because there are high school, and college-age groups, as well, to help the students make lifelong friendships. It's a really great organization. That's where we spend our time.
Brett Johnson: Great, thanks. Let's talk a little bit about each of your professional backgrounds, and, as the podcast develops, we'll figure out, and the listener will figure out, "Oh, this is where the two come together, and why this is a podcast about the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership's Business Inspires podcast. Let's start with Michelle, because your history with the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership is longer. Let's talk a little bit about your background, and how you became a part of the TVCP.
Michelle Wilson: I have always been in the nonprofit or not-for-profit world. I started out at Experience Columbus, when it was the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, way back when. Moved around a little bit from there in membership departments at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association. Always found that that was where I landed.
Michelle Wilson: Was able to land a amazing position with the Grandview Area Chamber, back in '09, when they were looking for their first full-time director. I landed there; got that job. Grandview was where I grew up, and had my kids, so it was a nice fit. I knew the community; I knew a lot of people there.
Michelle Wilson: We were able to then grow and expand that into a merger between the Upper Arlington Chamber, and the Grandview, and Marble Cliff Chambers. We, in 2016, became the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership. That's my background, and, of course, I have recently left that position after almost 10 years, and landed back at Experience Columbus, so a little bit of a full circle there.
Brett Johnson: Exactly. Stephanie?
Stephanie Evans: For me, I started at the National Kidney Foundation of Ohio in the communications department there, and then moved my way up, ultimately, to executive director position there, and was there for a while. Then left that position, really, to stay home to start a family. Then, in that time, two, what turned out to be three businesses of my own ... So, a small-business owner-
Brett Johnson: One just wasn't enough. I've gotta do three.
Stephanie Evans: They weren't all simultaneous. They were kind of-
Michelle Wilson: Not one; not two, but three ...
Stephanie Evans: A couple of 'em overlapped. Yeah, a couple of 'em overlapped. Anyway, so I spent that time having my own business, and raising my kids at home. Then, a couple of years ago, just had some changes take place in my personal life, and decided to let my photography business go. That's what my more recent one was.
Stephanie Evans: Really, through a friend of mine, who happened to be related to Michelle, let me know that there was an opening there, and connected with Michelle. That's how I landed at the Chamber. Came in as the membership manager, part-time, and have been there almost two years. It'll be two years in March. Then, when Michelle made her next step, I switched seats, and I went from membership manager to executive director.
Brett Johnson: From the baby pool to the deep end.
Stephanie Evans: That's right.
Michelle Wilson: Quite literally. Yeah.
Brett Johnson: I have you both on because ... We were talking about this before recording. I've jumped on this theme, by accident, of the host transitions. The Business Inspires podcast is now going through a host transition. Michelle had hosted the podcast from its inception, up through her leaving recently, and Stephanie's now taking the roam and doing the interviews, and setting up scheduling for guests, and such, for Business Inspires.
Brett Johnson: I wanted to bring both of you together to talk about that. I know Michelle'll have a little bit more knowledge on the beginnings, as I will, too, but I think it's worth the discussion, because this is a Chamber-focused podcast, Business Inspires. Why a podcast for Tri-Village Chamber Partnership, Michelle?
Michelle Wilson: For me, it was having discussions with you, and I hadn't even really considered it, but when you approached me, it seemed like an edgy new different thing to do. I think that's one of the things I like to pride myself, or the Chamber on. At the time, we were going through a merger. That was something that was pretty rare. We had taken a couple of leaps of faith along the way, with the Grandview Area Chamber, and done some really cool projects that others had not yet tried.
Michelle Wilson: I thought this was a really great new edgy way to perhaps reach a new demographic. Chambers, and membership organizations, in general, we're going through a bit of an identity crisis, and I thought this might be a really cool way to reach the younger demographic that didn't necessarily understand why they should be a member of a Chamber of Commerce.
Brett Johnson: I know when we first started, too, I was looking at it as a potential engagement tool. I know Chambers have a difficulty. Yeah, they have ... The email database is great, but the open rate, no, and the feedback from members, and getting them involved, and such ... I was envisioning the podcast, possibly, as an engagement tool, as well, too.
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: If nothing else, reaching out to members, being part of the podcast, and getting 'em involved in a different way that they hadn't even thought about, it's like, "Oh, wow ..." [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: Right, and they didn't understand it.
Brett Johnson: They didn't-.
Michelle Wilson: Any more than I did.
Brett Johnson: Correct. Correct, yes. Trying to go in the back my mind, how the process began, I think we just had coffee to talk about this idea. Luckily, you were very welcoming to the idea, too, because I think I laid it out as you have a lot of content, great content. You refined it even more, talking about, "Okay, let's talk to businesses about how they started, and how they're growing."
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: I kinda wanna go a little bit more on that, why that popped in your mind.
Michelle Wilson: I think we're really lucky in the Tri-Village area that we just had this ... We have a really great group of members. One of the things that we never really have to preach is to support one another, and make sure you're using member businesses, and make sure you're looking there first. People just naturally do it.
Michelle Wilson: You may use a vendor, here and there, that you've gotten great service from, but you don't really know why they do what they do, or why they got started. I thought it would be a neat premise to figure out if this was something they really- was their lifelong aspiration, or if they just landed there. I think finding their personal connection to what they do was just a different way to approach it. There are lots of business podcasts out there, and I thought maybe putting a spin on it might be more engaging.
Brett Johnson: I think the guests have done a great job, as well, and they get it, when they're on the podcast.
Michelle Wilson: Yes.
Brett Johnson: They bring it back into why the Chamber is so important to them.
Michelle Wilson: Right, sure.
Brett Johnson: Not a guest that we've talked to that we've had to tell them, "Hey, be sure to incorporate why the Chamber's so important to you."
Michelle Wilson: We've never asked that question.
Brett Johnson: Never have asked it. It's come up organically in every interview. Stephanie, even the couple that we've done, have come up ... With your transition, we've never told them to say anything about it.
Stephanie Evans: Right. It did just come up naturally.
Brett Johnson: It's amazing. Again, you can have the leading questions, as we had one ... Not leading questions, but to incorporate that maybe one member has done a lot to help with some events, and such. That's gonna come up in conversation, obviously, too. I know we talked initially, too, Michelle, when I brought up the idea ... I knew that I had to come up with a way that might be comfortable for you. I knew the question may come up about, "What kind of podcast? Are you talking about me just being the podcast?"
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: That's why I introduced let's do the interview. Makes it a whole lot easier. You still had the nervousness, in regards to, "I'm not an interviewer. I haven't done "radio." How do I do this?"
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: How did you prepare yourself to be, I think, a great interviewer?
Michelle Wilson: Oh, thank you.
Brett Johnson: I think you agree, now, too. I think you've done a great job with it. You actually started have a lot of fun after the first couple-
Michelle Wilson: I did, yeah, right.
Brett Johnson: You did. How did you jump into that, in regards to getting yourself prepared, and getting more comfortable to being an interviewer?
Michelle Wilson: Again, going back to just who we are as ... Who our personality is at the Chamber is we're very relationship-driven. While everybody says that, I believe it to be true. I believe that so much of the success of the Tri-Village Chamber has been because Stephanie and I have gotten to know people. We know them on a personal level, generally - not every single person - but I think that's been a big part of the success.
Michelle Wilson: Preparing for the podcast was just figuring out how do I ask somewhat personal questions without getting too personal? Finding out what it is they wanted to be, when they were young, and having them take a step back, and look at why they are where they are. I did basically the same research, every single time.
Michelle Wilson: We did identify ... At least initially, we identified members that perhaps I knew a little more on a personal level, so that I could ... They were kinda my guinea pigs. I could ask them questions that- and I would be more comfortable asking them questions, because I kinda knew what their answers would be. Although, I think, each time, they surprised me, and that was also fun. It was always a discovery, no matter how much I thought I knew going into the interview. I think that led, each time, to a really great end product.
Brett Johnson: It did, I agree. I was thinking about the time process, when our first discussion, and when we kicked it off ... I don't remember actually how many weeks/months it took. I think it went fairly quickly, honestly.
Michelle Wilson: Yeah.
Brett Johnson: I think a lot of the time that it took, and this is part of the interview process, is booking people; getting those businesses in. At that time, we were very lucky to have a great relationship with a local radio station group to utilize their studios. I know the owner was extremely happy to have business owners coming in to the radio station, just to see the Hollywood of it, to be a part of this podcast, but also just a monthly process of seeing new businesses coming in, because of this podcast.
Brett Johnson: That was a nice relationship, at that point in time, to get things going, to legitimize the podcast, as well, working with the radio station group. The sound of the podcast versus just being in front of a computer laptop, and, "Okay, talk as close as you can to the screen ..."
Michelle Wilson: Oh, it made a difference. It definitely ... Absolutely, it made a difference being in a professional setting.
Brett Johnson: I think it made a little bit easier for you, too, I'm assuming, because you were at a radio station. This is what happens here.
Michelle Wilson: It did. Right.
Brett Johnson: Interviews, and content, that sorta thing, yeah.
Michelle Wilson: I was lucky enough to be a part of a couple of other podcasts, and they were fine. I would never say anything negative about them, other than the sound quality ... The difference in sound quality, I felt really lucky that we had what we had with that radio station.
Brett Johnson: Yes, and I think the process of us moving as fast as we did - I'm gonna say probably a couple of months, quite frankly [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: Oh, I think it was, yeah.
Brett Johnson: -it probably was. We didn't really have a lot of people involved.
Michelle Wilson: Right. That's true.
Brett Johnson: We went rogue for the most part [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: If you asked my past board members, they would say that ,"Michelle asks forgiveness, not permission," and that's just how it worked.
Brett Johnson: I don't know if that's the proper way for any Chamber to think about doing something like this, but what is the harm, as long as you have the game plan, and this is the direction you're going with it?
Michelle Wilson: Sure.
Brett Johnson: You focused a couple of the board members as guests, as well, so that made a big difference.
Michelle Wilson: I did. Right. Some of that was strategic, but they also are really good interviews ... Perhaps it was for a double reason, but there was good content there.
Brett Johnson: Yeah. How has the podcast been able to showcase the Chamber's expertise? How did you incorporate that, as well as with Stephanie coming in, as well, too, what the Chamber is? I know there's, like you said, an atmosphere; a culture that the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership has, compared to any other chamber - good, bad, whatever. Every Chamber has its culture; its feel. How do you think you incorporated that, in regards to what you were doing with the podcast, as well as what Stephanie will be doing in the future, too?
Michelle Wilson: Steph, do you wanna take that? I can take that. I think I can take that. There's a saying, and I probably said this on past podcasts, that you've seen one Chamber, you've seen one Chamber. We all operate very differently; every community is so different. Partnerships vary.
Michelle Wilson: The Grandview area, Upper Arlington area, and now, of course, Tri-Village, I think have been very lucky to have good relationships with their city governments, with their key players in the area. I think that really played beautifully into the podcast just being an extension of what it was we were already doing. That was finding new ways to engage our members; finding new ways to keep them interested, and on board.
Michelle Wilson: When we started receiving feedback, pretty quickly ... It takes a while to build your listenership, of course, but when we started receiving feedback, pretty quickly, from members who were intrigued by the fact that we were doing a podcast, and they were learning about these small businesses on a different level, that was exciting.
Michelle Wilson: Again, I think, going back to some other chances we took as a Chamber: the Chamber Challenge, when we did a business makeover in three days; that was that was a huge undertaking, and a great success story. The podcast was just the next thing we were trying. I joked about asking forgiveness, not permission, but kinda true. We just said, "Sure, that sounds like a good idea. Let's give it a shot." We didn't have a lot to lose. It's turned out to be a really great benefit, I think, to our members. People are asking to be a part of it now. I think it was just natural, that it was something we did that was different, and edgy.
Brett Johnson: I think one great story that came out of ... I think we maybe had three or four published at the time, but the first episode that we published, she got an inquiry about her business for new business-.
Michelle Wilson: Yeah, and got the business-.
Brett Johnson: And got the business. When you told me that, I'm going, "Wow, okay, this stuff kinda works, doesn't it?"
Michelle Wilson: Yeah. We thought, "Gosh, if that happens every single time, we've got something ..." which, of course, jokingly. We knew that wasn't gonna happen every single time, but-
Brett Johnson: Sure ... Being the first episode of the whole podcast-
Michelle Wilson: -but the very first episode did produce business, yeah.
Brett Johnson: Yeah, amazing. That was a difficult episode, because that was your first. That was her first, but it came out great-
Michelle Wilson: We were both so nervous-
Brett Johnson: -and she got to showcase exactly what she wanted to for her business, and it obviously worked.
Michelle Wilson: Yeah, she came off beautifully. She really did.
Brett Johnson: Yeah, she did. Have you seen adding the podcast content to the website improve the site's search component?
Michelle Wilson: That's a great question that I would have to ... I don't know that we have done a ton of analytics on it. It's certainly something we can do. You've provided us with numbers that have increased over time. I'm certain that it probably has, I just wish I could give you exact numbers, but I can't-.
Brett Johnson: No, and that's fine, because I can answer a little bit to that, because I know the user agent piece to the back end that I do see. This is not atypical of a business-oriented podcast; it is a lot more desktop listenership than through phone. Therefore, they are listening via your website, or a link through the email.
Michelle Wilson: Yeah, sure.
Stephanie Evans: One of the things we did on the website, too, was we added a tab; specifically, it says Podcast, so you don't have to look for the podcast in the other drop-down menus. It used to be part of the news, or something like that-
Michelle Wilson: It did, yes.
Stephanie Evans: We changed it to add it, so you see it right when you log onto the website.
Michelle Wilson: Right-
Brett Johnson: Which will make a difference over time, of course, too [cross talk].
Michelle Wilson: -much easier to find.
Brett Johnson: Right. I know a lot of businesses, they wanna add content to their website, but it's like, "Okay, where do we put it without junking up the site?" Or maybe the original design of the site was not really set up to incorporate any video, any audio.
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: It's kinda difficult to measure, because it's not in the right place. A tab, obviously, will help tremendously, and such, too. Another unexpected thing that happened, but we were focusing on this, we had a sponsorship for the podcast.
Michelle Wilson: We did.
Brett Johnson: We'd always talked about this, but we just ... Had come up with a list of potential sponsors, but knowing that any sponsorship could limit who might even wanna be on the podcast, or it might sound as though, "Okay, they're sponsoring, but what are you giving 'em?" You're a Chamber sort of thing.
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: I think our focus of who did sponsor the podcast made a lot of sense. I'll let you talk a little bit about the story-.
Michelle Wilson: It did-
Brett Johnson: -because you carried the water on this one.
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, well, I approached ... Of course, the Tri-Village Chamber Partnership is made up of Grandview Heights, Marble Cliff, and Upper Arlington. We approached the three of them, and said, "These are the businesses that are representative of each of your areas, so, let's get you on board.".
Michelle Wilson: What I really love is that the smallest of those three municipalities stepped up. The Village of Marble Cliff got it really quickly. They went through a few readings, and they listened to some podcasts, and they stepped up with some dollars. One of the things we said was we'll be sure to make sure that we are including businesses in the Village of Marble Cliff. There aren't a ton. It's a very small village. Not a huge ask on their part, but some great businesses there.
Michelle Wilson: The businesses that we already had focused on in Marble Cliff helped sell it. Then, we made a commitment to feature some more, and we did that, and we're still doing that. I was really happy that they stepped up, not just from a dollar perspective, but because it was a great way for a small village to get some awesome exposure. Their logo went on there, and then they got to think of a fun slogan, and tagline. I think it helped them, and is helping them in a different way, as well.
Brett Johnson: It's little bit of moral support, too.
Michelle Wilson: Yeah.
Brett Johnson: I felt really good after you ... I know you called me. It wasn't an email. "Hey, we got a sponsor!" and you said who it was. It was a struggle. It was ... It will be, working with municipalities, and cities, of course. The process is a bit slower; a lot more people have to sign off on these ideas of money being spent. I totally understand that versus going to a business as a sponsorship.
Michelle Wilson: Yeah.
Brett Johnson: Hearing that feedback, and knowing that they're going to do that meant monumental pushing a big rock-
Michelle Wilson: Right, right ...
Brett Johnson: -knowing that it doesn't matter what size of government there is, there had to be a lot of eyeballs seeing this, "Yeah we're gonna do this; we're gonna do this; we're gonna do this," because this money is being spent here, versus here. It was good feedback.
Stephanie Evans: One of the things that their Mayor, Kent, had said about it was that they view it as a professional education opportunity for the businesses in the Marble Cliff area, and felt that, by supporting the podcast, it was encouraging their businesses to listen in, because they can't always make it to a luncheon, or a breakfast, or a coffee, or an event, where we might have a speaker, or some kind of educational program.
Stephanie Evans: It really is educational, when you listen to how someone got their business started, or how they made the next steps to grow, and that kinda stuff. They felt like it was a good option to treat it as professional education, in a way, to give to the business community, and support us, as well.
Brett Johnson: One of your last interviews was with Kent, and-
Michelle Wilson: It was.
Brett Johnson: -probably one of the better podcasts, in regards to understanding the Village of Marble Cliff.
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: He's such a great speaker [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: He is.
Brett Johnson: -understanding this very ... What is it? Two square mile, if that? I forget how many square mile it is, but government is government, and it's just a smaller version of it, but it's the same mechanisms, the same "politics" going on, but just on a smaller scale; a microcosm, comparatively, but still important to those that are living in that little community.
Michelle Wilson: Right, and they're very lucky they have somebody who's forward-thinking, and is ... Again, I think like the Chamber taking a chance on some doing something a little differently ... We're very lucky that he sits on the board, and has a great voice to lend, on behalf of the village.
Brett Johnson: We tried to come up with the most convenient publishing schedule, and we varied that. I know, initially, we went with ... Because of scheduling issues, and problems, and fitting in your schedule, obviously, to sit down. and talk with folks, and give yourself some time for research, we are on a once-a-month publishing schedule. It worked really well, I think.
Brett Johnson: Then we started to crank it up to every three weeks, and I think we saw some momentum come from that, as well, too, that it started to take off a little bit more, as well. We could get more people in over a year's time, as well, too. How did that change, in regards to how you set yourself up, and your scheduling, too, that one extra week, or one fewer week to prepare? Did that take some mental strain? How did that change your life?
Michelle Wilson: Not tremendously, because I think it was something that I so enjoyed. It was just one of my favorite parts; truly getting to take a deep dive into one business was so enjoyable for me. Doing the research ... I had basically the same list of questions every single time. That would always be my fall backs. Then, depending on who we were talking to, and how well I knew them, or if there had been something in the news recently that I wanted to make sure I touched on, I customized that each time. It was more exciting, quite honestly, to increase it, and get to talk to more people, and beef that up a little bit.
Brett Johnson: I know Stephanie, you can answer this, as well, too, because of being on board as long as you were, installing the social media strategy, and the email strategy. Let's talk a little bit about that, how that's evolved, as well, too, from your standpoint, and moving forward. This podcast is included in every newsletter that goes out for the Chamber, which is a weekly ... What other pieces are being implemented that are being done/were being don, as well as looking to the future?
Stephanie Evans: It goes into our weekly newsletter with a link, so it's on our website. It always sits there, and the link sends you to the website. Then, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram ... Trying to think of all the social media. Admittedly, we are in a transition there with the social media.
Stephanie Evans: We had contracted out some work; the person that was doing that work for us recently moved to Seattle. In theory, he could do it from there, but it's more practical to have it here, closer to home. We're in transition, getting our head around how to do that social media, and how best to approach that. The podcast link is included in all of that, and we're trying to stay active on that, and keep up to date, and find a new rhythm with our social media.
Brett Johnson: Yeah, it's kind of a double-whammy, with the transition of hosts, also losing the social media person, or [cross talk] choice to keep the social media in-house; let's put it that way.
Stephanie Evans: Right. That's the goal at this point is to keep it in-house, and just, I guess, have a more intimate knowledge of it. I don't know if that's really the right way to phrase that, but we could do things a little more quickly [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: Well, it's certainly more immediate.
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, it's more immediate-
Brett Johnson: That person's desk is five feet away [cross talk]
Stephanie Evans: Right, instead of sending a picture to somebody ... It does make it more immediate. We just have to get up to speed with it.
Brett Johnson: Sure, sure. Well, and you can look at it as good timing, or bad timing. It's probably very good timing, because you get to own it - the change of it - and evolve with it, as well. I know, with the transition, we're looking at probably backing up publishing dates, back to a month, probably, just because, again, new role for you [cross talk]
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, just a little ... This big microphone looking at.
Brett Johnson: -of looking at, "Okay, I still wanna continue ..." Well, "I still wanna continue on with the podcast," but how to incorporate it into my day, as the newly appointed executive director for the Chamber. It's just a week, so not big, but I think that the implementation of a new person with social media, keeping it in-house, may be an easier transition, as well, too.
Stephanie Evans: I think we're still very much in a transition phase. I just officially took this role as executive director in October, so I was still in my learning curve. Then, add to that the change in the social media contractor that we were using, and bringing someone in-house, and me changing roles altogether. There's a lot to learn.
Michelle Wilson: You're welcome [cross talk]
Stephanie Evans: I didn't know as much as I thought I knew. I sat next to Michelle in the office, and I [cross talk]
Brett Johnson: -osmosis works pretty well, too.
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, and I knew a lot about the Chamber activities, but not so much the things that she did. Now, I have literally switched chairs. I took your chair.
Michelle Wilson: That's a great, great chair.
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, it's a great chair. There's a lot to learn, and it's a busy day. I make my to-do list at the end of the day, for my next day, and inevitably, I get to work ... Sometimes, I check my email before I get in, and my whole day changes.
Michelle Wilson: That's right.
Brett Johnson: Welcome to life. Yeah, right, exactly.
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, exactly. It's never quite like I planned. Just kinda keeping up with things still has me in a transition.
Brett Johnson: That's a great segue into talking about the transition of hosts. Obviously, you knew you were going to leave, and whether that was being discussed or not ... One way or the other, in the mind, you knew, "Okay, I'm moving on, but there are things I have to take care of.".
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: What was the discussion like with Stephanie, when you said, "Hey, I'm outta here. Totally up to you if you wanna keep the podcast going, but let's talk about the podcast ..."? What was that conversation like?
Michelle Wilson: Well, I told Steph that it was one of my favorite parts of the job. It had grown into that, and that I would ... I just told her the truth. I think that I was very nervous, and that if we kept it going, which I thought we should, that we approach it the same way. Don't put a ton of pressure on yourself, because the conversation really does take over.
Michelle Wilson: We scheduled a couple of podcasts, my last two, and and did those in the office, in a more comfortable setting, and Stephanie sat in on those, and got to see that I wasn't exaggerating. It really is very laid back, and conversational, and the flow should be fairly natural. You have these questions that you can fall back on, if conversation halts for some reason, but that never really happened, thankfully, but they were good conversation starters.
Michelle Wilson: The Chamber is very lucky that Stephanie knocked on our door a couple of years ago, and said, "Hey, I'm interested in coming here." Her background, and personality just lent itself beautifully for the transition. I knew she'd be great, and, of course, she is.
Stephanie Evans: Thanks, Michelle.
Brett Johnson: She said that in the conversation. What did you hear? [cross talk]
Stephanie Evans: -I'm like, "What? Who can I get to do that?"
Michelle Wilson: How do you portray deer in the headlights over a microphone?
Stephanie Evans: I think, from the start, I totally agreed that it needed to continue. I think it's a really great thing for the Chamber, for our members, and for the folks who are listening. There was no doubt that we wanted to keep it going. The struggle for me is overcoming the anxiety of having this big microphone in front of me, and feeling like I don't know how to do this.
Stephanie Evans: My first thoughts were, "Okay, well, we have to keep it going. We have to keep it going. Who can I ask to do it? Who can be the voice?" I went through all kinds of different ideas in my head, and I'm like, "Okay, the fact is it's most natural, probably, for me to do it. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths, and just do it." Your encouragement, Brett, and your encouragement, Michelle-
Brett Johnson: Thank you.
Stephanie Evans: I know-
Brett Johnson: Did you end up going back, and listening to some older episodes to really listen to 'em differently, and how it was done?
Stephanie Evans: That's a good question. I guess I didn't go back very far. I generally listen to them as they come, but I did go [cross talk]
Brett Johnson: Right, right, right ... But you can hear it with a different ear, when you have to host it.
Stephanie Evans: Yes, and I did. I did go back and listen to probably three or four ... Not the entire podcasts, but parts of the three or four of 'em. You're right. I didn't even remember that I did that, but I did, right before we recorded my first one; to go back and just listen to the flow, and how the conversation went.
Stephanie Evans: That helped, and I had Michelle's list of questions that I just had in front of me. I did use them probably more than Michelle does, or did at the time. It does help provide the backup, like when you are afraid of stalling out; you know you won't, if you have that.
Stephanie Evans: The other thing that you had said, Brett, is that it doesn't really matter how long it is, It can be 10 minutes; it can be half an hour. It's just wherever the conversation just naturally stops. Relieving that pressure of having to fill 20 minutes was helpful, too. I think probably mostly it was in my head, because, you're right, it's pretty natural, but heart races, at first, and your mouth gets dry [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: Even though you know it's not live, you do have this big microphone in front of you, and there's a sense of pressure, when that's not something you do every day, but-
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, even today.
Michelle Wilson: Right, but it's also a sense of relief, when ... If you can get out of your head long enough to think, "Okay, we can fix this," because it's not live, and it can come off sounding pretty smooth, if we stumble a little bit along the way.
Stephanie Evans: I think that the biggest thing for me was just the commitment to knowing that it has to go forward; not going to stop doing this. I've gotta figure it out.
Brett Johnson: Mm hmm, yeah. I hadn't thought about the transition you talked about, in regards to bringing it back in the office; getting away from the professional studio. That probably maybe helped you with the transition, as well, too. It's in your office, now-
Stephanie Evans: Probably, yeah.
Brett Johnson: Bring a couple microphones in; it's not the intimidation factor of a studio that you're not comfortable in. You had never been in that studio that we were recording in, and we were taking the podcast on the road for a few episodes, as well, too, for convenience sake, as well ... Moving what we thought was gonna be a different direction, but didn't happen. It was an experiment; just didn't happen. Back in your office makes a whole lot of sense, and it may be just as comfortable for your guests, as well, too, because [cross talk]
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, a lot of 'em had been there before, and they're nervous, too, the people that we've interviewed. They were nervous, definitely, so having that comfort level of knowing where they're going, knowing how to get there, and that kinda thing, I do think helps.
Michelle Wilson: For me, I had the benefit of recording promo spots for some of our past events at the studio, so I at least had a little bit of a level of familiarity with going into the studio, and talking into a microphone. That's not the case for everybody, so I do think it's a nice familiar setting to do it in the Chamber offices [cross talk]
Brett Johnson: Moving forward, any new thoughts? Any new ideas that you wanna implement over the next few months? Have you put thought to that, or the different type of people we wanna talk to?
Stephanie Evans: With regard to the podcast?
Brett Johnson: Yeah.
Stephanie Evans: I think one of the things that we had tossed out ... I really do love the up close, and personal, and finding out how a business came along. I am a small business owner, myself, still-
Brett Johnson: You've been there.
Stephanie Evans: Yeah, I have. I've owned two businesses by myself, and then my husband, and I currently own a business together. I'm a small business owner, too, and so I do appreciate hearing other people's stories. I think that I learned from it. I think our listeners can learn from it. Everybody's tackled it a little differently.
Stephanie Evans: One of the things that I think has been great about the ones that we've had so far is the variety of businesses that we've invited in for it. I think, for the listeners, if you look at the list, it's this huge variety. I think that shows the breadth of our membership. For folks who aren't members, or just out there listening, they can see the kind of businesses that we have, and that it really covers a whole range of businesses.
Stephanie Evans: I think that the up close, and personal, "How did you get here?" way is great. We've also tossed around, do we start doing more like ... I don't know, a specific topic in business, and how do we address that, and kinda come at that from different angles. For right now, I feel like if it's not broke, don't fix it. If this is our niche, and this is what we're known for, then that's the track we should stay on. If we start to feel like we wanna mix it up a little bit, I do think that there are some other avenues we could venture down.
Brett Johnson: Yeah, we talked about other opportunities, as well, too, just expanding the role of the podcast. It gives you the opportunity as a new host to do that, as well as Michelle was always kicking around that idea. We were always kicking around those ideas, so it's always on the table.
Michelle Wilson: Sure, yeah. I think it's really key to mention, too, from the member perspective, besides learning about other members, is that it's a great marketing tool for them. They walk away with this podcast. We walk away learning something; a little bit more about, perhaps, that member, or that industry, but the member walks away with a marketing piece that they can put on their website; that they can pull snippets of. You're great about helping them with pulling out key pieces that would be great for marketing. There's no charge to them for being a guest on our podcast. It's really a benefit to everybody involved.
Brett Johnson: There's not an episode that I didn't learn something-
Michelle Wilson: Oh, my gosh, yes. Me, too.
Brett Johnson: -or heard something said, going, "That makes sense," especially when you start to change what you're doing in your world-
Michelle Wilson: Right.
Brett Johnson: -and things hit you differently, when you start to think about things differently, whether it's a new business venture, or you're venturing with a new career, whatever; you just hear it differently. I think every episode, all the guests have done a fantastic job of bringing just little nuggets, yeah-
Michelle Wilson: A nugget, right. There have been times that I've walked away thinking, or not thinking, but just having learned something that I just didn't expect. There was a couple of times when I was kind of gobsmacked, for lack of a better word.
Michelle Wilson: In one of those, a piece of advice came out of it. One of my favorite things was to ask, "What advice were you given, or what advice would you now give?" One of the podcasts, there was a piece of advice given to one of our interviewees that I loved, and I have now used in a practical way with my kids, and in my life. I definitely learned a life lesson out of doing an interview that ... Gosh, that's not what I expected to get out of it, but it was great.
Brett Johnson: All right. Advice to a business owner, or another Chamber outside of the Columbus area ... They would like to start a podcast ... Wouldn't want any more competition here, but since the podcast is worldwide-
Michelle Wilson: We've got it covered.
Brett Johnson: We've got it covered, here, but I'll ask both of you, what advice would you give a business owner, or another Chamber that may be considering podcasting as a marketing tool? What would you tell them to keep in mind?
Michelle Wilson: Steph, jump in anytime. I think I would tell them to try to come up with what's unique about them, and capitalize on it, with their podcast, with whatever the theme is, or what it is that they want to accomplish. Find out what's- identify what's unique, and use it.
Michelle Wilson: Also, try to get the supporters on board first, and not necessarily ask permission, but now that there's somebody that's doing this, and it's working, don't recreate the wheel, and definitely get people on board first. Realize that there are resources out there to help you get started, and that it's really a phenomenal tool to engage your members.
Stephanie Evans: They might be able to get sponsorship upfront [cross talk]
Michelle Wilson: Upfront, yes.
Stephanie Evans: -say, "Here's what we wanna do," and model it after this or that, and be able to get some sponsorship upfront. I would say definitely think about that. One of the things that I think our podcast does is, alongside of the information that's shared from the interviewees, is it showcases the personality of the Chamber, just in the conversations that take place.
Stephanie Evans: I do think that the conversations ... Michelle's done a really great job of being very natural, and being able to bring out the personality, not only of the person being interviewed, but her personality shows, too. I think that that ...
Stephanie Evans: I always tell people who are thinking about joining our Chamber that the personality of our Chamber, I really do feel like, represents the communities that we represent. It's a really warm, sincere group of people who wanna see each other support- sorry, wanna support each other, and see each other be successful. I feel like that comes through in the interviews, just the personalities. I think that's a real nice benefit for our members, and for the Chamber, as a whole.
Brett Johnson: Yeah, I would think, and I agree ... I always think this medium is not a fake-it medium. It's raw. It's raw. The emotions are there. You just can't fake it, versus writing a blog, or having a professional blogger write it for you that represents your company. This is it. I think the podcast brings that out of the Chamber, as well as the guests I've seen, overall.
Brett Johnson: Congratulations on your move, Michelle.
Michelle Wilson: Thank you very much.
Brett Johnson: That was a kick in the gut, when you told me you were leaving. a little bit-
Stephanie Evans: I second that-.
Brett Johnson: -because I knew I was going to miss working with you. I knew the podcast would live on, because it had legs, and I knew Stephanie was more than capable of getting this done, but working with you, I knew I was gonna miss [cross talk] because it was a lot of fun.
Brett Johnson: I am looking forward to what Stephanie is gonna do, as well, too, because the focus of this podcast, I think, is extremely important to me, as well as getting it done for the Chamber, as well, too. Congratulations on your move to Experience Columbus-
Michelle Wilson: Thank you.
Brett Johnson: -and congratulations on your new chair, and new role.
Stephanie Evans: Thanks, Brett ... Literally a new chair.
Brett Johnson: Exactly.
Stephanie Evans: Literally a new chair. It moves.
Brett Johnson: I do look forward to working, as we continue on with Business Inspires.
Michelle Wilson: Thank you [cross talk].
Stephanie Evans: Thank you, Brett. I look forward to working with you, too.
Michelle Wilson: Thank you for all your support. This is because of you, and your great idea, and that our members are benefiting. Thank you for doing that.
Brett Johnson: Thank you. Thank you.
The above audio transcript of "Business Inspires" was transcribed by the best audio transcription service called Sonix.