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Every Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) staff member has an important job to perform at our annual conference. For AFP 2017, I had a new job that was arguably the most unique, arduous, and stressful of my career.

Over the course of two days at AFP 2017, my job was to host and record 20 podcasts. I had to interview nearly 25 guests on 20 different topics—from U.S. politics to corporate purchasing cards, forecasting KPIs to bank relationship management. I spoke to best-selling authors and cable news analysts, bankers and treasury analysts. While thousands of people walked by and stared. Each podcast had to run at least 30 minutes. From 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon.

Do the math; I had no extended food or bathroom breaks.

I had to be on for every podcast. That meant sounding like an animated talk show host—because that’s what I was. I also had to be an active listener so I could speak extemporaneously and formulate questions on the spot.

Long story, short: I survived. The podcasts are rolling out, and you can download them from your app of choice.

Because this was such a unique task, I spent months preparing and obsessing over it. I learned a lot along the way, and I believe anybody can apply these lessons.

First, ask for help. Even with the most challenging professional task of my career that had no template to imitate I was not alone. Two co-workers, John Gibson and Marcia Solomon, acted as producers and booked the guests. And, as usual, fellow AFP staffer Glenn Douglas served as audio engineer and made everything sound great.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. I wanted to leave as little to chance as possible. So I spent hours in August and September researching guests and writing entire scripts and questions to ask. I printed the scripts and emailed them to myself just in case I lost the hard copies. This calmed my creeping sense of dread. Somewhat.

Adjusted your mindset. I wasn’t precisely resigning myself to my fate like a prisoner on death row. But there was no point in worrying. Rather than fret and obsess I chose to see the podcasts as a singular event, and that I would surely gain some interesting insights from guests.

Get a good night’s sleep. Crucial. I grabbed eight hours of rest and felt sharp when I woke. I also ate a light breakfast to fuel my day. At home, I rarely allow myself eight hours of sleep and a good breakfast. Maybe I should start!

Switch on for guests and be an active listener. It’s so easy to sleepwalk through meetings and client visits and still seemingly do an adequate job. Have you ever tried really listening? Instantly analyzing what the other person was saying, and simultaneously formulating new ideas, questions, and suggestions on the fly? Not easy. Especially ten times in a day. But the podcasts don’t sound scripted; they sound like conversations. And the guests appreciated the chance to talk shop.

Now you don’t have to subject yourself to 20 podcasts in two days, but you probably will face a stiff challenge in your career at some point, and it may well be something only you can do—or something you may not want to do. But if you follow my five podcast prep rules you’ll triumph.




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