Today’s guest on The Successful Pitch is Michael O’Neal, who hosts a podcast called The Solopreneur Hour: Job Security for the Unemployable. He talks about when he creates a podcast episode that’s typically an hour long, he promotes it for four hours. That’s been one of the keys to his success. He’s got this amazing course called The Art of The Interview that I highly recommend you stay tuned and listen to. He really talks about his secrets of getting huge traction. One of them has to do with using social media smartly and the other is relationships, but from a place that you may not expect would be a great place for getting the top relationships and how to do it and get those all-important introductions.
Listen To The Episode Here
Build Relationships and Get an Introduction with Michael O’Neal
Today’s guest is Michael O’Neal, who is a podcast expert. He has his own podcast called The Solopreneur Hour: Job Security for the Unemployable. He also produces a lot of other podcasts such as The Kickass Life and Mechanic to Millionaire. His Solopreneur Hour podcast started back in August of 2013. It already has eight million downloads and he was able to monetize that in six months to six figures. I think that’s some kind of record. He is a big guy into a lot of different things besides podcasting, including music. He’s got this amazing course called The Art of The Interview, which I can’t wait to hear about. Michael, welcome to the show.
John, thanks for having me. That’s very kind of you.
Our mutual friend, Matthew Kimberley, I heard him several times on your show. I know that everything happens through connections. Certainly in the world of investing, investors tell me all the time, “We love to get warm introductions before we hear somebody pitch.” The same is true in the podcasting world, isn’t it?
It really is. I was just having a brunch meeting before this in a co-working session. I was looking at ten new emails in my inbox. Seven out of the ten, “I should totally be on your show.” I can count on one hand in three years the number of times that I have gotten one of those emails and go, “You’re right.” It really requires, at least for me, it requires a heads up from a friend. That third party intro is something I talk about. This course called Conferencetopia, which is free. You go to conferences all the time when you’re in this entrepreneur space. I’ve watched people spend thousands of dollars going to these conferences and then get nothing out of them. Even though they have a great time, they don’t move the needle in their business. I reverse engineered how I had built relationships and built my business from conferences. I made this free course for that.
One of the major tenets is, “Always get an introduction.” If you and I are standing in a crowd and you know your friend knows that person, instead of just walking up to me like, “I’m Michael O’Neal. I have a podcast, blah, blah.” You’d say, “Would you mind introducing me to the mayor?” whoever it is. It’s not only that, but it’s them knowing how to introduce you that makes all the difference in the world.
You’re basically transferring all of the credibility and the trust and integrity that you have with that person when you make that introduction in person or in an email. Don’t you think that’s really what you’re doing there?
I just got introduced to a guy last week and I was at a conference. My buddy, Phil Mershon, who runs Social Media Marketing World, it’s a big conference coming up in March in San Antonio. He says, “Scott, I’d like you to meet my buddy, Michael. Michael has a podcast and talks to other unemployable people like himself.” He says, “He’s also a great drummer. This is Scott, entrepreneur, has an amazing new app. By the way, he was the sax player for Pink Floyd.” There’s context there. It changes how people view each other. It changes how the conversation goes. It really makes a huge difference how people are being introduced. It’s something we don’t consider enough when we go to conferences.
That one thing you talked about, being the sax player for Pink Floyd, that’s the memorable hook, isn’t it? That’s the “Oh my god. There’s a story there.” That’s what I keep telling people when they’re pitching to get their startup funded. Whatever you have that makes you unique and memorable, bring that up to the top when you give a pitch. You have such a great story yourself of how you decided, based on what was going on in your personal life, that you were not going to work for somebody anymore, and figure out a way to overcome your fears. Can you tell us that story and then specifically how you overcame the fear of, “What if this fails?”
To be fair, I never had that fear. That’s something I’ve never really had. I assume it will fail. I just know in the entrepreneur game, we’re going to miss more than we’re going to hit. That a show, in this case, a podcast, has a minute chance that it will be a huge hit. Just like anybody that pitches a new TV show. You file a process and then all the vetting and all that stuff. Then maybe the timing works or the content works, or whatever, somehow, but there’s no guarantee of that. We’ll definitely have more concepts than hits.
With that said, I’m running a pretty solid streak right now. I launched The Kickass Life with David Wood in 2012. That ran until late 2013 or so. That show crushed. It was top ten in health the whole time we did it. Then I launched The Mechanic to Millionaire, which is a buddy, Dave MacArthur, who’s a really successful network marketing dude. That show has been this killer, rabbit-and-hare growth for probably four years now. It just keeps going up and up and up. If I looked a year and a half ago, two years ago, that show was doing 400 or 500 downloads a day or something, which was pretty good even by today’s standards. Now, it’s at 1,500 downloads a day, which is still not Joe Rogan. We’re not getting 90 million a month. But in the grand scheme of things, in our little entrepreneurial podcasting space, that’s a very successful show.
Then I launched this one, and this one was a pretty quick hit. Then I launched The Hines Ward Show. I was the co-host for that one. That has done really well as well. We’ve got two more shows in the hopper.
One being our mutual friend, Matthew Kimberley, is coming up, right?
Yeah. Tipsy Business, which we don’t have a logo or anything yet. Matthew is hilarious. Matthew’s quick, very quick-witted. To me, entertainment always trumps value, if you will, actionable content. I always want to be entertained first. If they can, then those nuggets will fall to the ground because they’re entertained and they’re engaged in the conversation you’re having. Way too few understand that concept. Think about your favorite teacher of all time, they’re entertaining. That’s why you still remember some of their lessons.
For me, I would go one step further and say the best way for people to become entertaining is to learn how to become a storyteller, because that’s my favorite teacher. He always told great stories about history as opposed to just giving me the facts. Can you tell us an entertaining story of how you were able to get to eight million downloads so quickly? Traction is so important for investors when they’re looking at startups. They want that kind of rapid growth. I’m thinking there’s probably a story there that could be applied to a startup, who’s listening to this and like, “I could use that same skill or strategy or even process to apply to my business to scale fast.”
I think you’ve got to own social in some way. You’ve got to own a platform and really use it. You can pick it, it can be Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, whatever you want to use. You should definitely not be one of those people that’s like, “That’s for the kids.” You need to be active in that conversation. You can’t outsource everything. You’ve got to be the one that responds to these people’s comments. That’s one.
Two, I alluded to it before, which is the relationships that you build at conferences and out in the world are critical to your success. They were a high number of responsibility for the success of my show early on, because I was able to stock those first two or three months with some baller people. Some people that had huge social media followings back in the day in 2013, when you could still get someone to share the show because they hadn’t been on 300 shows by then. That matters. The relationship side really matters. A really diligent head-down promotion is what I did. My show would be an hour. I would spend four promoting each show.
The other thing that I got from Derek Halpern, which I really enjoyed, is you don’t have to be a content creator. You can take that content that you already have and keep repurposing it and keep promoting it. Those episodes I did early on, Matthew Kimberley episode, or you name it, you get really good content from that. So what if it’s three years old? Why shouldn’t I hammer the promotion on that old episode constantly on social media? They go, “That was a really valuable hour I spent. What else do they have?” Then all of a sudden, they’re plunging on your show. I would say the short answer to that question is the relationship-building that you do at events is really what moves the needle for your startup.
If you combine two of the things we’ve already talked about, which is building that relationship up and third party validation, third party introductions with people. You’re having a great conversation at a conference, you see someone that could move the needle in some way for you. ”Would you mind introducing us?” You guys have a great conversation. Before you know it, you’re at dinner and good things happen at dinners at conferences. Things get funded. It sounds cliché but it really, really matters that you can build these relationships and that you take that skill set very seriously in this space.
I love everything you said there. Own social. Be active, don’t outsource that. Relationships, everyone hears is important, but I like what you say, is the relationship you get started and keep going from conferences as a source=, not networking events, but actual conferences where you all have something in common, and get those introductions as opposed to doing it cold. Those are some amazing takeaways that apply to everything; podcasting, funding, pitching, anything that you want to scale your business.
You should be going to a conference a quarter. That should be the minimum amount. Per quarter is what you should be going to. It not only keeps you connecting, but it keeps you motivated. You see these people that are cranking. You start seeing some of the same faces. Again, that helps relationships get built.
That’s a perfect segue into something else you’re doing that I’m really impressed with and I want to hear more about, which is your mastermind, Sololab. You talk about this great quote that we’ve all heard, “You’re the sum total of the people you spend the most amount of time with.” Tell us what you’re doing in Sololab and who that’s for?
My group are people that either have a side hustle going on or they are leaving their 9 to 5, or they’ve been in this thing for a little bit and they’re trying to find their swing, if you will. If you play golf or tennis, you’ll understand that phraseology. I didn’t know that I was going to do it when I started the show. I was just bringing people on that I thought were smart and interesting and had cool stories and we were talking. Every once in a while, I’d get an email that says, “Do you do any coaching?” I say, “No, I don’t, really.” But after the 40th one, “Yeah, I totally do.” I started talking about it on the show.
I don’t think you know what you know until you’re teaching it to somebody else. It’s like as a drummer, I can go back and listen to some of my old music and go, “I don’t even know I knew how to do that.” You just don’t recognize maybe some of the smoothness. I had to talk to Matthew Kimberley a couple of weeks ago in the show. The way he phrases certain things, that is a gorgeously phrased way to sit down and do a sales pitch for someone.
Let’s give an example of that, because I listened to that episode. He’s very smooth with that charming accent, “Would you be interested in having a conversation where I could see if and how I might be able to help you grow your business fast? Is that of interest or not?” Really framing that up fast. Obviously, that sounds very conversational and not robotic, but it’s been thought through and practiced much like a musician practices before they perform.
Like a stand-up, actually. Every word has weight.
It’s a thread that unravels. I tell people when they’re pitching investors, they need to have thought through their opening and their closing just as specific to that rehearsed but not robotic smooth way of inviting someone to join into what you’re offering, and not coming across desperate but really inviting them to join in. It’s the difference between saying at the end of a pitch, “Any questions?” versus having a smooth closing, where you’re asking them to invest and join in the vision.
It would be cool to talk about that initial conversation too. At some point, you want to end up in front of these people and being able to pitch them. But how do you even begin to do that? My buddy, Clay Hebert, got a thing called, “The Six Word Intro.” The idea is, “I help blank do blank.” If someone says, “What do you do?” which you’re going to hear a million times at conferences. You have to be prepared for that answer. You’ve got to know exactly what you’re going to say, and you have to have an idea of what the funnel looks like after that first sentence.
The analogy I can give is Tim Ferriss has this TV show, The Tim Ferriss Show. One of the episodes was that he wanted to learn MMA. He was learning jiu-jitsu. He wanted to learn, they call it rolling, which is moving around and wrestling and trying to get different moves. His whole show was about rapid learning. The instructor said, “There’s too much for you to know. I can’t teach you all of this stuff in three days. But I can teach you one move that you can execute well and I can teach you eight different ways to get into that move.” He taught him a rear naked choke. He taught him six or eight different ways to get into that move in various situations that he would be in while he’s rolling around on the mat with someone.
Picturing that in your head, when you get into a conversation with somebody at a conference, you have your one move. You’ve got to have multiple ways to get into that conversation. That’s not to say that every conversation needs to be a sales pitch or anything like that. It always starts with, “What do you do?” That’s always the first question you’re asked. I can say something like, “I help other unemployable people, like myself, take their hobbies and skill sets and learn to make a business out of them.” That’s how I’m going to answer that question.
It intrigues people, they’ll say, “That’s interesting, tell me more,” which is the whole point of a good pitch.
They’re going to go, “How do you do that?” I can say, “I have a podcast where I’ve interviewed some of the world’s thought leaders over the last three years.” I stop it there and they go, “Tell me more about the podcast.” That develops into a deeper conversation, and then they’re in my Sololab.
You said two things that I really want to underscore for the audience. Number one is, don’t open what you do when you get asked with how you do it, i.e. “I host a podcast.” Instead, open with some statement that makes them intrigued enough to want to know more. Only give them enough to continue to ask more. Don’t do verbal diarrhea on somebody and just go into all the details.
First of all, you haven’t been given permission to tell your story yet. That has not been implicit in the conversation. You can’t start telling it. Two, if you can’t answer those questions in those six words or twelve words or whatever it is, your brand isn’t dialed in enough. You actually have to go back and work on your brand, which could take months. That could really be something that you work on until you can answer that really, really succinctly. That’s the important part.
It took me a long time to get to, “What do you do?” “I’m the Pitch WhispererTM. I take people from invisible to investable.” Then I stop. If they want to know more, then I tell them more. “What’s a Pitch WhispererTM? How do you go from invisible to investable?” It’s just enough to get people intrigued. The same thing is true in that first 90 seconds when you’re pitching an investor. This has been great. I personally want to ask you for one of your favorite, most entertaining interviews you’ve done on The Solopreneur Hour. You had so many great comedians and musicians. Do you have an entertaining story of somebody that you had on?
I’ve been a life-long musician. I ended up having this conversation with Scott Page a couple of weeks ago at this conference called NAMM, National Association of Music Merchants. Within a minute, I’m fascinated by the dude. I just want to hear about this historic rock and roll guy. He talked about playing in front of 620,000 people in Venice at one show. That’s a lot of humanity right there. He talked about after selling out Wembley Stadium for three nights in a row, having a party in the suite of the hotel that Roger Waters had. In the one suite, at one time, there are 30 people, but it was Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Madonna, Sting, and ten other people. It was all musical legends and then ten other people, whoever else happened to be there. That, to me, was actually really difficult to not just totally nerd out. I remember looking at my little Zoom H6 and going, “We’ve been talking music for 47 minutes.”
This amazing course, The Art of The Interview, you’re doing, I want to hear more about that because investors tell me time and again, “When someone comes in to pitch me for funding, I want to have a conversation with that person.” They don’t have to suddenly become this robot or get nervous or hide behind who they are because at the end of the day, they’re investing in them. What can people learn in The Art of the Interview that they can use in their everyday life to get the right people to join their team, to get customers, and ultimately to get funded? It’s all the same skills.
There’s some technical side to it, obviously. I remember having this conversation. I was at a happy hour with a friend of mine. She had brought a friend. My friend had gone off and had a conversation or went to the rest room or whatever. I was there by myself with her friend. It was that awkward, awful small talk that you get in when you’re with a stranger. Somewhere around minute five, I was just sitting there thinking about taking my phone out. I thought, “Wait a second. For a living, people have told me, is a pretty entertaining conversation with a complete stranger every single day. Why am I not doing it?” I mentally flipped the microphone on. I had this great conversation. That’s on me. That’s me not connecting the dots between my actual skill set and how it translates into the real world. That was the subtext of The Art of The Interview.
The other part is, and this is as frank as I can be, most podcasters are awful at podcasting. They’re really, really bad at it. Partially, it’s not their fault. Partially because we’ve had some people that are really successful financially in podcasting that are bad hosts. They’re just not good at the media, the actual broadcast hosting side of being a podcaster. By the way, it’s also not their fault. They never really considered it. They’re more marketers than they were podcasters. When you listen to someone who’s good at it, it’s such a stark contrast in conversational flow, in content, in how the message is delivered. You’ve got people that find your show so much more memorable when you’re good at what you do, when you’re a good interviewer, when you’re good at the show flowing well, when you’re good at introducing people, when you’re good at plugging their stuff.
Here’s a perfect good example. Once you’re interviewed a bunch, you start to see the tendencies of people. You can see where they came up and the schooling they had in the podcast world and who they paid attention to. Think about this, John, how often do you make it to the very end of a podcast? If you listen to other people’s show, percentage wise?
I would say, if it’s a good show, I’ll make it to 90%. More than half of the podcasts that I listen to, I’ll scan the show notes. I’ll be like, “There’s nothing really good until twenty minutes in.” Sometimes you can look at the transcripts.
If you’re listening, you don’t know the show notes, the transcripts, do you listen to 85% all the way through? Are you 75%? Are you 65%?
If it’s somebody really great, like Alec Baldwin, I’m in, because I love it from the start.
All the way to the end? You hear the closing credits?
Yes. It’s because he’s entertaining and he’s himself. He’s a great interviewer and all those things you just mentioned.
Would you say that you don’t do that with others though?
Correct, yes. There’s a definite problem you’re solving.
In my case, I probably don’t make it to the very end. I love podcasts. I live in the podcast world. I probably don’t make it to the ending credits 85% of the time. 15%, I’ll make it to the very end. 85%, I don’t. If you are a current trend of podcast host, you have to understand that you’ve got guests that are coming on your show that are doing you a massive favor. They’re providing great content for your audience. Do we agree on that?
Absolutely, and their time.
They’re giving their time, however they are, however far long they are in the time line. That could be more or less valuable. If you get a Jack Canfield or a Gary Vaynerchuk, you know their time is worth a lot of money. They’re getting a $100,000 for a keynote speech for an hour. With that in mind, as the host of the show who’s getting this massive favor done for you by this guest, the guest hoping, “Maybe I’ll sell a few books. Maybe I’ll get a few new people to my content,” that kind of thing, where do we plug the guest currently?
Towards the end.
Now. At the end.
Yes. Because we don’t want it to be “sales-y” so we have to save that and no one’s listening. Totally understand where you’re going now. I love that.
Number one, we go, “Where can people find you?” As a host of a show, it should have been the first question you ask before you started recording, “Where can people find you so I can help you?” Two, we do it at the very end. That’s one of the things that when you listen to a pro, let’s say anybody comes on Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon or Jay Leno, the first thing they do is introduce the guest and say their new movie, blah, blah, blah, is out in theaters on Tuesday. They plug the guest right at the beginning of the show. As a good host, we should be plugging beginning, middle, end. Whenever that guest has a good take, we go, “That was really great. Guys, why don’t you tweet them at,” whatever their Twitter there is. That’s a pro move that 99% of podcasters do not do. That’s the kind of thing that The Art of The Interview talks about.
That leads me to another question, which is one of the things I pride myself on is preparation. If I have somebody on as a guest and they have a book, I do my darnedest to get a hold of it and read it before they get on the show. The same thing with someone like yourself. I did listen to a couple episodes, both of you as a host, both of you as a guest. I know what other things you’re doing. All of that preparation, that’s what I think separates you on any pitch. I’m always telling people, before you get in front of an investor with a pitch or a potential client, you must prepare and not just go in and wing it and expect it’s going to be brilliant without any preparation.
You better know that that investor is the coach of their daughter’s softball team. CEO loves dirty jokes on the golf course. That’s how it got done. What I mean by that is there’s enough that happens that’s not “business.” If I walk into somebody’s office and I see a vintage car model sitting up on their desk, we’ll probably talk cars for probably 45 minutes. What that five minutes is going to be a foregone conclusion because we’ve already connected on a deeper level and on a relationship side. Now, you can always do that. Some people that are investors are just those are the guys that flip to the back page. I can’t do much, but then that means you’ve got to step up your conversation game. You’ve got to be a little more committed.
Let’s face it. Most people have a lot of anxiety. Even with an introduction at a conference and going up to someone and starting a conversation. If they can learn those skills, it will totally transform their business. What’s one mistake you see people making in an interview situation? Let’s say, not necessarily as a podcast host, because you’ve gone through those, but just interviewing somebody in a situation at a conference that you’ve been introduced to, you’re trying to get to know them. We’re saying that conversations, when you flip that switch and pretended that it was an interview, then everything went great. I’m guessing you could take some of those skills from your Art of Interview class and apply it to conversations.
I think one that I see happen a lot, and it just happened to me on Tuesday, is non-inclusive body language. I had sat down, there was a girl that sat next to me and knew my friend. It was three chairs in a row, and I was on the end. She just turned her back on me and had this conversation with this person. She could have been the world’s best entrepreneur or business person, I will never do business with her. She just turned her back on me. In fact, in that same scenario, I was speaking with the speaker that was at the event and then another person. We were in a little triangle. I sensed that there’s somebody on my right shoulder, behind me, and I opened up. I welcomed them into the circle and then I made the introduction. You have to do that with people. Even if it’s this deal where you’re lucky enough to get this conversation with Gary Vaynerchuk or something like that, that person, the influencer, will appreciate more, they will recognize what you just did and how selfless it was and how inclusive you were, and that will put you into a different category with them. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again.
I’ve seen that happen myself where you’re sitting at a round table at a meal and you’re listening to a keynote speaker. Someone will literally turn their chair just to talk to the person to their left and ignore the person on the right. You never know who’s there.
Not good. Bad business.
What final piece of insight or a book you’d like to recommend or a podcast you want to have people listen to, in addition to The Solopreneur Hour, that you think would be helpful for people?
One other addendum to that last thing we just talked about, when you’re in that meeting, be super nice to the underlings. Be really nice to the assistants. Don’t be dismissive. Have a good conversation with the elevator person or the janitor. Believe it or not, they’re major gatekeepers.
I’ve seen that happen many times where you’ll go in to pitch for something and that person walks you out and you get in the elevator, and the receptionist will say, “That guy was great,” or, “That guy was a jerk.” That makes or breaks your deal.
I use an app called Evernote on my phone. I put all the names of all the door guys because it only takes one or two times where you can be like, “Hey, Fred. What’s going on, man? How are you?” Then you never have to wait in line. It happens to me every Wednesday. I play at this club every Wednesday and there’s a line around the block. Do a little handshake and go right in, every single time.
Just from remembering somebody’s name.
It doesn’t take much. Anyway, recommended, if you want to get really good at conversation, I love this show called Off Camera with Sam Jones. Sam does amazing interviews. He’s my favorite on iTunes right now. Plus, he has a Rolodex like you wouldn’t believe. It’s all major celebrity A-listers. What he does is he’s a photographer in Hollywood. He’s worked with a ton of them on a professional level and then started the show. He just has this great super low-key conversational style. He’s very well-researched. It was a common theme that we talked about today.
Follow Michael on Twitter. Your Twitter handle is @SoloHour. The podcast is SolopreneurHour.com on the website. I’ve listened to both. I’ve followed him on Twitter. I highly recommend everyone to do that. Most importantly, I really invite you to sign up for The Art of the Interview. It’s going to change your way that you have more confidence and it’s going to give you the success that Michael has had. Thank you so much for being with me today, Michael.
I should mention the URL. It’s ArtOfTheInterview.co. Thanks, John.
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