Improve your show prep with this dinner party trick

Are you struggling to get the best out of your show prep? Finding it hard to get your team to reveal some great stories?

There is a wonderful lifestyle blog called a ‘Cup of Jo‘ which I like to browse through every now and then when looking for inspiration. In a recent post author Joanna Goddard described how while at a dinner party it’s host requested that all diners partake in a round table ‘Ice Breaker’. Initially they all shuddered at the thought but surprisingly it would reveal a whole host of conversation starters.

Goddard revealed.

“She asked us to go around the table and share three fun facts about ourselves. Sitting to her right, I was the first person to go. I scrambled to come up with offbeat stories and ended up spouting random things: “Um, I have a twin sister… Uh, I don’t drink coffee?”

She added.

“But by the time we got halfway around the table, people had warmed up and were telling EPIC tales. One woman could remember everything she’d done every day of her life (but never realized that was weird until she saw a 60 Minutes piece on endless memory). Another woman had married her husband twice — first at 20, then they divorced at 21, then re-married at 22. A third woman revealed that she had spent years working as the personal assistant to a major celebrity. The party was a huge success — we were laughing so much, and people shared things that would have never otherwise come up. It was the ultimate conversation starter. Every contribution sparked a dozen more questions, and the game lasted the whole night”

Who would have thought something as simple as a quick ice breaker question would reveal so much about the company that Goddard was keeping. Sometimes in the daily grind of things you forget to sit around as a team and ask some simple questions.

So in your show prep team meeting tomorrow why not share three fun facts about yourself. You never know what might be revealed?

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Photo by Kevin Curtis.

When Bruce Springsteen wrote a shit song

Irish stand up comedian Des Bishop has recently started his own podcast and it’s a brilliant listen. One of his most recent guests was comedian John Bishop. During the conversation John revealed how Bruce Springsteen inspires him when it comes to creating a new show.

“I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I read something once, and it’s brilliant. I hope it’s true, because it sums up a lot of what I think. I always have in my mind now, particularly if I’m developing a new show, you’re considering what you’re going to talk about and where it’s going to fit in, from your life and everyone else’s … He wrote a song called “Can’t Have You”. The words of the song are: “I’ve got Rembrandt’s hanging on the wall, but I can’t have you. I’ve got houses across the country, but I can’t have you.” It has something to do with a split with his wife, or whatever, the reasons for the song, but the song was all about, I’ve got more wealth than any man can stand, but I can’t have you.

He played the song for Little Steve Van Zandt. Steve Van Zandt said, “What’s this shit?” He said, “I’m just saying what I’ve got. I’ve got houses across the country. I’ve got Rembrandts on the wall. I’ve got cars.” He said, “Why are you singing about that?” He said, “That’s what I’ve got. I’ve got this, but I’m splitting up with my wife.” He said, “Why are you telling everyone what you’ve got?” “That’s life replied Springsteen.” Van Zandt then says “They don’t want you to tell them about your life. They want you to tell them about their life”

He adds.

“That is what you’ve got to have. Sometimes if you’ve never been at that position … For me, if you want to talk about class or life experience, the more experience you’ve got, the more you can relate to a wider audience of people”

That line “they don’t want you to tell them about your life. They want you to tell them about their life” says so much. John’s observation is bang on, it’s not what you share from your life, it’s how you share it. Remember that line next time you’re looking for relatable content to cut through, it will serve you well, time and time again.

To hear the full podcast listen here I highly recommend Des’s conversation with Jason Byrne. An hour of incredible storytelling.

Springsteen Picture by Shayne Kaye

Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ.

Waiting to be picked for that perfect presenter role?

Are you waiting for the phone to ring? Waiting to be chosen for that perfect role?

I just finished a wonderful book called “The Art of Creative Thinking” written by Rod Jenkins. One chapter “Be a generator” tells the story of an actor who hates having to audition because his fate was in other peoples hands. He realised it would be smarter to try and create a role and not wait for a director to pick one for him. The actor discovered an interesting book about a boxer that he thought could be the perfect vehicle for his talents. He believed this story needed to be told and he was the actor that would play him. After carrying the story around for months and showing it to an endless amount of people he eventually convinced a producer to finance the film and get it made. The story was Raging Bull, the actor was Robert De Niro. The rest they say is history.

Jenkins advice is clear.

“To produce anything worthwhile , you have to be proactive and generate it, not sit around and wait”

So if you are waiting for a producer to hand you that presenting role then you may be waiting a while. Here lies the beauty of podcasting. Create the show you would like to present. Get it out there and let the world hear it. Otherwise it will stay in your head and that’s never a great place to live.

Still waiting?


Photo by Jonathan Velasquez

Useful apps and tools to start podcasting

In the last few weeks I’ve had more and more people get in contact looking for advice on how to start a podcast. Below is some links to tools and apps that are easily available to set you on your way.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain 

The most important advice I can give to anyone who is looking to start a podcast is very simple. Just do it. You can procrastinate forever but if you have a topic or passion you want to podcast you really have to get your ducks in a row, record and release. From there you can re-edit, review and build on the initial recordings. The list below is short and sweet and will give you tools you need to get started quickly.

On the other hand if you’re looking for advice on producing a more advanced podcast/series or coaching on how to conduct a interview, get in touch by tweeting me @alanswan


Even though this article is a year old Lifehacker’s guide is one of the best.

Hosting your podcast can be simply done via Soundcloud or Libsyn

To record Skype calls or video chats I use Total Recorder For Mac users try eCamm

I edit my podcasts on Adobe Audition but you could use a free piece of software called Audacity

For a recording microphone direct via USB into your laptop I highly recommend the Technica ATR2100

Or if you’re on the move the Zoom is the best portable recording set up you can get.

To clean up the levels of your audio Auphonic is a automatic audio post production web service for podcasts, broadcasters, radio shows, movies, screencasts and more.

Photo credit: Patrick Breitenbach