Learning With Ling Ling: Lessons From a Podcast Host With Over 400,000 Downloads

September 17, 2021

If you haven’t heard of podcasts, you are probably among the minority. Podcasts are now all the rage.

Podcasts have been increasing in popularity over the years, with over 30% of Americans listening to podcasts on a monthly basis in 2019.

In fact, you can find podcasts sharing content about all types of topics. From sports and celebrities, to education and philosophy, you name it.

For me, podcasts have kept me entertained during the mundane routine of travel back and forth work. In fact, podcasts are not just a form of entertainment for me. I gain new knowledge, insights and inspiration from them too.

As an avid podcast listener, this made me curious: What goes on behind the scenes of a podcast? How does one get started? How does a podcast get popular?

If these questions interest you as well, you’re at the right place.

In this interview, I was privileged to chat with Ling Ling, host of Leaders of Learning, a podcast that explores learning in the 21st century. What’s more, her podcast has amassed over 400,000 downloads in just 2 years.

Who better than Ling Ling to share podcasting tips in Asia?

How Leaders of Learning Began

D: What motivated you to start the Leader of Learning podcast?

Ling Ling: “My motivation to starting the podcast was to educate organizations that learning doesn't only take place in the classroom, but can take place anywhere, anytime in any kind of subject.

Another motivation was because I started my own training company, Spark Learning Solution, three years ago. But I soon realized that in Singapore, the learning and development space is actually a very, very competitive space. Since then, I have pivoted my company to focus mostly on intercultural skills.

So, the podcast was the result of my first initial business idea. And that podcast then became really, really popular!

When I started my podcast, I wanted to experiment to see if there's any demand in Asia for a podcast, and as a way to market myself. So, I produced one season of about 12 episodes to see if it's worth the effort to put in and start a podcast show.”

Quick note: Ling Ling is now running her company, Culture Spark Global. The company shares about how we can be adaptable and thrive in a multicultural or geographically dispersed team, and how we can learn to manage and lead teams who are very different from you. Find the website link at the resources section at the end.

Back to the regular interview.

D: Really interesting how the podcast started as an experiment. How did the show become so popular?

Ling Ling: “So the first 10 episodes, the downloads and listens were really shitty: In the 10 episodes, I've only got like 300 downloads from Malaysia and Singapore.

But during the last two episodes of the first season, it got picked up by Apple podcasts and it was being featured on the carousel. My friends started to send screenshots, showing that it was being featured in Malaysia and Indonesia as well!

Since then, my podcast really took off. Within a year, I received 100k unique downloads, which is really amazing. It's one of the top podcasts in the region. It's been doing really well, my podcasts, it became like a monster on its own.”

A podcast monster indeed. By now you must be wondering: “That’s amazing, how can I do that too?”.

In this next section, Ling Ling shares more about important podcasting topics, including:

  • Factors you should consider
  • Tools you can use
  • Important things to take note of

Grab your notepad and get ready to take down some tips.

Tips to Starting a Podcast for Newbies 101

D: Amazing. What advice would you give for someone starting their own podcast?

Ling Ling: “It depends on your goal for starting a podcast.

If it's for fun and experimentation, then keep it really simple and cheap.

if you're just doing it for fun, have a handful of episodes in mind. Produce at least five episodes and figure out if it's worth the time and money for you to invest even more.

If you want to be a serious podcaster, you have to be very clear on what you're hoping to get out of podcasting. Also, think of the worst-case scenario. You could publish your podcast, market it out there and get very low listens. Will you still want to continue to do podcasting then?”

D: For someone who has thought this through and wants to go ahead, are there any tools you would recommend?

Ling Ling: “There are also many free tools out there that you can use to start your podcast.

Anchor is one of them. Spreaker is another one. They (Spreaker) give free five hours of hosting and distribution, and I think five hours is enough for you to decide if podcasting is something for you.

You don’t need huge setups too. I use a laptop and one microphone. And the only microphone I got was the ATR 2100, which I got off of Amazon. And it was about like $60 or something. I'm still using it till now.”

Have you taken down these tips yet? If not, here’s a summary:

  • Consider your goal of starting a podcast. Is this just for fun? Or do you want to take this seriously?
  • Start cheap, there are many free/affordable tools to experiment with in the beginning.

Now that you have this down pat, let’s dig a little deeper into the makings of a podcast.

Behind the Scenes of a Podcast Season

D: Would love to dig deeper. What is your thought process behind the podcast content? How do you select your guests?

Ling Ling: “My podcast is structured in terms of seasons. So far, l have two seasons of 10 episodes each, plus a teaser episode in the beginning and the ‘best of’ episodes at the end, so about 24 episodes in total. Note: 2 seasons at the time for the interview. The Podcast Show is now in Season 5.

That's about one episode every two weeks, which is actually quite heavy for an independent podcaster because there is a lot of work that goes behind producing one show.

So bearing this in mind, I'm pretty selective of the guests I want to have on board. Typically, I will select the guests who are experts in relevant topics such as AI, storytelling, and the future of work: topics related to the theme of my podcast.

Another criteria I have for my guests is that they are preferably based in Asia. These guests will then be able to provide contextual nuances in the Asia landscape, because a lot of my listeners are based in Asia.

I also try to make sure that there's gender parity, with an equal number of women and men on the show. I try to have a variety of ethnicities as well.

Through the podcast, I want to demonstrate that Asia is very brilliant with many intelligent people, doing amazing and inspirational things. I want to amplify the Asian voice.”

Conducting a Good Podcast Interview

D: Could you share a few interview secrets: What are your favourite questions to ask your guests?

Ling Ling: “I'll usually ask these few questions:

  • Their origin story, how did they get to where they are today?
  • What their motivations are?
  • Where do they see this field going into the future?
  • What are the challenges that they face in advocating whatever their cause?
  • If I was new into your space, what do I do first?

These guests chose to be an expert in that field for a reason, so it's good to know their motivations behind it. It also shows diversity in career paths, that you don't have to be this one corporate person climbing the ladder, you could do a bunch of other things too. “

Most Memorable Podcast Episodes

D: Looking back, which episodes did you find the most memorable?

Ling Ling: “One of my most popular guests was Gary Vee. He happened to be in Singapore to give a talk, and a friend of mine is a close friend of Gary Vee. So I managed to get a 15 minute timeslot to interview him for my podcast.

The thing about podcasts is that I can ask whatever questions I want for myself. So, I asked many questions about business, especially since I'm pretty new to entrepreneurship and business. That was a pretty memorable experience.

Another memorable podcast was an interview with my friend, Philippa Penfold. We were talking about the evolution of career development, and she had a futuristic perspective on this topic.

She was sharing that now is a time where we have the opportunity to follow our curiosities and learn as much as possible. We can then combine several specialities and create new jobs for ourselves. Rather than waiting and chasing opportunities, we will be able to create our own.”

Interested in listening to these episodes? You can also find the links to the interviews in the resources section at the end of this article.

Parting Thoughts

D: One last piece of advice for aspiring podcasters?

Ling Ling: “You won't have the first perfect episode. It'll definitely be the shittiest episode that you ever make. So start first, start cheap and just start. If you find that it's not for you, it's okay.

If you find that it is for you, then take podcasting as a learning journey with every episode you find ways to improve it better.”

Indeed, this is an advice relevant to all things we pursue in life.

It is never going to be easy; success never comes quick. But the struggles and obstacles are what makes us improve.

Learned something from this episode? Share It with a friend who listens to podcasts too!

Keep notified with all our latest content in our Telegram channel here: https://t.me/theopendaycommunity

Relevant resources:

-       Culture Spark Global -> culturesparkglobal.com

-       Leaders of Learning website -> leadersoflearning.asia

-       Connect with Ling Ling  -> https://www.linkedin.com/in/linglingtai/

-       Spreaker

-       Gary Vee episode

-       Philippa Penfold episode

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