Great stories begin with a chance meeting. Mine started when I pitched a show idea to the IBM Expert TV team: Rich content, created by IBM employees showcasing their empathy, trust, and ethical values.
IBM Expert TV was a new concept that had been launched to bring content and learnings to IBM’s customers and community. They were a first-mover in the enterprise TV medium during COVID and set a high bar for other brands to follow
A few days after my pitch I got the green light to host a 30-minute live show on IBM Expert TV. My first reaction was “ummm me?" You liked the idea of me being the host? I have never hosted a TV show before, although I have hosted over 100+ podcasts interviewing C-suites about data and empathy. I have also spent hundreds of hours on Zoom calls. Can’t be much different I surmised. Um, nope, it is very different, in all kinds of ways.
Our show would be a long-form conversation that is aired live on IBM Expert TV and LinkedIn’s Livestream. Guests join via video from their homes, which makes the show feel familiar, authentic, and comfortable. Our first guests really set us up for success because they were incredibly humble, gracious, funny, and diverse. One show had Christina Montgomery, IBM’s Vice President & Chief Privacy Officer, AI Ethics Board Chair talking about IBM’s 5 Pillars. Another guest was Seth Dorbin, IBM’s Global Chief AI Officer talking about AI Trust. And a fan-favorite Melissa Sassi, IBM’s Chief Penguin, engaged viewers by speaking about IBM Z and Startups. Their energy and passion quickly made our show one of the most viewed shows on IBM Expert TV.
Season 1 was a success and as we begin Season 2, I wanted to share some of the things I learned about hosting a show on IBM Expert TV.
People Share their Life Lessons: People have incredible stories and are willing to share their life lessons and advice. Our guests have been influenced by their parents, mentors, and teachers. Their journey has informed their career decisions. Our show prep call is the first time we get to meet, build chemistry and get a sense of what they are willing to share… then I write the script for their review. The show is LIVE and it is magical to watch how animated they get when they share stories about the advice they were given or why they love what they do. It is refreshing to hear, in their own words, the importance of trust, ethics, and the role tech plays in their lives.
Rich Content Is The North Star – Podcasts are portable. You can listen or watch when it makes sense to you, wherever and whenever. The secret sauce is getting the authentic content down to digestible snippets…People want info now in a format that is engaging. We spend a lot of time post-show creating a balance of long format (entire episode) and micro clips (tiktok) that encourage our viewers to interact and engage with our content.
Executive Team Bonding: Co-worker meetings throughout a typical day are about Product Market Fit, Customer Use Case, Revenue Forecasting, and the dreaded Customer Issues. Our show prep meetings provide a new co-worker bonding experience. These meetings are the highlight of my week! I spend time with IBM Leaders like Arin Bhowmick, Libby Ingrassia, Marius Ciortea, and Michelle Kovac, brainstorming storylines, guest lists, and diving into breaking news that we think our customers, prospects, and the community can benefit from.
Upskilling SoftSkills -Being on TV you get to watch yourself, whether you want to or not. I find myself doing the same thing on Zoom calls! It can be horrifying watching how you roll your eyes or rock in your chair when you are actively listening. Your visual presence is important - we recognize this in face-to-face meetings but somehow forget when we are in front of a camera - and it is a skill to control your body language, facial reactions, eye contact. Having awareness of my own little twitches and moments highlighted that this is a soft skill I needed to polish. I got into the habit of rewatching podcasts to study how I was presenting myself. I think about: How can I improve the lighting, sound, background, wardrobe, and eye contact…? How can I improve my questions to get to an authentic place? How can I improve my empathetic listening? Each show I would try new things; some were easy fixes like lighting/sound, while others, like eye contact and open-ended questions, I am still working on!
Do What You Love With Who You Love - Thinking about hosting a show on IBM Expert TV is nuts to me. This was never on my career path. I have always been open, curious, and adventurous but this has opened doors for me. I am very lucky that I raised my hand to pitch a show and I am grateful that IBM said yes. I am so lucky to have two incredible co-hosts: Arin Bhowmick, IBM’s Chief Design Officer, and Laura Edell, Microsoft’s Chief Data Scientist, AI. We enjoy riffing and bouncing ideas off of each other and gaining new perspectives from each other and our personal views. Each show we gain a new appreciation for our sense of human, technical vocabulary, and the broader views we all bring to the table.
I will continue to share my learnings during Season 2 and would like to hear your thoughts.
About the Author
Darren Kaplan, 2x Founder, Top 20 Data Science Influencer, and IBM Champion.