Dr. Sonjia Kenya

15 January 2016

Wine-Lathered Conversations: How To Podcast Without Flinching

by Dr. Sonjia Kenya, Research Professor + Author/Podcaster of “Sex In South Beach”; intro by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango…

Freddy’s Intro: People ask me why I don’t podcast. It’s simple: my brain refuses to cooperate. It’s bizarre. Over the past 6 years, I’ve lectured live before hundreds of people, both friends and strangers, students and executives, and I’ve never had a problem. In fact, I dig on public speaking.

Then I tried recording one of my class lectures in the privacy of my office – just me, a PowerPoint presentation, and a microphone. I’d given that lecture dozens of times, and yet with the microphone pointing in my face like the business end of a Dirty Harry dare, I could barely get the words out. My tongue swelled up and developed a will of its own. Ideas I knew by heart started playing hide-and-seek in various recesses of my brain. And when I listened to my own voice in the recording, I sounded like a six-year-old with a sinus infection.

So I decided to ask a professional podcaster how she does it. And Dr. Sonjia Kenya is one of the best. In addition to conducing health research at the University of Miami, she hosts the podcast “Sex In South Beach,” which she produces single-handedly with no co-hosts or directors. Here’s what she told me about the fine art of being a non-musical recording artist…

Listening to yourself is painful and guaranteed to bring out your biggest critic. I think it’s really good to listen to yourself in order to improve, but it’s hard on the ego. I tried listening to my podcasts recently and I literally cringed the entire time. I only think the podcast is good during the 15 minutes after I record it and before I send it out. After that point, I pretty much think I suck when I re-listen.

I had some practice last year. All those talk show videos I’m starting to share were really recorded as podcasts for a local internet radio station (I just had them filmed). I did that for six months and learned how to improve delivery by watching and listening to myself. I was way too “rehearsed” and almost unnatural when I first started. In public speaking, it’s much easier for me to be natural, but once the camera or mic is turned on, everything changes.

I think it’s very hard to just be yourself for an audience you can’t see, but that’s what people want. I think my podcasts have improved, but my next ones will be a lot better after listening to myself recently and nearly vomiting from disappointment. Point is, practice, listen, get better. Podcasting is just like life.

The thing I love most about podcasting is being home alone and able to just read a script off my iPad (my previous podcasts were filmed, so that was totally different). Writing it down ensures I don’t forget any major points that I want to cover and allows me to be more free with my personality, since I’m not concerned with remembering content. I also bold words that indicate a transition or that I want to say with extra emphasis.

When I’m recording the podcasts, I pretend like I’m having wine-lathered conversations with my friends. I learned that I’m better when I’m more spontaneous, so there’s a fine balance between writing it all down and keeping it fun and authentic. I try to tell personal stories and really inject my personality. I pretty much just sit down in front of a computer, have a conversation with myself, and simultaneously write down the conversation into bullet points before I record.

It’s much easier for me to “teach” than to be myself, because there’s no image to worry about. But people who meet me after they see me on camera often tell me I’m much better in person because I’m just myself. I went to dinner with a friend and we drank a lot of wine and I said something (loudly) like, “You could fill this whole table with coke, snort it, and the physiological effects still wouldn’t get you as high as a really good orgasm.” She responded, “That’s the stuff you need to tell people. It’s just so real and honest and funny.” And many others have made similar statements. So I try to keep that in mind when recording. But its not easy, because you’re essentially “acting” like yourself.

And here’s my dark secret: in the beginning, I drank wine (seriously) to loosen up. Try recording one as “loose” as possible and always remember it can be deleted. The wine stopped after 2-3 episodes, because they get easier very quickly.

So the bottom line is: the struggle is real. But it’s only a struggle for a short time and becomes very fun very quickly.

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Dr. Sonjia Kenya is a sexologist, university researcher, podcaster, and author of the book "Sex in South Beach." She earned her bachelor's degree from UCLA and two masters degrees along with her doctorate from Columbia University. Her practice in South Beach helps adults achieve more satisfying sexual relationships. At the University of Miami Medical School, she conducts behavioral and clinical research focused on improving sexual health outcomes.

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