Chicago Booth Magazine Booth 101: An Introduction to Podcasting
Chris Bordoni, ’12, channels life’s trials into a podcast that celebrates resilience and reinvention.
- January 29, 2021
- Alumni Stories
“The idea of the project is to interview 100 people who inspire me,” Bordoni said of his podcast, 100 Inspiring Voices. “I’ve had enough texture in my life to know that resilience and personal growth are important. But my story is also one of continual reinvention, of doors suddenly closing and having to find new outlets and expressions of who I am. So I’ve always been interested in those topics.”
As is the case with so many creative ideas brought to life in 2020, 100 Inspiring Voices started as COVID-19 hit. Bordoni was wrapping up a consultancy project and decided to review some unfinished business in terms of personal goals. “The podcast was one of those things, so I started getting ready in the late spring and then went live on July 28.”
Even as a beginner to the medium, Bordoni has an on-air style that is sublime and remarkably assured; he sounds more like a public-radio host than a brand-new podcaster. His interview style also defies his monthslong podcast tenure, as he treats guests to insightful conversation rather than interrogation.
“I’m getting better at sharing more of my story and thoughts in the interviews,” Bordoni said. “The No. 1 piece of feedback I get is that people want to hear from me more. That’s really hard to do when you ask amazing people to share their story, but I’m getting better at it.”
He must be. To date, the podcast has more than 3,500 downloads. And that he takes an occasional backseat is understandable. Bordoni spotlights guests who, having risen above failures, crises, and tragedies, have distilled their experiences into hard-won wisdom and road-tested positivity. Chicken Soup for the Soul this is not—maybe steel-cut oats or habanero peppers are more like it.
“What I’ve learned from my work, my research, and my experiences is that we all have resilience inside of us. None of us start from zero.”
“I didn’t anticipate that these conversations would be so cathartic,” Bordoni noted. “It’s beautiful to talk about all of these topics with people who have seen or experienced similar things—and to be clear, many of my guests have gone through way more than I have.”
With episodes roughly an hour in length, 100 Inspiring Voices features interviewees who run the gamut from a Holocaust survivor (Erika Taubner Gold) to a mother (Allison Pullins) who has a young child with a rare genetic disorder. Episode subjects vary widely—from overcoming fear to failing forward in local government—but one thematic through line connects every episode: as Bordoni puts it, “adversity, resilience, reinvention, and growth.”
If you had to pick one of those words as most crucial, it would be resilience. Bordoni has it emblazoned on his LinkedIn profile page, which makes sense: he embodies resilience beyond all doubt.
“What I’ve learned from my work, my research, and my experiences is that we all have resilience inside of us. None of us start from zero,” Bordoni said. “That’s the good news. But the bad news—or the news most people don’t want to hear—is that you become more resilient by building it slowly over time.
Bordoni has spent his entire adult life pivoting and plunging into new challenges. When injury dashed his swimming ambitions at age 17, he doubled down on his studies and graduated from Cornell University in the top 1 percent of his class. After his first back injury at 24 left him barely able to walk and forced him from a consultancy job at Deloitte, he enrolled at Chicago Booth, where he met his future wife, Laura McMahon, ’12.
After stepping down from another prestigious post at Boston Consulting Group due to his reinjured back, Bordoni joined the Civic Consulting Alliance, advising the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. After a family relocation to Washington, DC, he started his own consultancy—then came the cancer battle, which tested him greatest of all. It demanded four rounds of chemotherapy and three surgeries and was not without its moments of darkness.
Still, Bordoni stresses that he’s hardly unique in terms of facing a long string of perilous trials: “We all face challenges, and when it’s not us personally, we have loved ones, coworkers, or neighbors who struggle,” he said. “I’m trying to support folks in a way that draws on my skills and experiences, but there are so, so many other people in the world who are trying to accomplish the same thing.”
By the end of 2020, Bordoni had posted nearly two dozen episodes on the way to accomplishing his 100-episode goal: “I publish one per week, so if you do the math, it’s a two-year project.”
That’s about as long as it takes some grad students to earn a degree, which this Boothie finds fitting. “As one of my guests said, it’s like an MBA in empathy,” Bordoni said. “I love that.”
Getting Ready to Record
Podcasting has exploded as a medium in the past few years, with more shows joining the digital airwaves every day. Here are Bordoni’s best tips for getting started:
Be economical. Mics, software, and soundproofing options can be overwhelming and expensive. But a basic, inexpensive setup can achieve great results. Blankets draped in a studio space will deaden sound, for example. “I had a laptop, so all I bought was Logic Pro X software ($300), a Focusrite Scarlett Solo audio interface ($100), and an Audio Technica ATR2100 mic ($65).” Add $25 for a mic mount and pop filter (to block plosive p sounds), and you’re off and running for $500. For even less, free software options (GarageBand, Audacity) also work well.
Figure out your workflow. Devise a system for booking guests regularly so that you have episodes on hand to publish. Try to stick to a regular publishing date and time as you build a following. As for remote recording of guests, “I settled on Zoom because the audio quality is solid and everyone knows how to use it. I think it’s important to make things easy for your guests.”
Make your guests comfortable. Ease them into the interview with casual and warm preshow banter—especially if the subject matter is complex or personal. “I start the actual interview with a lot of small talk,” Bordoni said. “And I insist that interviewees use a cell phone held up to their ear. It sounds better this way, but the real reason I do it is because I want it to feel like they’re talking to an old friend.”
Sharpen your interview style. Bordoni homes in on what interests and engages him. Natural curiosity goes a long way as he keeps things conversational. “I ask the questions that I want to know the answers to, not what I think people expect me to ask or what I should ask,” he said. “These are all people that I really like and respect and want to know more about.”
Just start. Podcasting is intimidating until you dive in, but there’s no better way to learn and grow. You’ll improve your show and flow as you get going—but you have to get going. “If you can get over the fear, starting something new is such a rewarding experience. Yes, the first episodes will be embarrassing and riddled with mistakes. And yes, people will point those out. Do it anyway.”