When the first hot flash hit, Åsa Melin realized not only that she had reached menopause, but also that she did not know very much about it. Searching for information, she noticed it was hard to come by, and nobody wanted to discuss the topic. To change this, she decided to start a podcast, and so Klimakteriepodden (The podcast about menopause) saw the light of day.
Join us for a chat with Åsa about her experiences of working with Klimakteriepodden.
For many years, Åsa Melin worked in the travel industry, then started working with wine and food travel, before going into the wine business. This created an interest in R&D issues.
“I’ve always been a very curious person, so one thing sort of led me to another.”
This way of structuring curiosity came in handy when her interest in menopause started. Åsa tried to find information and started talking to her girlfriends but it was obviously a topic that nobody wanted to touch.
“In all of this I realized when my first hot flash came that; oh! That is what it is! And looking back I realized that something had been going on in my body for quite a while. And when you google on menopause you find a lot of content that you do not want to associate yourself with at 50, like tired, old women. So, I started thinking about what we need to do to look after ourselves and stay healthy, to be prepared for the transition and make it in the best possible way.”
How come you decided on doing a podcast and what has your podcast journey been like? And knowing that your own background is within a field outside of healthcare and medicine, what can you share about beginning working within a new area?
When I realized that there was such a hush about this whole subject, I thought that if I am going to find out all this information and nobody else knows anything, let us share it with others! But how do I share it if nobody wants to speak about it? As someone listening to podcasts a lot myself, I decided that maybe that is a very good form to do it in, because you can listen secretly, wherever you are, whenever you want, and nobody knows what you are doing.
In the beginning I thought about doing 10 or 20 episodes and then we would have sorted the subject out. I wanted to make those episodes going through the whole body; the physiology, the hormones, what happens to your body? How do you take care of yourself? I had a quite naive idea about the whole process. Because what I did not realize then, was how individually we all experienced this transition. And so, I realized that this subject that I have taken on is not quite that simple and that I have to become more serious. I realized I have to learn much more about myself and also about the subject itself.
As for working within a new area. I must say that I’ve never been so nervous as when I was going to do the interview for what became the first episode published, it was with Angelica Lindén Hirschberg (professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Karolinska Institutet), and I thought; God, why did I get into this? And when we spoke for the first time, before she had said yes to participating, she was very sceptical. Because it was obvious that I had no idea what this was all about. But that was quite a good way of coming into it all, because I was as knowledgeable and naïve as most listeners are when they start listening to the podcast. But for me to go completely outside your field? I am the kind of person that likes throwing myself into the deep sea and not quite knowing where it is going to leave me. I like the excitement.
One thing that dawned on me when I read through my first draft of these questions was how strongly my background as a teacher came through. What would you consider being the pros, and possible cons, of your own background when it comes to working with Klimakteriepodden?
I think that if you decide to do an interview podcast about subjects that you don’t know, you have to read up on it, but you also have to be a curious person. You must be interested in the subject that you are trying to work with. It is particularly important to make your guests feel comfortable, so you must hold back even if you have a different opinion and not go into arguments. And that is quite difficult. Also, raise your guest. Make sure that your guest feels that he or she is the star, you always need to take the backseat.
And I suppose those things are what I have always done best. First, I am curious, but I’m also very good at selling things. I have worked my whole life with sales in one way or another. And to be successful with that you must listen to people, and you have to be interested in people. If you start talking about yourself, you will not get anywhere.
You have a broad palette of guests; how do you decide on whom to invite?
Sometimes I get a suggestion from somebody, for example a listener wants to know more about a subject and has a suggestion for an interview. I am a little bit careful when people suggest themselves, in that case you have to look into them quite closely. It can also be somebody who I have seen on television, someone who has written a book that I’ve read or heard about. Quite often it is about something new, in science or something new that has been released which is relevant, like a book.
Sometimes I also ask people that have already been on the podcast, if they can recommend someone for a specific topic or know of somebody interesting and most people do have suggestions. As for the famous people that I have had as guests, it’s normally somebody who has gone out publicly and talked about their experiences.
And if you could invite anyone in the world to Klimakteriepodden, who would you like to have as a guest? Why?
First, I thought “Well, I can”. But then I decided it would be Michelle Obama. Because the other week, she went out and said “Oh, my menopause was terrible. Like I had an oven inside of me. But now everything is fine.” And I got so annoyed by the fact that she did not speak about it when she was in it. I wish that more people would go out and share their experiences when it is still wobbly, not just when it is over.
Lisa Mosconi is also a super interesting woman. She is working at Cornell University in New York with the research of Alzheimer’s and women, super interesting work. She would also be a dream guest.
Making a podcast with 10 episodes is fairly easy. Having a podcast with almost 150 episodes is an achievement. What is your secret?
I think it is just curiosity, really. The energy comes from curiosity but also from the guests and from my listeners who want more of something, because I do get a lot of input. But of course, I also go through my ups and downs and I took a four-week break during the summer, which was good for me. I did a few new things and that’s part of being me because I am restless. I am curious, but I also want new things to happen.
In the end, what drives me is the fact that I see that I make a difference for a lot of people. If I saw that the listeners were going down, I suppose I would be like “okay, well fine”. I was super nervous when the first episode was published after the four-week summer break. But we had the highest listener rate ever. So yes, people are interested, people still want to hear more, so I am prepared to deliver.
In what way has Klimakteriepodden evolved over the years and in what way has your work changed? Is it fair to say that Klimakteriepodden, at least to you, is more than just a podcast nowadays?
Well, it is definitely more professional now. It is better technically, and the sound is much better now. For the first year and a half, I had another full-time job, which took time and energy. Now all the work I do has something to do with and around the podcast. In the beginning I also did not have sponsors and the work with them takes a lot of time. There is quite a lot of detail, so you cannot just do a bit, and it takes a long time. I would not have had the chance to do it the way I do it now if I had another job as well.
I have also become something of a representative for the women. And I manage to balance between the professional medical people and the women. And I have become somebody who is listened to and contacted by the medical companies. I have managed to be quite neutral in that sort of triangle. And that’s really the power, that I can now start working more as a lobbyist, and doing so much more work outside the podcast where I can actually take part in proper projects, that will make a difference politically and change the way that women are cared for in Sweden. And that is super exciting. And that is really the benefit of staying longer in something, that you may have the opportunity to become an authority.
Finally, a Crastina classic: Can you share any advice to someone who would like to
• start their own podcast?
Spend a lot of time on the technical side. Work with sound and voice, that is really important. Do not just buy a microphone and then immediately go out there and do your first thing. It is important to experiment, to try and do things, find the right environment, to really look into those things.
And make sure you are prepared, whether you do something in your own field or somebody else’s field. People really love talking about themselves and their field. But if you are prepared, you will get so much more out of them. You really get them to share interesting information if they see that you have read their work, or that you understand their work.
• start doing a podcast within a new field?
Think thoroughly about what the purpose of it is. It is not enough to have a podcast to make money or because nowadays you must have one. And dare not to be too mainstream. You must have something to say and you must be open to the fact that you might end up somewhere completely different than you thought from the beginning. I think that if you have a purpose, and dare not be too mainstream, you can create something interesting.
Five quick questions about your work with Klimakteriepodden.
What has been:
• The most thrilling?
Apart from learning, which I love, it is meeting all these super interesting people.
• The most challenging?
Reaching out to get people to listen to the podcast, to get the message out to women that they have masses of free information if they just find the podcast.
• The most fun?
All the situations I have ended up in that I would never have thought I would find myself in, where I take a look at myself and the people around me and think “how did I end up here?”.
• The most rewarding?
Getting the love and the appreciation from the listeners and feeling that I’m filling a gap.
• The most instructive?
Everything I have learnt about myself, my body and how it works and how my own health has improved over these three years is incredible
Find out more about Klimakteriepodden: