At first glance, you might think Matthew Dicks of the SpeakUp Storytelling podcast is just an ordinary dude—a plumber, UPS driver, or handyman, perhaps. His dress is unassuming, and he carries himself with humility … a “salt-of-the-earth” kind of guy. You might expect to see him sitting at the counter in the local coffee shop, sharing stories with his cronies.
But looks can be deceiving. Matthew, an elementary school teacher by day, is also an award-winning internationally acclaimed author of six bestselling books, a sought-after speaker, and in-demand life coach.
Paired with his ability to tell stories and teach others how to do the same, Matthew is nothing short of masterful, mesmerizing, and awe inspiring.
And he’s no ordinary storyteller, either. Having won The Moth StorySlam 45 times and The Moth GrandSlam six times, he brings this love and fire for story (and for teaching storytelling) to his SpeakUp Storytelling podcast.
Recently, Matthew shared the origin story of the show, their process for creating each episode, and his overall thoughts on the world of podcasting, and it might be very different than what you would expect.
“Speakup StoryTelling started in May of 2018 during the launch of my StoryWorthy book. It’s certainly a unique format,” Matthew explains. “Every show, there is a recording of a story being told either by me or one of the storytellers we’ve trained or hosted at our SpeakUp events. The story then gets ‘dissected’ one section at a time by either me or my wife Elysha, who joins me for many of the episodes.”
The show is a powerful exercise in simultaneously entertaining and educating the audience.
Phenomenal storytellers share their work, captivating listeners. Then, a true master of the storytelling craft painstakingly explains what works and what could be improved upon in the structure and delivery of the story. Being able to celebrate the tellers under his tutelage by featuring them on his show is an unparalleled bonus for Matthew.
It is this obsession with story that truly differentiates SpeakUp from other shows, and Matthew’s knowledge, experience, and commitment to preserving and honoring the power of storytelling that makes him truly masterful.
Naturally, Matthew’s passion is contagious, thereby leading to interest in his books, classes, and retreats.
While he would love for the show to (eventually) be picked up by a network that handles the backend, explodes the show’s reach, and monetizes it, he’s not holding his breath, nor is it mandatory.
Why? Because there are myriad other benefits of the medium. A labor of love, the podcast is a vehicle Matthew leverages to extend his reach, secure speaking and corporate gigs, and connect to listeners around the world who share his love of storytelling. Plus, as a novelist, he can spend upwards of two years completing the book writing process and getting it in the hands of his audience. With podcasting, though, there is immediacy—he’s able to record a show on a Monday, and by Wednesday, have thousands of listeners tune in, take notes, and provide feedback.
Perhaps the most surprising byproduct of the show is the positive feedback received from listeners who comment on how hearing a married couple collaborate, connect, and share their perspective on an episode’s story impacts their own relationships and ability to express themselves, both with their significant other and independently.
“That’s one of the most beautiful benefits of the medium,” says Matthew. “Podcasting has democratized broadcasting and empowers every voice to be heard. Anyone with a computer and a microphone can start a podcast and have an opportunity to express themselves. We are witnessing, in real time, the creation of history! The medium archives and preserves what we each have to say. Just imagine how amazing it would be if we had the voices of our ancestors from the 1700s sharing their stories available to us now.”
Of course, Matthew is an avid podcast listener, too, although there are two genres you won’t catch him listening to: Fiction and Radio Drama.
His advice to other podcasters:
“Podcasters should be way less concerned with sound quality and the degree of production than they are with the quality of the content shared. If a cat is meowing in the background, that just makes the podcaster more human … more real … and less like a talking head who’s been sanitized.”
This approach of creating a personal, human-to-human connection with the SpeakUp audience pays off handsomely in terms of engagement. Their willingness to take a strong stand, be intentionally authentic, and respond in a timely manner to feedback has created a powerful bond between the hosts and their fans.
“I’m not going to lie,” Matthew continues. “Podcasting is time-consuming and tedious. There’s the recording, the editing, writing show notes, etc. It’s also terrifying, in terms of putting your conversations and thoughts out to the world for them to judge. But it’s afforded us the opportunity to meet, and even make friends with, some of the most incredible people all around the world. I can’t imagine anything we’d rather be doing.”