Podcast hosts do a lot of talking. It’s kind of a job requirement. Long stretches of silence don’t tend to pull in an audience for what is a near entirely audio medium. Still, the best out there strike a balance between talking and listening—really listening—to what their guests and experts have to say. This is especially true when dealing with a topic as sensitive and serious as ALS. It is a balance that Jeremy Holden and Mike Stephenson, hosts of the Connecting ALS podcast, try to strike with each episode.
“Jeremy and I always try to stay out of the way of our guests and their stories,” says Stephenson. “We can only imagine the reality of an ALS diagnosis, so as long as we can provide a platform for members of the community to share and inspire, we hope our listeners find value in each episode.”
The podcast is produced by The ALS Association’s national office and the Association’s Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota Chapter. It aims to bring listeners the latest in research and technology developments, highlight advocacy efforts, and share personal stories from the ALS community.
“We do our best to gather feedback from the community—those living with ALS, their caregivers and loved ones, clinicians, researchers, anyone with a vested interest in the fight against ALS,” says Stephenson. “Hearing from them on what’s most important and relevant helps us plan for episodes in the moment and down the road. Anytime we interview someone living with the disease, we’re reminded that time is a luxury many of our listeners do not have, and that gives us a sense of urgency.”
The podcast began in 2019 as a monthly podcast hosted by Stephenson and produced by Garrett Tiedemann for the Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota chapter. In March 2020 the podcast shifted to a national focus with Holden joining as co-host. The format change has allowed the podcast to reach a wider audience, and to tell more stories.
“The best part about moving to a weekly format in front of a larger audience means we can share more information and personal stories with more people,” says Stephenson. “But at the same time, we feel like there are so many more stories to tell and experts to hear from. We’re still trying to find the right balance between being as informative and timely as possible while elevating the important voices and perspectives of those in the ALS community.”
While the topics covered on Connecting ALS run the gambit of emotions from inspiriting to challenging, even with a weekly publishing schedule you should be able to add them to your ongoing podcast feed without having to drop any others, as episodes generally run around 30 minutes, give or take.
“More often than not our interviews just naturally unfold at a certain length,” says Stephenson. “But from the beginning we’ve aimed to hit that sweet spot that lasts for someone’s commute, or workout, or morning coffee—the usual listening windows.”
You can find Connecting ALS on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And while Stephenson knows there are many stories yet to be told, he and Holden have one story in mind they’ll never stop looking for.
“If there’s one story that everyone involved with the show and, obviously, The ALS Association, is desperately hoping to tell, it’s the story of an effective treatment for this disease. Something that we can look back on as the beginning of the end for ALS,” says Stephenson. “If our podcast becomes irrelevant because there’s a cure, we’d be elated.”