Consistent practice doesn’t guarantee that everything will go perfectly—but it does make sure that you’ll be prepared for whatever happens. In this episode, director, actor, and educator, Meridith Grundei shares tips and strategies that will help you become ready and confident as a host, presenter, or guest!

Meridith is an expert in communication and has spoken to companies like Amazon, AWS, Panasonic, and Merck and was a teacher at the Second City in New York.

She has 90,000 dedicated fans on TikTok and was recognized as one of the top ten speaking coaches by Yahoo in 2022. She is the driving force behind Grundei Coaching, where she incorporates improv theater techniques to foster trust, empathy, and creative thinking.

Meridith shares so much practical advice and specific strategies that we can use for improving performance as podcast hosts and as guests. And of course, these are skills that you can transfer to sales, to your marketing, to how you pitch yourself, and how you network.

I took pages of notes and even took a stab at the half-life exercise she gives us in the call as homework, so you’ll get to hear that at the end of the show.

Meridith has been so giving of her time and knowledge and her improv skills are so interesting and so engaging and can make such a difference in how you create your content.

Listen to the episode below or continue reading the blog post!

Tune in to the full episode to learn about:

  • The transformative power of improv theater
  • How to enhance presence and mindful communication through Improv
  • The power of smiling in podcasting
  • The Half-Life exercise for condensing communication

Don’t forget to join us for our free monthly strategy calls on the third Thursday of every month!

How Meridith overcame fear and found her voice

“I have been a performer my whole life and on many stages. But I started off as a dancer. I didn’t use my voice. I was afraid to use my voice because I was afraid of having the wrong answer or sounding stupid if called upon.

I liked to hide. I hid in the back row, often away from teachers. And it was because I found acting through dance that I was able to really find my voice and develop my confidence, and because I got to play with a script and characters and all that good stuff.

Then I found improv theater, and that forced me to use my own point of view and my own feelings towards things. And that’s when I really started to blossom and develop my confidence as a speaker.

Today, I get to use those skill sets that I’ve learned to help other people, mostly in leadership, develop their confidence so they can deliver their message and communicate not only with their colleagues, direct reports, whomever, but to customers when they’re releasing new products and services.”

The importance of charisma and presence

That idea of feeling like you’re going to have the wrong answer or say the wrong thing can cause so much anxiety for those of us in podcasting. It can prevent people from starting shows.

It can prevent people from promoting shows when they have them or accepting guest opportunities. And it’s so wonderful that you’re able to turn these skills and help people. Kind of most of us, believe we have good content. It’s getting it out there that’s such a challenge.

And I know one of the things that you look at a really great podcaster and in other industries, and for really great leaders, and they’ve got this amazing charisma. They’ve got this great presence wherever they are and wherever they’re presenting themselves.

Meridith believes that presence is something that can be developed.

She emphasizes the importance of truly showing up and being present in the moment. She believes that those who truly show up are not only skilled in communicating their messages but also excellent listeners.

In addition, she thinks that focusing less on what others think of you and more on how you can help your audience and serve them is crucial. She believes that confidence often wavers when too much attention is placed on how one might sound or come across, or how others might perceive their words.

According to Meridith, it’s not about the individual, but rather about connecting with and serving the audience.

Signs that you don’t have a good presence according to Meridith

“I can only speak into my own experience, which is that if you’re feeling messy in the middle if you’re feeling under-prepared, as if you’re running from one thing to the next, that, to me, is not being present.

It’s about what is it that you’re doing intentionally so that you can arrive. And I always say this to my students, and my clients, is, how can we arrive to be in the space today with the people that we’re sharing it with? And so, what’s that going to take?

You might have had that day that came from out of nowhere, and you still need to have the skills to breathe and feel that floor beneath your feet and find the purpose for why you’re there and then just give.”

Everything takes practice and self-awareness.

Meridith always says that nothing is an overnight quick-fix special sauce. It takes practice and self-awareness.

To be quite frank, that’s comforting. So, all of those people who seem like they have it all together, and they always seem like they have the perfect kind of way of being and interacting with others, that actually took hard work.

It does take hard work. And there are probably a few special people out there who popped out of their wombs, who just took to the stage immediately and won the hearts of many. Meridith always says even the most skilled actors that we see on TV, have a director.

They are taking classes. They are exercising. They are doing what they need to do to keep their toolbox up to date and sharp if you will. So we could all use that help. We all could use a director.

Well, many of us have to be our own directors, those of us listening to the show. When we’ve been chatting a little bit, getting ready for this call, talking about how improv can be one of the tools, or within improv, there are tools that can be used to help people practice being present, and having a good presence.

The connection between improv and presence

Meridith says:

“The art of improvisation is really a very mindful practice of listening, not responding until you’ve actually heard what was said.

And I would say it’s a very Zen-like approach towards being in the moment and not anticipating what the person is going to say before they say it. We’ve all been in those conversations where someone finishes our sentence for us or we finish a sentence for somebody else because we know what they’re going to say.

It’s really inviting you to challenge yourself to not do those things and to truly just listen not only to the words that are coming out of the other person’s mouth, but it’s also helping you pay attention to body language and facial expressions and to notice emotion.

I find improv has so many applicable tools when it comes to being present, and those are just a few, one intuitively.”

Improv skills and strategies for better communication

The foundation of improvisation, which you’ve probably heard, is the two words yes and. Meridith explains that yes and can be used in various ways.

One way is as a building block, where the speaker acknowledges and builds upon what was just said, adding more details to continue the storyline. Another way is to acknowledge a different point of view without disagreeing or negating it.

For example, if someone presented a challenging idea, instead of immediately disagreeing, you should acknowledge their perspective and then share your own point of view.

Meridith believes that acknowledging and reflecting back on a portion of what someone says can be validating enough to continue the conversation in a more mindful way.

How to transition from acknowledgment to bringing up your own point

Meridith suggests that it is acceptable to respond by saying, “Okay, I heard you say dot, dot, dot. And honestly, I have a little bit of a different feeling around that than you do. Here’s my point of view…”

In such cases, she believes it is important to find a way to redirect the conversation. For example, instead of stating her point of view, she suggests moving on from the topic and discussing something more light-hearted, like puppies.

This redirection technique can be effective, just as it is with children who become fixated on a topic. By redirecting their attention, you can avoid getting stuck in unproductive arguments and move forward in the conversation.

Useful things that improv taught Meredith

“The other thing that improv has taught me is patience.

It has taught me about failure, because not all of my ideas that come out of my mouth are going to be successful, and then being okay and bouncing back and not dwelling on it, just to be clear.

And then it has also taught me how to work collaboratively with other people.

I feel what it has done for me is it helps to build trust very quickly in a group, because you are taking risks together, you’re sharing your point of view together, you’re failing together, you’re laughing, which is the most important medicine together.

So that trust piece, which I have to say, I feel like one of my strengths as a coach is I can immediately walk into a room with somebody and develop trust with them right away so that we can get a lot done in a very short period of time, which is not always easy to do for a lot of people.

Those are some of the other benefits. Also, if something goes wrong, it doesn’t break you, you are able to adapt at the moment and redirect or pivot or whatever it is that you need to do and to trust you, trust yourself that you are the expert, you know what’s going on, move forward.”

Meridith’s tips for making sure your guests are comfortable

“I have a podcast as well, and the one thing I like to do with the guests before we even start the podcast is build some rapport before we even hit record.

To build in that time where I have a co-host and the three of us will go around the room and ask, what is your intention for our time together today? So then that gives them time to think, and it gives them time to share.

And then my co-host and I also get to share, and it builds a little bit of rapport before we hit record and go. Oftentimes, I would imagine that the podcast hosts haven’t maybe met the guest or haven’t even talked to that person. What is it that you can build into that time so that both of you can calm your nervous systems a little bit.”

Brightening: The Power of Smiling

And a little tip, a tool that Meridith learned when she was doing a lot of voiceover acting, is called brightening, which means that when she’s on the mic, she always smiles as she speaks.

She says there’s something really energetic about doing that. It changes her whole disposition to just simply smile. It can do a lot to your physicality and your emotional state.

Show your passion, excitement, and enthusiasm

Meridith emphasizes that podcasting is a serious business.

But while certain topics can be serious, Meridith challenges the listeners to remember that as podcast hosts, they have a purpose and a driving force behind their work. It is crucial not to be afraid to show passion, excitement, and enthusiasm, as the listeners will only be interested if the host is genuinely interested.

She advises taking a moment before recording to set the attention, whether alone or with the guest, and to put on a smile. Smiling while speaking helps create a positive and engaging atmosphere, without any condescension.

It’s simply a matter of turning up the size of the mouth and conveying warmth and friendliness to the audience.

Related clip:

How to make “boring” conversations more engaging

One thing that Meridith does to pull at that thread a little bit is when someone shares something with her that might not be, she asks them for a story.

And then if it’s not quite a story, because she has heard people who give general ideas of stories, and then there are people who give the details to the stories, she continues to pull on that thread and says

“Okay, I hear that happened. However, I want to know the inner section. What was the moment? What did you feel in your body when it happened? Where were you in time and space and geographically? What did it smell like?”

She pulls and pulls and she says that 99% of the time she gets a terrific story from somebody and it doesn’t have to be long.

Sometimes these stories are only a minute. Like, she shares an example of standing in her garage, and it smelled like diesel, and the garage door opened, and that was the moment when. And then you’re like, “Oh, I can see it. I can smell it, I can feel it.” It makes a profound difference.

The kind of opposite is also true. You want to be trying to get stories from your guests, especially if they are—I’ve got such a soft spot in my heart for academics, but they are not necessarily always the best storytellers when they’re deep into their topic.

Practice Makes Prepared

According to Meridith, you should…

“Practice your own stories. Ask the question, how do I resonate with this particular topic and this particular guest? And do your due diligence the best that you can.

Research them as much as you possibly can. And then be mindful, though, that it’s not about you. Yes, you’re the host, but it’s about your guest. And so when you are practicing those stories, or you have a story that you want to share, just make sure that you are careful about the time that you’re taking and that you have told this story because you’re specifically needing to get something from your guest.

That’s wonderful for those of us, or for those listening who aren’t so well versed in all of the different elements of communication, of acting, of all of these different components that go into creating a great presence, creating a great experience, it can be really hard to figure out the balance of how much should I be adding, how much should I be sharing, and how much should I be kind of putting that energy towards getting the guests to do the same. It can be tough to figure out.

And each guest, as you well know, is very different. And so what’s been successful is, I liked how you sent some questions. I was like, okay, I know how to properly wrap my head around these questions.

We might go off these questions, we might go off-topic, and we need to leave space for that. So I had an expectation, and I think you can even go as far as asking your guests, like, do you need more structure?

Are you okay with being off the cuff that way? You kind of know what kind of a person you’re going to get in the room with you, and some guests are going to take more work than others.

Ask your guests what kind of structure would help them really show up. Well, what a lovely, hospitable thing to do for someone who’s coming on your show.”

The Half-Life Exercise

So here’s an exercise that Meridith wants you to try.:

It’s an exercise that is done in improv called half-life. In this exercise, two improvisers perform a scene together. Let’s say they are in a cafe, playing the roles of a boyfriend and girlfriend, and one of them asks the other to move out.

They do the scene in 5 minutes, and then the instructor asks them to do it in two and a half minutes. Then they do the same scene in 1 minute, and eventually they go down to 15 seconds.

Meredith says this exercise helps you get clear about your messaging. It helps you avoid rambling. Here’s how you can practice it: record your introduction or pitch on your phone or device.

Let’s say you give yourself 90 seconds to do it. Then go back and do the same thing in half the amount of time. And then go back and split that time in half again.

What happens is you get clear about what is necessary. Sometimes you even add things that you forgot in the first round, so you’re constantly adjusting. This exercise is a great way to get more clarity in your messaging and storytelling.

Record it, time yourself, cut it in half, and see the magic that comes out when you do it in 15 seconds.


There are so many places within podcasting that can be applied. It can be talking about your show. It can be pitching yourself as a guest. It can be your call to action at the end. You could even do it for guest intros if you wanted to really prepare.

Final Thoughts

This was a really interesting exercise. I’m going to start making this a part of our regular practice.

I think what I found the most was that I ended up rushing to include things at the end, and if something is important enough to rush for to make sure it’s included, then it should probably be closer toward the beginning, shifting the focus from the straight fact details about what is included to the transformation outcome.

That was another really big insight for me and something that I struggle with a little bit. I’m kind of a literalist and so talking about outcome and transformation is not as intuitive for me as talking about deliverables.

This was hugely valuable and quite fun if a little nerve-wracking, and I strongly recommend that you give it a try. I would love to hear the results of your experiment. If you do make it so, come and join us on the third Thursday of every month for our free strategy and networking calls.

We can do this exercise together. It’s a lot of fun and really illuminating. The next call we have coming up is on February 15 at noon Eastern, and it’s going to be great.

Trying out Meridith Grundei’s exercise

I had my recording software open. I was using audacity, and I decided what I would do to experiment with. This is the pitch for our new membership community, The Business Podcast Accelerator.

I’ve recorded each of the three versions of this pitch separately, and they’re pretty rough. I wanted this to be a clear demonstration of the exercise and how it works. So while I did a couple of takes of each and I had some notes handy, they are pretty rough and mostly unscripted.

I did the 90 seconds, the 45 seconds, and then the 22 seconds to see how what I wanted to communicate in that amount of time changed. Here’s the exercise:

Upcoming Strategy and Networking Call

We have a guest expert, Kachina Gosselin, the CEO of Founders Path, who’s all about helping experts turn their knowledge into courses and group training programs.

We’re going to be having a conversation about how to use podcast content, either from the archive that you’ve already got or that you plan to record with the intent to repurpose it into creating scalable and revenue-generating offerings.

It’s going to be really, really exciting. Great conversation. Kachina is an amazing expert and you can register for free at Just click on strategy calls and you’ll be in!.

Next Week on The Company Show

Next week we’ve got the first edition of a new episode, type that we’re doing this year, deep dive case studies into how business owners are leveraging podcasts for different kinds of value.

Our first study is with Rayna Rokicki, founder of Ladies First Digital Media and the host of You Betcha She Did! We’re going to be talking about how podcasting can work as a networking tool and proof of concept for an agency, as well as help Rayna establish her brand and expertise in her region.

It is such a fabulous podcast use-case and Rayna is such an amazing guest with so much insight and knowledge to share. I cannot wait for you to hear it.

Key Quotes

“The art of improvisation is really a very mindful practice of listening, not responding until you’ve actually heard what was said. And I would say it’s a very Zen-like approach towards being in the moment and not anticipating what the person is going to say before they say it.” – Meridith Grundei


One Stone Creative | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Make sure to check out our free Monthly Strategy Calls!

Podcasting for Business Conference 2023 Recordings

Learn about what other business podcasters are doing:

Meridith Grundei Website | Instagram | TikTok | LinkedIn | YouTube


PFBCon 2023 Recordings

Whether you’re a solopreneur, manager of a department, principal at a firm, or a non-fiction author ready to expand into audio, the Podcasting for Business Conference will help you leverage a podcast to meet your business objectives.

Missed PFBCon 2023? Check out the recordings!