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November 7, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Joe Rogan. Gary Vaynerchuk. Esther Perel. Brené Brown. What do all these thought leaders have in common? They’re all knowledgeable in their respective fields. In addition, they’re all widely successful podcast hosts who have grown some of the most popular podcasts in the world. Their ability to connect personally with their audience has built strong fan bases. What’s more, their likability and interviewing skills have only made their podcasts all the more engaging and entertaining. But what makes a good podcast host? Today, we’re diving into how to be a good podcast host with topics on:
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Being a good podcast host can make all the difference in growing and engaging with your audience. It goes beyond simply leading a podcast episode. Sure, you’re in charge of introducing your guests, keeping the conversation flowing, and ensuring that each episode runs smoothly. But do you bring entertaining and thought-provoking ideas to your audience?
The most popular podcast hosts are naturally curious and excite that same curiosity in their audiences. Effective hosting can include being an exceptional interviewer or having an entertaining approach to discussion. You’ll also notice that successful podcast hosts ask great questions and listen with intention. They get their guests to open up. They listen with intention and keep the conversation flowing.
To stand out as an excellent podcast host, everything you do—before, during, and after recording your episode—should serve your audience’s best interest and set your guests up for success.
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Being a good podcast host goes beyond the episode. It’s critical to plan, practice, and maintain the value of the content you’re including in your podcast. To level up your hosting game, here’s a list of tips to take your podcast hosting skills from basic to pro:
The first step to being a good podcast host is to understand the audience. This means respecting their time and ensuring that each episode is interesting and valuable to them. Perhaps you have some ideas about the audience from audience profile sheets. Another approach is surveying them and requesting feedback to confirm the best times, days, and topics to include for them. With this clarity, your team can better plan the types of podcast styles you’ll be using to fulfill these audience needs.
Once you have this info, think about how you can best serve your audience through the podcast. Consider the kind of guests that will be interesting to your listeners. Are you able to introduce your audience to a VIP guest that they might not be able to access in any other way? When your audience gives you feedback, think about what actions you can take to apply it. You can create an enjoyable podcast by understanding your audience and catering to their needs.
Once you have a handle on the demographics and preferences of your audience, you can plan how to serve them. A successful podcast strategy begins with finding topics that resonate with your listeners. So make a list of possible issues that will interest your audience.
For example, what’s a topic or angle that no one else is covering? How can you stand out among other podcasts in your industry or topic area? These questions can help you create relevant, valuable content for your listeners. Make sure every topic idea you plan for best serves your audience and you’ll be on your way to being a good podcast host.
The quality of guests you bring on your podcast makes all the difference in how interesting and valuable it is to your listeners. Start by knowing what you want. What topic and angle do you want to cover? Brainstorm the kinds of guests that will make a good fit. Use social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to search for thought leaders. These social media platforms are helpful tools for connecting with guests directly when you’re ready to pitch.
You can also ask for referrals and recommendations from colleagues who are familiar with your topic. Don’t be afraid to vet your guests. Don’t accept just anyone who proposes to be on your show. Just because they reach out to you doesn’t automatically mean they will make a great guest.
Be sure to research both the guest and the topic so that you can ask informed questions. Listen to other podcasts that your guest has been on. Visit your guest’s website to learn about their current and upcoming projects. Review recent press coverage if it’s applicable. Not only will this preparation ensure a good interview, but it will also show your guest that you respect their time and are interested in what they have to say. Develop a guest introduction, interview questions, and talking points for any other segments you plan to include in the show.
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Schedule a quick call with your guest before the actual interview. This is a helpful way to establish rapport and answer questions before it’s time to record. If you have a podcast media kit or fact sheet, be sure to send it beforehand so your guest can learn about your show. Talk with your guest about your vision for the episode. Consider sharing your working outline and possible interview questions.
Walk them through the introduction you plan to use and discuss their goals for appearing on the episode. Answer your guest’s questions, so they feel prepared for the interview. You can also use this pre-show interview as a way to share recording best practices, confirm necessary audio and recording equipment, and work out additional discussion points before the podcast.
Being a good podcast host also depends on planning ahead. Plan out each episode by drafting a loose outline of the key points you want to cover. You can flesh these out with bullet points or complete sentences. You might also think about repurposing content for your podcast to streamline the planning process. Think about the order in which you want to share your points. Jot them down after your welcome and introduction. Write in a conversational and engaging tone, and use plenty of examples and anecdotes to help support these key points. When you reach the end of your outline, include a summary and invite your listeners to learn via the show notes.
Your script may get very complex in your quest to make your episode as helpful as possible. Think over how in-depth you want to explore a topic so that you don’t overwhelm your audience. As you research your topic, identify the key takeaways that you want to communicate. Be strategic in how you present the information. How can you develop your message in a way that will be easy for your audience to follow? Focus on the most important things your audience needs to know about a topic and cut the rest. Perhaps you can do follow-up episodes or even create a series.
When structuring your episode, weave storytelling elements in your podcast script. Pick out the most interesting, compelling, surprising, or otherwise entertaining bits. Pepper them along different parts of your script. Use a thought-provoking tidbit to hook the listener at the beginning of your episode. Consider a plot twist or interesting turn midway to keep your audience listening. Create a build-up throughout the episode to keep people listening to the end.
Add a critical takeaway at the conclusion. Take the time to plan your episode, so it’s well-organized and easy to follow. Evoke emotion in your listeners by using expressive language and sharing powerful anecdotes. Think about how you can be enthusiastic and engaging when recording. Annotate your script to remind yourself when to slow down, speed up, and pause.
To be a good podcast host, you must know your subject matter. This means researching your topic and guest and coming up with relevant questions. It’s also essential to be engaged and present during the podcast episode. Doing so will ensure that your audience listens to your episode all the way through.
You might decide to use a full script to make sure that you get all your critical points in and make sure that you stay off tangents. But you definitely don’t want to sound like a robot. Refer to your script as needed and have an honest conversation as much as possible.
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While all the groundwork you did to prepare your podcast is essential, understand that sometimes conversations take a turn. Interviews sometimes don’t go as planned, and that’s okay. It’s crucial to be able to improvise and adapt on a whim. Be flexible enough to adjust if needed.
Though podcasting is a relatively informal medium, it’s still important to be professional when recording your show. Speak clearly, watch your grammar, and avoid excessive profanity. You may be recording barefoot in your home office, but your podcast will be heard by people worldwide. Different cultures interpret tone and language differently. So it’s imperative to ensure that you’re always putting your best foot forward.
Though your listeners are most likely not in the studio with you when you actually record, don’t forget to include them in your conversation. Imagine that your audience isn’t just a group of people but the third person in your discussion. It makes it more intimate if you can visualize them and speak directly to them. During the episode, ask your listeners questions. Include calls to action requesting their feedback. You can also encourage them to interact with each other by sharing their thoughts and opinions with you via your social media channels.
It’s also essential to encourage your guests to open up and shine. So put the spotlight on your guests and don’t make the content about just your brand. Excessive focus on the host can make the podcast feel like a one-sided conversation. Too little focus can make it difficult for listeners to understand who is speaking. Ask open-ended questions that allow your guest to share their stories and insights. Allow your guests to finish their thoughts before jumping in with additional commentary. Avoid interrupting guests unless they’re going on a tangent or rambling.
A big part of being a good podcast host is engaging with your guests in an intriguing way. This means asking them questions that prompt thoughtful answers and keep the conversation flowing. No one likes an interrogation, so ditch the hard-hitting questions. Avoid yes or no questions that don’t provide much value for either you or your listeners.
Instead, focus on open-ended questions that need more than a one-word answer. Aim to be engaging and personable without being overbearing. If the conversation lulls, don’t hesitate to ask a follow-up question or bring up a related topic. The goal is to make your guest feel comfortable and encourage them to open up about their experiences. Inspire real conversation that’s genuine and vulnerable, and also facilitate respectful debates as they arise.
As you host podcasts, it can be easy to get wrapped up in formulating the next question while your guest is still talking. Try to really listen to their responses and let their answers guide the direction of the conversation organically. Remove distractions and stay as attentive as possible. Be respectful of their opinions even if you disagree. Listen without judging, jumping to conclusions, or trying to finish their sentences.
We touched on using storytelling elements in your script. But storytelling also plays a role during the actual podcast. We all love a good story, so ask your guests questions that allow them to tell theirs. Not only will this make for great content, but it’ll also help build rapport with your guests. You can also provide your own anecdotes when it makes sense to keep the conversation flowing.
Read more: How To be a Good Storyteller
This goes for both speaking and listening. If you’re talking too quickly, it can be difficult for your listeners (and your guests!) to keep up. On the other hand, if things are dragging, it’s likely time to move on to the next question. Find a happy medium and be aware of how fast (or slow!) things are moving along.
Podcasts are all about energy in your voice, so you must bring your best self to each recording. This means being enthusiastic, engaged, and animated. Not only will this make for a better show, but it will also keep your guests engaged and prevent any awkward silences. Let your passion for the subject shine through.
Being a good podcast host also means being transparent, honest, and authentic. And the best way to be an authentic and genuine podcast host is to be yourself and incorporate your business’s values. This means being open with your audience and sharing your thoughts and opinions honestly. Doing so makes you more relatable and helps your audience connect with you.
Are you thinking of including ads or sponsored messages in your podcast? First, make sure that the ads are relevant to your audience. For example, if you have a podcast about cooking, it would make sense to advertise kitchen products or cooking classes. Secondly, only include ads from reputable companies that you believe in. Nobody wants to listen to a commercial for a dodgy product or service. Finally, be sure to keep the ads short and sweet.
Long, boring sales pitches will be certain to lose your audience. Consider using native ads where you discuss the product or service in your own words. And at the end of each episode, thank your guests for their time before wrapping up the recording. At this point, you can use a call to action (CTA) for any upcoming events or projects your company might be planning.
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Just because you finished the podcast doesn’t mean your engagement with the audience stops. Now that it’s over, it’s time to edit, schedule, and promote your podcast content. Whether you handle this in-house or outsource the production to a vendor, here’s a list of tips to be a good podcast host well beyond the main event:
Follow up with your guests with a thank you email that includes the date when the episode will be released and other helpful information. Give your guests sample social media posts and images they can use to promote the episode on their own platforms to help you amplify your reach.
You can even give them audiograms from the episode they can use on their social media platforms. Ask your guest about their experience on the podcast. What went well? What didn’t go well? What do they wish they would have known? Ask if there is a resource your guest wished they had before the interview. Use this feedback to improve your pre-interview process.
We also already discussed including a call to action requesting feedback during the episode. You should also request feedback on social media and in your email blasts. What episodes were most impactful for your listeners? What episodes would they like to see in the future? How could your episodes be more interesting? Is there anything that’s stopping them from listening to more episodes?
After you have released at least one season of episodes, go back and listen to your most popular episodes. You might skim through your least popular ones, too. Note things you can learn from each type and use these insights to improve your podcast hosting skills continually.
Podcasting is a great way to connect with potential customers and build thought leadership within your industry. Study after study shows that having a great podcast host can make or break a podcast. By following these simple tips, you can set yourself up for success as a podcast host and create content that both you and your audience will enjoy.
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