Look, Learn & Listen: The Art of Podcast Hosting
By: Steve Orr, Steve Orr Media
January 25, 2018
So, you’re the lucky one who gets to host your organization’s podcast?
Take a few deep breaths and relax. And I mean that literally if you’re a bit anxious, nervous or feeling unprepared for your upcoming adventure. You will have a unique opportunity to help shape the feel and sound of your show.
Of course, you must always keep the audience in mind and consider their needs first. What content will be most appealing? What show format—such as a one-on-one interview or panel discussion—will be most appropriate? What music and sound effects will be a good fit? How can you engage your audience to make the show more interactive?
Input from people within your organization, your clients or customers, and even your friends and family could be crucial to the success of your organization’s podcast. Ask what they like to listen to and why.
Once you’ve considered the audience-centric needs, now is the time to think about yourself and your role as host. Yes, this is the rare occasion where you need to be a bit self-centered.
With that in mind, here are three tips to take you to the next level as a podcast host:
Be introspective to find the sweet spot of your hosting style. Are you friendly, edgy, authoritative, funny? How will your personality fit your show? No matter what it is, be authentic.
Also, pay attention to your voice and your delivery. Make time to practice reading your show’s intro and outro until they come naturally. You also can practice asking your questions. Very few people like to hear themselves on tape. But tape yourself and listen to how you sound before you do your show. And keep your mouth about a fist’s length from the microphone, which generally will give you the best mic level.
Listen for energy and vocal inflection (in other words, don’t be monotone). Are you breathing from your diaphragm? Are you varying the pacing and pitch of your voice?
Remember short and punchy sentences will help you sound more natural.
Never wing it. And keep in mind you’re learning about both the topic and guest on each episode of your show. It’ll make formulating your questions much easier. It’ll also increase your comfort and confidence level during your show’s taping.
Think like a journalist when doing your research and consider the five W’s: Who, What, Where, When, Why.
Google your topics. If you’re not an expert, make sure you understand them as thoroughly as possible. Look for the latest news—keeping current will only add an extra bit of relevance to your questions.
Look at your guests’ LinkedIn profiles. What articles have they written? Have they appeared on other podcasts, radio shows or on TV? What are they saying and showing on Twitter or Instagram? Your findings could influence your line of questioning.
It may sound easy, but listening is often one of the most difficult skills to master as a host. Why? As a host, sometimes you can remain so focused on your next question that you forget to listen to what your guest is saying in the moment. That can rob you of the opportunity to ask what could be a critical follow-up question or series of questions. The failure to follow up also could lead to a disjointed, less conversational and less interesting show.
But don’t just listen to the content. Listen to the tone of the answers. For instance, is your guest passionate, happy or annoyed by your questions? The tone may help you determine how to follow up.
If you want to improve your listening skills don’t look at your next question when your guest is talking. And don’t automatically race to the next question. Take a beat or two before you proceed. That can have the dual benefit of helping you process the answer and frame your response.
Your ultimate goal is to create an on-air environment where both you and your guests can shine. And never be shy about editing your show to make it tighter. Less is often more for the listener.
Steve Orr is an award-winning broadcaster and founder of Steve Orr Media, which helps clients become more effective speakers, as well as create and produce podcasts.
Connect with Steve Orr: @steveorrmedia