How do I measure up as a host?
It’s a common question among podcasters, and it’s a valid one.
With so many shows out there—and plenty of hosts who absolutely knock it out of the park every episode—no one wants to feel like the weakest link.
But what exactly makes an incredible podcast host?
Over the years, I’ve worked on hundreds of podcasts covering a wide range of industries and business types, and I’ve noticed common practices among the hosts of the most successful shows.
So in this article, I’m going to break those practices down into six tips to help you become the kind of host that listeners are excited to hear from each week.
Let’s do this!
Tip #1: Be Prepared
Creating a solid podcast episode takes preparation.
That means sitting down to really think about what you want to say and why.
Start by asking yourself what core theme or central topic you want to dive into.
Then make a list of 3 – 5 key points you want to make sure you touch on. If you’re doing an interview, make a list of 3 – 5 questions you know you want to ask your guest.
Your goal here is to create a loose structure you can follow with the understanding that you’ll fill in the rest as you go based on what you know your audience needs to hear.
Having trouble deciding exactly what it is they need to hear?
That just means you need to do a little more prep work.
Here are a few questions that can help get you thinking in the right direction:
- What burning questions do people in your audience have?
- What do your listeners want/need to know?
- What subjects or interview guests will be in your audience’s best interest?
For more ideas on what to cover in your podcast, check out 5 Ideas For Awesome Podcast Content (And How to Generate Even More).
Take some time to consider these questions before recording your episode, and keep them in mind even as you sit behind the mic. (If that means having a handy list of your answers in view while you’re recording, so be it.)
Your episodes should center around specific topics, problems, concerns, etc. that apply to your listeners in particular.
Brooke Castillo does an amazing job of this with The Life Coach School Podcast.
With episodes like “How to Disagree with Someone” and “What to Do About Your Mother,” she addresses her audience’s unique struggles and focuses on helping them understand key mindset shifts they need to make.
Basing your content on what your listeners want and need is what keeps them coming back for more.
And doing the work in advance will not only save you and your audience time, but it will also spare everyone from rambling tangents and uninspired interviews.
So instead of going in blind, do a little bit of homework before you hit record.
Your listeners will thank you.
Tip #2: Dig Deeper
After you’ve done the prep work, you can go into your recording session knowing exactly what it is you want your audience to get out of the episode.
Your job as a podcast host, then, is to make sure that happens.
By digging deeper.
Advocate for your audience and make it your mission to uncover key insights for them.
Whether it’s you sharing stories and education based on your own experiences and expertise, or your guest opening up about the topic, it’s up to the host to pull out the most valuable nuggets of information for listeners.
So challenge yourself to really get into the meat of the content if you’re going solo, and don’t let guests get away with fluff answers if you’re doing interviews.
Ask why and how and get behind the scenes.
If a guest goes off topic, you’ve got to gently guide them back to the important stuff that your audience needs to hear.
Take Michael Kitces of the Financial Advisor Success podcast for example.
Every week, he interviews successful financial advisors to gain insight into how they built their own firms, dive into the challenges and struggles they faced along the way, and get their advice for other advisors who want to follow a similar path.
Michael isn’t afraid to dig deeper by asking clarifying questions and encouraging guests to elaborate on their points to really illustrate key concepts for listeners.
This is one of the many things that make him such a great host—and likely a major part of why his podcast is arguably the most successful podcast out there for financial advisors.
So keep your audience’s best interests in mind and be their champion.
Valuable content will follow—and so will your awesomeness as a host.
Tip #3: Use Stories
Study after study has shown that people connect with stories.
In fact, one of our clients has discussed the power of storytelling on his podcast multiple times, including his episodes entitled “Supercharge Your Content Marketing with Strategic Storytelling” and “The Science of Compelling Stories with Paul Smith.” (Both offer more on storytelling and how to use it effectively, and I recommend checking them out!)
If you can use a story to illustrate your message, it will be a huge win for getting your listeners to connect with it.
The more you can weave a lesson into a story or share an example that illustrates what you’re teaching, the better it will sink in, the more relatable it will be, and the more your audience will find it helpful and impactful.
There’s a reason people use fables to teach moral lessons to kids—because storytelling works to drive a point home.
David Siteman Garland of The Rise To The Top podcast uses this concept incredibly well.
Not only does he share specific examples and stories from his personal successes and failures with running online courses, he also brings on guests to share their stories, including what worked for them when building their courses and pitfalls to avoid.
These specific examples are what really get lessons to sink in.
So remember to paint a word picture whenever you can, and don’t be stingy with the examples!
Tip #4: Be Yourself
This may sound too simple… but just be yourself.
Whatever your natural voice and vibe are, that should be what listeners are hearing, not the result of any preconceived notions you may have about what a podcast host should sound like.
Too many podcasters make the mistake of trying to sound super professional or mimicking others, and they end up giving off the impression of being out of reach, unrelatable, or disingenuous.
Not surprisingly, it turns listeners off.
People want to connect with you as a real person with emotions and troubles and challenges.
Share a little bit about what’s going on in your life and let listeners get to know the real you, even if it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
Of course, you don’t want to make the majority of the episode a tell-all about your life, but little two-minute stories and glimpses into who you are will go a long way.
One host who does an absolutely fantastic job of giving listeners peeks into her life is Katrina Ubell of the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians podcast.
She shares about vacations she takes, what her children are up to, when construction is happening at her house, and more.
These kinds of things deepen your relationship with your listeners and make you feel like a friend.
So be human and allow your personality to shine through.
It’s effective and easy—and I can’t recommend it enough.
Tip #5: Invite Interaction
It’s a given that you want to build a relationship with your audience, but you don’t want your connection to be a one-way street.
You want to transition your audience from silent listeners to actively engaged fans.
Invite your audience to interact with you beyond the podcast by offering a low-risk/value-first way of deepening your audience’s connection with you.
(As a bonus, this creates an intermediary step between having a podcast listener and making a sales conversion.)
There are tons of ways you can do this, but here are a few ideas for encouraging a deeper interaction:
- Ask for feedback from listeners (and don’t forget to apply it).
Pose questions to your audience about what topics they want you to cover, who they’d want you to interview, what you can do to improve the show, etc. Then do what you can to make it happen for them!
- Urge listeners to submit questions for you to answer on the show.
This approach works twofold. Not only does it show that you care about and keep up with your listeners, but it also makes people more likely to submit their own questions to see if you’ll feature them. Mention the person who submitted by name when you answer their question and give them a special shoutout for connecting with you.
- Invite people to join your online community.
Whether it’s a Facebook group, a private forum, or another online haven, let people know where they can go to interact with you and other listeners. And make sure to keep up with this group so participants see you’re active and ready to connect.
- Share where they can find more of your content.
Do you have an opt-in like a free ebook, worksheet, or webinar that will help your listeners? Let them know about it! Include a call to action (CTA) to let listeners know how they can find more help from you.
For a look at what makes an effective CTA, check out From Listeners to Clients: 7 Ways to Get Amazing Results From Your Podcast and scroll down to tip #1.
Christine Kaczmar of Smart Digestion Radio does an amazing job of inviting her listeners to engage.
She hosts the Healthy Rebels Group and records special Friday Q&A episodes where she answers audience questions.
Your aim should be to provide similar opportunities for your listeners.
So whether you choose one or more of the above ways to connect, or get creative and do your own thing, let your people know you’re accessible.
Then keep building that relationship from there!
Tip #6: Have Fun
Podcasting is a medium where your energy and vibe really shine through.
So while you do want your podcast to sound polished, you don’t have to be super professional and buttoned up all the time.
Let people know you’re having a good time and enjoying the content you’re creating.
Take Micah Shilanski and Matthew Jarvis for example. In their podcast, The Perfect RIA, both guys joke around throughout the show.
They tease and poke fun at each other, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an episode that doesn’t involve a good amount of laughter between them.
It’s refreshing and invites listeners to have a good time, too.
After all, no one ever said you can’t offer great content and have fun at the same time.
So why not do both?
Practicing the above tips will help take your hosting game to the next level.
If you want to go the extra mile, take a listen to some episodes from the podcasts mentioned above. Their hosts absolutely nail the points in this article, and there is a lot to be learned from them.
And now that you’ve got a handle on how to be an incredible podcast host, don’t forget to apply The Winning Formula for Amazing Podcast Episodes to make sure you’re putting out the best possible content for your listeners.
Then put your new skills to the test!
Do you have more tips for being an incredible podcast host? Drop ’em in the comments below!