Podcast Pre-Production
12
min
December 18, 2023

7 actionable tips to become a good podcast host

Adam Jaffrey

A podcast host plays a crucial role in determining the success of their show, much like a captain steering a ship. They are responsible for setting the tone, pace, and direction of the content, ensuring that each episode resonates with the audience.

An exceptional host skillfully blends personality, knowledge, and engagement to create an unforgettable listening experience.

This article will delve into the essential skills and strategies vital for anyone aspiring to become an exceptional podcast host. From understanding your audience to mastering the art of storytelling, each aspect is a crucial component in the arsenal of a successful podcaster.

So let’s see what makes an exceptional podcast host.

The characteristics of a great podcast host

A great podcast host is more than just a voice behind the microphone. They are the driving force that shapes the listening experience and forms a deep connection with the audience. A blend of innate traits and learned skills make each host stand out in the ever-growing world of podcasting:

These characteristics are not just about enhancing individual episodes but about building and sustaining a successful podcast over time. Nurturing these qualities enables podcast hosts to publish shows that are fun, educational, and easily digestible.

With those foundations laid, let’s dive into actual tips you can employ to become a better podcast host.

1. Know your audience

A deep understanding of your audience's demographics and interests is not just a cornerstone of effective podcast promotion — it's fundamental for any podcast host. It involves analyzing listener age, gender, location, and hobbies, enabling you to craft episodes that resonate on a personal level. Hosts who tailor their content to their audience’s preferences are often able to increase both engagement and loyalty.

You might be wondering: ‘Can’t I just do my own thing and not worry about the audience?’ Well, technically, you can. But that's a surefire way to end up with a ghost town podcast.

Remember, the goal isn’t to pander to the audience and tell them what they want to hear. The idea is to understand how much time they have to listen to your podcast, what format works best for them, which topics they are/are not interested in, do they come to you for educational or entertainment value, etc. — so you can adjust your content accordingly.

And that can be done without losing your authenticity.

2. Come prepared for each episode

The audience can feel when the host is unprepared and unsure of themselves. Doing the necessary groundwork will make you sound more confident and trustworthy, both of which are marks of a good podcast host.

So, come well prepared. Research your guests, concepts, and ideas you plan to talk about. Write an interview plan with specific questions you want to ask your guest. This preparation will help guide you during your recording to ensure you stay focused on valuable content and don't ramble off-topic.

Doing the right preparation before your episode recording can take a little bit of time. But when push comes to shove, always prioritize quality over quantity.

3. Study the art of storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool for captivating a podcast audience. It involves weaving narratives that are engaging, relatable, and emotionally resonant, which help draw listeners into each episode. A host who masters storytelling can transform even the most mundane topic into compelling content.

Here are some practical tips for improving your storytelling techniques:

  1. Structure your stories: Have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This structure helps listeners follow along. A good story often has a setup, a conflict, and a resolution.
  2. Master the art of pacing: Good storytelling isn't just about the story itself, but how it's told. Work on your pacing – know when to slow down for effect and when to speed up to maintain engagement. Start by listening to expert interviewers (and even comedians) who are widely recognized as great storytellers.
  3. Employ the power of a pause: Strategic pauses can add emphasis to certain points and give listeners time to absorb the information. It's a powerful tool to keep the audience engaged and thinking.
  4. Use vivid descriptions: Engage your listeners’ senses by using descriptive language. Try to paint a picture with your words. This helps listeners visualize the scenarios you’re discussing.
  5. Incorporate emotion: Emotionally charged stories are more memorable. Share personal experiences and express genuine emotions to create a deeper connection with your audience.
  6. Use analogies and metaphors: These can help explain complex topics in a relatable way. They’re especially useful in podcasts that cover technical or niche subjects.
  7. Incorporate voice modulation: Changing your tone, volume, and pitch can keep the audience engaged.

4. Study and learn from the great interviewers 

One of the best ways to learn how to be a good podcast host is by studying the great interviewers of our time. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Just by looking at that list, you’ll immediately notice that there is not “the one” successful style you can just copy and paste onto your show.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find underlying similarities that work universally.

Conducting impactful interviews requires careful preparation and a genuine interest in the guest's perspectives. It's about asking insightful questions that encourage detailed responses, actively listening, and guiding the conversation in a way that unveils valuable insights for the audience.

This process involves understanding when to let your guests speak and when to interrupt them to challenge their ideas — not unlike a good television/news host.

Tim Ferris has an amazing conversation on the Colin and Samir show that goes behind the scenes of his podcast. This episode reflects many of the good practices we talk about in this section. You can watch it here when you find some time.

Another good tip is to ask your guest questions that begin with “How?” and “Why?”. These types of questions tend to elicit much more vivid and captivating storytelling responses. Joe Rogan has become quite good at interviewing over the years and uses this approach a lot. 

Another thing you can learn from his podcast is the importance of creating an engaging environment for your guests — setting up a space where guests feel relaxed and comfortable. 

Such an atmosphere encourages open conversation and enriches the content for listeners.

5. Collect listener feedback

Listener feedback is integral to personal and professional development in podcasting. It sheds light on how listeners perceive the host's approach, tone, and interaction quality.

Hosts can gather feedback through listener surveys, direct emails, polls on social media, or Spotify’s Q&A feature, tailoring questions to address their delivery, engagement style, and overall communication effectiveness. Actively seeking and implementing feedback signals a commitment to personal excellence and building a genuine connection with the audience.

Pro tip: Run a giveaway once per year and ask users to fill out a listener survey to enter to win something like a $50 Amazon gift card. It’s a win-win: They might get some free cash and improve a show they love, and you can get feedback on where to improve the show. 

6. Learn and adapt continuously

To remain relevant and engaging, podcast hosts must keep up with industry trends and changing listener preferences. This involves staying informed about new podcast technologies, content styles, and shifts in audience interests.

Continuous personal development is essential for any podcast host aiming for excellence. This could involve honing your editing skills or expanding your knowledge of the podcast's subject matter. Investing in personal growth directly translates into a more compelling and professional podcast.

7. Have fun and be yourself

An essential ingredient to being a successful podcast host is authenticity — just being yourself. Remember, your listeners are tuning in not just for the content, but for your unique take on it. 

Your personality is your secret sauce. Let your natural humor, enthusiasm, and curiosity shine through. Whenever appropriate, incorporate personal anecdotes or opinions relevant to the topic at hand.

Podcasting should be enjoyable for both you and your listeners. Always put extra effort into creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. To craft this vibe, start by ensuring you're in a good headspace when recording. If you're enjoying the conversation, chances are your audience will too. 

Experiment with different formats or segments that bring out your playful side. For example, you could include a lighthearted Q&A session, incorporate topic-related trivia questions, give a humorous take on current events related to your podcast theme, or even invite guests who complement your energy and sense of humor. 

Lastly, if you have your own recording space, personalize it. The physical space can affect our moods so this is a simple way to set the tone for your show — and set yourself up for success.

Parting thoughts

Remember that every episode is a chance to improve and connect more deeply with your audience. Stay dedicated, embrace feedback, and let your unique voice shine. With these tips and storytelling techniques in your toolkit, you’re well on your way to becoming an exceptional podcast host.

Happy podcasting!

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Adam Jaffrey
Adam is a multi-award-winning podcast producer who has been podcasting since 2009 (before Serial launched!). With 14 years in the industry, he has extensive experience and specialist skills in podcast production, marketing, and growth. Adam is the Strategy Director at Wavelength
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