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Today I’m sharing 5 ways you can be a better podcast host. Whether you do a solo show, co-host or interviews, these 5 tips can help you make better podcasts, create a deeper connection with your audience, and grow your listener numbers.
Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins:
- If you’re going to take the time to do a podcast, take the time to do it right.
- Think about the path you want to take your listeners through from start to finish.
- The difference between a host and a co-host is leadership.
- It doesn’t matter how good the content is, if your guest’s audio sounds like crap, people will turn off your show.
- Don’t ignore the people who aren’t famous yet. You don’t know who’s going to end up being more popular than Leonardo Dicaprio.
- Say “Thank you for listening” to every single person who reaches out to you.
- People might remember the content of your podcast, but they’re definitely going to remember the way you make them feel.
- 26:00 It’s been said that the best of the best are never satisfied with how good they are. They look for weak points to improve. I agree with that. Whether you’re doing web development, coding, acting, making podcasts, or playing drums, you should always look for the things you’re not great at and try to figure out how to make them better.
1. Figure Out the Technical Stuff
- 02:30 Let me tell you a story about what happened to me last weekend. I’ve been getting into video lately. I got a Canon 70D DSLR, a shotgun mic, and a Zoom H4N audio recorder. I got a cable that let me run the audio coming into the H4N out to my 70D camera, because I’m lazy and I don’t want to have to sync the audio later. I just want to hit record on the camera and capture good audio straight to the video file. Should be simple, right? It’s 2016, we should have this stuff figured out.
- 03:21 No. After recording a video, I heard this hissing sound in the video file when I listened back. What the heck? I thought maybe I had the input gain up too high. Nope, that wasn’t it. I thought maybe I had the headphone volume on the H4N up too high. Nope, that wasn’t it either. So what the heck? I spent well over an hour trying to figure it out (not how I wanted to spend my Saturday night). I ended up googling “noisy audio on canon 70D” and finding out what the problem was.
- 04:15 Turns out… If you leave the Canon on Auto mode while you shoot video, it automatically adjusts the input gain, and since the mic preamp on the camera is crap, you end up with a noisy recording. I had to switch to manual mode on the camera and then adjust the sound settings. I tried removing some of that line noise from my video, but it ended up sounding a little off because I had to do so much processing.
If you’re new to the world of audio, there are a lot of things you’re going to have to learn, but if you want to be a great host, you have to learn them.
- 04:57 You have to learn how to record audio that sounds great. You have to be able to be confident in the quality of your recordings because otherwise you’re not going to feel good about sharing it and other people won’t be as likely to share it either. I know it’s not easy, and I know it’s not fun for most of you. But if you’re going to take the time to do a podcast, take the time to do it right. Get comfortable with the recording process and eliminate any problems that are messing up your audio quality.
2. Be a Host, Not a Co-Host
- 06:31 The difference between a host and a co-host is leadership. Know the topic you want to talk about, how you’re going to introduce it, and how you’re going to end it. It doesn’t matter if you’re technically the co-host on a podcast, you can still act like a host. A lot of people assume that the other person is going to take care of everything, and they don’t prepare. Don’t do that. Prepare and do research on the topic.
Think about the path you want to take your listeners through from start to finish.
- 07:26 It doesn’t matter if you’re technically a co-host, or if you’re helping out someone more famous than you; try to show up and provide value. Take responsibility for making your show great.
3. Do Your Research
- 07:53 If you’re podcasting about a topic you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to talk about a lot of things just from memory (off the top of your head, as they say). You can only go so far with this, though. At some point, you’re going to exhaust your well of inspiration and you’ll need to go look for new information, new topics to share. This is why it’s important to always stay curious; always be learning, always be talking to people. Look for lessons and stories that are outside of your normal comfort zone.
- 08:32 Don’t get trapped inside the bubble of people who share your exact viewpoints and opinions. Look outside your social circle for the really smart people who are passionate about what they do. This is where you’ll find information that will elevate your personal understanding and knowledge but will also help you bring something new and fresh to the table.
- 08:52 For example: Let’s say someone is a heavy metal drummer and they go study jazz. Those two musical styles don’t have much in common, so when that metal drummer comes back from studying jazz, he knows all these different things that most people don’t hear in metal music. If you go experience something completely different than what you’re used to, and bring elements of it back into your world, the blending of those two worlds is very interesting. My friend Sean McCabe says to be a gold miner.
- 09:53 He says, “A gold miner is someone who is always looking for something positive out of every situation. What a lot of people tend to do is they try to find someone who mostly shares gold—this is good, you want to find people who mostly share gold. But what you don’t want to do is completely ignore people that you disagree with, who maybe share things you don’t like, or have different views than you, or things that you would consider junk.
- 10:23 It’s easy to pay attention to the people you mostly agree with and who give you things you appreciate. But a lot of people tend to ignore and avoid people they disagree with. Even if there was something good, they don’t see it because they throw everything out. A gold miner doesn’t care how much they have to dig through. All they care about is finding that one little bit of gold anywhere they can find it.
- 10:50 Every situation you encounter, every conversation you have, every book you read—look for that little piece of gold. You’re looking for the million-dollar idea. This sounds simple in concept, but most people don’t do this. Most people aren’t gold miners. Most people are looking for the one little thing they disagree with so they can disqualify the person as a whole.”
- 11:30 Think about that. I’ve started paying attention to people I normally would have disagreed with because I want to educate myself and find the gold nuggets. Look for positive things and the things you can learn from—make notes of those things because you never know when they could turn into a topic for a future podcast episode.
4. Make Your Guests Look Good
- 12:08 If you have guests on your show regularly, focus on making them look good. This involves a couple things: First, make sure they have a decent mic setup and help them through the recording process. Bad audio will cost you listeners. Example: a well known podcaster reached out to me this weekend and asked if I could help him fix up some audio. I told him I’d be happy to check out the files.
- 12:50 He sent over two recordings that were some of the worst audio files I’ve ever heard. They tons of pops and plosives, uneven levels, they were breathing loudly into the mics, one person had some kind of messed up headset mic that was cutting in and out. In other words, a total wreck. I spent almost an hour processing the tracks in Izotope’s RX5 Advanced audio editor (very expensive software, BTW, almost $1000), and by the time I was done, I wasn’t sure I had improved the audio quality much.
- 14:22 Talk to your guests about their recording setup in advance. Make sure they have a decent microphone. Ask them to make an audio recording for you before you sit down to record a podcast with them. Brett Terpstra does this; if you want to be on his show, you have to record an audio file and send it to him, which is a brilliant idea. (Well done, Brett.) You should never have to guess what your guest is going to sound like. Have that conversation with them in advance.
- 15:02 Make sure your guest knows to record in a quiet room and wear headphones. Make sure they know to record a file on their computer with Quicktime, Audacity, or Garageband and send it to you afterwards. That way you’ll have their track isolated and free from any internet or Skype-caused problems.
It doesn’t matter how good the content is, if your guest’s audio sounds like crap, people will turn off your show.
- 15:37 It seems like two or three times a week, I start listening to a podcast and and I end up turning it off because the sound sucks and I have too many other good things to listen to. There are very few podcasts where the content is so amazingly good that people would be willing to tolerate painful audio to get it. There’s too many other good shows out there.
- 16:05 In addition to getting great audio from your guest, set them up to talk about things that will make them sound smart or stuff that they’re interested in. Decide on the topic and point of the episode in advance. Whenever I have someone on my show, I always talk to them beforehand and ask, “What are we talking about? What are the takeaways? What kind of valuable stuff can you share with my audience?”
- 16:47 We plan a show out start to finish, because I want my guests to look good. I don’t want to surprise them with questions and have them say, “Uhh, well…maybe. I don’t know.” Talk about the questions with your guests. Almost everyone has some kind of valuable insight or takeaway to share, or even an interesting story. Highlight those things and give them easy home-runs.
5. Be Grateful for Every Listener
- 17:28 This isn’t just true for podcasters; it’s true if you’re a writer or make videos. Be grateful for every single person who gives you attention. When you’re making a podcast or video, don’t say, “Hey guys!” Talk to a single person. Only a single person is listening to your show at a time. Create that one-on-one connection with someone else.
- 18:04 If someone reaches out to you and says, “Hey, I enjoy your show,” or they leave a review, be grateful for that. Say, “Thank you for listening,” to every single person who reaches out to you, especially if they give you a kind word.
Don’t ignore the people who aren’t famous yet. You don’t know who’s going to end up being more popular than Leonardo Dicaprio.
- 18:38 Just because someone only has 10 followers now doesn’t mean that you should ignore them. I want to treat everyone with the same amount of respect, kindness, and consideration, regardless of where they are right now. I remember being a nobody and not having any kind of audience. I remember seeing these people who had so many followers, had done cool things, and I thought they would never bother to talk to me. I remember what that feels like and so I will talk to anybody and answer questions if I can.
- 19:30 I appreciate everyone’s attention, regardless of where they are on their journey—just getting started or decades in. People are people and I want to be kind to people. Providing that one-on-one connection doesn’t scale well, but it makes all the difference in the world long-term.
People might remember the content of your podcast, but they’re definitely going to remember the way you make them feel.
- 19:55 When you have 500,000 followers, it’s going to be really hard for you to reach out and say hi to every single person who reaches out to you, but I still think it’s worth it. It makes all the difference long term. People talk. If you say something rude or unkind to someone, they remember that and they tell people about that. And the opposite is true. If you show someone some kindness, give them an encouraging word, or just say, “Thanks for listening to my show, I appreciate you,” they remember that. They tell people. Treat people with kindness and be grateful for every listener.
- 28:59 Ashlyn asked, “Could you send your guest a mic to use?” Yes, but if you’re going to be interviewing a new guest every week, that’s going to get expensive and time consuming. Personally, I want to start a movement that says, “It’s not ok to have crappy audio on a podcast.” I don’t want excuses. I want people to invest some money in a decent microphone and learn how to use it, even if it’s an $80 USB microphone (the Samson C01 USB Mic sounds great). Investing in a decent USB mic is a great idea even if you’re not going to be doing podcasts regularly. If you do Skype calls a couple times a week, people will appreciate the sound quality that comes from a decent USB mic.
- 29:56 Get a USB mic, a pop filter, and a mic stand, and you can record audio that sounds good. I’m to the point where I don’t want to have guests on my show if they don’t have a decent microphone or they’re not willing to record a local audio file.
- 30:35 If someone says, “I don’t want to record a file on my computer and send it to you,” then hey, there’s the door. I want to have great audio all the time. It’s really important, especially as there are more people making podcasts in every niche. To stand out, you have to be good, and I’m not just talking about content, I’m talking about audio quality too. It’s ok to demand that your guests have a decent mic if they’re going to come on your show. It’s your show, after all.