A podcast host is one of the most important roles in your company’s podcast. The host is responsible for building rapport with guests, guiding conversations, and ultimately ensuring each episode helps your audience.
But what if you’ve never hosted a podcast before? Is there a path to becoming a great podcast host? What should you focus on as a new podcast host?
At Motion, I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of new podcast hosts. In fact, about three years ago, I was a brand new podcast host, too.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned along the way, it’s that it takes a lot of work to be great. After hosting nearly 500 podcast episodes, I still don’t consider myself to be “great” by any stretch.
But I keep working. And I believe everyone can improve and become a good podcast host if they put in the work.
In this article, I put together a list of activities you can go through to help you get better as a podcast host and become the best version of yourself:
- Research your guest & explore topics of interest
- Develop an outline & establish an objective for your conversation
- Set expectations with your guest & any internal stakeholders
- Show up early to each recording session
- Focus on the conversation & not your list of questions
- Embrace your curiosity
- Watch “game tape” and identify areas for improvement
- Implement small adjustments
- Share what you learn with your audience
Research your guest & explore topics of interest
This is the first and most important step you can take as a podcast host. The more you know about your guest, the better prepared you’ll be to lead a great conversation.
Start by reading everything you can find about your guest online. Look for recent articles, blog posts, or interviews they’ve given.
You can also explore their social media accounts to get a sense of their interests and what they’re passionate about. And you can dig into the comments section of their LinkedIn posts or tweets, too. Often this unlocks different perspectives and gives you more details about your guest’s overall point of view.
As you’re researching, make a list of topics that you want to discuss with your guest during the interview. Identify areas where there’s overlap between your guest’s past experience and the challenges your customers face. The intersection between your guest’s experience and your audience is the “sweet spot” to explore in an episode of your company’s podcast.
Develop an outline & establish an objective for your conversation
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to develop an outline for your conversation. This will help identify key talking points, assist with the podcast episode structure and ensure your discussion stays focused.
As you’re creating your outline, think about what you want to accomplish with the conversation. Here are some questions to help spark some ideas:
- What do you hope to learn from your guest?
- What would your audience find interesting about your guest’s experience?
- What major conflicts can you explore (what challenges has your guest faced in the past & how did they overcome them)?
- What personal stories might be relevant to your audience?
- What’s different about this guest compared to others you’ve had on the company’s show?
It can also be helpful to include a few key questions that you definitely want to ask. But resist the urge to script out the entire conversation. The best conversations are dynamic and flow naturally.
Set expectations with your podcast guest & any internal stakeholders
Before you start recording, it’s important to set expectations with your guest and any internal stakeholders.
First, let your guest know what the conversation will be about. Share information about your company’s podcast and provide a list of sample questions. This will help them prepare and give them a sense of what to expect during the actual recording session. At Motion, we share a document with each guest called “Guest Guidelines” and this helps establish a baseline for the conversation.
You should also share your outline with any internal stakeholders. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect from the conversation. As a new podcast host, it helps to get buy-in from management before you have the conversation.
Show up early to each recording session
Punctuality is important for any meeting, but it’s especially critical when recording a podcast episode.
Most guests are busy people with packed schedules. So if you’re not on time, there’s a good chance they’ll move on to something else. And there’s also a good chance it’ll tarnish your reputation as a podcast host.
Early arrival also means you give yourself a chance to troubleshoot any technical issues. A majority of our customers (and us, too) record podcast interviews remotely and find that the extra time helps alleviate stress and ensure everyone is connected properly.
Focus on the conversation flow & not your list of questions
When the recording starts, it’s important to focus on the conversation and not your list of questions.
The best conversations are organic and flow naturally. So if you’re too focused on sticking to your script, it will come across in the recording.
As a new podcast host, this is a balancing act. On one hand, sticking to the script ensures you get something valuable for your audience. On the other hand, it can make your conversation seem a bit rigid.
The only advice I truly have — keep practicing the art of conversation.
Embrace your curiosity
As a new podcast host (or a podcast host at any level of experience), one of your most important assets is your curiosity.
Your job is to explore interesting topics and get to know your guests. So embrace your curiosity and let it guide the conversation for you and the audience.
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions or dig deeper into topics that interest you. The more curious you are, the more insightful your conversation will be. And the greater chance you have to get something very unique from your guest.
Watch "game tape" and identify areas for improvement
After each recording session, take some time to listen carefully to each of your episodes. This is often referred to as “watching the game tape.”
As you’re listening, pay attention to both the content of the conversation and your own performance as a host.
Identify areas where you can improve and make note of any changes you want to make for future episodes.
Here are a few questions to ask when critiquing your own podcast episodes (featuring interviews):
- Where did I stumble over my words? Why?
- What parts of my interview had a difficult exchange with the guest?
- Were there points in the interview where I missed a chance to ask a follow-up question?
- Did I get enough detail from the guest?
- Did I talk too much at various points in the conversation?
- How did I wrap up the conversation?
- Did I explore the core conflict in detail? Were the stakes high enough?
- At what point did the conversation go really well? Why?
- How was the resolution for the audience?
“You’re not going to fix all 10 problems you listed in your head at once.”
Implement small adjustments with each new podcast episode
Podcasting is an iterative process, which means that you’ll get better with each new episode.
But don’t expect to make major improvements overnight. Instead, focus on making small adjustments and constant improvement with each new episode.
According to Tricia Ruiz, with every podcast episode, “You’ll get better. Just a little bit.”
For me, I like to pick out one thing to try with each conversation. I write it down in my notes before I start an interview and this helps me remember during the podcast recording session.
Over time, the small tweaks you make will add up. You’ll see a big improvement in the quality of your company’s podcast and you’ll get closer to being a great host.
Share what you learn from each conversation
Finally, don’t forget to share what you learn from each conversation with your team and with your very own audience (i.e., social media).
Synthesizing what you learn from a podcast interview helps reinforce key concepts and generate new ideas. The interesting content you find within each podcast episode is a great foundation for your social media strategy. And your company’s podcast can fuel your entire content marketing flywheel.
This process will help ensure that your podcast is always providing value, both to your audience and to your company.
Want to see how other B2B marketers get the most from their podcasts?
Recorded Content is a show for small, scrappy marketing teams who are looking to launch & grow a successful B2B podcast. In each episode, we provide stories on how to overcome the challenges of launching, running and growing a show. We tackle issues with technology, content marketing, distribution and more. We help you become a B2B podcasting hero with an amazing show.
Take a long-term approach to podcast hosting and enjoy the journey
There’s no one specific path to becoming a great podcast host. It takes practice and it takes work to improve.
But if you want to get better and lead your company’s podcast, then it helps to treat the entire process as a journey.
Hopefully, the activities we listed in this article will provide a solid framework to use as you go through your journey as a podcast host.
And if you’d like to learn from other hosts who are working on branded podcasts, check out Recorded Content. In many of our episodes, we highlight the experiences of podcast hosts and uncover what they’ve learned along the way.
Written by Tristan Pelligrino
Tristan Pelligrino is the Co-Founder of Motion. He’s a serial entrepreneur who started his career as a consultant with large IT companies such as PwC, IBM and Oracle. After getting his MBA, he started and grew one of the fastest video production companies in the country – which was listed on the Inc. 5000. Tristan now enjoys leading the content marketing strategies of some of the most innovative B2B technology companies in the country. You can find him on LinkedIn and Facebook.