Podcasters often ask me to give feedback on their podcast. I can’t give specific feedback for each podcast because it’s such a personal medium that it’s like trying to review someone on yelp. But what I can do is share the most important principles of podcasting.
In my never-ending quest to share everything I know, here’s what I’ve learned from hosting 37 conversations on The Penguin Latte Podcast.
I learned all of this the hard way: by making a podcast.
- Treat the words ‘guest’ and ‘host’ seriously. You are hosting a podcast. Treat your guest as if they’re staying at your place for a few days. Make a cup of tea for them. Ask them what kind of wine they prefer. Make them feel at home. Your guest should enjoy being on your podcast so much that they tell all their friends and family about it.
- Conversations, not interviews. Interviews get us jobs. Conversations get us insight.
- Big Name Guests are overrated. You can host an incredible podcast without having Big Name Guests on your show. There are lots of wise, generous, brilliant folks out there who have a tiny online footprint. Seek them out. Besides, all the Big Name Guests have been on thousands of podcasts before. It’s very difficult to come up with a question that a Big Name Guest hasn’t heard before. Host the owner of the mom & pop coffee shop down the road. Get your mother on the podcast. Talk to people with sub 1,000 followers on Twitter.
- Couldn’t get a guest on the show? Talk to yourself. Not every episode needs to be a talk show. Record a solo episode once in awhile to mix things up. A solo episode is your chance to get up close and personal with your audience. Narrate one of your best performing blog posts. Share a story. Go off the cuff. Share with us what you’re learning, building, and thinking about. Talk to us! Who’s the woman behind the mic? What’s she up to? Why did she decide to start a podcast? Host a Q&A session with your audience on Twitter. Record yourself answering their questions. The possibilities of podcasting are endless. This is just a small handful of examples of alternative formats to the traditional conversational style. There are no gatekeepers. You can do whatever the hell you want.
- Don’t start a podcast. Start a movement. “I’m launching a podcast!” is boring. “I’m launching a podcast to better understand the culture of South Africa!” is better. I started The Penguin Latte Podcast to better understand the life of digital creators.
- Ignore everyone dming you on LinkedIn about their Podcasters Network. Putting “podcaster” in your bio attracts total strangers into your inbox, asking you to join their Podcasters Network. Ignore all of it. This happens mostly on LinkedIn and Instagram. Twitter is still somewhat safe. Oh, and if you’re asking podcasters to join your Podcasting Network, stop.
- Editing depends on what style of podcast you’re going for. Going for a Joe Rogan style show? Edit nothing. Leave in all the uhms and ahs. Your podcast will feel much more like a conversation between two people than two Deepfakes going at it. Going for something more polished, like an episode of NPR? Warm up that trimming tool. You’re going to be doing a lot of editing. Either do it yourself (it’s simple but time consuming), or hire an editor. I prefer to keep all the uhms and stutters because it feels more human that way.
- There aren’t enough podcasts with your name on them. A bazillion podcasts are made every week. Most end after the third episode. Why? Because we expect to make a lot of money or to become the next thought leader just by having a podcast. Or because it’s just too much work. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, you can make money doing it, but that’s never the point. If you enjoy hosting your podcast, don’t stop. If you don’t enjoy it, stop.
- Only invite people onto your show that you’re actually interested in talking to. Otherwise, you won’t have a whole lot to talk about. The conversation will fall flat as a pancake. Invite people onto your show that you could talk to for 6 hours straight. It’s tempting to go after The Big Name Guests. Don’t. Sure, get out of your comfort zone and cold email a few hot shots. Just remember that there are many, many unheard voices out there, waiting to reach an audience. Being a podcast host is like being a beacon for those unheard voices. After hosting your show for awhile, people will invite themselves onto your show. This is humbling. Sometimes they’re people you’d actually want to talk to. Sometimes they’re not. Be prepared to politely say ‘no’ every once in awhile.
- Do your homework. “So, uh, what made you want to start a business?” If you ask that, I am going to revoke your Podcasting Privileges. If you’re talking to someone who started a business, it’s likely they’ve shared their origin story on their blog. If you don’t have time to read their book, read their blog. If you don’t have time to read their blog, don’t host a podcast. In short, be like Nardwuar.
- Ask better questions. Ask questions that show your guest you care. Don’t shy away from the unusual question, either. I love ending my show by asking my guests, “If, tomorrow, you were going to be onto a medieval guillotine, what would your final message to the world be?” I came up with this question on the fly while chatting with Austin Calvert (episode 9!) I’ve used it in nearly every episode since. Guests hate this question. It’s a tough one to answer on the spot and I sometimes feel bad for asking it. Nonetheless, I love the chaos this question spawns, which is why I unleash it at the very end.
- How to cold email: Don’t hedge. Be precise. “Hey so-and-so. I’ve been a big fan of your work since such-and-such. I host a podcast about thing-and-thing. Would you like to come on to chat about your work?” Bonus points: send them a stylized notion page with more information and a Calendly link at the bottom. Here’s a video on how I use Notion to create such a page to send everyone I invite onto the show.
What a podcast isn’t:
a money machine
a way to promote yourself
a ticket to fame
a thing we have too many of
an easy thing to do
What a podcast is:
a collaboration between you and your guest
a collaboration between you and your audience
a way to indulge in your curiosity
an opportunity for connection
I’ve made a few podcasting tutorials on YouTube which you can check out here.
podcast? post? Reach out to me on Twitter! Don’t be shy, say hi. I’d love to hear from you.