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What makes a good podcast host?

Nov 15, 2021
Whenever we’re helping clients to develop a new podcast series, one of the first questions we’re asked is always about the host. Who should it be? Should we hire a professional in? Should it be the boss? 

And if we’re honest, there’s no single right answer. But to convince your audience to return and become invested in the podcast, you’ll need it to include real, authentic stories, news and anecdotes; they’re what keep your listeners engaged and inspired.
With this in mind, we’ve put together this short guide to help you identify the best person (or people) for the job. 

What makes a good podcast host

A great podcast host:

Is authentic – this is the most important thing! It’s a huge mistake to choose someone based on profile alone; they must have a genuine passion for the topic, because it will come across if they’re just taking part because they’re being paid to. Knowledge of the subject matter is fundamental.

Does not talk over others – instead, they give them a chance to answer questions and finish stories. The show is rarely about the host; they’re often there simply to facilitate.

Speaks clearly and not too quickly – it’s an auditory medium, so it’s vital your listener can take in what you’re saying and process it, before you move onto the next thing. A conscientious host will take breaks in the information, as an avalanche of detail may lead to confusion or the listener switching off.

Treats the listener like they’re in the room – you’ll find many podcasts sound as if they’re ‘live’, so the listener and host/guests are all hearing the conversation ‘as it happens’. This helps the listener feel like part of the podcast, as opposed to a larger audience, which builds engagement.

Is a comfortable performer – a podcast should sound like a natural conversation or story being told, not a rehearsed performance being read from a script. Steer clear from the presenting style of a radio show and putting on a ‘performance’. Be chatty, conversational and don’t feel the need to use ‘jargon’ for the sake of sounding smart or to tick boxes.

Typically, your host will have to fulfil the role of both ‘moderator’ and ‘interviewer’ – as many podcasts features guests. Because of this, they need to:

Podcast recording

Prepare questions – they need to research their guest and plan some insightful or effective questions to keep the conversation flowing. Identify what the audience needs to take away from that episode, and plan from there. 

Listen to answers – this is fundamental! For it to feel like a natural conversation, they need to take in what others are saying, and respond accordingly.

Steer the conversation – to keep things focused, they need to be skilled in improvising segues that bring the conversation back on-topic (e.g. to introduce their next question) in a way that feels natural.

Ensure everyone gets a chance to speak – by inviting contributions from around the table, and bringing in listeners’ questions that may have been submitted (e.g. via email or social media).

This is a lot to ask, so you may not find all of these qualities in one person – which is why many podcasts introduce a co-host, to help reduce the burden on the host and keep the conversation flowing naturally.

Often the co-host is there to fulfil a specific role:  

The lay person
This is usually an ‘everyman’ character who represents the audience, introducing different perspectives and asking the clarifying questions that those listening may want to know.

On British pop singer Jessie Ware’s podcast, Table Manners, this role is performed by her mother, Lennie; each week, Jessie hosts a guest from the world of culture, music or politics, with Lennie disrupting the well-trodden ‘famous person interviewing another famous person’ format.     

The comedy sidekick
The host may have a partner who’s there introduce tales and stories – breaking up detail to prevent ‘information overload’, and often acting as the comic relief; introducing laughter (where appropriate) can be a great way of building rapport with your listener.

On true crime podcast 
Bad People, comedian Sofie Hagen introduces some welcome lightness to what could otherwise be a heavy subject: the psychology of offending.

The topic expert
Topic experts are those who can talk confidently and in great detail about a specific topic. These co-hosts are usually there as a reference to ensure accuracy; their expertise may be legal, financial, medical – anything, really!

A great example is etiquette expert William Hanson on Help I S*xted My Boss, who appears alongside host and radio DJ Jordan North to help listeners navigate the difficulties of modern life. 

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If you’re thinking that a podcast could benefit your business, talk to a member of the team and we’ll explain how we can help you get it off the ground.