Updated June 27, 2022
Everyone says you need to develop an outstanding podcast to grow an audience; nobody tells you how. Qualitative improvement is a sensitive topic that most podcasters do not want to delve into.
As a general rule, most podcasters don’t have twenty years on live radio to develop a voice for broadcast.
Here we list seven areas to quickly improve the quality of your podcast.
- Get feedback
- Do not waste your opening
- Prepare extensively
- Take notes during the interview
- Eliminate crutch words
- Bring the energy
- Avoid moderator domination
1. Feedback request
Most beginning podcasters will ask their family and friends to listen to their podcast.
The novice podcaster will ask some superficial question like, “What do you think of my podcast?”
What do you expect your relatives to say? You will be sitting across from this person at Thanksgiving or Christmas, they must be careful. “You are great,” does not help you improve at all.
Besides, what qualifications does your Aunt Matilda have when it comes to evaluating broadcasters? How many of your family group have ever been in front of a microphone?
Responses from these two questions will give you the best feedback:
1. When did you stop listening? You can learn a lot about when your episode runs out of steam or you wander into a digression that bores people to death.
Some will remember when they stopped listening, most won’t.
An automated way is to use the tools provided by Apple Podcast Connect.
They will give you a graphical representation of the moment the listeners dropped off. You can listen to the podcast and see what you did wrong and correct in the next episode.
2. Would you tell someone else about the podcast? Word of mouth is a great, free way to get more listeners.
Another idea is to find a podcaster who is your equal, using a metric like the same number of downloads.
Listen Notes has a service you can use to see podcasts in your category who have slightly more downloads than you. Contact them and ask to exchange thoughts on improvement of the interview. This is a two-way street, when you are honest with your colleague, they will be honest with you.
When you improve your skills as a moderator, a guest will be relaxed and be more willing to recommend people in their network to get on your show.
Unintended consequence of a poor podcast
If somebody has a following, they do not want to be associated with a poor-quality moderator. They may look at your invitation and listen to an interview. Everyone knows within 30 seconds if the moderator is sharp, focused, and knows how to ask questions.
Pay a pro
The final level is to hire a radio professional to listen and make suggestions. They have trained ears and can make recommendations you never even considered.
I have used Steve Martin from SFM Consulting. He has decades of experience with marketing NPR shows and has a great ear.
2. Wasted opening to the podcast
Listeners are busy – they will scan the show notes page and listen to a few seconds to see if a podcast is worth their time. Open with a provocative statement or a paradox to hook the listener.
Here are some great hooks:
Example #1 . . . “concrete is the only construction material that gets stronger with time. Some Roman concrete construction is still standing. Today’s podcast will interview David Bitner, the CEO of the Concrete Institute of America”
Example #2 . . . “there are over two million feral pigs in Texas. They have caused billions of dollars of damage. Today, we have Rick Katai, State of Texas Department of Agriculture, explain options for controlling this mess.”
Example #3 . . . “115,000 satellites are planned to enter space by 2030 Today, we have Pat Furlan, Situational Awareness Director from NASA to describe the challenge and possible solutions.”
3. Not enough prep
Do not “wing it.” You will fail. Spend three hours researching your guest and topic.
Start with LinkedIn. In my last interview a guest listed two previous occupations:
You will have to admit that being a “Chief Cook and Bottlewasher” to a the “Director of Engineering” at Amazon. This should be a great transition story.
During the interview, I mentioned his job titles in a humorous manner. He immediately relaxed and we had a tremendous exchange. He told me nobody had ever reviewed his LinkedIn profile before an interview.
Find a previous quote from the guest
It’s not stalking — it’s show prep.
Quotes are great for promoting a podcast; they are also good for doing show prep.
Chances are that your podcast is not the first presentation your guest has ever given. Find previous interviews and learn the voice of your guest. Listen for regional differences in pronunciation. You may even write down a quote in a previous interview and use it in your interview.
Moderator, “Who said ‘Infrastructure-as-a-Code’ will become popular in the next eighteen months?”
Guest, “Sounds like me!”
Moderator, “Yes, it was you”
People love to hear themselves quoted.
For an advanced podcaster, you can take notes during the interview and assemble them at the end as a “wrap up.”
For example, I interviewed Jordan Noone from Embedded Ventures and ended the interview like this, “Well Jordan, we started off talking about unicorns and dragons and ended up talking about hard tech, dual use, and public private partnerships. I guess we covered it all.”
4. Take notes while listening
One of the benefits of rehearsing the questions ahead of time is it gives you the ability to listen carefully and write down specifics that the guest says, then refer to them later in the interview.
“Earlier you said DevSecOps can include testing; how does this apply to the hybrid cloud?”
“In the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned that debris in space can impact military communications. What did you mean by that?”
“We opened the interview with remarks about investment in space. Is it really true that more money is being invested in satellites outside the United States than inside?”
This way your guest can give greater detail about a specific topic.
5. Crutch words
Humans have crutch words and phrases they fall back on. If you do not get feedback that includes identification of these overworked phrases, you may not notice you are even saying them. These are tolerable in a normal, face-to-face conversation, but it is amplified in a recorded interview.
Above, we mentioned getting feedback — this is another topic an outsider can tell you aspects of your delivery that you never notice. One great outsider is your audio engineer, a great source for feedback.
In fact, these can be extremely irritating and can make listeners abandon the podcast.
Current top four trending catch phrases include:
“That’s so random”
“One hundred percent”
“That’s so meta”
6. Energy Level
For most humans, it is almost impossible to critique their own amount of enthusiasm. You can go back to step one and ask a fellow podcaster what they think of your energy level.
7. Rehearse questions ahead of time
During the interview one can get involved in the emotional aspects of the exchange Even if questions are written down, you can get distracted; you can get caught up in the interview and miss key strategic questions.
Jocko Willink once authored a book titled Discipline = Freedom. Let’s apply some of his thoughts to podcasting.
If you have the discipline to memorize twelve questions before the interview, you can have them in strategic reserve. You do not need to use all of them, but, when they are memorized, you can use them in a conversational manner.
When sitting down with a guest, you are actively listening and want to pivot as fast as you can. Boxers and other athletes have “muscle memory.” They train their bodies to react in a certain way. When you physically rehearse the questions aloud, you are creating muscle memory that will allow you to pull up these questions in a glib manner during the interview.
While in the midst of the interview, think of what the next attack point will be. You may have six or seven options, if you have “muscle” memory of the questions, then you can be fluid and conversational.
8. Wanting to dominate the conversation
Platform speakers love the stage so much so that it is often hard to get them to shut up. As a result, professional speakers frequently are great podcast guests and terrible podcast moderators.
Please remember, on a business podcast, the host is not the star of the show; you are the enabler. You provide the vehicle for the guest to give valuable information for listeners.
Professional speakers always get feedback on their presentation. They should understand that they need a hard-nosed talent evaluator for their podcast as well. The experienced evaluator can listen to one podcast and give you several suggestions to refocus.
Back to Jocko’s advice – success will come when you have the discipline to control, even limit, your words.
Professional baseball players make millions of dollars a year. They record their swing at the plate and try to improve it themselves as much as they can. We can apply this to podcasting.
Many pros get a transcript of their podcast and print it out. They listen to the interview with a highlighter and mark any phrase that is garbled, overworked, or trite. Once you have run out of ways to improve, it is time to seek some professional advice.
To improve the quality of your podcast, look for peer feedback. Think about your opening, crutch words, and energy level. Three hours is a good benchmark to research for a 30-minute podcast. Rehearse your questions ahead of time until they are almost memorized.
Quality is a difficult concept or podcasters, if you take these suggestions to heart you will improve your interview skills.
If you liked this article, you may want to read, “7 Show Notes Tactics that will help You Uncover Incredible Insights”