60% of podcasts cease to exist after six months of production. As a podcaster, that stat startled me. Over half of all podcasts that launch fade into oblivion after less than 20 episodes?
When I sat down to think about the future of podcasting, I realized that the biggest factor that separates podcasts that live on and podcasts that fade to black is the host. It’s not download numbers or a niche topic. It’s not good cover artwork or the best theme music.
Success of a podcast lies on the shoulders of the host. If you’re reading this, that’s likely you.
So while everyone around you might want to know what your podcast is about, I want to talk about how you run your podcast. From one podcaster to another, I’m here to tell you that running a show isn’t easy but there are certainly a few things you can do to make it work for you.
Happy guests, happy podcast
Putting thought into how you run your podcast is doubly crucial when you have guests on your show. And you don’t want just any guests. You want top notch guests who are excited to be on your show. They’re guests who know you’re a pro just by the way you run your business. They’re guests who make you look good.
When your guests enjoy being on your show, they’re more likely to promote your show, refer other guests, and even leave you that coveted “Rating and Review” in iTunes.
But having happy guests isn’t just about the questions you ask, the tone of the show, or even the tech you use to get the show produced. Your guests are humans (most likely…) and having happy guests is all about being human with them.
Remember the old adage “Treat others the way you want to be treated”? Well, I’ve collected a few tips and tricks over the last few years of being a guest on other podcasts and I’m here to share them with you. I’ve put this advice into place on my own show to rave reviews from my guests (yes, I’m 100% patting my own back here).
Without further ado, let’s unpack how you can wow your guests and be the professional host you know you were born to be.
Use a scheduling link
You’re out there looking for the best guests you can possibly find for your show, right? Well impress them from the start by honoring their time up front.
No one, even the non-busy among us, likes back and forth emails trying to get something scheduled. Take your podcast seriously and set up a scheduling tool that links to your calendar.
There are many options out there (we use Acuity Scheduling) and these tools go to work for you right away. The magic of using a scheduler is that they often include the ability to automagically send customized confirmation emails with your show details, you can ask questions of your guests during the booking process, and they also cross-sync with your calendar so time is blocked off immediately.
A scheduling tool will also send reminders before the interview but use these with caution. Remember, your guests are pros and they do not need 5 reminders the day of. One reminder 24 hours in advance is sufficient so check those settings carefully and remember that less is more.
Here’s the email we send for the Reach podcast that includes the scheduling link:
Be prepared but flexible
Imagine you’re some kind of Boy Scout Yogi…. that makes you both “prepared” and “flexible”, right? Here’s the thing: you want to have a game plan for your show but the show will also ebb and flow with each guest and potentially over time as well.
See that link to the Show Flow in the email above? Preparing a Show Flow is a great way to let your guests know what to expect and it also helps you feel confident in those early episodes. I learned this trick from John Lee Dumas, host of Entrepreneur on Fire, when I was a guest on his show and have integrated it into the Reach process.
So now that you’re all prepared, it’s time to be flexible.
That Show Flow you painstakingly wrote up and distributed? Yeah, let it go. Use it as a guide, not a hard and fast rule. Very few show hosts can stick to a script or flow well and make it work (John Lee Dumas is the rare exception and he’s on episode 1426 now) so remember that it’s there as a guide.
I always say to my guests “I have the show flow in front of me and will use those questions to guide our conversation if we need to switch directions or if there’s a bit of a lull. However, most of these questions are answered organically in our chat so no need to feel like you have to wait for a question to be asked to answer it.”
Remember: they’re human. While they’re likely prepared for you (just as you are for them), they aren’t robots who pump out stock answers to pre-selected questions again and again and again (unless you’re interviewing politicians, I suppose).
Being prepared but staying flexible will allow both you and your guest to enjoy the experience of recording the show… and if we aren’t having fun then why are we doing this crazy thing called podcasting?!
Learn about your guests
Have you ever been to a dinner party where you knew no one? Bo-ring. You struggle to participate in the conversation, it’s always surface level at best, and you leave the evening exhausted and regretting your decision to go in the first place.
Walking into hosting a show and knowing nothing about your guest feels the same way. This bit of advice might seem obvious to you but, unfortunately, too many people pass it up so we’re talking about it here.
You know that keyboard you used to send the email asking your guest to be on the show? Use it to head on over to their website, read some reviews of their book on Amazon, or give a listen to other podcast episodes they’ve appeared on. Search their name in iTunes and give ‘em a listen.
This step can take as little as five minutes or you can devote more time to it. If I’m interviewing another podcaster, I’ll often listen to an episode or two of their show. If we have a course creator on the show, I’m going to check out the sales page for their course and read their blog.
If you get on the recording and know nothing about your guest other than the fact that they have a big name that will look really good on your listing, you’re doing it wrong.
Us humans love to talk about ourselves so it’s important that you’re ready to ask the specific questions your guest needs to talk about themselves in the best light. You’re the host, not the highlight of the show. So do your research, know your guests, and be the host(ess) with the most(ess).
Your guest has signed off and you’re onto editing and production but you aren’t done wowing them just yet! To make the most of the relationship you’ve just spent the last 30-60 minutes building, you want to extend a hand as the episode is getting ready to go live.
How much or how little you do is up to you but your guests are likely excited to share your show with their audience so it’s up to you to make sure they know it’s time to do so.
Michael Knouse, host of The Startup Sessions, sends a handwritten card thanking his guests for their time and knowledge. He also shoots them an email with the show link when it’s live.
John Lee Dumas (mentioned above) makes his living podcasting and tends to put a bit more into his follow up. A thank you the same day as the recording, a note the day before it goes live, and a live link the day of all make a guest feel incredibly taken care of along the way.
At Reach, we keep things simple and send a single email the day the show goes live. I do take the time to create a Click to Tweet and include that in my email. That extra effort really does work and I’ve seen my pre-written tweet sent out again and again by our guests.
The future is now
You’re officially well-prepared to knock the socks off your guests like the professional host you’ve dreamed of becoming. So what’s stopping you? It’s time to get some of these best practices into place in your own show and become one of the 40% of podcasters who keep recording for many episodes (and years) to come.