How to Be a Good Podcast Host: Your 10-Step Checklist, with Stephen Woessner

Episode 636

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I am going to focus our time and attention around how to be a good podcast host – whether we are talking about you hosting your own podcast – vlog – or perhaps you are creating content that you want to monetize for your rockin’ awesome blog and you will be interviewing guest experts.

It takes hard work to becoming good at interviewing – to hosting and facilitating a conversation – for some – like it did for me – it takes many hours of practice.

In full transparency, Onward Nation, it took me until Episode 77 with Mark Sanborn as my guest to really feel like I had gotten my sea legs and could do a good job as a host.

And fast forward, this is episode 636…and each and every day that I get behind the microphone and talking with a guest I am learning – so there is always room for improvement.

So my hope is that the recipe I have included within this solocast on how to be a good podcast host will shorten – or compress – the learning curve and accelerate your results and success.

How to Be a Good Podcast Host | 10-Steps to Hosting a Great Podcast


This solocast can serve as your practical and tactical guide — your recipe — to becoming an excellent podcast host. I will share several of my insights that I have learned along the way as well as what I learned from two Onward Nation guests and fellow podcasters: Drew McLellan and John Livesay.

Drew McLellan is the host of the brilliant podcast, Build a Better Agency. Drew is the Top Dog at the Agency Management Institute, host of the exceptional podcast Build a Better Agency, and has owned and operated his own agency over the last 20-years.

Drew also works with over 250 small to mid sized agencies a year in a variety of ways: peer network groups, workshops for owners and their leadership teams, on-site consulting, and one-to-one coaching with owners.

John Livesay is the host of the successful podcast, The Successful Pitch. Inc. Magazine calls John the “Pitch Whisperer.” He is also the author of the book also entitled, “The Successful Pitch.”

John helps CEOs craft a compelling pitch to investors in a way that inspires them to join a startup’s team and he is a phenomenal professional speaker.

Become the “Foil” of Your Podcast

Okay, Onward Nation…let’s get started.

In fiction, a “foil” is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character.

In my opinion, your ability to play the role of the foil will determine if you are an excellent podcast host or mediocre.

How to Be a Good Podcast Host | 10-Steps to Hosting a Great Podcast

You need to use your interview (again – this could be for a podcast, vlog, or written article) to help your guests advance their agenda – share their wisdom and expertise – not yours.

Avoid telling stories about yourself even if they are validating what your guest just said.

Your role is not to validate what your guest just said. You guest doesn’t need you to validate their experience. Attempting to do so can be seen as arrogant or like you are trying to steal the show.

Don’t do that. And if you have been listening to Onward Nation for a while now – you know – it is a very, very rare occasion that I will tell a story during an interview. I tend to save those observations or lessons for a solocast…because during an interview with a guest…they need to be the star…not you.

Instead, summarize, reflect back to your guest the impactful highlights of what he or she just shared, add a comment or two from what you have seen in your experience, and then ask your guest if you got all of that correct.

By asking the question, “Did I get all of that correct, Sally?” you do three things:

  1. You demonstrate to Sally that you are listening to every word she shared
  2. What she said mattered because you connected it to your own experience
  3. And lastly, you subtly prompted Sally to go deeper with her examples and experience sharing

Build Rapport with Your Guest

Next, start out the conversation with some light questions and then build trust and rapport in the first few minutes of the conversation.

Be engaging, personable, and if you are able to make your guest laugh in the first couple of minutes, congratulations – you’re building rapport.

Avoid asking deep, emotionally charged questions early on in the interview. It will not go well. Your guest will likely think you are trying to move too deep too quickly.

I asked Drew McLellan for his insights on the most critical skill business owners need to master to be successful at podcasting. Drew shared that he believes it is a combination of skills — but — that the most important skill was for the host to check their ego at the door.

Drew said to me, “Stephen, my job when I’m hosting is to augment and put the spotlight on my guest and their expertise. I do that by listening really hard to what they say and running it through my filter of, ‘What else would an agency owner want to know about that?’ I’m not talking over them, I’m not trying it jump in and show how much I know about the topic.

“I am listening super hard. I am asking what I hope are great follow-up questions. I’m really trying to stay out of the guest’s way so they have as much airtime as possible to share their expertise.

I think part of listening with real intent is to able to ask the question that, I’m always thinking, ‘If somebody is driving while they’re listening to this, or walking on the treadmill, or whatever, what would they want me to ask?’

“Or, do I frustrate them by not asking the follow-up questions that they want me to ask? I’m always listening with that intent.

“What should I be asking next?

“What did somebody want to hear more about or how would they want to drill deeper into this?’

“I’m trying to ask those questions because I don’t want any of my listeners thinking, ‘I can’t believe he didn’t ask X?’”

I asked John Livesay for his insights on the same questions of critical skills. John explained to me why and how he uses empathy and listening to make connections with guests.

John said, “Stephen, one of the investors on my show told me that the more empathy you show for your customer, the more the customer feels like you understand that customer and can solve that problem.

“I think what makes you have empathy for someone is your ability to listen to them and put yourself in their shoes.

The more you can do that with your guests and respond to what they’re saying and make them feel heard and then summarize what you’re hearing for your audience as the takeaways, that, in my opinion, is what it takes to be really great as a podcast host.

“Stephen, you do it in spades. It’s easy for you. You’re probably not even aware that you’re doing it, it’s part of who you are, but if you don’t have that in your DNA, then it’s a skill that you really need to develop to be a successful host.”

Drew and John are two of our greatest podcast success stories and so you should absolutely take note of the advice they each shared above.

Strategies for Ensuring Your Success as a Podcast Host

Okay…so now, Onward Nation…let’s move on to one of the best ways to ensure your excellence when learning how to be a podcast host.

And that is in how you help a guest prepare to be a great guest on your show.

You can do that by implementing a solid guest advocacy system that shares all of the logistics of their interview multiple times in advance of the day and time of the interview…shares the questions you plan to ask…and give them tips on how to sound the very best they can.

And you ought to supplement your guest advocacy system by personally setting expectations with guests.

In my opinion, Drew does this masterfully well.

Drew shared with me, “Stephen, what I discovered is that the minute I checked my ego at the door, I realized the show wasn’t about somebody listening to me, it was about me cultivating this great list of guests and serving guests well, which serves my audience well.

“So, if I allow my guests to have the spotlight, and I allow them to really share their expertise, and I prep them properly, so it’s like, ‘Look there is no selling, this is not about you getting clients, this is about you generously sharing your expertise.

“Here are the kind of questions I’m going to ask, if you’re not comfortable answering those questions, don’t come on the show.’ None of that was about me. It’s about serving up the best content possible for my audience by putting my guest in the best possible light.”

How to Be a Good Podcast Host in 10 Steps

So, Onward Nation…in addition to sharing insights from Drew and from John…I wanted to formalize this into a recipe – into a checklist that you could study before your next interview.

How to Be a Good Podcast Host | 10-Steps to Hosting a Great Podcast

Okay, so here we go…the 10-point CHECKLIST FOR Knowing How to Be A good Podcast Host

  1. Check your ego at the door. Your show is about making your guest the star. Your show should not be about you.
  2. Study. Listen to other hosts and hear how they interact with their guests.
  3. Keep the conversation casual yet focused on the result outcomes you want to deliver to your audience.
  4. Help your guests prepare by implementing a guest advocacy system so they receive email and text reminders before your interview as well as tips on how to sound their best during the recording.
  5. Also help your guest prepare by emailing them your questions in advance along with some insights regarding your audience so your guests have context and know how best to answer your questions.
  6. Begin on time and end on time. This shows respect for your guest’s schedule.
  7. Turn off your email, your cell phone, all social media, and listen intently to your guest so you can think of follow-up questions your audience would want you to ask.
  8. Summarize and recap your guest’s awesomeness during the interview. Then ask your guests if you got the summary right or if you’re missed something. This is the perfect invitation to a guest to go deeper and share even more value with your audience.
  9. Thank them before the interview, during the interview, and after the interview for taking the time to generously share their wisdom with your audience.
  10. Have confidence. You are good enough to do this. You are worthy. You will make a difference in the world by sharing the wisdom of your guests. You are building a nation of true fans. Kick the Imposter Syndrome to the curb by remembering the wise words of Walter D. Wintle, quoted by Napoleon Hill, author of Think & Grow Rich:

“If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will –
It’s all in the state of MIND.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles, don’t always go
To the stronger or faster one
But soon or later the one who wins

So with that said…

Thank you again for taking the time to be here today…I am grateful for you making Onward Nation what you listen to and study. We all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day and I appreciate you taking some of your invaluable time and sharing it with me.

Until tomorrow…onward with gusto!

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