How to use tone to connect with your podcast audience


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How to use tone to connect with your podcast audience

Presenting a podcast is about more than just the words you say

When you want to connect with your podcast audience and all you have at your disposal is what you say and how you say it, the tone of your voice becomes really important.

Tone can have a huge impact on how your listeners feel about you and it can be the difference between someone saying: “Wow, they seem like a really nice person” and “Wow!  What a dick!”

So how do you make sure your podcast listeners aren’t thinking the latter?

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Think about your intention

You can intellectualise tone all you want but at the end of the day, if your intention for presenting a podcast doesn’t match what you want your listeners to believe, you’ll be found out pretty quick.

If, in your heart of hearts, you’re only hosting a podcast because you want to get your voice and name out there, it doesn’t matter how many times you say “I’m doing this to help people” your tone will give you away.

Your listeners aren’t stupid and just like people can sniff a shonk a mile off in real life, the same is true when you’re presenting a podcast.

Even if you’ve got sweet acting skills there’s only so long you can keep up the facade when you’re doing a show week in week out.  And if your listeners get a whiff of anything disingenuous (and they will) they’ll be outta there.

Ultimately your reasons for doing the show will be yours alone but whatever they are you have to be honest with your podcast audience if you want them to stick around.

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Be yourself

When you’re presenting a podcast your personality is what listeners become attached to.  But one of the biggest mistakes new podcasters make is trying to copy the personality of someone else.

Emulating the style and audio mannerisms of someone who’s already successful isn’t much of a long term strategy.  You can take aspects of things you like from other presenters and incorporate them into your style, but if you copy someone else it’ll be hard to create a lasting connection with your audience because they’re not really getting the full version of you.

While it might be tempting to try and manufacture success by doing what someone else has already done, you’re always going to be better off being the full-strength version of yourself than the lite version of someone else.

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Get the balance right between conversation and performance

A good podcast presenter sounds like they’re having a relaxed yet engaging conversation with the listener.  But even this relaxed style requires a lot of energy.

A good way to think about presenting is that it’s you with 25% sprinkled on top because while it is a conversation it’s also a performance.

That doesn’t mean you need to whip out the audio jazz hands but you do have to bring an energy to your voice when you’re presenting a podcast that you probably wouldn’t use if you were chatting with your mates in a pub.

That extra bit of sparkle is what makes up for the fact you can’t look into your listener’s eyes or use body language to engage with them.  It might feel like it’s too much when you’re doing it but that 25% will burn off by the time it gets to your podcast audience so they’ll just hear the “natural-sounding” you.

One way to do this is by adding “smile” to your voice, which you do, oddly enough, by smiling.  This is a delicate balance so don’t go overboard and the best way to get it right is to listen back to yourself and see how you sound until you find your sweet spot.

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Remember to project

People often think because they’re talking into a microphone when they’re presenting a podcast, there’s no need to project their voice.  And while you don’t need to yell you do need to speak in a way that’s designed to get your voice into your listener’s ears.

Breathing through your diaphragm rather than taking short, shallow breaths will help with this, as will getting closer to the mic so you’ve got more control. Essentially, what you want to inject into your voice is power rather than volume, even when you’re whispering. 

It can be helpful to think about how you’d speak if you were presenting on a stage rather than sitting across from someone, and wearing headphones will help you get that balance right.

To capture someone’s attention when you’re presenting a podcast your voice has to go to them rather than their ears having to come to you.

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Think about the pitch of your voice

When I was a teenager I sang in a lot of choirs.  One day before a big Eisteddfod one of the girls stopped the group before we walked out on stage and said: “Hold on!  We can’t go out until Rachel injects her testosterone!”


While I copped a lot of flack for it back then, these lower tones have served me well in my broadcast career because as a general rule, lower-pitched voices are easier to listen to than higher ones.

That doesn’t mean you need to start pumping the testosterone but it’s important if you do have a higher voice to be mindful it doesn’t slip into dog-whistle territory when you’re presenting a podcast.

The natural range of your voice will have a lot to do with what you’re born with but you do have a lot more control over it than you realise and varying your pitch is a great way to tell a story with your voice and keep listeners interested.

Just be mindful of not going too far because if your presentation style gets too sing-songy it’ll sound like you’re talking to a bunch of preschoolers.  And patronising your audience isn’t the best way to get in their good books.

Your voice is an instrument so use it like one.

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Slow down

Pace is an important part of presenting a podcast and something you really need to think about if you want to control it.

The general rule is you’ll always feel like you’re speaking slower than you are.  And the faster you speak the more nervous you’ll sound (and the more nervous you’ll make your audience).

There’s no better way to sound in control than slowing your pace.

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Don’t be afraid of silence

Most people are terrified of silence when they’re presenting a podcast so they race through things at a million miles an hour.  But silence is a great tool and can help you draw an audience in and give them a chance to absorb what you’re’s saying.

Since people can’t listen and process information at the same time (the processing happens a fraction of a second later) slowing down and leaving a (tiny) bit of space can give your audience a chance to catch up.

When you’re presenting, silence will always feel longer than it actually is, so don’t be afraid to use it as a tool.  A couple of seconds here and there can put your listeners at ease and help them process what you’re saying as well as create anticipation for what’s coming next.  And it’ll make you sound like a relaxed pro.

So there you have it! Some more tools for your communication toolbox so you can present your podcast in a way that keeps your listeners engaged from start to finish.

Right, I’m off to inject my testosterone.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

  1. Claire says:

    Audio ‘jazz hands’ Love it!!!
    These are great tips thanks so much. All your how to’s are quick easy to digest & really helpful!

    1. rcorbett says:

      Thanks, Claire! Glad you found it helpful!

  2. Liz VV says:

    Hi Rachel
    I just watched you on the Australia Day Today Show panel in your awesome blue dress and then stalked you on google when your podschool title came up! Love your article and definitely will take onboard these tips in my podcast Being Indispensable which has been going since June last year. I have definitely struggled with some of the issues you identify including adopting the ‘I know my shit that’s why I’m using this really serious voice’ but thankfully I think I’ve put that behind me:) Podcast is still a work in progress but I will now have your blog as another part of my Brains Trust!!

    Thanks and keep up the great content:)

    Oh by the way – who took your photos for your site…they are AMAZING???!!!

    1. rcorbett says:

      Hey Liz. Thanks so much for taking the time to find me and I’m really glad you’ve found the resources on my blog helpful. Like anything, podcasting and presenting takes a while to master but the first step is actually giving it a crack so congrats on your show! Thanks for the kind words about my photos and the dress as well (it’s David Lawrence btw). The shots were taken by a good friend of mine, Jess Walsham. She’s an awesome photographer who’s brilliant at making you feel comfy in front of the camera (which is great if you’re like me and hate having your photo taken or somehow always manage to look dead behind the eyes ;). If you ever need photos, I highly recommend her – http://www.joyessimages.com/

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!