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PodSchool Podcast | How many people should you have on your podcast?

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People recording a podcast

Is there a magic number?

When you’re thinking about how many people to have on your podcast your decision should always be based on what is best for your audience and what best suits your content.

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In radio, the magic number of co-hosts is three.

Obviously, if your show is more of a panel-style show where you’ve got an interviewer and multiple guests you can get away with having more.  But as a general rule, when you’re thinking about the ideal number of co-hosts (people who have equal say on a show), in my experience, anything above three starts to get tough to manage.

In radio the biggest issue you’ve got is that you have to get in and out of each “break” (the bits where you’re talking, in between two songs or a song and an ad break) in 2.5 – 3 minutes.  That’s not easy when there are more than three voices and everyone’s trying to get a word in.

In podcasting, you’ve got more room to breathe so four might be more possible but in my humble opinion, a max of three is best and here’s why…

It’s easier to keep the show on track

Wrangling more than three people as a host can be tough especially if your recording remotely via Skype.  The more brains and mouths present, the more potential for waffle and tangents and if you’re the person taking care of the business side of things it can be tough to reign everyone in.

Ideally, if you’ve got a show with more than two people you’d have one person responsible for keeping the show moving.  In radio they’re called an “anchor” and they’re in charge of covering the ‘business’ e.g. show name, calls to action etc.

The more voices you have the more helpful it will be to have someone in this defined role so you can rely on one person to keep the show moving.

It decreases editing time

The more people on a show the more time it will take to edit and the more difficult that edit will be.

Unless you’re all in perfect sync and smash out a brilliant show with no fluff or filler you’re going to have to spend some time cutting the fat.

A perfect edit free show isn’t impossible, it’s just pretty rare if you’re being really honest about only putting your best stuff out there.

It reduces “over talk”

This is when everyone talks at once and it’s not only frustrating to listen to it’s infuriating to edit because you can’t get a clean edit point.

The more people you have the more potential for over talk especially if you and your co-hosts are in different locations and recording via Skype.

Ideally, you want the conversational ball to be passed from person to person seamlessly without everybody jumping on top of each other and that becomes more difficult the more people you have on the show.

It means everyone can contribute

Anything above three people and it starts to get difficult for everyone to have a say.  This is particularly the case if you’ve got one or two very dominant co-hosts.  You want everybody on a show to be there for a purpose and it’s almost impossible if you’ve got six people on a show for everybody to add something good to the conversation.

This is a problem, not just for a listener but also for the hosts.  If you’re on a show, you want to be contributing and there’s nothing worse than feeling like there isn’t space for you to jump in. You want everybody on the show to feel heard and valued and that’s tough with more than three people.

It’s less confusing for your audience

Identifying voices can be almost impossible for your audience above a certain number and this is a problem because your audience needs to connect with everyone on the show individually.

To do this they need to be able to identify each voice and if you’ve got five, six, seven or even eight voices on a show it is going to be an absolute mind melt to work out who’s talking.

You don’t want your audience to have to expend a lot of mental energy listening to your show. People are busy and they want to come to your podcast for escapism, entertainment or to learn something. If they spend the entire time thinking “who the hell is talking?” it’s going to be hard for them to relax and connect with the show.

Despite this, I never say never.

I’m always surprised by what can be achieved when the right mind is put to the right problem.  Ideally, you want everyone on your show to be able to add to the conversation so they feel valued and the audience feels that they’re valuable. That’s when you’re going to get the best show.

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Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to the show. This week I got asked a very interesting question by somebody who wanted to link up a lot of people to create a podcast and I thought it would be useful to talk about the maximum number of people you should have on your show. Of course, as with anything, this is just a guideline. You might be able to find a way to create a show that's compelling and interesting and not crazy and confusing for the listener with 10 people on it. I'm constantly surprised by the amazing and creative ways people do things so I'm by no means saying it's impossible to do a show with a lot of people. But the conventional wisdom is less is going to be easier.

It's important the decision you make is dependent on your content and what's best for your audience. In radio, the magic number is about 3 or that's the maximum number of co-hosts you'd have on a show. Anything above that it becomes hard to get the rhythm right and it's hard for everybody to have an equal say. It's also hard for one person to steer the ship and then have three people jumping in.

When you've got three people, one person can be the anchor and then the other two people can jump in from time to time. Anything above four people, in radio and you'd be getting to a point where you're thinking "Jeez. This is almost impossible." If there are four people you'd often have to have the fourth just doing pithy one-liners because it was too difficult to get four people to have an equal say in all conversations. It's hard to wrangle more than three other people and to make sure that the conversation is clear, concise and that everybody gets a turn. It's also hard to prevent over talk, especially if you're doing a show with people in different locations. It can be quite difficult to make sure that the conversation runs seamlessly so when you're looking at numbers above that it can make things a real dog's breakfast. Not only because it can be hard to wrangle the people on your show but also because overtalk can be a real problem. Overtalk is when people are talking at the same time over the top of each other.

And the more people you have in a studio or the more people you have behind a microphone on a show the more chance of overtalk and that is so frustrating for a listener to listen to. You need to have as little of that in your show as possible. The ball needs to be passed around from person to person seamlessly without everybody jumping on top of each other verbally with more people. It's also really easy to get off track and then heaven forbid if you are the individual in charge of editing that show...forget about it. I would be passing it on to somebody else. If you've got more people you've got more potential for tangents, plus it can be hard for everybody to get a word in. You want everybody on a show to be there for a purpose and it is almost impossible if you've got six people on a show for everybody to be adding something good to the conversation. Not only from a listener perspective but also from a performer perspective. If you are on a show you want to be contributing. There is nothing worse than feeling like there just isn't the space for you there's no time or no spots for you to jump in. It can be really demoralizing and you want everybody on the show to feel heard and valued. That's quite tough to achieve when you have a lot of people on a show.

Identifying voices can also be almost impossible for your audience over a certain number and this is a problem because your audience needs to connect with you. To do this they need to identify your voice because they don't have any of the visual cues that we have in normal communication. If you're getting five, six, seven or even eight voices on a show it is going to be an absolute mind melt for people to work out who is talking. You don't want your audience to expend a lot of mental energy to listen to your show. People are busy, they're focused on other things they want to come to your show for a bit of escapism, for entertainment or to tune in and learn something. If they spend the entire time thinking "who is that talking?" it's going to be really confusing and hard for them to connect with the show. As human beings, we can only process so much information at once. And if you've got 10 voices going on in your head it's going to be hard if you don't have the visual cues to work out who's who and what's going on. If you're watching a TV show and there's a panel of five people that might be a lot easier to follow along with. You're also more likely to have one person who's hosting and interviewing rather than five people all trying to talk at once.

So again as I said I never say never. I am always surprised by what can be achieved with the right mind put to the right problem. So if you have a great idea and you know how to execute it in a way that is going to have none of the problems that I've just mentioned then fabulous that's fantastic. Please email me tell me about it. I want to hear it. But as a general rule above three people is going to be pretty difficult to make it an easy show to edit, to host and for your listeners to latch on to and avoid confusion. The more you can trim it down and get it to three key people. All three of which are able to throw in really great content and add to the conversation so they feel valued and the audience feels that they're valuable. That's where you're going to get the best show. But again if you work out a way to do it please let me know because I love being proved wrong.

If you're enjoying this show please leave a review wherever you listen to the episodes and if you want a bit more hand-holding with your podcast make sure you head to PodSchool.com.au and you can join the waitlist for my online podcasting course where I take you through all the steps in the podcasting process so you don't have to do it alone. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

 

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