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PodSchool Podcast | How to be an awesome podcast co-host

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Two female podcast co-hosts standing together smiling

Be the perfect partner in crime

Co-hosting a podcast with other people can be great.  But if one or more members of the team aren’t pulling their weight it can be exhausting.

So how do you make sure you’re bringing your A-game as a podcast co-host?

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Be prepared

Turning up each week unprepared is the quickest way to piss off your fellow co-hosts.

Even if you’re doing a show where someone else leads the content, or if you’re talking about something one of your co-hosts is an expert in, you still need to prepare SOMETHING.

Throwing to someone who hasn’t done their due diligence before getting into the studio is incredibly frustrating and increases the pressure on everyone else.  It also doesn’t feel great to be that person because it’s hard to perform at your best when you’re underprepared.

The easiest way to feel cool, calm and confident behind the mic is to know your stuff.  But going into a record with nothing in your head makes it harder to add to the conversation and that can be really stressful.

Trying to think clearly under that kind of pressure is tough, so why put yourself and your co-hosts through that?

How many people should you have on your podcast?

Read

Don’t be too prepared

While preparation is important you don’t want to go so far that you’ve practised your conversations before having them.

If you do you’ll be “acting” when you’re in the record and that’s never good.

Ideally, you want to know where the conversation is going but not exactly how it’s going to play out.  If you’ve planned everything word for word you’ll be waiting for your line rather than listening to your co-hosts and being in the moment.  And that makes for a stilted conversation that’s difficult to listen to.

Should you podcast with a co-host?

Read

Jump into the conversation before you’re invited

There’s nothing worse, as a co-host than getting to the end of what you’re saying, looking across at your partner in crime and thinking “OMG.  They’ve got nothing.”

In a great show, the ball is passed seamlessly from co-host to co-host without anyone needing to be invited in.

This is where hand signals and body language come in handy.  You want to make sure you’re signalling to your co-host you’ve got something either by raising your hand, leaning in or giving them a nod that says “I’ve got this.”

That’s a reassuring energy to be sitting across from in the studio and it’ll make you a co-host people enjoy working with.

How to record a podcast with people in different locations

Read

Leave your shit at the door

There’s nothing more frustrating than working with someone who brings the stress of their day into the studio.

Obviously, there are big things that can happen in people’s lives that shake them to the core.  In those circumstances, it’s probably best to apologise to your audience and take some time off.

But if you’re just walking in, in a huff because you had a bad date last night or you got stuck in traffic, you need to shake that off because no one wants to be trying to drag excitement out of their co-host.

To have an awesome show everyone needs to be present, in the moment and on their A-game so try to leave your crap outside the door.

How to use tone to connect with your podcast audience

Read

Listen 

The most important thing you can do when recording a podcast is listen to what your co-hosts are saying.

If you’re looking down at your prep or thinking about where the conversation is supposed to go you’ll never have the kind of relaxed conversation that’s necessary to get an audience engaged in your show.

How to use language to connect with your podcast audience

Read

Bring your 50% (or more)

The death knell for a show is when resentment starts to creep in and nothing breeds resentment like one person doing all the work.

Podcasting is a huge commitment so make sure you’re sharing the load.  If your co-host wants to edit (which takes a lot of time) tell them you’ll look after the website or social media.

To have a good show you need a great partnership and that means everyone needs to be pulling their weight.

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.

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

Hello and welcome to the show. Today I'm going to be talking about how to be a great co-host. I'm training a bunch of people at the moment in how to do co-hosted shows and I'm picking up a lot of things that people are doing that I thought it might be really useful to share so if you are getting into a co-hosted hosted show you can be as killer a co-host as possible. So let's kick it off.

One of the first things you need to do is always turn up prepared, even if your cohost is going to be running the content of the show. Or even if you break your show up into little segments and your cohost runs some segments and you run others. Anything that your cohost has responsibility for, you need to still be fully briefed on because if you're learning about things from scratch when you are recording it's going to be a lot harder for you to chip in with anything useful. It will also be quite nerve-wracking for you because if you are learning things in the moment as the mics are live you're trusting your brain to work overtime to come up with things in the moment that will add value. It is much easier to think about those things ahead of time have a whole bunch of bullet points you can throw into the conversation and then if things happen naturally or something pops into your head that was unexpected. Great, you can add that in but you've also got all of these things written down or all of these things that you've already spoken about. That means you're never going to be thrown the ball and drop it or have your cohosts talking about something and slowly getting to the end of their point and you're sitting there thinking "Holy crap I have to say something in a second and there is nothing but blank space and a tumbleweed going through my head right now." Being prepared is not just respectful for your cohosts and helpful for them. It's also helpful for you because there is no worse feeling than crapping your dacks behind the microphone thinking "Oh my God I've got nothing to add." It just gives you a security blanket that means you can have the confidence to really be there in the moment and it will make you a much better performer. It will also make you more confident and a much better person to work with from a cohosts perspective. Being prepared means you'll always have something to bring to the table, you won't leave your cohosts hanging and you'll always pick up the ball. That's really essential to a good dynamic on a show so make sure you are prepared so you've always got something to bring.

Just be mindful of not going to over the top with preparation. With some people I work with I'll often find I'll get them to prepare something and when they come into the studio and they will have practiced almost word for word what they're going to say. This is a really difficult way to jump into a podcast because you're basically trying to "act" a conversation you've already had and you will notice if you do this you're often hamstrung because you're listening out like an actor listens for their line. If your cohost ends up going off on another tangent or thinking about something else or forgetting the thing that you planned, you can be sitting there waiting for your line not listening to a word they're saying so the conversation is very stilted. So make sure you're prepared but that you haven't gone in and told your cohosts everything because you want the moment that's behind the microphone to be as natural and flowing as possible. You want to be able to be present and you can't be if you're trying to remember what you did and said before you got into the studio. Make sure you're prepared but not over prepared.

The other thing you need to do is to make sure that you're always jumping in before you're invited. There's nothing worse as a cohost, slowly getting to the end of what you're saying and thinking "I don't know whether my cohost has anything to add here." It can be very off-putting for someone sitting across from you and it's much better if you jump in before they get to the point where they have to say "Soooo, what do you think about this?" You don't want your cohost to have to invite you into the conversation, you want to seamlessly enter it. So, make sure you're either using hand signals e.g. putting your hand up to make sure that your cohost knows you're going to jump in or make it really clear in the way you use your body language. Let them know "I'm coming in and I'm going to add something here." Don't sit back half asleep in your chair so your cohost doesn't even know if you're switched on. Be there, be present on the edge of your seat, be leaning in when you want to say something so your cohost can realise "Okay this person's got something and I can trust that when I finish my sentence they're going to pick me up and run with the ball." It needs to sound very natural like you're passing the conversation from one person to the next and you can't do that if every time somebody passes it to another person they have to say "So what do you think?" You just want each person's opinions, thoughts and questions to be coming in without needing to be asked for and sometimes that means you have to be quite visual about the fact that you are going to add something to the conversation.

The next thing that's very important to do is to please leave your shit at the door. I have worked with many cohosts in my years in radio and podcasting and there is nothing better than working with people who can have stuff going on outside of the studio or outside of the podcast record and not bring it into the show. It's almost impossible to have a good show when you are sitting in the studio with your cohost and all of their issues. This is a medium where people are listening and they want to be entertained or engaged. They don't want to be dragged down. People have got enough stuff to deal with and you need to be providing entertainment. I'm not saying that if somebody passes away and you have a really difficult time you need to get on there and be happy go lucky but in those cases, I would say just pop the record on hold.

Sometimes life will get in the way in a way that you can't shake and it's okay for you to step back and say "I think we just need to take a break." But if you are just getting frustrated because you were caught in traffic on the way to the record or you had a bad date last night please try and leave that outside the show because for your cohost it's going to be really hard if they have to wrench the excitement and the engagement out of you. You want it to be as simple and flowing as possible and it can take some practice to really leave that stuff behind especially if you are naturally someone who lets things get to them so if that's the case just be mindful of that. It can be really magic sitting across from someone and having a great show and quite often it can be the perfect antidote to a crappy day or a situation that made you really feel frustrated so be present, be in the moment and be there with your cohost because it can be really hard to be on the other side of that. And the best shows always happen when you're both there and ready and committed to what you're creating.

The other thing to do is to make sure you are listening to your cohosts. As I mentioned earlier if you have scripted the episodes and you've practised it you won't be listening to what they're saying you'll be listening for your line and that's never ideal. You want to be as prepared as possible because otherwise you're going to get stuck in your head and when they throw to you'll have nothing to say. If you're not listening you'll miss gold and if I am a listener and I'm listening to somebody say something and their cohost just totally glosses over it or misses it completely I'm going to be sitting there pulling my hair out saying "Why didn't you ask them about that? Aren't you listening?" You are the proxy for your listeners so you need to be asking the questions they would be asking if they were there and that requires you to be really present. The way to do that is to be as prepared as possible so you've got a safety blanket of content that allows you to be totally in the moment. That way your cohost will feel supported and listened to and like you're there in the moment with them.

And finally, I would say just make sure that you are bringing your 50 per cent to the table. I have worked with some cohosts who are brilliant and super committed and then other cohosts who think because I do a lot of stuff that they can not bother doing anything. This can get really really frustrating. If your cohost is great at editing and they're happy to do that make sure there are other things that you put your hand up for e.g. social media. Whatever it is, just make sure that you bring enough to the table so that everybody feels they're adding their equal piece to the pie. If you or your cohost feel like someone isn't pulling their weight, that kind of animosity and frustration builds up. To have a good show you need a good partnership and the kind of great conversational chemistry that's only possible if there's no anger or frustration in the team. So just make sure that even if your cohost says they're happy to do all of the things that you still push to contribute as much as you can. If they really do want to do all of the things that just means bringing your A game to every record, making sure that you are super prepped so that they are never left hanging.

I hope that's helped you think about how to be a better co-host if you have any questions you would like answered head to podschoolpodcast.com and hit me up at the contact page. And if you want a little bit more assistance with your podcast you can head podschool.com.au. That is my online podcasting course where I take you step by step through the whole process. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

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