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PodSchool Podcast | To co-host or not to co-host?

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To co-host or not to co-host? | PodSchool Podcast

It’s all fun and games until somebody gets annoying.

Working with a co-host can be one of life’s great joys….if it’s the right person.  If it’s the wrong person it can be as fun as performing surgery on yourself with a corkscrew.

When you’re thinking about starting a podcast, working with someone can seem like an easy option, especially if you’ve never hosted anything before.  After all, sitting across from another warm body means you don’t have to deal with the awkwardness of presenting a show in an empty room.

But while there are plenty of advantages to having a podcasting partner in crime, there are a few things you should consider before jumping in the deep end…

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Is your potential co-host afraid of commitment?

When you ask someone “Would you like to do a podcast with me?” the answer will almost always be “YES!”  Why?  Because it sounds exciting!

This is often because people have a romantic view of what it’ll be like.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to chat with one of their closest mates once a week and entertain hoards of fans on the internet?  Problem is those hoards can take a while to show up..if they show up at all.

If you’re one of those exceptions to the rule who has a flood of listeners rolling through the door in a short space of time this might not be a problem.  But if those hoards are taking their sweet time to turn up the only way to make sure they find you is to keep delivering quality content, week in week out, even if your only listener is your mum.

Podcasting to no one can be a pretty soul-destroying experience so you HAVE TO make sure you’re sitting across from someone who thinks “I’d be doing this even if your mum wasn’t listening.”

Both you and your co-host need to that fire in your belly to keep the dream alive so make sure you hitch yourself to someone with as much passion for the project as you.  Someone who WANTS to do the show and enjoys putting it together even if no one is turning up.

Don’t let your chemistry make you lazy

Great chemistry is a blessing and a curse. With many shows, the relationship between co-hosts is what people get attached to.  So if you’re lucky enough to find someone you bounce off in a way that excites both you and your listeners then grab that person and hold on tight.

But, while this is great you need to be careful you don’t get complacent.  One of the great things about working with someone you have great chemistry with is that on your off days, you can still find a way to deliver great content because you pick up each other’s slack, but sometimes it’s easy to rely on that.

Just because you’ve got someone to lean on doesn’t mean you don’t need to do as much work preparing and planning each show and at the end of the day while chemistry is amazing and a rare thing it can’t be the only thing you give your listeners.  If it is, they’ll stay for a while but they’ll eventually realise this is more about you than it is about them.

Don’t forget who you’re doing the show for

When you’re doing a show with a co-host it can be easy to forget about the audience.

While it’s great to engage and entertain your co-host, if you focus too much on them it’s easy to make the listener feel left out.  I’ve heard some shows do 15 minutes of ‘talking amongst themselves’ before they’ve even gotten to their content and while it might feel fun at the time, to the listener it feels like they’re back in the playground being ignored by the cool group.

Even if you don’t mean to be self-indulgent it’s easy to sound that way when you’re with a co-host so don’t forget about the people you’re there to serve.

But what if I really really really want a co-host?

Well, if you’re this far through this post and still keen as mustard to work with a co-host here are a few ways to get the most out of that arrangement…

Use hand signals

While some people think waving your hands around in a studio is only for those who’ve still got the audio training wheels on, using hand signals is the mark of a true professional.

To make a show sound professional with co-hosts, the conversation has to be seamless.  There shouldn’t be any moments where you’re talking over each other and when one person finishes a sentence the next should effortlessly start.  The best way to achieve this, even if you’ve been working with someone for a long time, is with hand signals.

Often when you’re recording a show an idea will strike you while someone else is talking. The natural response is to interject so you don’t miss the opportunity to offer up your piece of conversational gold.  And while this is fine in the pub when you’re chatting with your mates, in a podcast it sounds messy.

So when inspiration strikes while your co-host is mid-way through a monologue, a subtle raise of the hand will let them know “when you’re done, I’ve got something to add to that.”

That way they can finish their train of thought secure in the knowledge they’re not going to be trampled all over.  And when they’re done a subtle point your way can indicate it’s your turn to take the stage.

To people who can’t see what’s going on, it’ll sound like perfect conversational simpatico even if it looks like you’re trying to direct a plane.

Put in equal effort

Nothing breeds resentment like one person showing up for an hour a week to record and doing absolutely nothing outside of that.

There’s a lot of work that goes into a podcast from planning, recording, editing, uploading and engaging your audience via social media so it’s important to have a discussion at the beginning to work out who’s doing what.

If your co-host is happy to edit the show (which can take A LOT of time) then make sure you’re picking up the slack somewhere else.  For the show to be at it’s best every week, it’s important you both feel like equal partners and no one feels like they’re carrying the weight alone.

Your number one goal should be to make your co-host sound amazing

This is the single most important rule when working with co-hosts and one I swear by.

If you have two or three people in a show and everybody’s individual goal is to make the other people in the room sound like they’re on fire (not literally) and support them and keep the ball up in the air, then as a team you can never lose.

The show will always be good if you are looking out for the people you are with and listeners LOVE to hear people in their ears who clearly respect each other and enjoy doing a show.

Your audience is going to smell it a mile away if your MO is to be the person that speaks the most, or who gets the most points across or has the last laugh all the time and it really isn’t great to listen to.

But if you’re committed to the team win then your show will be so much better and it’ll also be a joy to work on because nothing feels better than people who’ve got your back.

So, find someone who ticks all those boxes and you’ve got the perfect person to be by your side as you leap off the podcasting cliff (hopefully to a better end than Thelma and Louise).

Got a burning question you’d like answered on the podcast? Send me an email.

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

[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the show. Today I'm going to be talking about the magic of having a cohost and also the punish of having a co-host. It's not always a good idea to pair up with somebody for you show although this is going to depend on your content, so if you're doing a comedy show maybe just yapping into a microphone by yourself isn't going to work because you need somebody to bounce off. But if you are umming and ahhing about it but you're not quite sure. I just wanted to jump into your ears and give you a few things to think about.

[00:00:32] The first thing that I'd say is that if you are brand new to this it can seem like the best option because you might be scared to do it on your own . It's a weird experience to talk into a microphone by yourself and to get that energy and tone and excitement you need to actually engage an audience. An easy way to solve this can be to jump in and grab a co-host but there are a lot of reasons why co-hosting can be more trouble than it's worth. Yes it's much easier to have that conversational chemistry and that energy with somebody else in the room but some things to think about before you lock down a friend or a work colleague or someone else is that you need to make sure you are both equally committed to the project. If this is a baby of yours and you are too frightened to do it on your own so you're looking for somebody to jump in with or you think you might be more motivated to do it if somebody else jumps onboard. They have to have the same amount of passion for the project as you do. Otherwise it is going to get real awkward and real uncomfortable real quick. You know everybody wants to get involved in podcasting so if you offer up the idea to a friend or a colleague then chances are they're probably going to say yes because it's going to sound like a great idea but the thing it's important to realise is that it often takes a long time to build an audience and to build a fan base and you have to be sitting down in front of a microphone with somebody who looks across at you and says "I would do this whether we had listeners or not." You need somebody who is invested in the project and just wants to do it because they want to create something and they see the worth in doing this week in week out. If it's taking you a long time to build your audience it can be soul destroying if you don't have that fire burning in your belly for what you are doing. The audience and the listeners will eventually come but it is a long term game. Yes there are some shows that flash onto the scene and get heaps of listeners straight away but those are the exception rather than the rule so make sure you choose the right partner.

[00:02:41] Just like bending down on one knee and asking someone to marry you, you need to make sure this person is on the same page so keep that in mind. If you can't find someone equally dedicated then it might be worth spending the time to practice and get over those nerves and get comfortable behind the microphone by yourself because you know you will always be willing to turn up every week and get that show out w hen another person might not. The other thing that is fantastic about having a co-host is chemistry and that energy you get when you're across from somebody but it can have negative effects on your podcast. Sometimes chemistry can actually make you lazy because you can feel that you don't have to prep as much because once you sit down together you'll find somewhere to go and that can often end up in a meandering show that doesn't really go anywhere and that doesn't have the listener in mind.

[00:03:51] It's really important if you do decide to have a co-host that you make sure you maintain the discipline of doing a show. It's very easy to stick to a plan and make sure you are always thinking about your audience and creating content for them when you are by yourself. But it's still really important when you're with somebody else not to get too caught up in the moment of being with them. Yes you are still performing and trying to get them interested in what you're saying but you must always have the audience in mind so even though you're having a conversation with somebody you're basically presenting that conversation to the people who are listening. So keep them at the top of your mind and don't get lost in the sort of magic and the joy of the moment. Save that stuff for the pub have all of your great convos at the pub that nobody really cares about or wants to listen to but just be mindful of being disciplined and making sure that your show still stays on track so it doesn't end up being a waffling mess. You never want to forget the people that are turning up to listen to your show and often that takes planning preparation (I know, all the boring stuff).

[00:05:03] If it suits your show if you know you've got a partner in crime that is going to hold your hand Thelma and Louise style and leap off that cliff then fantastic. Here are some tips that will help you work well with them. The first I would say is to please use hand signals. Sometimes people say hand signals are for babies but they're not, they're absolutely for professionals and in professional radio studios and any professional shows you will always see people using hand signals because that's the way you make it sound like a really easy back and forth conversation where nobody steps on anybody's toes and nobody talks over the top of each other because you're basically signaling in the studio or in the podcast set up that you want to talk next or that you've got an idea so the person across from you can get through the end of their thought without being run over. It really helps to move things along in a way that sounds a lot more seamless when you hear it in your ears but in the studio or in your lounge room you can basically look like you're directing traffic if you want to but your audience will never know. The other important thing is to please share the load. Nothing will get your blood boiling quicker than you doing every single thing on your podcast and your co host just turning up. Sit down at the beginning of the process and divide up what needs to be done. Who's going to do the show notes pages. Who's going to upload the episodes. Who's going to share things out via social media. You want to make sure that everybody is doing their part so that no resentment builds in the show because you just can't have that magical chemistry that people love to listen to if you're sitting across from your cohost staring into their soul trying to make them feel guilty for the fact they've done absolutely nothing for the show. This again will come down to the person you choose to be across from.

[00:07:05] My final piece of advice and the most important of all is that if you have a co-host your number one goal should be to make them sound amazing. If you have two people in a show or three people in a show and everybody's individual goal is to make the other people in the room sound amazing and support them and keep the ball up in the air, then as a team you can never lose. The show will always be good if you are always looking out for the people you are with. Listeners love to hear people in their ears who clearly respect and love each other and enjoy being in a show together. And the only way that you get that happening is if you're looking out for the people that you do a show with. Your audience is going to smell a mile away if your m.o. is just to be the person that speaks the most on the podcast or to get the most points across or to have the last laugh all the time. It really isn't great to listen to.

[00:08:02] But if you are committed to the team win and realise that if somebody else gets a laugh or if somebody else makes the important point then everybody wins as a whole then your show will be so much better and it'll also be a joy to work on.

[00:08:32] I hope that's helped you work out whether or not a co-host is right for you. You can check out the show notes page for this and all the other podcast episodes at PodSchoolPodcast.com. You can also sign up for my online podcasting course, Podschool.com.au. Thanks so much for listening. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

4 Comments
  1. Helia Monteiro says:

    Super helpful!
    Thank you so much for all the tips, your website literally has everything I wanted to know.

    1. rcorbett says:

      Yay! Thanks Helia!

  2. David says:

    Always great advice, thanks 🙂

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