I think podcasts are fantastic and have previously given a bunch of reasons why I feel that way. Since I listen to a lot of them however, over time, I have come to hear some things that I feel detract from the enjoyment they give.
Don’t get me wrong. I value and appreciate every person that makes a podcast because I have learnt so much from them. They must also take a huge amount of work – work that perhaps sometimes doesn’t get compensated enough financially. I also feel incredibly grateful that we listen for free, so please consider these gentle suggestions rather than ungrateful moans! I am definitely *not* ungrateful! Let’s start with chatterboxes…
Death by Monologue
Having guests on a show is great but I find that if they talk for too long, I just can’t help but switch off. I am certain the hosts do that too, but unlike them, I can daydream about cakes or get up and grab a drink. I think in these situations the guests need to be more aware that even if they are talking about something really interesting; monologues aren’t fun to listen to (sometimes).
Perhaps the hosts could look out for signs of this deadly behaviour and interject to break it up? Guests too: see the host going on a little too long, step in and snap them out of it!
This rarely happens but it’s important to realise that what you can see isn’t what we can see. We (obviously) see nothing. That must be tricky because often things like Skype are used and I guess you can forget that fact.
Try to describe everything and do your very best to not use visuals of any kind. It might even be worth switching off the video feed if you are using Skype, to avoid any temptations.
Saying that a question is a ‘Good Question’ (alot) can be painful to hear!
Often, guests will respond with that statement (or some variation) to just about every question asked. This is clearly either a repeated example of incredible questioning by the hosts or not entirely accurate 🙂
I guess it must be hard to have all those questions fired at you and saying something like that could give you some breathing room to think, but keep it real, folks!
I remember Scott Hanselman talking about the importance of filming yourself give talks and then watching them back with someone that will be honest about what they see. Perhaps guests could practise beforehand too and maybe realise that they are doing this?
Guests not responding to comments on the show webpage seems a shame. I think this is a huge mistake because interacting with the listeners can only enhance any goals you had for going on the show.
Self promotion? It connects you with more people and enhances the ‘good guy/gal’ factor. Want to talk about your technology? Making yourself approachable, answering questions or clearing up misconceptions can only help that. Work for a company? Not responding is possibly risking reputation damage to your organisation.
It also helps the podcast makers build a community and I am sure they will remember that. Lastly, in some sense, guests are minor celebrities and we know how people feel about real celebrities cold-shouldering them.
This one is easy. Set a date in your calendar to visit the feedback page for the blog a few days later and just say something, even if it’s just to thank the hosts for being on the show and say what a great time you had.
Leaving your guest hanging, meaning, not including them, is not particularly desirable.
I think if you have a guest on your show, they should be the main focus of the show. If that isn’t possible or practical (some shows have lots of little segments), I think a big effort should be made to include them in all of that.
To me, if you don’t, it’s like being invited to a party and for most of the evening, you are sitting in a corner, alone. No, that hasn’t happened to me. Much.
Remember we can’t see the people taking part so there have been occasions where a guest was introduced and 15 minutes later when they started speaking, I was almost startled as I suddenly remembered they were there!
Perhaps remembering to say simple things like: “Joe, what do you think?” might be the answer?
Going off on small detours sometimes happens.
What I mean by this is that some hosts will land on their favourite topic, either by chance or by that special skill we all have for talking about what interests us, and then spend ages talking about it. That’s fine if you don’t have a guest on the show whom you are supposed to be interviewing and learning more about, but definitely not OK if someone has taken the time to come on your show. Actually, sometimes it’s not OK for the listeners, too! These are for the listeners, right?
Hmm! Just keep your listeners in mind, I guess. Maybe a big poster showing no left or right turn traffic sign might help? 🙂
On some podcasts, I have noticed that either the guest or the host has become distracted. Keyboard clicking. Mute button being pressed. Munching of sandwiches. I have heard it all! For the guest experiencing this, it might seem like they aren’t valued. That’s definitely not an advert for more guests appearing.
Sit on your hands!
Enjoy the Silence
That’s the name of a fantastic song by Depeche Mode AND something I sometimes hear during the episodes. There was one particular episode I listened to where the silence was so painful in between questions and speaking. Of course, in a natural conversation, that happens all the time, but given how easy it is to edit those things out, to not do so can make the episode seem either awkward, unprofessional or both.
I think it is imperative that these silences are removed. It’s pretty easy and well worth it.
This is a really tough one because we can’t all work in sound booths and most people have families, but it is sometimes a little distracting to hear the dogs in the background. Or your children playing. Or a TV suddenly turn on in the distance.
In an ideal world, it would be so much better without that because it does transport the listener away from the topic and guests, and into your house. Of all the points I have made, I think the fact that most podcast makers work on a budget and don’t charge for their products, means things like this should just be accepted, if not expected.
This isn’t always practical but perhaps late night podcasts when the family are asleep is the answer? Or maybe when the family are out shopping?
In conclusion, and to reiterate, podcasts are the greatest and without them, my life would be duller. I do think though that implementing some of these ideas if absent, would greatly enhance the listenership of your shows.
Written by Stephen Moon
email: stephen at logicalmoon.com