(By James Marriott) Radio is great, isn’t it? I spent 15 years working in the industry before joining the Podcast Websites team. I decided it was time to make the move as podcasting had gone from being my ‘bit on the side’ to my main love. Podcasting is great because unlike radio, you have complete engagement with your audience.
When doing a radio show half of what you talk about probably isn’t all that interesting to half your audience. If you’re doing a travel news bulletin, someone working from home isn’t going to care. If you read sports scores, there’ll be plenty of listeners who aren’t interested. Half the skill in radio is making things as brief as possible, or finding ways to keep people listening even though they might not be engaged.
Now consider podcasting. You don’t generally listen to a podcast unless you’re interested in that subject. You’ve already engaged your audience before you really get going. But that isn’t to say there isn’t skills and tips we can learn from radio presenters. Even if someone’s engaged with your podcast subject, if you’re not at the top of your game with your content, listeners will drift away and may never come back.
Here are four tips to help podcasters become better presenters:
1 – Plan
Look at what’s coming up weeks and months ahead in your niche, and plan to make sure it doesn’t pass you and your show by. Similarly, schedule guests weeks in advance. Set up a spreadsheet so you can easily manage who you’re inviting and who’s confirmed. Planning ahead will help you stay on top of your show, rather than your show being on top of you – and that’s essential for being a good presenter. It means you can concentrate on worrying about what really matters – what’s going to be coming out of your mouth. It’s also well worth the time prepping before each show. Off the cuff is good, but having a running order and a bit of direction helps keep things moving. ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’, after all!
2 – Interview Technique
Every guest adds some color to your episode, but a bad interview can be a real turn off. Think about what you want to ask. If your guest is nervous, start off gently, help them relax, get them on your side. Generally ask ‘open’ questions – not ‘yes or no’ ones. It’s also important to LISTEN. Take in what you’re interviewee is asking you. Get them to elaborate on a point if it needs it. Give your guests a chance to add anything else they want to get across at the end – it’s a polite way to wrap up an interview
3 – Picture Your Audience
This isn’t quite like that strange tip to imagine your audience naked when you’re public speaking. Generally radio presenters are broadcasting from a studio, often on their own. They’re talking to hundreds, thousands, maybe even more people. But actually they’re in a room talking to themselves. And it’s often the same for podcasters. Having an image in your mind of your audience can really help you know how to pitch your show. You can try building up an identity for an average listener – say Wendy, who is mid-30s, with two daughters, and she listens in the car on the way to work.
4 – Words
We’ve all heard those statistics that more than half of communication is non-verbal. Generally, our audience can’t see us when they’re listening to our podcast. So your secret weapon – indeed your only real weapon – is the words that you use. Your choice of words is everything – they tell your listener whether to feel sad, or happy, or excited. Think about a menu in a really good restaurant. Think about the words that are used. Lashings, smothered, nestled; words that make your mouth water. You can taste the food. All too often, presenters don’t think enough about using the right words. Use words that make your listeners FEEL something. Take them on a journey with you, or paint a picture in their head.
When you watch something on the TV you can see it, it’s there right in front of you, but when someone describes something to you, it can look however you want it to look. Feed your listener’s imagination. Create the image in their head.
The power of words is something quite spectacular and it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
James Marriott is the Head of Podcaster Relations and Operations at Podcast Websites and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org