Holding the attention of your podcast listeners is a difficult task. We live in an age where we have so many things fighting for our attention. And we’ve become accustomed to dividing our very limited attention. We’re scrolling through social media while we’re watching our current Netflix fav. We have that same “fav” on in the background while we’re doing some work task or another.
But have we actually focused fully on any one of those things?
It takes skill and practice to keep people’s attention on what you’re sharing. And this can be a tough task for podcast hosts! But it can be made that much easier with the help of some sound strategies. And today, we’re sharing 14 such strategies to help you hold your listener’s attention throughout every episode.
Check them out below!
1. Grab Attention from the Get-Go
The first few minutes of a podcast episode is where you’ll either captivate your listeners or lose them. A new listener might only tune in to this time period and decide whether they want more from the show based on what they hear in those first few minutes. And so it’s important that your intro is enticing and grabs attention for both newbies and long-time followers alike!
Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression so make yours count by grabbing your listeners’ attention from the get go.
Use catchy, unique music and a hyped-up vibe to hook your listeners. Speak with excitement and enthusiasm, and make your listeners feel welcomed right from the first second. This strong start will make it that much easier to keep them “on the line” for the rest of the episode.
2. Share Your Road Map
A successful strategy for holding listener attention is to offer fun teasers for topics or segments coming up in the episode. These can help whet the audio appetite of your listeners and keep them listening from beginning to the very end.
There are many ways you can share your episode road map. You, as the host, can give a punchy overview of all that’s coming up, or, if you’ve got a guest interview happening, you could even get your guest to read out your teaser.
But you could also get a little creative. You could share a few out-of-context snippets from the episode to really pique your listeners’ interest. Done right, your audience will now be intrigued as to what that snippet was actually or all about, or what that joke was that had everyone laughing! And their attention will be razor-focused on the episode.
3. Pay Attention to Episode Length
If you want to hold your listeners’ attention for the duration of your podcast episodes, then one fundamental strategy is to make sure that your episodes are the right length.
But just what is the right length? A simple question with a distinctly unsimple answer.
And that’s because there’s no magic formula for this. But there are facts that you can weigh up and decide what would work best for you and your audience.
The average podcast episode length is around 38 minutes. But again, this doesn’t mean that this is the right length for your podcast. You could also take your target audience’s average commute into account, as this could also give you a good idea of what your ideal episode length should be.
However, our best advice is this. Your episode length should be as long as it is full of valuable content. Let’s unpack that a bit. If you can fill a whole hour with great content, then an hour is the perfect length for episodes. But if you’ve set a bench mark of 40 minutes, but you know at least 10 of those minutes contain subpar content, it’s time to re-evalutate your episode length if you want to keep holding our listener’s attention.
Related read: How Long Should A Podcast Episode Be In 2021?
4. Refocus Between Segments
Even if you have an hour of fantastic content, it doesn’t mean that this will prevent your listeners’ minds from wandering or their attention waning.
So, a great way to refresh that attention is simply to do something that helps them refocus between segments or sections in your episode.
Music and sound effects are a great way to accomplish this. (We’ll explore the use of music and sound further down this post!) Pick a fun and energetic jingle, or an attention-grabbing sound effect (but NOT annoying, just FYI) and you can refocus their focus. You could offer a quick recap of the big take-aways from the previous section, or you could also add a few more snippets of what’s still to come.
You can also use your ad slots strategically to grab their attention afresh.
And speaking of ads…
5. Pick Your Ads Carefully
Congratulations if you’ve landed yourself a terrific sponsor for your episodes, or have people reaching out to you for ad slots on your podcast! That’s amazing!
Not only are those ad spots beneficial to you financially, but they can also be used to help refocus your listeners’ attention throughout your episodes.
If you find yourself in the predicament where you’ve found yourself a great sponsorship partner, but their ads bore you to tears, this will have the complete opposite affect on your listeners. You’ll find them tuning out, or worse, signing off!
If you find yourself in this somewhat sticky situation, you may want to have a conversation with your sponsor and offer to read their ads for them. Not only will this scenario be a great option for them, as statistically, host read ads have shown to yield better results, but you will also be able to use the ad more effectively to keep hold of that attention.
NOTE: One of the best examples of host-read ads that I’ve come across are the ones found on any SmartLess episodes. Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman, and Will Arnett do a great job of promoting each product or service, as they’re able to really put their own spin on it. Sure, they’re professional actors, but you could easily recreate that host-read ad magic on your show.
6. Focus on Valuable Content
Of course, there’s no better way to hold your listeners’ attention than by offering episodes filled to the brim with valuable content. The rest of these strategies are all effective, but they will mean nothing if you’re not stocking your episodes with your unique valuable content.
All the literal bells and whistles won’t be able to hold that attention if there’s not high-quality content that’s being served.
7. Focus on High-Quality Sound
Another non-negotiable when it comes to your podcast episodes is high-quality sound. It’s really of no use working hard to craft amazing content if you’re going to deliver it through low-grade audio. That simply will not do in the podcasting space! So make sure you’re equipment is up to delivering that crisp, clear, full audio.
Now, you don’t need the top of the line, but you do need quality. And then you need to know how to use that quality to give you the best results. It can take a little practice mastering your equipment and creating a great sound-conducive space, but the payback will worth it as you’ll never lose listeners’ attention based on poor audio.
For more on this, check out this post: 10 Editing Tips To Increase Your Podcast Sound Quality
8. Include Listener-Generated Content
A fun way to hold your audience’s attention is to include them in your episodes! Because who wouldn’t hang around to hear if their question/comment/story gets read out by one of their favorite podcast hosts? I know I certainly would!
And what’s great about this strategy is that there are so many ways you could do this. You could request that your listeners leave reviews in the “Review” section of Apple Podcast with the promise to read out some of them come the next episode.
You could ask your listeners to send in their stories or experiences with regards to the topic that’s coming up. Or you could ask for question suggestions for your next guest. Not only will getting them involved help build your podcast community, but it’s a winning strategy for holding their attention.
9. Share Guest Sneak Peaks
Another effective way to keep your listeners tuned in is to share sneak peaks of upcoming guests. And you could do this in many different creative ways. Have your upcoming guest record a short “ad” for their episode, which you can then include in the current episode. Or write a riddle or rhyme revealing clues about the upcoming guest which your listeners then have to figure out. Keep this in the same place for each episode and you’ll have a great little segment that never fails to re-grab your listeners’ attention.
Alternatively, you could also “hide” these guest sneak peaks throughout your episode and then do the big reveal of your upcoming guest at the end of the episode. Using the strategy in this way offers fun surprises for listeners throughout an episode, meaning that they’ve got even more incentive to stick with it right to the end.
10. Craft Strong Interviews
Interviews are a staple in the podcasting space. But great interviews are actually rather rare. And this is because great interviews that keep listeners hanging on every word require a whole lot of work!
Yes, at it’s core, it’s you, the host, asking your guest a list of questions. But a great interview is so much more than this! In reality, it’s you asking unique questions that allow your guest to share their knowledge and their expertise. It’s you creating a warm atmosphere that makes your guest feel comfortable to be vulnerable and authentic. And it’s you being open and honest in return, and creating the space for banter and chemistry to flourish and transmit that dynamic across the airwaves. But get all of those things right, and you’ll hold attention with ease.
11. Use Music and Sound Effects
Music is one of the most powerful resources in a podcast host’s toolbox. You can amp up excitement, build the mystery, provide ambiance on your show, or set the tone for an emotional revelation. And it can be used to effectively switch gears and keep the attention throughout your episodes.
Adding music or a fun sound effect or two is a simple way to provide a mental break, particularly during lengthy conversations. And it’s this function that makes music and sound effects so effective in podcasting.
Check out this post for all you need to know about music and sound effects for your podcast: Podcasts And Royalty Free Music PLUS 12 Resources For Royalty Free Music And Sound Effects.
12. Make It Personal
Podcast magic happens when there’s a relationship between host and listener. And when that relationship exists, you’ll be able to hold listener attention with ease, as they’re invested and interested in what you have to say.
But just as with in-person relationships, the relationship between host and listener is founded upon knowing more about the other person. So make it personal! And let your audience get to know you. This will make it far easier to hold their attention.
Try and share some personal stories or anecdotes that relate back to the topic at hand. Be authentic in how and what you share, and don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. This is how all lasting relationships are formed, and it’s this that will help you create that undeniable bond between you and your listeners.
13. Offer Previews For the Next Episode
Another excellent way to keep your listeners engaged with every podcast episode is to add enticing previews of the next episode.
And this is also another “pro” for recording a few episodes in advance! If you’ve got a few episodes in the bank, you’ve got loads of content to make some enticing previews. You can create some preview snippets of your upcoming episodes to share in your current episodes to keep the intrigue levels sky high.
Hide these little Easter eggs throughout your episodes and they’ll keep your audience’s attention, and build up their anticipation for your next episode! A double win!
14. Keep the Energy Levels Turned Up to the Max
Last but certainly not least, if you want your listeners to stay engaged with your content from the very beginning to the very end of you episode, you’re going to need to bring some serious energy to the table.
If you start sounding bored, that tone rubs off on your listeners, and they too, will be stifling yawns as they listen…before tuning out completely!
And so, you need to make sure you maintain high energy levels throughout your recordings. And if you feel those levels dipping, stop! Take a break from recording, grab some water, walk around or stretch a bit. These activities can help you get your head back in the game, and will refill those energy levels. Do this, and you’ll be able to hear the enthusiasm and passion in your voice, your audience will too…and they’ll be coming back for more!
Attention is hard to keep. There are a lot of factors working against you, but with these podcasting tips in mind, you can be confident that your listeners will stay hooked throughout your episodes, and they keep coming back for more.
And no matter which tactics you use, remember that there is no strategy or top tip that can out-do high-quality content, delivered at a high standard. Get those foundations right, apply any and all of the above tips, and you’ll have podcast episodes that consistently give listeners exactly what they’re after and hold their attention from beginning to end.