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What Makes a Podcast Host Great? 15 Key Characteristics

woman podcast host

It’s no secret there are a lot of podcasts out there. Many are amazing, but there are also many that are just average…

But what separates the good from the bad? And more importantly, what separates the good from the great?

Obviously, audio is important. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t judge podcasts on their audio quality. And the content is obviously super important, too. Even the RØDECaster Pro II alone isn’t enough to make a podcast great if the content is well-below average, with dangerously low levels of value…

So you have to have great sound quality, and you need valuable content…but there is one more element that takes a podcast from good to great, and that’s a great host!

But just ‘what’ defines a great podcast host?

In our book, there are 15 characteristics of a great podcast host! Yes, that’s quite high criteria (what can we say, we take our podcasts really seriously!) But the best news is that these characteristics can be learned, honed, and strengthened, so really, anyone who puts in the time and effort can be a great podcast host!

Take a look at the 15 characteristics of a great podcast host, and see how you measure up. But remember, these are all skills that can be learned, it just takes time and effort, and you can become one of the greats!

1. An Engaging Conversationalist

Characteristic Number One shouldn’t really come as any sort of surprise…a great podcast host is one who is an engaging conversationalist.

Great podcast hosts interact with their audience as if they were in the room with you. They are able to make the audience feel like they are a part of what is going on. Whether it’s an interview or a solo show, a great podcast host makes their listeners feel included and engaged in the conversation.

And a key tip for this is to think of your listener as another person listening in to your conversation, and not a crowd of people listening to your conversation ‘from a distance’.

Do this, and you’ll start creating those real connections with your audience, a trademark of great podcast hosts!

2. Subject Authority

A great podcast host is one who thoroughly understands their subject. Now, you don’t have to hold a PhD in what your subject or topic is, but you do need to have a thorough and in-depth knowledge of whatever it is you share about.

Great podcast hosts take their listeners on journeys they’ve never been on before. They tell new stories, they share insightful information. And they can do this because they have subject authority. The bottom line is that understanding your subject is critical in keeping your audience engaged and allowing them to leave each episode having gained something of value.

3. Quietly Confident

Great podcast hosts are confident. This comes across in their voice, and in the way they carry themselves across the mic in their interviews, or when they’re telling their stories. They don’t feel the need to shout or scream, or force you to hear what they have to say. There is a sense that they know what they’re doing, and they ‘belong’, like they know they have something worth listening to. And this is an attractive quality for listeners.

But what happens if you’re not someone who feels on-top-of-the-world confident? And yes, Imposter Syndrome is very real! (If you do tend to fall victim to The Imposter, you might find this post helpful.) Does this mean you can’t be a great podcast host? Certainly not! But you can learn to develop a quiet confidence in yourself.

Affirm within yourself that you have something to offer. That the work you put into your show is meaningful. And the passion you have for your subject is worthy of being shared. These thoughts can help give you the quiet confidence you need to be a great podcast host.

4. Willingness To Learn

I know we said that great podcast hosts have subject authority, but another characteristic of great podcast hosts is a willingness to learn. This is particularly true for hosts of interview podcasts. Great interviewers have to possess a willingness to learn. There is very little worse than listening to a host who thinks they know it all. They often come across as condescending to their guests, a literal “turn-off” in our book, because no one is too fond of a know-it-all!

And that’s why a great host is one who is willing to learn from those around them. Because how can you give your listeners something new if you don’t have the willingness to learn something new!

5. A Great Voice

Now, we can’t all possess the soothing sounds of Phoebe Judge’s voice, but we can hone our voice, strengthen those vocal cords, practice our breathing, work on a pleasing cadence, and find a voice that’s all our own…and sounds great!

Your voice is like a muscle, the more you train it, the more refined and developed it becomes. And a great podcast host recognizes this and puts in the work to make their voice the best that it can be.

Related read: Your Voice is Your Secret Weapon! 4 Ways to Improve Your Voice for a Better Podcast

6. Avoids Information Overload

Great podcast hosts know that podcasts are not all about shoving information down your listeners’ throats…or rather, pushing it down their ears.

Great hosts strike a balance between valuable information and engaging conversation. They break up the information by adding in stories, personal anecdotes, or weaving in something for their audience to relate to and remember down the road.

In this way, great podcast hosts are like great teachers, they find unique ways to share their story, impart their information, or drive home their core message. Find new ways to be a good teacher by avoiding an information avalanche, and skillfully craft your episodes with balance, and you’ll be on your way to be counted as ‘one of the greats’!

Related post: How To Improve Your Podcast Storytelling Skills

7. Has a Deep Understanding of their Audience

In order to be a great podcast host, you have to know your audience. How else can you consistently give them the type of content they’re looking for? You need to know them like you know your best friend. You’ll then know what guests they’ll love, what new segments will resonate with them, or what questions they would want you to ask your guests, or answer in your content.

But knowing everything you can about your guests, and knowing what makes them tick, can help you beyond crafting the best content for your episodes. You’ll know where to build your brand on social media, you’ll know what content they’ll best engage with, and you’ll even know which brands to partner with when it comes to monetizing your podcast.

A deep understanding of their audience is without a doubt a hallmark of great podcast hosts!

8. Knows Their Niche

Besides knowing their audience, and knowing their subject, great podcast hosts know their niche. They know the space they fill within their genre, and they know what makes their podcast different from others in their category.

But how does knowing your niche make you a great host? Well, because a clear understanding of what makes you unique allows you to capitalize on this, and really carve out your own unique space. It helps you craft episodes that strengthen your brand, that strengthen your authority, and help define your community from others. You can quote us on this…a host that really knows their niche is on the path to podcast greatness!

9. Seeks Out The Best Guests

Great hosts know that great guests can make their show great! But they also know that a bad guest can tank your downloads, or worse, your follower/subscriber numbers!

If you’re just letting anyone who says yes share the mic with you, you could be watering down your valuable content or tarnishing your authority. So great hosts know how to seek out the best guests for their audience. Remember, just because you admire someone, it does not necessarily mean they will be a good fit for your podcast.

Your guests also need to add value to your audience. If they are inexperienced with the podcasting format, poor communicators, or perhaps don’t have the level of expertise and knowledge your guests have come to associate with your podcast, perhaps they’re not the right guest for right now.

Also, even if someone has asked to be featured on your show, you need to consider whether or not they are the right fit. Remember, you know your audience! Now, think about what they want! Is this guest going to help them and provide them with the information they need? If the answer is “no”, don’t be afraid to decline their offer.

Great hosts ask these tough questions and to really find guests that will make their podcast great.

Related Post: How Do I Recruit New Guests for My Podcast?

10. A Preparation Expert

A great host is one who prepares! Believe me, no matter how “easy-breezy” a host sounds on the mic, they are not winging it! They have put the time and effort in to make it all sound effortless. And that’s why we say that a great host is a preparation expert!

They script their episodes, they thoroughly prepare before each and every episode, and they’ve spent time practicing their delivery and honing their craft!

They’ve also prepped their interview questions well in advance and sent these to their upcoming guest, giving them the time they need to also prepare thoroughly so that they shine on the episode. Because this means that the listeners get the best content!

11. Sets Guests at Ease

And while we’re focusing on interview podcast hosts, what makes a great host in this genre is the ability to put your guests at ease. Because when you’re able to calm any nerves your guest may have, and really make them feel comfortable and at ease, you’re going to get their best.

So as was mentioned above, give your guests your questions well-in-advance, so they know what to expect and can prep some killer answers.

Another insider tip is to schedule more time than you will need for the actual interview. Use this time before the interview starts to get your guest set-up in a relaxed manner, and not in a rush. Ask some ice-breakers or fun questions to help get them in the podcast zone and set the tone for a great, engaging interview

Just be sure to record these, as you never know what golden nuggets you’ll get when you’re just having some fun!

12. Encourages Respectful Debates

A great podcast host, particularly hosts of interview podcasts, are able to encourage and facilitate debates with calmness and respect.

Not every guest you have on your show is going to share your views. And that’s okay! It can make for some of the best interviews…if the interview knows how to handle these types of “conflicts” with respect.

Even if you feel that you’re on the same wavelength with your guest, or even your co-host, every conversation as the potential to go really well…or really badly! You’re dealing with different people, who have different emotions, which can vary by the day, depending on what else is going on in their lives.

The differences is okay – it just matters how you handle and navigate these. Listeners often really enjoy a lively debate – looking at things from different angles can give tons on insight into a topic – but this only happens when there is an environment of respect.

A great host knows how to guide these debates and encourage them to be respectful of all sides, without any feeling hurt or that they “lost” during the conversation.

13. Creates Killer Episode Titles

Now onto something that lies beyond the actual recording, because great hosts don’t stop being great when they stop recording!

Great hosts understand what leads to a successful podcast once an episode hits cyberspace. They know how to craft killer episode titles because they know that first impressions matter! Great hosts pay attention to titles and show notes, making sure that these hook potential listeners and draw them listeners in.

They also pay careful attention to their show notes, making engaging, enticing, and containing all the necessary information. They also always ensure that all the links are there – particularly those relating to their guests!

BONUS!

Besides writing killer episode titles that are SEO rich, a great podcast host is also one who ticks all the boxes when they launched their podcast. Their podcast description is clear, concise, and contains the necessary keywords (without keyword stuffing!), their artwork is on point, they’ve submitted their podcast to all the top directories, and their with the right podcast host for their needs.

(Psst…if you haven’t quite ticked all the above boxes, it’s okay! But go and make sure you’ve covered all your bases now…this post will be here when you’re done.)

14. Uses Social Media to Their Advantage

Another characteristic of a great podcast host is their clever use of social media. Specifically, it’s their ability to use social media not only as a means of successfully promoting their podcast, but as a way to build even deeper connections with their audience, share their content in new and engaging ways, build their brand, and showcase their unique personality.

There is no getting away from the fact that social media is one of the best ways to build a brand. Great podcast hosts recognize this, but they also know how to use it specifically for their audience. They know the type of content their audience wants, they know the platforms that their audiences use, and they use this knowledge as a way to really connect with their listeners, beyond the mic.

Related read: Social Media Marketing Options for Podcasts

15. Authentic and Real

Finally, but possibly most importantly, a great podcast host is someone who is authentic and real. They are true to themselves and their show. They know who they are, they know what they offer, and this comes across with each and every episode.

But most importantly, a great podcast host is one who shows their real selves. They are not trying to be someone else. They don’t imitate other hosts (which can be really uncomfortable for listeners!) or pretend to be someone they are not, or wish they were.

What sets your podcast apart from everyone else’s is you. Own this, own and hone everything that makes you you. And you’re going to be one great podcast host!

In Conclusion

And there you have it, the 15 characteristics we believe are traits of great podcast hosts. But as we said in the beginning, these traits are really skills. And the great thing about skills is that they can be learned, developed, and strengthened!

So take stock of what you do well, and remind yourself of all that makes you unique, and then put in the time and effort to hone your skills, and turn yourself into the best podcast host you can be!

What do you think makes a podcast host great? What characteristics did we miss? Share with us, and your fellow podcasters, in the comments!

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