Proper Etiquette for Hosting a Podcast Guest

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Having someone on your podcast can be an amazing experience for everyone. Through the world of podcasting, strangers have developed friendships, people have given life-changing stories, insights, and advice. Oftentimes, if it’s a great experience the guest is happy to return in the future and even open up their network to help progress your podcast. This is usually a best-case scenario. If the experience is a lousy one it can have a much different result.

The Bad Experience:

Now imagine this in a role-reversal. You are on a podcast as a guest, the first thing that they do is show up late, start recording right away and without hardly knowing what you’re even going to be talking about, they introduce you and don’t even get your name right. They ask questions that you aren’t an expert in and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with what you’re an expert in and why you thought that you were going on the podcast for. The host repeatedly cuts you off and wraps up the podcast. You’ve gained nothing from this experience, and you didn’t really enjoy doing it. Believe it or not, some people never think about what it will be like from the guest’s perspective. The experience in the example above could have been much better had the host had followed some of the following tips:

Give a Heads-Up:

When booking your guest, you should let them know what to expect on your podcast. Letting them know things such as if they will be on camera is always something you should mention ahead of time. They will likely want to dress accordingly. Is the podcast usually a two-hour show? Make sure they know if you plan on having a long-form discussion. It’s not a bad idea to make them aware of what topics you actually want to discuss. You may want to ask the guest beforehand if there is anything that they don’t want to discuss. For example, perhaps there are ongoing lawsuits that they can’t get into details about for legal reasons. It’s fairly common practice that a podcast will be shared with the guest prior to the release for them to listen to first and they may ask you to edit out something.

Know Who Your Guest is:

Your guest will be impressed if you’re vastly aware of who they are, their business, etc. It creates a deeper dialogue that you wouldn’t be able to get into had you not done the proper research. If you don’t have a good understanding of what that person does, or what you brought them on your show to talk about, they might start second-guessing why they are there in the first place. It helps to book extra time at a studio or meet up with the guest beforehand. This helps to get your guest comfortable; especially if you’ve never met them before. Not everyone is like yourself, and just because you might be very comfortable behind a microphone (and maybe a camera), your guest may not be. This could be your guest’s first experience on a podcast and they might feel nervous and intimidated. By giving yourself a chance to get to know each other beforehand will help them open up more and feel more comfortable on the podcast. When you know your guest well enough, before the podcast begins, you can mention a commonality. A mutual friend or shared experience can really get their mind at ease, and relax them into a more natural conversation. Some people prefer not to know everything about a person before they begin to chat. This is all based on personal preference. At a bare minimum, you should know what it is that you wanted this person on your podcast to talk about. If you want to wait for the podcast to learn more about that person specifically, then having general knowledge around the topics you will be covering could be beneficial.

Be Punctual:

If you’re meeting your guest in person, don’t arrive late. It’s awkward, it’s not polite, and your guest might have somewhere to be afterward. If you’re meeting somewhere like here at Toronto Podcast Studio, let them know the address and unit number. Letting them know about parking, or any other directions that could be useful are also helpful.

Listen to Your Guest:

Cutting off your guest is not a great habit to get into. Your time will come for stories and for discussion. If you don’t let your guest finish their thoughts and stories they will get annoyed. It happens though, and you may catch yourself talking over and louder. If you catch yourself, be aware of what you’re doing. You may even apologize, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Be aware and improve to be a better host. It won’t be very pleasant for the listener either when there are two people talking at the same time over each other and it even gets confusing. You brought your guest on to listen to their stories and expertise, so be mindful and try not to interrupt. Have you ever listened to someone tell a story and it reminds you of a story you have? Then you hold onto that story in your mind and you’re barely listening, waiting for a pause so that you can get your story in. This is another bad habit that you can get trapped in. When you are in your own head thinking, you’re not listening and you won’t be giving follow-up questions. If you want them to dive deep into a topic or a story, you need to listen to what they are saying and have curiosity rather than trying to tell your own stories. 

Something for Your Guest:

Prior to recording, people will often ask their guests if they would like coffee or water. This always makes for a nice gesture. It’s not necessarily needed and everyone has a different budget, but spending two dollars on a coffee for an hour or more of someone's time is a pretty good deal! During the podcast, give your guest a platform to promote themselves. Ask them, “Where can people find you?” is simple and a great way for the guest to get out there and help grow their platform. It’s debatable whether to do this at the start or end of a podcast. It may be more natural at the end, but during a long-form interview, some listeners may not make it the whole way. I’ll leave this up to you to decide where it makes the most sense for your own show. Following the interview, if you have any items branded with you or your podcast, this too makes for a nice gesture giving something to your guest. 

Thank your Guest:

A “thank you” can go a very long way. Simply sending them a text message, e-mail, or a thank-you card letting them know you appreciate that they were on your podcast will definitely help if you ever needed to interview them again or in the worst-case scenario, you need to re-record.

A Happy Guest is a Good Guest:

We’ve seen both great and not so great experiences people have had with their guests. When the guest leaves happy and enjoyed the discussion, they are much more likely to help promote the podcast. They will want to see your podcast succeed. The same is true for someone who had a bad experience. Chances are they won’t help you promote your podcast and they won’t be available again in the future. Remember that their time is just as valuable to themselves as your time is to you.

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