The last few weeks have been filled with writing scripts, relearning software, and rigging up soundproofing materials.

It’s podcast time again.

The first episode of the ‘Tickets‘ podcast feels like a long time ago now. Since then I’ve produced 40 or podcast episodes, but with a 12-month gap since last picking up the mic and booting up the edit suite, there was a bit of rust to shake.

Here are a few lessons I learned (and relearned) from recording the first episodes of Under the Current, which published this week.

1. Put 80% of your prep into the first 20% of the episode

The Pareto principle is everywhere. Now, the first 20% of your episode may only be a few minutes long, but finding that right jumping-off point can make all the difference. And the first 20% also includes getting the recording setup in place and welcoming the guest in before the tape rolls. Those small things matter.

2. Turn up the energy

Speaking of 20%, look to turn your natural energy up by this amount. You don’t want to become a caricature, but it’s easy to start a touch flat (or to at least be perceived as such). This tip is definitely worth taking on board if you’re naturally quieter or more introverted.

3. Pause for a cause

Conventional wisdom says that pauses should always be minimised after guests respond. However, like with much conventional wisdom, in some cases it’s worth dropping. Instead, embrace the pause. The very best answers deserve some space.

4. Converse, don’t recite

It’s really easy to get pulled into just punting question after question, sticking to the script. It’ll work ok for a while, but soon you’ll feel the staccato style start to stick. Instead, don’t be afraid to converse: find new grooves and paths to explore; play tennis instead of being a serve machine; think improv jazz rather than classical recital.

5. Always be ready to reshuffle the deck

And just like jazz, you need to shift and riff. The deck of questions, whatever size or shape it is, is always going to need a shuffle or three. And just like cards, you want to think a move or two ahead. Yes, mixed metaphors, but who’s counting?

6. Diving deep scuba-style needs a lot more practice than snorkeling

Even if you’re not seeking to delve into deep parts of the human psyche, it’s worth noticing when and where you’re going deeper. Deeper follow-ups and more involved probing questions can get missed, less fail to land well, especially when you don’t have much practice in doing so. Just like going out on the water, the deeper dives takes more practice.

7. Don’t forget that, in the end, you’re both just humans

A couple of my first episodes were with guests I found a little intimidating. It’s easy to find yourself putting guests on a pedestal, backing away on certain questions, being nervous to converse, or hesitant to move the conversation along if it starts to wander or sag. There are a bunch of tactics you can try to remedy these challenges, but I’ve found the most valuable thing to remember is that everyone is just another human being. Same needs, wants, concerns, desires. Wherever we are in the game of life, some things stay the same.

7 podcast hosting lessons

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