I’m a Podcast Host, and Here are the Five Biggest Mistakes Guests Make

As a podcast host (and voiceover actor), I listen to – and edit – a lot of voices. Here are the five biggest turn-offs for podcast producers and listeners.

The good news? You can fix these! Work at it, and you’ll know how to be a better podcast guest – and get invited back again.

1.Using too many “fillers”, especially “um.”

Seriously. I have spent hours trying to edit out ums and y’knows from a podcast. Sure, we’re all human – and I occasionally slip and use these myself.  But too much is – well, too much. Makes you sound uncertain, insecure, and is a great way to get listeners to stop listening, and hosts to not invite you back. I have literally spent hours removing excess ums and y’knows, and one podcast that editing took five full minutes off of a 45-minute episode. Yikes. 

How to fix this? Awareness (listen to a recording of yourself, or get a buddy and try to converse while pointing out each others’ ums)  and replacement (silence is way, way, better). Need more help? Join Toastmasters, or read this article by Debbie Fay of Bespeak Presentations.

2. Letting stories go on too long – or off track.

If you go off on tangents, listeners – and hosts – will lose interest.

How to fix it? Practice. Examine the story and see which parts of it answer the host’s questions. Every story has many purposes. Which point are you illustrating? Also – dig for the feelings involved in the story, and for the characters there. As for you? Don’t be the hero. Be the one who gets help, who learns a lesson, who is vulnerable, who made the mistake and learned from it.

3.Talking in a monotone.


The fix: This is a conversation. Let your passion, expertise, and emotions (attuned to the purpose – a business podcast is different from a personal one) show. Be yourself – don’t fake anything – but don’t put up boundaries between you and the people you’re talking to. Use the elements of your voice – emotional tone, variety of pitch and rhythm. Authenticity beats “perfection” – by a long shot. But, yes, you can be authentic and also watch those UMs. Practice makes better.

4. Terrible microphone or internet connection.

So many podcasts are recorded online today, and if you are too far from your microphone, or too close, the sound will suck. More people stop listening because of bad sound than almost any other factor. 

Likewise – a poor internet connection will make you “freeze”, and hosts will lose your words and also the flow of the conversation. 

The fix: Test out your sound. Open a voice memo app (mobile device) or recording app like garageband or audacity (computer) and see if your levels are too high or too low. Worst is “peaking” – you are so loud that the sound gets distorted. Watch your distance from the mic – think of it as someone’s ear. Or – better yet – use an external mic and learn how to use it.

As for your connection – make sure it’s solid. Best is hardwired to the network, but if your connection is wireless do a speed test if you can.


5. Poor on- camera skills. (if the podcast is on video as well).

Be off center (like we only see half of your face), have a distracting background (messy room or iffy green screen) , or look anywhere but the camera. Hard for hosts and audiences to connect with you if you don’t make eye contact or they are wondering what the rest of your face looks like.

Fix: practice. If you have any scripted things like bullet points, or a view of the hosts (think zoom), keep that near the camera so you can at least give the illusion of eye contact. Pat Lore is a great resource for learning more about being authentic, not perfect, on video.

How many of these guest mistakes apply to you? (Come on, be honest. We’re all human). Being a good podcast guest can be the key to reaching more people with your message. Worth the work!

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