How to work with a podcast co-host the right way

Working with a co-host can be one of life’s great joys….if it’s the right person.  If it’s the wrong person it can be as fun as performing surgery on yourself with a corkscrew.

When you’re thinking about starting a podcast, working with someone can seem like an easy option, especially if you’ve never hosted anything before.  After all, sitting across from another warm body means you don’t have to deal with the awkwardness of presenting a show in an empty room.

But while there are plenty of advantages to having a podcasting partner in crime, there are a few things you should consider before jumping in the deep end…

Is your potential co-host afraid of commitment?

When you ask someone “Would you like to do a podcast with me?” the answer will almost always be “YES!”  Why?  Because it sounds exciting!

This is often because people have a romantic view of what it’ll be like.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to chat with one of their closest mates once a week and entertain hoards of fans on the internet?  Problem is those hoards can take a while to show up.  In fact, the only way to get them to show up and eventually turn your podcast into a business is to keep delivering quality content, week after week, even if your only listeners are your mum and some random guy who accidentally subscribed to your show.

Since this is a big (and often long term) commitment, both you and your co-host need to WANT to do the show and enjoy putting it together even if no one is turning up.  If you’ve got good solid content that provides value, people will come eventually but there’s no way to predict when that will be so until then you’ve got to love doing it.  If you start your show as a double act, you’ll want to keep it that way, which is why you need to be realistic about exactly what is required from the start and if only one of you is onboard, it’ll feel like a job (and an unpaid one at that) real quick.

Don’t let your chemistry make you lazy

Great chemistry is a blessing and a curse. With many shows, the relationship between co-hosts is what people get attached to.  So if you’re lucky enough to find someone you bounce off in a way that excites both you and your listeners then grab that person and hold on tight.

But, while this is great you need to be careful you don’t get complacent.  One of the great things about working with someone you have great chemistry with is that on your off days, you’ll still find a way to deliver great content because you pick up each others slack, but sometimes it’s easy to rely on that.

Just because you’ve got someone to lean on doesn’t mean you don’t need to do as much work preparing and planning each show and at the end of the day while chemistry is amazing and a rare thing it can’t be the only thing you give your listeners.  If it is, they’ll stay for a while but they’ll eventually realise this is more about you than it is about them.

Don’t forget who you’re doing the show for

When you’re doing a show with a co-host it can be easy to forget about the audience.

While it’s great to engage and entertain your co-host, if you focus too much on them it’s easy to make the listener feel left out.  I’ve heard some shows do 15 minutes of ‘talking amongst themselves’ before they’ve even gotten into content and while it might feel fun at the time, to the listener it just feels like they’re back in the playground being ignored by the cool group.

Even if you don’t mean to be self-indulgent it’s easy to sound that way when you’re with a co-host so don’t forget about the people you’re there to serve.

But what if I really really really want a co-host?

Well, if you’re this far through the article and still keen as mustard to work with a co-host here are a few ways to get the most out of that arrangement…

Use hand signals

While some people think waving your hands around in a studio is only for those who’ve still got the audio training wheels on, using hand signals is the mark of a true professional.

o make a show sound professional with co-hosts, the conversation has to be seamless.  There shouldn’t be any moments where you’re talking over each other and when one person finishes a sentence the next should effortlessly start.  The best way to achieve this, even if you’ve been working with someone for a long time, is with hand signals.

Often when you’re recording a show an idea will strike you while someone else is talking. The natural response is to interject so you don’t miss the opportunity to offer up your piece of conversational gold.  And while this is fine in the pub when you’re chatting with mates, on the radio or in a podcast it sounds messy.  So when inspiration strikes while your co-host is mid-way through a monologue, a subtle raise of the hand can let them know “when you’re done, I’ve got something to add to that.”  That way they can finish their train of thought secure in the knowledge they’re not going to be trampled all over.  And when they’re done a subtle point your way can indicate it’s your time to take the stage.  To people who can’t see what’s going on it’ll sound like perfect conversational simpatico even if it looks like you’re trying to direct a plane.

Put in equal effort

Nothing breeds resentment like one person showing up for an hour a week to record and doing absolutely nothing outside of that.

There’s a lot of work that goes into a podcast from planning, recording, editing, uploading and engaging your audience via social media so it’s important to have a discussion at the beginning to work out who’s doing what.  If your co-host is happy to edit the show (which can take A LOT of time) then make sure you’re picking up the slack somewhere else.  For the show to be at it’s best every week, it’s important you both feel like equal partners and that no one feels like they’re carrying the weight alone.

Your number one goal should be to make your co-host sound amazing

This is the single most important rule when working with co-hosts and one i swear by.  I’ve worked in a few shows over the years with co-hosts who’s only interest is how much air time they’re getting and how funny they sound at the expense of others.  Without fail, every one of those shows has been a disaster that didn’t last (thank God).  The reason for this is that people don’t like listening to someone trying to throw another person under the bus.  Even in shows where there’s a fall guy or someone who’s the butt of the jokes, you can only listen if it sounds like they’d all still want to go for a beer together after the show.

If you’re both aiming to make each other sound great you can’t fail.  Sometimes you’ll plan things that won’t be as exciting as you thought, sometimes you’ll have an off day and you’ll feel like you’re nowhere near hitting your stride.  If your co-host is right there to pick you up every time, and vice versa you’ll always have a good show and your listeners will respond to your camaraderie by coming back for more.

Find someone who ticks all those boxes and you’ve got the perfect person to be by your side as you leap off the podcasting cliff (to a much safer landing than these two).

Rachel Corbett is a writer, radio/TV presenter and podcaster.  When she’s not commenting on TV, chatting on the radio or writing for print and online she works as a coach, helping businesses and individuals start their own podcast, write better articles and create better content. Find out more on her website.

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