While most podcasts have at least two hosts, maybe you prefer working alone. Or maybe there are weeks when your co-hosts aren’t available but, as Freddie Mercury sang, “The show must go on,” so you have to record a solo episode. There are challenges unique to solo podcasting. For many people, it’s harder than podcasting with someone else. But it isn’t an impossible task. I have ten tips that should help you become an even better solo podcaster.
1) Improve your charisma
There are two things you need in order to succeed as a solo podcaster, and one is charisma. However, improving your charisma is easier said than done. It’s not as simple as dumping stat points into it. There are plenty of books, articles, and YouTube videos out there filled with advice on how to be more charismatic. (I personally recommend the YouTube channel Charisma on Command). There are even courses you can take to make yourself more charismatic. Regardless, if you’re compelling to listen to, you can keep a listener’s attention in a solo podcast.
2) Have interesting material
The other important thing you need for a solo podcast is compelling content. Even if you aren’t the most charismatic speaker, if you have great stories or research that you share in a coherent manner, people will listen. One example is the podcast History of English. The host, Kevin Stroud, while not boring, is hardly a Hollywood actor oozing “the riz,” as the kids say. What makes his podcast great listening is the high level of research and information he shares in his episodes. He makes sure to organize it in an easy-to-understand and digestible way. Some of it is also obscure, so it almost feels like secret knowledge. Now, if you really want to blow listeners’ minds, become a charismatic speaker with great material. That’s instant gold right there. But if you can only achieve one, I’d say to prioritize great content. What’s the point of compelling but empty talk? You’ll eventually lose listeners after they see through the veneer.
3) Take notes and/or write a script
While some podcasters are good at sitting down and gabbing, I would recommend reading from notes or a script for solo episodes. This will keep you on task and mitigate editing time (which can be one of the perks of solo podcasting). This will require some prep time beforehand, but it will pay dividends in the long run. Notes allow you to still do some extemporaneous speaking, but a script can help you make sure you say exactly what you want to say. Try both and see which works best for you.
4) Practice public speaking
While podcasting isn’t exactly like standing on a podium and speechifying, public speaking techniques will help you improve as a podcaster. Understanding how to control your voice, project, and avoid time-buying words will help you overcome nervousness and make you more pleasing to hear. Self-confidence is even more important in a solo podcast episode because you have to carry it all yourself; you don’t have a co-host who can rescue you, if and when needed. Don’t let that scare you: take it as a challenge.
5) Share listener feedback
There’s a way you could have a co-host without having a co-host while also scripting at least some of your episode: share listener feedback. Whether that’s a review, an e-mail, or a YouTube comment, listeners love hearing their feedback on the air, especially when the host answers or engages with it. This will give you something to bounce off of; an invisible “co-host,” so to speak.
6) Create a gimmick
This is a wild idea, and I don’t know many podcasters who use it aside from me. A gimmick could help breakup your solo speech. In my case, I have an on-mic “producer” named Jimmy From NASA. He sounds like robot chatter on the air, but the joke is that anyone on the show can understand what he’s saying. He’ll interrupt me while I’m reading a script in a solo episode, creating the illusion of a conversation. It’s modeled after radio shows, where a producer would banter with the host. In some cases, you can’t even hear the producer speak. Again, this is uncommon, but you could try something like it.
7) Use sound effects
Similar to the previous idea, you could try spicing up your solo episode by using sound effects. I’ve become well-known for playing sound effects live as I record thanks to my soundboard. Alternatively, you could also add them during postproduction as you edit. Regardless, these could be as simple as a rimshot or a “sad trombone” for jokes or maybe some short music cues. Podcasts like Retro Rewind and The Cel Cast, who are friends of mine, are known for playing lines from the movies they review. Either way, this will help break up what might otherwise be a long-winded speech.
8) Edit where necessary
I’ve hinted at it a few times, and by this point you’re probably sick of hearing me say it, but editing works wonders. In the case of a solo podcast, you can use it to tighten up your talk, especially if you have any long pauses as you collect your thoughts. Eliminating dead air can make your solo episode snappier.
9) Keep it short…
In my experience, solo episodes tend to be shorter. That’s mostly because there’s only one person talking. But perhaps you have a Captain Picard level of the gift of gab and can talk about one thing for hours. (I have a podcast friend who claims he once talked for ten hours straight by himself as he recorded, which he says he’ll probably never release). Without someone to play off of, I would recommend keeping your solo episodes shorter so as not to overstay your welcome—unless you…
10) …or discuss multiple topics or segments
…tackle many topics. Ben Avery runs a podcast called Comic Book Time Machine, wherein he publishes multi-segment solo episodes that average about two hours. In each segment he reviews different issues of several comic books that are all linked by some sort of theme. This keeps things from getting boring, especially as he relates one comic to another, creating some continuity. Using several segments can broaden your topics and help you and your listeners switch gears before anyone gets bored.
So, if you ever find yourself alone (but hopefully not in the dark) as a podcaster, try some of these tips to keep yourself from going insane and your listeners from hitting the “Stop” button. Heck, experiment with a solo show. You may find it more rewarding than dealing with guests or a co-host. Just make sure you take the steps to make your content as compelling as possible.