Aside from inviting interesting guests and crafting an engaging discussion, podcasters must constantly keep their enthusiasm at high levels. If podcasting energy is way too low, expect the audience to get bored and jump into other shows instead. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard share tips on how podcasters, whether they are doing a solocast or co-hosting with another person, should improve on this aspect without faking their personalities or coming across as trying hard to be relatable. They also talk about the careful use of AI tools when editing podcasts to avoid making episodes that sound too artificial.
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Staying Enthusiastic: How To Keep And Improve Your Podcasting Energy?
In this episode, we’re going to talk about the energy of podcasting.
It’s more than just energy. We’re talking about staying enthusiastic and how to keep and improve your podcasting energy because it comes through the microphone. I don’t know how to get this across enough. It’s like I’m not faking this personality that’s coming through the microphone. It comes from your place, the intentions, and the energy that you start from. I care about this all the time and I talk about this. I can completely tell the difference between someone who has the right energy and mindset from listening to their episode.
I would argue that audience can tell if you’re smiling or if you’re not by listening to you. I believe that personally. I can tell with an awful lot of podcasters or certainly, I have a belief depending on their energy that they are not happy doing this.
Everybody has a bad day. I can remember a couple of times when we had an interview for WTFFF?!. Because we were doing five days a week, we had a lot of episodes to record. It was stressful, and took up a lot of time within the week because we already had client work and other things that we were doing. Podcasting was sometimes an interruption. We’d be having a design argument debate, which is how we design.
We’d be having that, then we’d have to switch our energy and have an interview with someone and not have this argument pop up Zoom. Although, in those days, it was Skype, and not have that hostility or stress come across the microphone and come across the episode completely, but come across the guest as well. They don’t need to feel that you don’t want them there.
Do you know the expression “phoning it in?” You can tell when a podcast host who’s interviewing guests has not done their homework, has not researched the guest, wasn’t very prepared, and they’re literally phoning it in, or even those podcasts that are very formulaic. They always ask the same question every single time.
I have a no list of shows I won’t appear on. The three top things on the no list are, first, if they ask the same questions every time. The second one is if they’re the host but they only do the introduction and somebody else executes the interview. I refuse to go on those shows. My third one is that if they make you pay. I think they’re bad shows. I don’t accept that. It comes across badly to the audience when you have all paid guests and that’s what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be the guest on one of those. That’s like your business to do that. It’s just not how I want to guest and show up. I want to authentically show up.
That could be a whole other subject for a whole other episode.
Those are my three absolute noes on it. It’s just that. The other thing is that sometimes you can’t tell when someone invites you on the show. You have to listen and check it out to find out that it’s on that no list. I can’t always tell. I have to check that out. Somebody will reach out to me. Maybe I got them on PodMatch, but I will go and listen to a couple of shows because you can’t always tell formulaic shows from one episode. You have to listen to a couple to know that’s what they’re doing.
That’s true. It does.
I do have a minor role that I will rarely if ever come on a show that’s under ten minutes.
That’s not enough time to take any decent dive into a topic. Ten minutes is too short.
It’s too short for the way that I work through my message and how I connect with an audience. It might be perfectly fine for you but that’s my own. It’s not a real rule. It’s not worth it.
Let’s talk about an example. Can we do that, Tracy? An example of a show that has this energy that is infectious and keeps you involved.
Are you going to talk about The Clip Out?
That would be my choice.
Let’s cover that next. I was thinking of a solo host. You’re talking about co-hosts. Co-hosts have a different energy, so let’s cover that in a minute. I’m talking about a solo host. If he does some of his own episodes and has interviews, but this guy is passionate about his topic. It comes through in his energy and is amped up. I am almost like, “Oh my goodness.” Sometimes, “What are you on?” It’s just his personality. It’s Merrill Chandler of Get Fundable! We have each been on his show.
If you heard him speak live or taken his bootcamp, it’s the same. He is who he is.
He just has that energy, and it comes through it.
That’s the Get Fundable! Podcast. That’s Merrill Chandler. He has got well-over 100 episodes.
Maybe approaching 200.
His energy from early episodes all the way through to the current is very similar. That makes a difference. It’s harder for hosts to do solo shows and have the same energy that they have in an interview because there’s an interplay of, “I’m showing up for you and I’m interviewing you, so I’m engaged and I’m talking with you.”
That is an easier place to have more enthusiasm and to have the right energy level because it’s human nature that we show up for other people, pay attention, listen, and do that. When we’re doing a solo show, we can get so in our own heads that we don’t have that energy. Merrill is brilliant at picturing the audience. He knows who his ideal audience is. He knows he’s talking to them. When I listen, I feel like he’s talking to me. That’s the brilliant part if you get the energy right.
His topic has so many details to it that are un-understood, unknown, or unseen concerns to the audience who’s often uninformed or a newbie in his topic but he has this way.
He has this way of highlighting something, emphasizing it, and making sure that you don’t miss an important point or a key takeaway. That’s part of his energy that does that. Anyway, even if you’re not the slightest bit interested in his topic but as a podcaster, if you want to hear an example of a very high energy level, check out Get Fundable! Podcast for five minutes of an episode. You’ll hear quickly what we’re talking about.
Early on, we were offered to be on a podcast when we started our 3D print one. We got asked for one. I used it as an example from the stage so often. I would play the audio for people so that they could hear the difference in energy level between our show to this guy’s show. He was like asleep, and you could hear all this background noise and this crackling. It was unprofessional.
It had no enthusiasm and energy. There was nothing in it that would make you want to listen to the show. He wanted us to come to the show. I made a bunch of excuses because I didn’t want to dampen a new podcaster, but at the same time, I was like, “This isn’t going to get better.” Sometimes people are nervous in the early days.
You didn’t want to be associated with that poor quality of a show. It wasn’t going to represent us well and the person didn’t have self-awareness, I think. Anyway, I don’t know. I feel like looking back on it, maybe we should have been a little more candid with him as to why we wouldn’t be on the show.
Now, we would, but back then, we didn’t have a podcasting business.
That’s true. I’m seeing things through a different lens now of trying to help make your podcast a little better.
We work with coaches and trainers on this. There is this solo energy that you have and bring to it. I do it this way. You can have tactics and methods for how you do this. Actors have a different model. There’s a reason we don’t recommend that you write a script, read a script, or read your questions. It’s because you’re not experienced at this. I think Jason Bateman is hilarious. He’s so funny. In any movie, I will watch him read or perform a script because he’s hilarious and great at it.
If you’ve ever listened to his podcast, you’re going to know that he can do it as well without a script. You don’t have to rely on it and he’s even funnier. That’s a major skill. This is why we don’t recommend this for those of you who don’t have years of experience doing what you would call table reads in the Hollywood industry and in entertainment.
You’re reading through something with energy at a table read while you’re reading the script. There’s no way you’re going to memorize the script, execute it, and act it. That’s not going to happen at the time of producing a podcast. Not even the podcasters I know that do scripted shows have enough time to rehearse and memorize it. They just don’t.
They’re always going to be reading it and there’s a different energy level with reading it that is lower unless you are so experienced in this. We don’t recommend it because we’re trying to make sure that you don’t have false energy. I’m going to call it suppressed energy because of the action of reading. That’s why we don’t recommend that there. In order to get an energy level, you might need a process for yourself.
I’ve heard of podcasters who do breathing exercises. Sometimes they do it right on air with their guests. I’ve done it with people before. They do a breathing exercise, set an intention, and put themselves in the moment. That might be something for you. A second option that I’ve heard from lots of radio people is to stand. I have a standing desk. I never use it but I could do it that way. I have plenty of energy sitting. Maybe don’t want me standing. It might be worse like, “Tracy, you could be off the chart.” Merrill stands. I’ve seen him. He stands when he does it.
He does stand a lot. You move your hands so much when you talk because it’s who you are. I can’t imagine what you do if you stood while you talk.
I know. I’m probably moving my feet too.
We’d have trouble keeping you in range of the microphone. To add one point when you’re talking about reading a script. The way that I often hear that it comes across when people read a script and the way I describe it is that it ends up sounding mechanical. It sounds not natural and authentic, which is a killer quality of a podcast. A killer meaning bad, not a good quality of a podcast. I know some people use, “That was killer,” as a good thing. That wasn’t what I meant there. It comes across very mechanical and it doesn’t flow well. It’s not going to work.
There’s an exception. Sometimes I read people’s bios because I want to make sure I don’t get it wrong but it’s going to be a minute of it. The audience knows it because I’m going to be like, “Let me read this for you.” They’re tuned into it. I’m being honest about it. That can happen, fluctuating throughout a show. Your energy level could change. Because you’re doing that, you want to get it right. That’s okay.
It has happened sometimes where I’m referencing an article and I’m quoting something from it. I will be upfront about it. Say, “Everybody, there’s this article I read and it makes a great point. I want to read you this little portion here.” I’m being in context. It’s obvious I am reading something. For that paragraph I’m reading, if I sound different, it’s understandable. At the end of the day, that’s fine. That’s still authentic. You’re just not reading a script for the whole thing.
A show that is all that can have a problem. I belong to this organization that has these lessons and principles and they’re about five minutes long. Each week, they put them out to you and there are 50-plus of them. I forget how many there are. There’s a lot. They put them out to us in a weekly email. When you go to them and you listen to them, they decided that they thought it would be better for them to use one of these AI voices. They wrote these lessons out because they were from a book. They took that and put it into this AI voice, which then reads it. Now they have this audio recording of this computer voice reading this lesson.
How did that go?
I thought it was awful. Part of it was that not only was it awful to listen to. It wasn’t like it was a horrible-sounding voice. It was obvious that it was fake but I could not concentrate on the lesson.
The voice was so distracting because of how the AI delivered it.When podcast hosts read from a script, it comes across as very mechanical. It sounds unnatural and inauthentic, killing the quality of the show. Click To Tweet
The voice was so flat and there was no emphasis. There’s no enthusiasm at the right points. There’s none of that happening in the voice. What happens is that you have to listen so hard and concentrate so hard to retain and absorb that it doesn’t work. That’s what happens when you read a script and your voice ends up flat from it. It’s not as effective a result. It’s making me work harder to listen to you.
If I’m in my head working harder, I’m not emotionally receiving the results of it. I’m not feeling your episode, which is the point of podcasting because you feel with your ears. We’ve said this so many times. Malcolm Gladwell always says, “You think with your eyes and you feel with your ears.” If emotion and feeling are not coming across, it’s no better than the written word. I have to be in my head to read it, to understand it, to interpret that into a feeling for myself.
That’s where you’re not going to hit home, especially if you’re doing a business podcast, especially if your purpose is to transact something, to get them to subscribe to your audience, to become members of your group, or to sell them a book. It’s not going to happen if you are not at the right energy level that is hitting them emotionally, getting them to feel. That’s why this topic that we’re talking about, podcasting energy, is so critical.
It is critical. I love that Malcolm Gladwell quote. It is one of my favorites too because it is on point. He’s a brilliant author.
You do feel what he reads because he writes like he thinks. He writes like he feels and it comes across the written word but it comes even across more. In an interview with him, in a podcast with him, there’s an energy level that is even better.
Tracy, I can’t even imagine the energy level of that AI. They’re not even trying to program that with AI. It’s like, “Do we want to listen to Siri, Alexa, or your car GPS telling you a podcast story?” We’ve all heard how awkward even some of the pronunciation is, especially with your car GPS or even Alexa screws up sometimes on how they’re doing things. It would be flat.
That’s why they have to inject humor into Alexa. That’s why she has to have a little bit of sarcasm now and again because the way you say your words is not coming across. What the words are matter more. That means you have to be a better writer and programmer and that’s the only way to make a script work.
I’m sure you’re right, Tracy. Thinking about Alexa and some of her jokes, it ends up sounding deadpan.
That’s what they had to play too. They have to write the jokes for a deadpan model. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. Let’s talk about co-hosting because co-hosting energy is easier but also the execution is harder. There’s coordination between your co-host. There are matching you up and doing some of that. When you get it right, the energy differentials between the two of you and the way you play off of each other engages the audience. It’s what we have found to be very successful for us. It’s why I mentioned the Clip Out before.
Tom and Crystal O’Keeffe, who are the co-hosts of The Clip Out are excellent at this. They’re about 300 episodes into their show. They’ve got a great dynamic between the two of them. It’s why their show is so popular and likable because they’re very genuine real people but they’re playful. There is the banter between the two of them. It is part of what is interrogatable.
Tom is funny and you can almost hear Crystal roll her eyes. I feel like I can hear that over the microphone because they’re married. There’s that sense of that comes across from this good relationship that they have but also this like, “You’re going there again,” and she rolls her eyes. I can hear it. That’s what makes it so energetic and engaging.
I agree with you. As podcast hosts, we each do this. We have podcasts we do separately. We have podcasts we do together. The energy of us co-hosting, whether we’re interviewing somebody or it’s just the two of us talking, it’s different from each of us independently doing our own shows. To me, it’s more enjoyable to do the co-hosting part even though sometimes it’s hard to interject, to get a word in edgewise.
That can’t be my fault, right?
Never. When you’re in the same room and honestly, back in the early days of our podcasting, we were in the same room all the time. We recorded every episode of WTFFF?! in the same room. That’s 650 episodes. We have these hand signals that are off-camera because some of them were video at that time. Not all of them but we have these hand signals that no one can see.
It’s not as easy in this modern age of Zoom and you’re in a different room of our building now than I am. When I want to try to interject, it’s pretty hard without me making that obvious on the video, which is going to be used when I’m trying to do that. It’s a little more difficult to have a smooth dynamic to us but it’s still a lot more fun and the energy is different.
I remember this one episode of WTFFF?! where there was a special industry term and you were less technical than me. You were more strategic in a lot of our discussions and interviews. You used this term describing something that was wrong. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” I finally realized what you were talking about, and it was funny. I did a facepalm and I’m like, “I’m sorry, audience. She meant this.” It became a funny moment between the two, but it was fun for the audience too. I remember we got a lot of comments from the audience about that banter. They liked it.
This is what I want to say also. It’s like this interplay between you having different energy levels. We could not get more different in energy levels.
We’re very different. You speak like 200 words a minute and I’m slower and more deliberate. There are big differences.If podcast hosts read a script and end up sounding flat, the audience will have to concentrate hard to absorb what they are saying. This makes the show emotionally ineffective. Click To Tweet
That works. It works for us. Thinking about that, you don’t have to be the same. In fact, I think we tap into the energy level of the co-host. We tap into it to differentiate between the two. When we have two female voices on a show as co-hosts, it’s not the sound of the voice. It’s the energy of the voice that helps me go, “It’s host 1 versus host 2.” It helps me differentiate.
Having different energy levels is more valuable than having a different-sounding voice. That can work for you. It’s easy when you have a male voice and a female voice and you’re doing both of them. That’s easier or extreme difference in voice sounding but then you also have a different level of energy. That works too. The last thing I want to talk about, Tom, before we go, is this idea of over-editing, scrubbing, and using some of these automated AI tools.
There’s some amount efficiency level and we struggle with this across our thousand clients and checking all of their episodes. I’m hesitant to over-filter and over-scrub it unless it needs repair because it does diminish the energy level of a show and remove some of the authenticity. Some people want to remove empty spaces. The listening app lets you check a box and remove all the empty air and compress it already. Even listening to that, listeners get to choose to do that already. Even if you’re not editing to do it, they can do it on their end.
I have issues with that.
It does hurt the listening experience.
Dramatic pause, ever heard of that? Sometimes there’s a point to it and you lose that, whether you edit it out permanently or you use one of these listening apps. I’m not a fan.
When we test out some new AI or something like that, we’re always careful about whether or not it’s taking it too far and reducing the authenticity and energy of something. There are some things where sound leveling is important. There are some things where these filters can be useful. There are others where it hurts the process.
I get it. You all want to speed up the editing process, especially if you’re doing it yourself and these tools can be valuable in helping you with that. Also, think about editing less. Don’t do it as much. It’s a better experience for your audience and clearly listen to your own show. Get an experienced pair of ears and differentiate this. I do not like to get experienced audio editors to listen to my show. I want a layperson.
I want an audience member to listen to the show. I want them to tell me what they think because audio editors are so oversensitive to all the different nuances and their ears are attuned differently. It’s like someone with a perfect pitch. They cringe. Tom does this. He cringes but I can’t hear the difference between singing notes.
We’re at a theatrical performance, especially if it’s high school or something, and somebody sings a note that’s off-pitch. I can’t help but react to it. I try not to because you don’t want to make the kids feel bad. Hopefully, most of the time they can’t see you in the audience. It’s dark but it’s like fingernails on a blackboard for me.
I usually kick him. I’m like, “You don’t know if you’re sitting next to their parent.” I don’t have an ear that could hear that. This is where most of your audience doesn’t have the ear who’s attuned to that. They don’t care about that. If your podcast is for audio editors, then you better be attuned to that. If that’s not who your audience is, it doesn’t matter.
You also have to remember that I’m listening through the conversions. I’m listening through my phone. The listening experience is already dumbed down. It’s already deteriorated on that side and compressed. All those things are happening so that it’s not coming through anyway to me at super great headphones and the perfect environment. It’s great if you can afford to do it and you do that. An experienced audio editor knows not to over-edit, but these filters don’t. You have to be better at making sure that it has not detracted and ruined your energetic experience.
We routinely test some different AI tools. In fact, we’re testing a new one now. AI tools have good intentions and pretty lofty goals. We’ve been finding that a lot of them don’t deliver the promise of what AI aspires to do or those that are putting AI products out there aspire for their products to do. Maybe is a better way to say it. There’s no shortcut, in my opinion, to do some of these things with AI.
As we end here, I want to reiterate that the goal is not to have a perfect show, not to have everything you say to be perfectly worded, articulate, and amazing. If you compensate for that with making sure that you’re in the moment, you are enthusiastic and passionate about what you’re talking about and you have the right energy, it is going to compensate for everything else.
You are going to create a great show that is bingeable, that people rave about, and share with others. That’s where you’re going to get more. If you’re phoning it in, if you don’t care about this, it’s going to come across. There’s nothing you can do that is more powerful than making sure that you show up on this mic as you want to be heard on the other end.
It’s great, Tracy. Let’s drop the mic there. I couldn’t say it better. Thank you, everyone. I hope you’ve gotten some value out of this. That’s our intention. We hope you come back for the next episode. Thanks, everybody.