In early 2021, I became the host of Kinsta’s brand new podcast, Reverse Engineered. Hosting Reverse Engineered has probably been the most fun thing I’ve done professionally this year. I’m always a little nervous before each interview, but without fail I’ve enjoyed every single conversation I’ve had. Equally important, I’ve learned a lot about being a good conversationalist and about producing compelling audio through this process.
One of the things I learned after listening to just the very first episode is that I need to be quiet when having a conversation on a podcast. Let me explain what I mean.
Active Listening is a Required Skill
Active listening is a necessary part of any engaging conversation. Active listening demonstrates that you are paying attention to the person speaking which in turn provides the speaker with encouragement and energy which they pour back into the conversation. Active listening also provides the listener with the ammunition they need to continue to move the conversation in a thoughtful and interesting direction.
In short, you’d better get good at active listening if you’re going to host a conversational podcast.
How You Listen Matters
When having a conversation with someone, one of the ways I’ve always demonstrated that I was listening intently was to offer small verbal reactions to the key points made by the other person – I’m talking about short quiet responses like “oh”, “ok”, “I see”, “wow” and so forth. In real life, these short responses, offered quietly and paired with eye contact and a nod of the head, let the person you’re speaking with know that you’re completely focused on what they’re saying. This is the very definition of active listening.
However, when listening to a podcast, these short quiet responses are incredibly annoying! Just be quiet already Jon and let the guest speak! Oops.
I only had to listen to five minutes of the first episode of Reverse Engineered to decide right then and there that I would be a lot less noisy with my active listening in the future.
How I Demonstrate Active Listening Today
Active listening is still a critical part of successfully hosting a conversational podcast, but now I rely on visual cues like eye contact (through a webcam) and lots of nodding to demonstrate where my attention is focused, and I keep my “oh”s and “right”s to myself so that my guest’s answer has your full attention when you listen to the latest episode of Reverse Engineered.