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“Too Nice” Podcasting Finishes Last –– Manage It! 
By Hendel Leiva | August 31,2020

 

I'm a huge The Office fan.

I was excited when I heard Jenna Fischer (who plays Pam) and Angela Kinsey (who plays Angela Martin) were starting a podcast called Office Ladies that would provide commentary and behind the scenes content for every episode of the series.

I settled into my car and began to listen to the launch episode.

After a good twenty minutes, I realized Jenna and Angela had come upon the "trap" beginner podcasters tend to stumble across.

I call it the "too nice, too thankful trap".

If you listen, there's a lot of "thank yous" and "happy to be here" energy –– throughout the entire episode.

It's understandable. I see it happen all the time, and more so now that the podcast world is exploding with a massive wave of new podcast hosts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Podcasting is the sweet spot of self-expression and creative control. As creators, when we get an opportunity, we are very thankful. To us, it is an achievement that people are listening to our content, or that we have secured guests for our shows.

In saying that, I used to walk into that same trap during the first couple of years of Immigration MIC . I cringe when I listen to my first (50-ish?) episodes. If I had to point out my weak spot as an interviewer, it was that I felt the need to bring a lot of excitement and energy throughout the entire interview, which ended up making it more about me than my guest. From my perspective, at the time, all I was trying to do was keep my guest entertained because I wanted them to have a memorable experience.

The good news is that the novelty of being a podcast host wears off, and you begin to take on the role of a curator. I learned to sit back, enjoy the conversation, and navigate the interview. Once I built trust with my audience, I found my interviews did not need as much of "me" as I thought.

In podcasting, being "too nice" or "too thankful” is a crutch bore of anxiety that can quickly become a trap.

Listeners like "compelling", not "nice".

This "trap" is the number one thing I address when I provide honest feedback –– the authenticity of the dynamic. Friends/ creators have turned their show around immediately when I’ve pointed this out to them, and it's made all the difference.

So how do you manage this?

  • Be thankful at the beginning, and then one more time at the end. Just like a real-world conversation. 
  • Have your questions prepared. Avoid anxiety by having an outline.
  • Think like a journalist. Transition between questions without fluff.

I want to leave you with a few examples of this in action.

On the latest Immigration MIC episode, I interviewed Women's March co-founder Paola Mendoza on the release of her upcoming book “Sanctuary” , set to come out September 1 (thank you to Lauren Passell of Tink Media ).

The interview was a big opportunity with a big name, but as you listen to the episode, you can hear how I do not allow the magnitude of the interview to intimidate me into “the trap”. I do my best to transition seamlessly between questions, I avoid fluff, and I only react to an answer if I need to put a personal touch. Remember –– as the host, you are in the driver seat.

Next, I was interviewed recently for a contribution I made to the Queens Memory Project. In this follow-up interview , I spoke with host Jordan Gass-Poore', and in it, she delivered a master class on interviewing and transitioning. Her transitions were effortless: it did not occur to me that she was pulling the best interview out of me until after –– credit to her background in investigative journalism.

And lastly, I want to return to Office Ladies. I waited ten months to listen because I wanted a fresh take.

Congratulations to Jenna and Angela: you managed it! Your dynamic is now natural, there is compelling banter, and because of how great the episode was, I watched “Traveling Salesman” right away.

Again, this is something that comes with time and experience, but the sooner you become aware of “the trap”, the sooner you can address it.

So dear creators, when it comes to transitions, stop being "too nice", and be quick, dirty, and to the point instead. You'll be thankful you did.

And to quote Michael Scott:

That’s what (us podcasters) said ;)