I settled in to start laundry and wash dishes. I didn’t mind though 一 it was podcast time. Even better, my favorite podcast should have released its weekly episode by now, which meant it would be ready to entertain me as I trudged through chores. I opened my podcast app, but the episode wasn’t there. I kept checking. Still not released. Finally, hours later, it was released. 

During the episode, the host explained why the episode was late. She got locked out of her house just before the recording was supposed to start, which inevitably delayed the production and release of the episode. She recounted the tale of all she had to go through to get herself back in for the recording, which took much longer than she anticipated. She laughed about it, apologized, and moved on.

I laughed with her, and at that moment, I remembered the times I had gotten locked out and the chaos that ensued as I rushed to return to the day’s obligations. It was nice knowing the host was human just like me.

The host could’ve not given any reason why the episode release was late and no one would’ve batted an eye. But she let her human show, and in doing so, she opened the door for listeners to identify and connect with her. It’s this authentic connection that keeps us listeners coming back.

The Power of Authenticity

Authenticity in a podcast is what keeps listeners returning. I love the stories shared in the podcasts I listen to weekly. But other podcasts share similar stories, and they do produce quality content. I tried listening to them, but I never returned. I returned to my favorite shows because they are some of the few where the hosts let their personalities shine through the content, making it personable to the listener.

At Voxtopica, we always emphasize that the ultimate purpose of your podcast exists to provide value to your listeners. We aren’t just talking about valuable information. We also mean giving them a valuable human connection. Authenticity gives them this value.

Why you need to be authentic in your podcast

Being authentic may seem like the “unprofessional” thing to do, especially if you are representing a larger organization or company. But authenticity is actually what makes podcasting so appealing. Authenticity allows the listener to enter a space and time where they can connect with a personable, like-minded person. In this digital age, we’re all craving connection. 

We love hearing the human in the hosts we follow 一 their quirks, flaws, and personality. Why? Because we have quirks and flaws 一 it connects us. Listeners typically do not want a perfect, polished host. When you are true to who you are, and you don’t try to cover up your personality and quirks with robot cookie-cutter talk, you get a chance to connect with your audience in a way that other types of communications can’t.

Can your podcast achieve its goals without authentic human connection?

Maybe. But authenticity can make content come alive in a way that retains listeners, simply because they love the content and feel connected to the host, making them fans of the show. It’s easy to get lost in the tone and voice of “radio talk” or as if you’re presenting to Congress. But this results in cookie-cutter talk, and listeners don’t identify with that. You can still bring your authentic, human self into your podcast and maintain professionalism.

When your audience feels connected to the host, they are more likely to feel that they have a personal connection to your organization and mission. Authenticity in podcasting is an incredible way to create important relationships with the audience your organization is trying to reach.

How to be authentic

Hosting a podcast is a performance. You are putting on a show that has to deviate from your authentic personality to some degree to maintain a sense of credibility and professionalism. 

But you also don’t have to talk like a news anchor to achieve a high-quality show. Maybe your listeners actually want to hear how you talk and interact with people as if you were at a happy hour with friends. 

Here are some practical tips:

  1. Ask: Is what I’m saying and how I’m saying connecting with the listener? Am I being true to myself? Or am I trying to cover up my personality?
  2. Own up to mistakes and things you got wrong or misspoke about. Your listeners are human. They make mistakes, too. 
  3. Embrace when things don’t go as planned. Especially in remote recordings, things can go awry — children cry, and sirens wail. Don’t get frustrated. Embrace the reality, joke about what’s happening — it’s likely your listeners are experiencing similar distractions, so they’ll understand. 
  4. Share a personal story that shows your human side, gives value to your listener and is cohesive and relevant to the content of your episode. Just keep it real and meaningful.
  5. Don’t try to force a radio or congressional testimony voice. Speak like you would with a friend. If you are worried that Congress members or staffers may be listening, consider this: do you really think they want to hear someone talking like that all the time? They’re human too. 

Planning and preparation are important for authenticity

Being authentic doesn’t mean you don’t plan your content and go rogue, so you can display your most true self in every episode. Practice, preparation, and rehearsal actually give you the time to become comfortable and familiar enough with the content so that you can understand how you, personally, relate and how you can present it authentically. Don’t overthink it. Just be yourself and give your audience value through the content and the connection you make with them.