Taking a step out of Podcast-land for a moment, I’d like to share what my daughter’s soccer coach told her team:
Learning a skill goes from…
To consciously incompetent…
To consciously competent…
To unconsciously competent…
(This is known as the four stages of learning, but I prefer to think of it as Coach’s Advice.)
In this case, he was teaching them the Maradona spin move. But it's applicable to everything in life—including hosting a podcast.
Let’s take a look at how:
Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence (also known as “We don’t know what we don’t know”)
This is the stage where a lot of clients start. Most clients are first-time podcast hosts. (Welcome to podcast-land!) They often have heard other podcasts they like and have an idea of what they want their podcast to be about, but they aren’t sure what to do with that idea. At this point, they’re in the first stage of the skill-learning process. And that’s a nice place to be: Excited about a new adventure.
When we meet with clients in Stage 1, we help set some structure for their soon-to-exist podcast by talking through their podcast’s focus and tone, potential guests and some nuts and bolts like recording and release cadence, setting up a recording space (if needed) and the podcast artwork, title and description.
Next we’re ready to start the real work.
Stage 2: Conscious incompetence (a.k.a. “We know that we don’t know”)
Now, the planning of the episodes begins—followed by the recording. This is when the host starts to learn more about what’s involved in good hosting. The second stage is where you become aware that you don’t really know what you’re doing. And it may be uncomfortable.
That’s fine; we’re here to help you. We’ll talk through why you chose your specific guests and how their stories serve your podcast’s goals. We’ll help script questions, ensure you and your guests’ recording set-ups are optimal, and we’ll try to keep you calm and conversational during the recording.
And don’t fret. Our producers can edit out mistakes and do-overs. Even the pros get a mulligan or three.
Stage 3: Conscious competence (a.k.a. “We work at what we don’t know”)
This is where we practice and coach the most. It takes a lot of effort to sound effortless—and like you’re not reading. At this stage, the host may still be thinking too much—but now aware of it and closer to making it all second nature.
This is a good time to focus on making your intros really shine. The intro is critical; you need to hook your listeners quickly or they’ll simply leave. We won’t let that happen—which may mean re-recording the intro to excite listeners about what’s to come and why they’ll want to stick around to hear it.
Stage 4: Unconscious competence (a.k.a. “We don’t have to think about knowing it”)
This is the stage when the hosts start to truly engage with their guests, drawing out their story for the listener to hear. They get comfortable with the mic, while listening to their guests and asking probing follow-up questions—and also with letting silence exist.
The key to success in any of these stages is patience. Learning a new skill is hard. Learning a new skill that you’ll be showing the public is even more intimidating.
Don’t worry. We’re here to support you. You’re not expected to Maradona on your own.