4 MIN READ • Attraction

The Subtle Message Every Great Show Communicates to It’s Listeners

The internal question that will drive away your listeners... unless you can definitively answer it for them.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

Think of the last time you rode as a passenger with a driver you didn’t trust.

Maybe they were driving too fast, recklessly, or inattentively.

Maybe were constantly being distracted by their phone.

Or maybe they simply didn’t know where they were going, and what should have been a 20-minute trip across town ended up taking an hour and a half.

Whatever the reason for your discomfort, the result was probably the same.

You wanted out of the car.


And perhaps, upon arriving at your destination, you vowed quietly to yourself to never get in a car with them again.

At its core, the issue was that you didn’t feel like your life—your single most precious possession—was in good hands.

While the stakes are certainly lower, the same dynamic is at play when it comes to podcasting.

As listeners, we want to know that we—and more specifically our time and attention—are in good hands.

To continue listening past the first minute—let alone the first episode—we need to trust that the host knows where they are going, the route will be interesting and enjoyable, and that the destination will be satisfying… and perhaps even surprising.

So how do you earn that trust as a host?

The best way is by having done it before.

Better yet, to have done it consistently.

But while cold, hard proof—a successful journey to a satisfying destination—is the ultimate indicator to your listeners that they are in good hands going forward, you must first earn their buy-in to ride along on that initial journey.

The process of earning listener buy-in begins before they even press play.

Your packaging, including your cover art, show title, and description set the tone and subtly communicate a lot about the quality, vision, and thought behind your show.

Each of these is a powerful indicator to potential listeners that they are in good hands with your show.

The real test, however, comes after a listener clicks play.

Over the first few minutes of an episode, your listeners are presented with a veritable wave of information.

Some of this is communicated by actual words.

Most of it is not.

Everything from your choice of music to your audio production quality, to your tone, pacing, energy, personality, and yes, word choice, communicates something about your show and the experience a listener can expect.

Awash in this deluge of data, it doesn’t take a listener long to get an intuitive sense of whether or not they are in good hands.

And while all of these factors play a role in a listener’s determination of trust in the host, the most heavily weighted consideration is—unsurprisingly—the host themselves.

Much of this has to do with whether a listener feels any kind of personal affinity with the general vibe and personality of a host.

But there are plenty of podcast hosts out there who we might like as people… but not trust with our limited time and attention.

Instead, our ability as hosts to earn buy-in has more to do with how we are on the podcast rather than who we are.

Hosts who clearly communicate that their listeners are in good hands make it immediately clear through their presence, their energy, and their language that they know what they’re doing.

That they are in control of the situation.

That they know the destination, the best route to get there, and all the potential obstacles and how to avoid them.

As listeners, this subtle confidence encourages us to relax, lean the seat back, stick our arm out the window, and let ourselves get lost in the journey.

Contrast that to a journey where we’re constantly gripping the door handle, alerting them to hazards, and checking our map to see if the driver actually knows where they’re going.

The difference comes down to psychological safety.

In one situation we’re able to let our guard down and trust our host to drive.

In the other, the lack of trust keeps our guard up and has us constantly looking for a way out.

And unlike a car speeding down the highway, the barriers to exiting a podcast are near non-existent.

Several components contribute to the type of psychological safety required for listeners to feel that they are in good hands, including:

  • Comfort — Rooted in a deep understanding of both the material being covered (your topic) and the tools used to convey it (podcasting, storytelling, communication).
  • Vision — The feeling that the host knows where they are going with the content and that they are intentionally leading listeners toward a predefined destination… specifically one that will result in a satisfying payoff.
  • Focus — The intentional exclusion of information that doesn’t serve the purpose of this episode—even though it may be related and to some extent relevant. The result is highly potent, value-dense episodes that stick with listeners.
  • Momentum — The feeling of forward movement, where each section builds on the next in a logical—though often surprising—progression without bloated sections where the content lags, gets bogged down, or sidetracked.
  • Pacing — Intentionally used to draw attention to specific topics and ideas. This might include well-placed pauses, repeated or re-articulated passages, and variations in the speed of delivery.
  • Tone — The intentional use of vocal volume, pitch, and style to emphasize sections of the episode.

Notice that these traits have nothing to do with the content itself.

Instead, they’re an interface between the ideas and the audience.

One that applies as much to interviews as solo episodes. From educational to narrative, to news.

This interface is a necessary component of maximizing the reach, connection, and impact of your ideas.

Over time, your reliance on it will lessen.

If you’re lucky, you’ll build an audience that implicitly trusts you enough to follow you sight unseen down any and every rabbit hole you deem worthy of exploration, regardless of how you present it.

But in the years before that, your job is to earn that trust by proving, episode by episode—and minute by minute—that they’re in good hands.

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