What really makes an awesome podcast? A great show will keep you coming back again and again, never wanting to miss an episode. You should feel entertained and informed, like you learned something and also had a great time. Whether you host your own show or you’re a frequent listener, finding a groove with a show that strikes the perfect balance can be an art form all on its own.
Jordan Harbinger is a Wall Street lawyer turned podcast interviewer known for his approachable style and his knack for frequently securing high profile guests. The Jordan Harbinger Show was selected as one of Apple’s Best in 2018, and today the show sees over 11 million downloads every month. Jordan’s show features a wide array of guests like Kobe Bryant, Dennis Rodman, Tony Hawk, Cesar Milan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Simon Sinek, and Eric Schmidt, to name a few.
In addition to hosting The Jordan Harbinger Show, he’s a consultant for law enforcement, military security companies, and is a member of North Carolina’s chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists. Jordan speaks five languages and has worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveling through warzones, and even getting kidnapped (twice). Jordan says his ability to talk his way out of, or into, any situation is the only reason he’s alive today.
During his interview on the Making Bank podcast, Jordan shares his experience developing and evolving the way he runs his podcast, with a huge emphasis on how he thoroughly preps and researches prior to each guest appearing on his show.
Have Some Character
One of the first points Jordan makes on the Making Bank show is that in the time of Larry King and talk shows on TV, the show host could take a neutral, backseat approach and let the guest of the day completely drive the conversation. The host could simply nod, gasp, and say, “Tell me more about that,” and “What was that like?”
Now, in the globalized age of social media and thousands and thousands of podcasts and video shows to choose from (and in every niche imaginable), Jordan says “everyone is Larry King Live.” Which is why, now it’s important to inject your own character and personality into your show. From a listener’s perspective, you know that’s what gives a show its life.
Listeners will return to any one podcast or video series because they’re interested in the particular style and energy of that show, and by association, its host. A good podcast will have interesting guests and a unique discussion. It’s up to the host of the show to make it great, and the easiest way to do that is to let your own personality really shine.
Everything Should Have “Nutrition”
Jordan also believes that a great show balances entertainment with education. He says, on his own show, he never wants his listeners to leave and think, “that was cool.” He wants them to leave an episode thinking, “that was cool, and also I’m totally gonna use that one thing they said.” There should be a good, vivid story to keep the listener engaged, but there should be some meat to it that they can take with them into their own lives.
He calls this idea “hiding the broccoli,” where the wisdom and insight to any episode is the broccoli, and you can dip it into the “cheese sauce” of a good story or a layer of comedy or a really unique conversation. Without feeling like listeners just sat for a lecture, Jordan says “everything should have some nutrition to it.”
This is one reason that comedy podcasts can be so successful, he explains. The guest can bring something heavy, or technical, or inspiring to the show, and the comedian host can cover it in funny “cheese sauce” so the listeners are entertained as much as they are learning something.
Invest in Extra Time for Interview Prep
Jordan estimates he spends anywhere from 10-15 hours researching and preparing for every interview with every guest on The Jordan Harbinger Show. If they’ve published a book, he reads the book. He reads current articles and gets a finger on the pulse of whatever field that guest specializes in, and really familiarizes himself as much as possible with their background, beliefs, and experiences prior to the interview.
This way, he says, he can be an active participant in the conversation. He can ask guests to elaborate on a certain chapter in their book, or comment on a recent article published in their field. By doing this, he signals to the guest that he can keep up, and that they don’t need to censor their jargon or “dumb down” any of their ideas.
Jordan admits then that the responsibility falls to him to translate things into layman’s terms or ask questions that listeners might need for clarification, but he’s happy to shoulder that. The last thing he wants is to sit across from a guest on his show just nodding and saying, “wow, inspiring, bro” without engaging them on their level. When that’s the case, Jordan says candidly, “The host doesn’t really even need to be there.”
Meet guests where they’re at to have better, more intelligent conversations. This will push them to break away from their usual “soundbites” they may be used to talking through in interview settings, and allow them to more organically open up to deeper discussions. Ultimately, this creates a unique experience on any given show, because in this case the host is driving the conversation as much as the guest.
Again, the difference between a good podcast and a great podcast is the character and presence of the host of the show. It takes dedication, time, and consistent energy to maintain the same level of engagement with every episode, but overall, it’s well worth the investment.